Open Book with D. J. Milne

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Pittsfield native Norma Kirby, who writes under the name D. J. Milne, has diverse interests.

"If you ever want to know anything about trains or mediumship or witchcraft, please look me up," she says.

These areas of expertise inform her mystery novel, "The Crossings" (Rowe Publishing, $16.99-$23.99), the first in a series of three books that she is co-authoring with Albany's J. E. Kross. In the story, a road foreman responds to a fatality on tracks near Lake Champlain and encounters a spirit.

"The spirit talks to her and says that it wasn't an accident, that it wasn't just a random accident, and that she had been murdered," Kirby says. "It kind of goes from there."

Kirby has worked for Amtrak as a locomotive engineer and a road foreman. (Kross is a conductor.) Kirby said that events in the book are inspired by her experiences.

"It's pretty much my life," said Kirby, who now lives in New York City and works for a short line.

Kirby answered some questions by phone following her novel's April 15 release. The interview has been edited for length.

What is your favorite ghost story?

Oh my goodness, there are so many. Are you looking for true or just fake?

I guess fake.

My favorite one of all time was an Abbott and Costello one. ... It was a show, but I'm sure it must've been a story at one time.

What's your favorite mystery novel?

My favorite mystery novel is probably "Loves Music, Loves to Dance" [by Mary Higgins Clark]. ... I liked that because it was extremely suspenseful. It made you think the whole way through, and you didn't know who did it all the way to the end.

What's the best book you've read on the train?

"The Da Vinci Code" [by Dan Brown]. ... Once again, it really intrigues me just because there are so many — I think [there] are very true elements in that book, just so much revelation that really make you think. ... Especially, looking at the picture of "The Last Supper," it really does look like there was a woman next to Jesus in "The Last Supper" when you take a look at it. So, it's just really mind-opening, I guess.

What's the best book you've read about railroads?

"A Pinprick of Light" [by Carl R. Byron], which is a book about the Hoosac Tunnel. I think that's really interesting, about how they made the Hoosac Tunnel.

What's your favorite place to get lost in a book in the Berkshires?

Pittsfield State Forest, right up on top of the ski jump

What was your favorite book as a child?

"Angel on Skis." I don't know who wrote it [Betty Cavanna], but I loved that book. ... I think it was the first big book that I read that wasn't like a "Hardy Boys" book. It was the first big chapter book. And it just had the determination of a young girl learning how to ski, not having a lot of money, but [being] able to find secondhand skis and really pursue her passion.

What's your favorite book related to mediumship?

For mediumship itself ... I really like James Van Praagh.

What books are currently on your nightstand?

"The Boy Who Knew Too Much" [by Cathy Byrd]. ... I just read that a couple weeks ago. It was really outstanding. It was about a young boy who thinks he's the reincarnation of Lou Gehrig. Pretty awesome.

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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