Why Ghosts?

So I’ve been rambling on quite a bit lately about this writing thing…and I thought today, as 15 agents prepare to go to war with each other over the first 250 words of 60 aspiring authors (mine included)…that instead of talking about how I write, I’d focus on what I write…and why I write it.

And at the moment, I write paranormal romance. I’m not sure if this category of books had its own place on the shelf 20 years ago…but stroll through a bookstore now (if you are lucky enough to live near one, they are approaching dinosaur status and I mourn each one as it passes) and walking through the paranormal section could take a while. It’s big – and packed with everything from vampires to werewolves, angels to demons, dragons to centaurs (yes, centaurs…or so I’ve heard). This is also where you’ll find the books involving psychic powers, paranormal abilities…and ghosts. And that’s where my book would be found.

So why ghosts? Well, I find it a fascinating subject. Bring up the topic of ghosts at a dinner party and everyone has an opinion: some don’t believe, some aren’t sure but wonder, and some have several stories of their personal ghostly encounters.

Ghost stories tickle that spot of curiosity in me…and give me a supernatural thrill. I remember when I was in grade school I read a book about a girl who is haunted by a dollhouse. The dolls keep re-arranging themselves…I still get chills thinking of the main character hearing the scratching noises of the dolls moving around at night. I don’t want to spoil the ending – so I’ll just say the dolls’ ghostly activities lead to solving an old mystery.

As an adult, I got a thrill from another ghost – of a Scottish Highlander spotted on a dark country lane, staring up at the window of a woman brushing her hair. If you’ve read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, then you might remember this scene. It is quick, and happens early in the book – but that ghostly encounter struck a chord in me…and led me to devour all the books in the series (All 7 of them – with number 8 coming out early next year). Gabaldon is a master storyteller, and her novels are phenomenal…but when it comes down to it, I keep reading because she has promised to one day explain the “why” of this ghost scene…and I hold on – hooked by my desire to see her connect the paranormal dots.

Despite the fact I love a good ghost story, I did not set out to write one of my own…it just sort of happened. One day I sat down for a free writing session and a scene popped into my head – fully formed and crystal clear. A man and a woman were sitting in a Victorian parlor of some kind but were dressed in modern clothes. The man was trying to explain to the woman that he was a ghost hunter, and she wasn’t buying it.

“I’m not joking Devyn.” Ronan’s voice was cold. Not cruel, just devoid of any emotion.
“Yeah, I get it. You’re for real. A real live, walking talking ghost buster. Ok, ok. So, do you like have some kind of laser thing that traps little green guys who terrorize hotel guests?”
His left eyebrow lifted quizzically.
“You know, a ghost buster. You catch ghosts in some kind of metal trap, using…I don’t know, electro-magnetic energy or something.”
His right eyebrow rose to join the left.

Not every scene in the book came to me this easily…far from it – but the bones of the story developed organically from this first conversation.

One other element of my story that came like lightning out of the sky was my title.  But in this case I was able to do a little detective work to figure out how my sub-conscious managed to come up with To Catch A Fetch . It has a familiar ring to it, for one…an echo of another title – but my story is not remotely similar to the Hitchcock film or the book it was based on.  The other piece pf the puzzle popped into place when I was watching an old episode of X-Files, in which a series of ghosts haunt an autistic man. At one point in the episode Mulder refers to a ghost as a “fetch. ” Scully, the constant skeptic, is given some food for thought when she has her own ghostly encounter (in a chill-worthy scene!). If you haven’t seen the episode, boot up the Netflix and check it out. I call it the “She is Me” episode, but it is actually titled, “Elegy.” (Season 4, episode 22).

And that’s why I write ghost stories. Some may question why I write paranormal romance at all –  it is seen as a dying breed, a genre past its prime…paranormal writers new to the scene have no hope of selling a book in a saturated market, blah blah blah.  Well, I’ll tell you – I write paranormal romance because I follow the old rule: write what you want to read. I write about what fascinates me, what intrigues me…and what I’d like to find on a shelf  while strolling down the bookstore aisles.

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