My psychological mysteries have a mythical twist - so I’m into visionary mirrors and mystical graveyards, suspect stalkers and symbolic objects. I’ve never sidled up to a ghost. But the idea to write a ghost story – as the prequel to the Selkie Moon mystery series – crept up on me, especially in the middle of the night – just like a …
My modern mysteries are inspired by folktales and mythology. I recalled a Russian folktale with an unusual ghostly theme. Perfect. If I set my modern ghost story in Pearl Beach north of Sydney – a good place to locate a deserted beach house and generate some suspense – then a character with a Russian name would usher in elements inspired by the original tale. The story started to take shape, quietly preparing the red carpet for the arrival of the apparition. Until I realised that an idea from this same folktale had seeped into my mystery-in-progress. If I used even a hint of the same theme in the ghost story, it would be a spoiler for the novel.
I started researching other folktales. In a collection of Celtic supernatural stories, the introduction suggests a new angle on ghosts: ‘ghosts’ are created when violent acts leave an imprint on the landscape, like a sound recording. This imprint is reactivated at a future date by individuals sensitive enough to evoke it. Hmmm.
A quote from Robert Louis Stevenson became the epigraph to my story:
Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted; certain coasts are set apart for shipwreck.
Then I ‘googled upon’ a murder ballad from the 1700s that has been reinterpreted by musical artists ever since. But it’s not well-known and many versions include … a ghost. These three elements inspired my story.
Laying Ghosts is a ghost story with one character inspired by a Russian folktale, a dank garden imprinted with past violence like a Celtic landscape, and a haunting refrain with origins in a murder ballad from the 1700s. You can download your free copy here.
A version of this post first appeared on ‘Hey Said Renee’ book blog in May 2016