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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Why Ghosts Often Appear in My Novels by Marilyn Levinson

Though I’ve never met a ghost, I’ve read enough about ghost sightings and hauntings to believe they exist. Experts in the field say some spirits remain earthbound because they’ve experienced a brutal or sudden death and don’t realize they’re dead. Others remain here because they have unfinished business or issues they need to resolve before passing on. Ghosts, whether you believe in them or not, have a permanent place in our literary lore. Readers find their manifestations unnerving, thrilling and intriguing. George and Marion Kirby in Topper and the sea captain in The Ghost And Mrs. Muir are three of my favorite literary spirits.

There's a ghost in my Haunted Library series, my mystery Giving Up the Ghost, and in my YA Getting Back to Normal. They are fully-developed characters who have remained on the Earthly plane to settle accounts. In the Haunted Library series, Evelyn Havers is the sixty-something ghost that haunts the Clover Ridge Library where she used to work. In Death Overdue, she urges my sleuth Carrie Singleton not to turn down the position of Head of Programs and Events she is being offered. Carrie takes Evelyn’s advice, and when her first program presenter dies before her eyes and those of a roomful of library patrons, Carrie goes on to investigate his murder and that of the cold case he claimed to have finally solved. Though Evelyn insists she's meant to help Carrie in her investigations, she often holds back information that she fears might incriminate her relatives. It isn’t until Buried in the Stacks, the third book in the series that Carrie discovers that Evelyn’s death was no accident.

Cameron Leeds, the ghost in Giving Up the Ghost, is a charismatic scoundrel. In life he was a good-looking man with a generous heart, except when wheeling and dealing—often at his friends’ expense. A Romeo who flirted with every woman who crossed his path. Though his best friend, the town’s police chief, has declared his death to have been an accident, Cam knows he was murdered. Trouble is, he doesn’t know who did it, and he can’t move on until he does. When Gabbie Meyerson rents his family’s cottage—the only place where he can manifest—Cam nags and cajoles until she agrees to investigate. Gabbie starts asking questions, and to her dismay discovers that several of Cam’s so-called friends and neighbors are glad he’s dead and are possible suspects.

Twelve-year-old Vannie Taylor, the protagonist in Getting Back to Normal, has just lost her mother, and her father is a basket case without her. Vannie meets Archie the ghost, hours after her father has moved her and her brother to live in a dingy cottage on the large estate where he manages events. Archie appears to be carefree and funny. Dressed in a tuxedo, he performs cartwheels and handstands. He’s overheard Vannie wondering aloud what to give her brother for dinner, and provides her with a simple recipe. He even tells her she can find the necessary ingredients in the mansion’s kitchen.

But Archie is far from carefree, as Vannie and her best friend discover when they research his life. He was twenty-five when he died, foolishly chasing after the thief who stole his wife’s necklace. Archie tells Vannie that before he can go to his rest, he must atone for having abandoned his wife and their one-year-old son. She is astonished to learn that Mayda, her parents’ close friend and the last of the family that once owned the estate, is Archie’s granddaughter. Archie implores Vannie to encourage the budding relationship between her father and Mayda—the one thing Vannie doesn’t want. But it may be the only way that her life will get back to normal.

Real or imagined, ghosts, I believe, add a dimension to a novel. How do you feel about reading or writing books with paranormal elements?

7 comments:

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I've had a few apparitions appear in my life, but not in my stories and books. I'm glad they work for you!

Warren Bull said...

I think ghosts add something special to writing.

E. B. Davis said...

I love stories with ghosts, especially if they are good spirits designed to help the characters in some way or the ghosts need the characters to help them in some way. I'm not a fan of horror, which is why I've always differentiated between supernatural elements and paranormal, which too often are negative, violent creatures.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Margaret,

I'm the opposite—never saw a ghost but find I often have them in my books.

I do too, Warren. They add another dimension.

I'm with you, Elaine. I think it all began with the Topper books. Remember them?

Barbara Monajem said...

I love writing about ghosts. I never meant to, but then one showed up in a Christmas novella I wrote several years ago, and I was hooked. In every case, the ghosts are trying to be helpful or make amends.

I have hobgoblins and pixies in some of my stories, supernatural abilities in others, and vampires in a few (but they're not the undead kind, because undead smells a bit of decomposition to me -- sorry). Then again, some of my stories don't have any of those aspects -- just the everyday, usually historical world. I like having the option to write whatever feels right at the time.

I look forward to reading your ghost stories, Marilyn!

KM Rockwood said...

I like to have ghosts in the stories I read when they are a integral part of the story. I've put some paranormal aspects in stories, but they've been experiments.

We used to live in a house that had some strange things happen, but we never paid that much attention to them. Later, we found a book called Haunted Houses of Michigan that included our house in it.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Thanks, Barbara.
I'm with you. I like to write what feels right at the time.

Marilyn

Kathleen,
How interesting that a house you lived in was written up in a book!