Author Karen Robards is here to tell us just how devoted she is to making the settings in her books as real (and frightening) as possible!
I’m pretty sure we weren’t supposed to be there. I was out doing research for HUNTED with the help of a college friend who lives in New Orleans (which is where the story takes place), her husband, and his friend, an off-duty cop. The cop had promised that he could get me where I needed to go. My friend and her husband went along as company, backup security, nosy nellies, whatever. Our informal tour guide took us in through a missing section of chain link fence, then led us along a path worn in the thigh-high weeds until the sight of the giant clown’s head lying on its side, broken but still grinning, stopped us (okay, me) in our tracks. It was night, but the moon was full and bright enough so that we could see the cracked mouth, the staring eyes. A little way ahead, in the midst of a ghost town of abandoned buildings, the narrow skeleton of a rusted-out roller coaster soared and plunged against a background of starlit sky.
The perfect setting for a murder, or several? Oh, yeah. It was, in fact, just what I needed for the blood-bath I had planned. Because my hero and heroine, to say nothing of a couple of well-loved supporting characters, were getting ready to die.
I’m a natural born coward. I admit it. I’m the person who screams embarrassingly in horror movies, who checks the locks on every door and window in the house, who looks in the back seat of cars before getting in. To boldly go where no man has gone before (to borrow a phrase from the Star Trek series) is not in my nature. Yet there I was, in an amusement park that had been laid to waste when Katrina roared through in 2005, prepared to confront rats and cats and stray dogs and raccoons and possibly even an alligator or two, to say nothing of the shadowy human figures we could see slinking around in the dark. The pitch-black interiors, the torn up streets and sidewalks, the still garishly bright, Disney-by-way-of-Tim-Burton facades – those were what I had come to see. I inhaled the smell of mildew, touched the slimy coating that covered most surfaces, listened to the sounds of a long-dead place that came eerily alive at night.
By the time I had worked out the action sequence that would be set there, I was totally creeped out. Things were watching us through the darkness, and I’m not just talking about the dozens of pairs of tiny glowing eyes that I could actually see. Scary things, and it wasn’t just me who thought so. We could all sense them. My friend was thinking cougars (apparently they have those in the swamps around New Orleans. Who knew?) The cop was thinking drug dealers. Me? I was thinking Freddy Krueger. Or Michael Myers. Or Jason Voorhees. Or all three of them, plus their equally terrifying friends.
So we left. Kind of fast.
But the point is, we went.
For you, dear reader. I do it all for you.