We are so excited to have award-winning New York Times and internationally bestselling author Lisa Unger talk to us today about her favorite time of year and penchant for all things spooky. Be sure to check out her newest e-novella The Whispers–out today!
My proclivity for the dark side is well known. Therefore it should not come as any shock that Halloween is my very favorite time of year. With all its tacky horrors – talking skulls, bloody hands reaching from graves, moaning soundtracks and witches looming in doorways — it’s the only time where we really welcome, in fact relish, the existence of ghosts and ghouls and monsters. We acknowledge, as we escort our vampire and mummy toddlers down the street to fill their plastic pumpkins with candy, that the dark and the light dwell side-by-side.
And it happens to be the perfect season for my three upcoming short stories — The Whispers, The Burning Girl, and The Three Sisters — populated by troubled psychic Eloise Montgomery, her visiting ghosts, and the haunted Hollows Woods. (Hint: Pre-order now or the mummy will get you!)
There’s no place I won’t go in pursuit of the darkness. I think of myself as a spelunker, someone who shimmies into the cavities and crevasses of the human psyche — the stranger and more twisted the passage, the more interesting the journey. So when clairvoyant Eloise Montgomery showed up at the end of FRAGILE, I couldn’t have been more excited. Was she for real? Was she a fraud? Either way, what made someone like her tick? But the time I spent with her on those pages was unsatisfyingly brief. I got a little deeper in DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND – though not deep enough. Eloise has stayed with me, patiently waiting, but just out of reach.
When I finally got to spend some time with Eloise in the e-short originals, I went places with the character I didn’t think I would go – which of course is the magic of writing, walking down the path you didn’t know was there.
In case you think this is a new area for me – psychics, ghosts, the supernatural in general; it isn’t. There was a supernatural element to my first novel ANGEL FIRE, which mostly got edited out of the story. But the idea of the ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances not of his or her choosing is a theme that runs through my novels in various shades and hues. Eloise’s circumstances certainly are extraordinary but not so much so that, as a writer of psychological suspense, I wasn’t willing to explore them.
Halloween is the time of year when we’re all re-watching our favorite scary movies – “The Exorcist”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Amityville Horror”, “Paranormal Activity”, to name a few. On some level, in the safety of our living rooms we like to be scared. But we also seem to want our depictions of the supernatural to be so over the top as to be impossible. The demon yanks you from bed; spirits rage in your attic or kill your dog.
But it seems to me — if it’s true that certain folks (like Eloise) are tapped into frequencies the rest of us are not receiving — then it would all be very mundane. Like: You make a tuna fish sandwich at noon; at 3, you talk to the dead. You fold the laundry; you experience a vision. I don’t imagine that true brushes with the supernatural are much like what we see in horror movies. Maybe it is so often imagined that way to keep it at arm’s length. Most of us haven’t heard thumping and moaning in the haunted castle where we happen to be vacationing. But many of us have had other, more subtle experiences we can’t understand.
Meanwhile, real life doles out plenty of unspeakable horrors of its own. Eloise, when we first meet her in The Whispers, experiences a life-altering tragedy, and in return she is granted an ability that just about cores out what’s left of her. She starts to experience visions, and yet she’s still trying to make a living and get through the day for her daughter. It seems like that’s how it would go — a lot like everything else. You might have a terrible accident and then discover you have psychic abilities. But you still have to take out the garbage.
I don’t admire all of my characters. Some of them are flighty and irresponsible, some of them are cold and unforgiving, some of them are unstable, angry, and even homicidal. But Eloise Montgomery is a character I truly respect; I am glad I finally got to spend the time with her that she deserved. She is a person of patience, of compassion, someone tapped in to the larger truths of this world and the next. But mainly, she is a person who understands that all the light of this world, and all its darkness, dwell side-by-side, all year long.