I’ve always been willing to follow my characters wherever they wish to take me. And they’ve taken me down the rabbit hole into addiction, psychosis, fugue states, the full rainbow of emotion and dark circumstances. I consider myself as a spelunker willing to shimmy myself into the crevices of the psyche, headlamp on, prepared to shine it bright on whatever I find. The truth is: I want to go. There is, after all, no more gripping or fascinating mystery than the human mind.
But a willingness to go anywhere, to explore any type of mystery, even one that delves into the supernatural, can be tricky. Not everyone wants to go there. For example, Carl Jung took a lot of heat — from his mentor Freud especially — for wanting to look more deeply into the mysteries of the psyche by exploring unexplained phenomena.
Jung’s mother was a psychic medium, and throughout his life, he’d had a number of unexplained experiences. He had a spirit guide, one that existed only in his mind, called Philemon from whom he took counsel all his life. A near death experience led Jung to believe that there was much more to the human experience than could be explained by science. He definitely wanted to go there. As Jungian themes run through my entire body of work, it’s not surprising that I would move into this realm eventually.
This exploration started in earnest with FRAGILE (though there’s a bit of a supernatural element even in my first novel ANGEL FIRE) with the appearance of a psychic by the name of Eloise Montgomery. Since she appeared, I’ve grown ever more fascinated by her, leading me to write DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND, and the novella THE WHISPERING HOLLOWS. All of these novels and novella have a supernatural component – though they are certainly also thrillers.
CRAZY LOVE YOU takes the deepest dive into the unexplained, simply because it’s the nature of Ian Paine’s experience, where his story organically took me. And I loved going off the beaten path to learn his truth. His story is about energy, about how we cling to each other, to the past, to anger, usually out of fear. It’s about how negative energy lingers in places, and in our hearts and can create all kinds of damage, like a cycle of abuse in families, or a haunting. CRAZY LOVE YOU demanded to go beyond the realm of the conventional thriller. And why not?
Is the world so easily explained? Do we know everything about the human experience? Are we so certain that what we know now is the entirety of knowledge? Jung believed that the anomaly, the rarity, which was so often rejected or dismissed by the scientific method, should be embraced and explored. I have to agree. Lately, I’ve been exploring that idea in my fiction though the seed was planted long ago.
In my other life as a book publicist, I had the pleasure of working with John Edwards, a psychic medium who communicates with the dead. I don’t claim to understand his gift, but I witnessed it and saw the impact he had on those people in our group who had readings with him. He was clearly tapped into something that most others are not. At the same time, he was a lovely, mild mannered, perfectly earthly guy with a Long Island accent. He might have been my friend or my cousin. Looking back, I think he was the initial inspiration for Eloise Montgomery and my fascination with his type of ability. I liked how the ordinary and extraordinary dwelled side by side in him.
That’s what compels me about Eloise. Her abilities don’t feel mystical. They are an anomaly in her neurological wiring – as if she were a violin prodigy, or a mathematical genius, doing something that most of us can’t dream of doing. When I had occasion to explore Eloise in the e-original short stories, I was thrilled to really get deep with her, to understand her experience better, and during that writing I met Finley, Eloise’s granddaughter who has abilities of her own. Finley was such a powerful, important character for me that she got her own book, INK AND BONE, coming in June 2016. Her story, too, veers off the path of traditional thriller fiction.
But just because I’ve traveled some strange pathways doesn’t mean that I now consider myself a writer of the supernatural. It only means that in the following of certain characters, and stories, and the secrets of my fictional town called The Hollows, I have found myself going places that I didn’t expect. That’s the joy of writing and of all deep exploration. If you don’t go in thinking you know what’s there, you might find all manner of treasure.
I am not the storyteller you read if you want the same thing every time — which I suppose can be difficult for my publisher. It’s so much easier to market someone who is definable and easily categorized. But I have a very high opinion of my readers, and readers in general. I know them to be wise and intelligent, and — maybe more than any other type of person — open-minded. They are spelunkers like me, always willing to go deeper into the darkness just to see what’s there. I am not certain where I’ll go next. But I hope my readers know that whatever they might expect, they can always expect more.