Erika Mailman Writes a Young Adult Thriller as Lynn Carthage

Erika Mailman as Lynn Carthage pens a thriller for young adults.


“I feel a lot of affection for Oakland,” said Mailman, who is writing as Lynn Carthage for YA readers.

Photo by Pat Mazzera


One of Oakland’s favorite authors, Erika Mailman, writing as Lynn Carthage, has a new novel out on shelves this spring: a young adult thriller-suspense, Haunted: The Arnaud Legacy,  with ghosts, a haunted manor, and a strong heroine at its core. “The Arnaud Mansion is neglected and unwelcoming, and I get the feeling it isn’t exactly uninhabited,” says the main character, Phoebe. “Something wants to hurt us—especially my little sister, Tabby.”

Mailman, 45, is the author of two novels for adults, The Witch’s Trinity, about witches in medieval Germany, and Woman of Ill Fame, the tale of a Gold Rush-era prostitute. Oaklanders remember Mailman for her history column in The Montclarion that ran for 12 years. She penned a chapter in the Oakland Museum of California’s anthology as well as two nonfiction works about Oakland neighborhoods. So history is clearly a passion for her.

But Mailman doesn’t want to confuse younger readers with her more adult themes, so she used a pen name. “I wanted to keep my literary fiction separate from my young adult fiction.” Why did she pick the name Lynn Carthage? “Carthage was a history geek choice—and Lynn is my middle name.”

Haunted came about the old-fashioned way: “I had a nightmare,” Mailman said. “Much like Mary Shelley, I woke up, I was inspired. I started crafting a story around it. I finished the first draft in a week.” But it took her a decade to revise the manuscript, and she went through three agents in that time. “It was quite a struggle,” she recalled.

She calls her novel “a fun ghost story.” Part of what makes it more fun is the Oakland secret written into the story. Mailman donated a choice prize to the Chabot Space & Science Center fundraising auction a few years ago, and the winner of the auction was Richard Spees, former board member of the organization as well as the son of a former Oakland city councilman. His prize was to have a character named for him in Mailman’s next book. Spees told Mailman at the time, to make him a “good or bad character, although if it is bad, make him really evil, please.” In Haunted, the character of Richard Spees is a handsome teenage boy, Phoebe’s one-time love interest. It remains up to the reader to determine if Spees’ character is good or not.

Mailman lives now in El Dorado Hills with her husband and two children. She still contributes to the Oakland Heritage Alliance newsletter and feels like a regular Oaklander, despite her location.

A second Arnaud Legacy novel is under way, furthering the adventures of Phoebe and her friends. Will it be as spooky and surprising as the first one? Mailman plans on it. And ghost stories are fun to write. “When I was a little kid, my next door neighbor baby-sat me and would always tell me ghost stories. I blame her for this.”

Haunted: The Arnaud Legacy, by Lynn Carthage (Kensington, 2015, $9.95, 280 pp.)

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