Sunday, November 6, 2011
The Gothic Ghost. And Why I Love Them.
My Favourite Ghost?
That’s a softball of a question for me. My favourite ghost is Maggie McGregor, the Loyalist woman who lives in the root cellar beneath the shop on the organic small-scale vegetable farm in my forthcoming book, More Than Sorrow (Poisoned Pen Press, Sept 2012).
Or does she? Perhaps Maggie is nothing but the product of the damaged imagination of the book’s war-injured journalist protagonist Hannah Manning. After all, no one else can see her or feel her presence.
And that’s my favourite sort of ghost. Is it real, or a product of the character’s imagination? And does it matter?
I used the ghost concept in an earlier book, Burden of Memory. Like More than Sorrow, Burden of Memory is a modern gothic suspense. Old houses, family secrets, inquisitive women. Something is moving in the woods.
Or is it?
Here’s a snippet from Burden of Memory.
Behind her, one of the dogs barked. Only once, short and sharp, a sound brimming with alarm. The air between two of the larger trees seemed to move. It shimmered in space, as if struggling to take form. She stepped forward; she couldn’t quite see. She wanted to see more.
The ghost background is considered to be a staple of the traditional gothic suspense, but in fact it isn’t. Quite often in gothic novels what is believed to be supernatural turns out to have a very practical explanation. A modern gothic novel need not have any supernatural overtones at all i.e. Kate Morton.
However, I love them. I love to read them and I love to write them. I love the dual narrative concept, where something is happening in the past and something is happening today and they intersect at the end. It’s particularly tricky to do where the historical narratives are beyond the life span of anyone contemporary. Thus you can’t use anyone’s memories.
Or not the memories of anyone living, that is.
Now, like Gaby, I don’t care for monsters, thank you very much. Nothing scary or creepy. I like my ghosts to be mysterious, possibly benevolent, and very very clever. Ordinary people, who just happen to be dead. People with a story of their own to tell. Or, quite possibly, nothing but the dreams of an overactive-imagination.
Want to read a bit more from Burden of Memory? Click here.