Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ghosts That Have Inspired Me

In my novel Through Her Eyes a ghost named Henry left the physical realm in 1939 when he was seventeen. However Henry's ghost still lingers decades later. He has a story to tell – he can’t rest until the truth about his death is known and a message is sent to someone still living. Many readers have said that although the story is set in the present, the scenes from Henry’s life in 1939 give it the feel and tone of an old, classic ghost story. I couldn’t receive a nicer compliment! Those are the tales that have intrigued me most since I was a child and stirred my interest in writing a ghost story of my own.

Many ghosts have inspired my writing. Ghosts in books and movies, that is! I remember being mesmerized while watching the 1940 movie Rebecca when I was still in elementary school. Then as a teen, I read the book by Daphne du Maurier from which the movie was adapted, and I loved it, too. The story is narrated by a young woman who marries a widower, and after she moves to his estate, is haunted by his former wife, Rebecca. Rebecca is mysterious, romantic, and has a moody atmospheric tone. Set in the late 1930’s in England, it is filled with secrets and suspense. Rich detail and imagery drew me into the setting, although I’ve never been to England.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is another old classic that instilled my love of ghost stories. Again, I saw the 1947 movie before I read the book that inspired it by R.A. Dick. The story takes place in the early 1900’s, when a young woman escapes an isolated house on the English coast after the death of her husband. The house is haunted by a crusty old sea-captain who tries to frighten her, but she refuses to let him terrorize her and they fall in love. I admit this plot sounds cheesy, but the author pulled it off! Because of the interesting characters and the way in which the story unfolds, the love story doesn’t come across as anything other than hauntingly lovely.

As I write about these two wonderful old classics, I notice elements from both that are also in Through Her Eyes: The attraction between the ghost and the living woman, as well as the isolated setting in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir; the combination of mystery and romance in Rebecca; the move by the protagonists in both stories to a new place at the beginning of each book. I didn't consciously mimic the two classics, but they obviously impacted my writing.

There are many more recent books that have intrigued, entertained and inspired my writing. Some that come to mind include the novel Jade Green by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (2000), A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (2005), and a wonderful gothic suspense by Diane Setterfield called The Thirteenth Tale. 

Jade Green is a fantastically creepy story set in the 1800’s about a fifteen-year-old girl who (surprise!)moves far away to her uncle’s spooky house after the death of her parents. This book is eerie but also has many fun elements, including a walking hand!

In A Certain Slant of Light the ghost of a girl named Helen makes contact with a human for the first time in 130 years. Helen has attached to a teacher who is unaware of her presence, but one day in the classroom she is stunned to realize that James, a student, can see her. This is one of the most unusual ghost stories and love stories I've ever read. I recommend it.

The ghost in The Thirteenth Tale is only one small layer of this intricate story. Although it was written only a few years ago, the book has the feel of an old-fashioned, curl-up-under-the covers-on-a-stormy-night read. Which is why I probably loved it so much!

If you enjoy ghost stories as much as I do, I'd love to hear about the ghosts that have inspired or intrigued you. I'm always looking for new ghost stories, or old ones I've missed!
 And now a little shameless self-promo. For a limited time, Amazon is selling the hardback of THROUGH HER EYES for $6.80. Check it out!

Also, my 2001 romantic comedy for adults ONCE UPON A DREAM (it's very PG-rated!) has been re-released as an e-book by Samhain Publishing. It even has a brand new cover! (Gotta love those pleated front pants! Hey, it's set in the late 90's. All the cool girls wore pleated waist pants back then. :-) )  You can purchase your very own e-copy for only $3.99 at Samhain, or at Amazon and Barnes and Noble for  $3.19.

ONCE UPON A DREAM is one of my funnier books! Here's a teaser:

Can the answer to her curse lie in the dreams of the past?

When Professor Alex Simon moves to Canyon, Texas from England, he welcomes the opportunity to change his locale. Not only would he be aiding his recently widowed sister, but he would have a chance to forget a failed relationship.

Robin Wise is less than impressed by her new neighbor-- and his little devil-cat. The feline taunts her dog, and its stuffy owner has the gall to blame her pup for the squabbles. But at a second glance, Alex isn't quite as nerdy as he seems. As a matter of fact, when he isn't insulting her dog, he can be quite charming.

But Robin has her own problems. An inherited curse looms over her impending thirtieth birthday, and until Robin can overcome the hex, she can't indulge in any fantasy she might have regarding the more-perfect-by-the-minute professor. No matter how she wishes she had the courage to act on the awakened desire in her heart.

This Retro Romance reprint and was originally published by Dorchester Love Spell in January 2001.


Jordan Dane said...

I loved reading REBECCA. Another of my favorite ghost books is by Anne Rice--LASHER. Who knew dead could be so sexy?

Jennifer Archer said...

Jordan, I haven't read LASHER but I'll put it on my TBR list!

Anita Grace Howard said...

Jenny, what a great post! As you know, I loved THE THIRTEENTH TALE. ;) Ooh, I'll have to read that one that Jordan mentioned, too. Anne Rice's prose is amazing!

Michelle said...

Ooh, I love ghost stories. And having grown up in a two hundred year old farmhouse where a lot of strange things happened, I have quite a few of my own.

Wendy Corsi Staub said...

Great post! I'm a fan of many of these, and am intrigued by the ones I haven't read...especially yours! Also, my sister just highly recommended THE THIRTEENTH TALE, so that's going on my list (twice) now! :-)

Jennifer Archer said...

Anita, I agree about Anne Rice's prose and your writing reminds me of hers in that way. Michelle, do tell about your ghost stories!! Ilsa, you will love The Thirteenth Tale.