In Search of Ghosts and Monsters, Part II

I’ve been chasing ghosts and monsters ever since childhood. I don’t think that it is accidental that I am writing a ghost story for young adults now that I’m in my 40s. In a way I want to recapture that feeling I had as a child and simultaneously give back something to others that meant so much to me. I could easily turn “The Ghost Project” (three novels: Ghost Light, Ghost World, and the Ghost of Nettie Axtell) into a very long novel for adults, but I feel that it would lose a great deal of the imaginative magic. Adults are less willing to enter into the author-reader contract, that suspension of disbelief that is essential for a reader to really get lost in a book. I want readers of “The Ghost Project” to get lost in the story without bringing the baggage that comes along with more sophisticated readings in the adult mind. Moreover, young readers are much more innocent and ready to become entangled in the narrative magic.

I have set out to write the type of novel I want to read out of necessity. I’ve been searching for a particular ghost story for at least twenty years, and for as long as I can remember I cannot seem to locate it. Therefore, I began writing that “novel” I was searching for in order to fulfill a need. That need is, at least as I write this, indefinable, but I do know that it’s there. The ghosts and monsters of my childhood have all crept back into my consciousness. In a way those ghosts and monsters never really left, they were just misplaced somewhere in my unconscious mind. But undertaking this project is not an attempt to exorcise those ghosts and monsters, quite the contrary. I want to share them with other because I find them essential. More than that, the unnamed village in New England is also a place from my childhood dreams. The place is not one particular geographical place, but a conglomeration of places and feelings. In fact, the village is as much a character as any of the traditional characters in the project. I am also attempting to create a very particular atmosphere with these novels: an atmosphere of dread and terror. With ghosts stories its really the atmosphere that counts, and if the writer fails at that then he or she has failed to deliver on the most essential level of story.

There is an old adage that informs writers to “write what you know.” I’ve always found this to be tiresome, and really just bad advice. We write to discover. I write for that and a lot of different reasons, but a significant part of why I am writing this interrelated trio of novels (it’s not really a trilogy) is to go in search of the ghosts and monsters I used to spend time with as a child. It’s also a way for me to get past my scholarly pursuits and entangle myself in something much different.

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