The (Ghost) Stories We Tell
When Michele Gwynn and Jami Brumfield asked me to come on their Blog Talk Radio program, Cover to Cover, I figured I was in for a good time – a thought-provoking, interesting, eminently bloggable time.
Case in point, Michele writes about murders, angels, aliens, ghosts and a German dominatrix who changes careers and becomes an officer in the State Police (dream job for an aging whippersnapper – badum ching!).
Jami is a passionate paranormalist (Is that even a word? Don’t know, but it fits) and hypnotherapist, no less, who writes fun and suspenseful novels about witches, vampires, ghosts, werewolves and forbidden love.
Pull me up a chair.
We talked about all sorts of things. History, and our love of it, visiting concentration camps, Germany as a seriously underrated vacation destination, and our admittedly genre-bending fiction. Not surprisingly, the conversation got a little bit woo-woo when Michele asked me about the paranormal elements in my own work.
It’s funny, I don’t consider myself a paranormal writer at all, and I think if you go strictly by genre rules, I’m not. I’m a Historical Fiction kind of girl, who weaves some pretty significant Thriller elements into my stories. But more often than not, a certain degree of magical realism does enter into the way I spin a yarn. My characters can have visions – religious or otherwise, divine love (albeit wrongly) from some pretty sadistic acts, and see the occasional ghost. One of my characters even becomes the Angel of Death after his own untimely demise. I suppose that is a bit divergent from, say, a Philippa Gregory or Ken Follett story – even if the latter, like me, tends to have a taste for the world of cloaks and daggers.
So, I guess a bit of enchantment is somewhat unusual for Historical Fiction, a genre which focuses on, as Ms. Gregory points out, “the animation and recreation of a life, of fleshing out historical bones.”
But is it unusual in history, this blending of fact and hocus-pocus? History is filled with leaders who feel they were communing with God or being guided by spirits. Just ask Joan of Arc, the Egyptians, or any number of Native American tribesmen and women – especially ones from days past.
Nor is a paranormal element unusual in historical writing. Homer comes to mind. Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
In my own life, I’ve always felt a co-existence with the “other.” From niggling feelings that end up being prophetic – foreshadowing the death of a loved one, or a turn in luck. Perhaps a paralyzing wave of deja vu.
To simply answered prayers.
And I know a thing or two about living with the dead. Breathing life into a pile of bones, all while relishing the nitty-gritty of uncovering the very facts of a time and place – the ones that make that skeleton dance.
Like any self-respecting history buff, I live in a house that was built while Thomas Jefferson was still among the living, for heaven’s sake. A place ripe for otherworldly shenanigans.
While I’ve heard only a handful of whispers in the night during the dozen or so years we’ve lived there, those incidents have been as palpable as sexual attraction. They provoked a physical reaction, an electric charge of anticipation and fear, a thrill.
So, I can’t imagine telling a story that doesn’t acknowledge at least the potential for belief in the existence of other worlds, of souls, of an overlap in space and time that even Einstein allowed for. He did, after all, speak of reality as an illusion, of love as something outside the constraints of the natural world, of mystery as the most beautiful thing we can experience – the source of all true art and science.
Because really, does any one of us – no matter how rational or literal – know a single someone out there who hasn’t felt the hair on his neck stand up? Who doesn’t have a ghost story to tell?
And here’s the link to the program: