I died on a bitter cold night. Beneath a black sky and a bruised winter moon, I tried to fly, hoping my arms might act as wings.
So begins my novel Through Her Eyes. The narrator of this opening, a ghost named Henry, left the physical realm in 1939 when he was seventeen. Henry 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. Friends who have already read the book tell me that, although Through Her Eyes is a contemporary tale, the blending in of scenes from Henry’s life in 1939 give it the feel and tone of the classic ghost stories of old. 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.
I have always enjoyed old films. I vividly remember watching the 1940 movie Rebecca when I was still in elementary school and being mesmerized. Later, 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 and romantic. Set in the late 1930’s in England, it is filled with juicy secrets and suspense and is rich with detail and imagery that instantly drew me into the setting. The moody, atmospheric tone really captivated me then, and still does.
Another old classic that inspired my love of ghost stories early on, especially romantic ones, is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Again, I saw the 1947 movie before I read the book by R.A. Dick. The story takes place in the early 1900’s, when a young woman escapes to an isolated house on the English coast after the death of her husband. She soon learns that the house is haunted by a cantankerous sea-captain who tries to frighten her. But rather than falling prey to his antics, she falls in love with him and devotes the rest of her life to him. This may sound cheesy, but because of the wonderful characters and the way in which the story unfolds, the love between her and the ghost is hauntingly lovely, rather than silly.
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, and 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 that is unfamiliar.
There are many more recent books that have also intrigued, entertained and inspired me as both a reader and a writer. Some that come to mind immediately are the novel Jade Green, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor that was published in 2000; the 2003 novel A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray; the 2005 novel A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb; and a wonderful gothic suspense by Diane Setterfield called The Thirteenth Tale that was published in 2006.
Jade Green is just a wonderfully 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. It’s eerie, but also has many fun elements, including a walking hand! A Great and Terrible Beauty is set in 19th century England and takes place in a girl’s boarding school. I loved the interactions between the girls, and the way in which a diary plays a part in unraveling the mystery of two students who died there years ago. (Old diaries and journals have always intrigued me; in fact in Through Her Eyes, Henry’s old poetry journal is key to solving the mystery, with a surprising twist at the end!) What appeals to me most about A Certain Slant of Light, is the uniqueness of the plot – and the uber-eerie cover! In the opening, the ghost of a teen girl who hasn’t been seen in 130 years, feels someone watching her, for a change – a living boy who is a student in the classroom of the teacher she is haunting. The Thirteenth Tale is one of those ‘curl up under the blankets on a rainy night’ sort of stories, with beautiful writing and lots of secrets to uncover.
More recent movies that have made it to the top of my ‘favorite ghost story’ list, include The Sixth Sense, Dragonfly, and Stir of Echoes, which was adapted from a novel by Richard Matheson. All of these films kept me at the edge of my seat and had my heart beating just a little bit – and sometimes a lot – too quickly!
A link to the brand new, updated trailer for Through Her Eyes: http://vimeo.com/15861362
Jennifer’s website with links to her Facebook and Twitter pages: www.jenniferarcher.net
Jennifer’s blog: www.jenniferarcher.blogspot.com
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