I like ghost stories. DUH. I like to read them. I also write them. But the interesting thing about writing, at least for me, is that the ghosts are not actually the vehicles for my story. According to my American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the second definition of “vehicle” is how “…something, as thought, power, or information, or the like, is conveyed, transmitted, expressed, or achieved.” And while I dress up my stories with ghosts, the real story, in the end, is about the characters and how they react with each other as well as the supernatural.
When I wrote my first version of Haunted, my editor rejected it because she said that I was missing from the story. I knew what she meant. I had written a technically workable tale, but it didn’t have a heart. Mostly because I was trying to shield myself from being truly involved with my characters, which, if you’re writing fiction, is ridiculous. But many times, if you’re writing fiction, being involved with your characters fricking hurts. I was ducking the pain of that. (Coward.) And she called me on it.
So I rewrote the book, put my heart back into it, and she approved the final version. Then she told me to submit it to the New York houses. But that’s a different story.
The point is, I have no story if I don’t have the essential feelings of my characters fueling the entire book, and my shortcut for getting those essential feelings is music. I think I’ve mentioned before that everything I write has a soundtrack. It may be just one song. It may be an entire playlist. But my characters, the plot, certain scenes, entire stories, are anchored in music, because when I hear that particular song or theme, it takes me right into the universe of the book. It’s actually kind of a magical thing, but then I think music is a high form of magic.
I have also discovered that I can time-travel with music. Some songs can bring back particular people, conversations, settings, and experiences like nothing else. Mentally, I can usually remember things from my past fairly well. But if you play certain songs for me, then whoa. I’m gone. And I mean gone. There are times I can remember an instance when I was listening to that song, and I can tell you who I was with, what I was wearing, where we were, how old I was—any number of details. Some of the things that come back to me are so vivid, so strong, that I can’t help feeling that if I tried hard enough, I could step back twenty or more years.
But back to writing…
Michael Penfield has a theme song. Cassie and Michael have a theme song. Jake Holdridge and Philip Corts have a whole slew of them and sometimes when one of those songs comes on the radio, I think that I really owe them at least one more story. My editor told me that and I think she’s probably right. Just waiting for right adventure for them.
As for Cassie and Michael, well, I’m still working on book seven! I’ve been listening to music and playing with scenarios, and I hope that when this one comes out, it will break everyone’s heart just a little, the way it’s currently breaking mine. Because if I can do that, then I have properly used my story’s vehicle to convey exactly what essential feelings the music was conveying to me.