For the Haunted Blog Tour post today, it will be a guest post with author Nancy Holder! She has chosen to write about her inspiration: Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe-sessed by Possessions
It was a cold, gray day last March when I flew to Washington, D.C., to spend four days of spring vacation seeing the sights. Just four days to tour the nation’s capital, Colonial Williamsburg, and Jamestown. So why did I spend an entire day driving in the opposite direction, getting lost numerous times in the rain, winding up in a very bad neighborhood? And why did I leave the safety of my car to make my way to a graveyard, bearing three red roses? And why, when I saw the name on the monument, did I start to cry?
Because it was the grave of my hero, Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe was the first American author to attempt to live solely off the money he made from writing. Although adopted by a very wealthy man, Poe turned his back on an easy life as a Virginia planter, left West Point Military Academy, and wrote. He and his beloved wife, Virginia, nearly starved. His great enemy, Rufus Griswold, is responsible for the image we have today of Poe as a tortured lunatic addled by drugs. Yet he was possessed by a demon—or an angel, depending on your outlook—which was his muse. Something pushed him to write through poverty, the early death of Virginia, and lack of solid publishing success. He was only forty when he died, and his grave was originally unmarked. Today he is buried in a monument with his mother-in-law and his Virginia, which is why I brought three red roses.
It wasn’t until I started teaching creative writing that I really, seriously sat down and read Poe’s work. I was completely mesmerized. I felt so close to him while reading his words that it was as if he sat beside me and turned the pages of his work with a phantom hand.
I have tried to use my own writing to connect at that same deep level with my own readers. My way to duplicate the effect Poe had on me is to try to make the world I’m writing about so real to me, and to feel the deepest emotions of my characters so completely, that my pages are soaked with those sensations and images.
When I co-wrote the Wicked series with Debbie Viguie, I read tons of books on the Wiccan traditions, witchcraft, the Middle Ages, and I went to France. I immersed myself in the witchy world as thoroughly as I could. I visited a chapel dedicated to Joan of Arc, with fresh roses at her feet, and thought of our characters doing the same. I remembered how brave she was to lead armies against the English, and to die at the stake when she was only nineteen. She reminded me of the single-mindedness and courage of Poe. (If you’d like to see a video of Debbie Viguie and me, please go to http://www.simonandschuster.
To write Possessions, I scared myself. Constantly. Every morning I got up, made coffee and watched a horror movie. The ones that scared me most, I watched over and over. Some of them are: El Orfanato (The Orphanage); the American and Japanese versions of The Grudge and The Ring; The Changeling (with George C. Scott); The Skeleton Key; The Others; The Innocents, and many, many more. I also listened to scary movie soundtracks (The Possession of Emily Rose, for example) while I wote. I worked myself into a state of fear and then I huddled in a small bedroom on the first floor of my house—which also happens to be the coldest room in the house. And I put the intense fear that I was feeling on the page.
But to connect with others as Poe connected with me, I needed to make readers care about the people in Possessions. And so I had to care about them. And I did care…and still do. Lindsay Cavanaugh, the main character, has lost her mother to cancer and had a very public breakdown at school after she becomes possessed by the popularity demon. She seeks refuge at Marlwood Academy for Young Women, a super-exclusive boarding school high in the mountains of Northern California, and she quickly learns the dead haunt the school…and want payback for terrible wrongs committed against them.
Lindsay is so brave, and so kind, that she is very real to me, and I care deeply about what happens to her. Every morning, I could sense Lindsay waking up inside my head, trapped in the nightmare world I put her in. I knew I had to get to work so that at least she would have me for company…until the readers of Possessions joined her, pulling for her, I hope, all the way.
This seems to me to be a slightly mad way to live, and so I understand Poe, who was equally possessed by other lives in other worlds. Poe was a man of strong emotions and passions, who couldn’t stop writing. I can’t stop writing about Lindsay, and so I’m lucky that Possessions is the first book in the Possessions series. Possessions: the Evil Within, will come out in June, and I’m beginning work on the third book. Lindsay is the star, but I can’t forget handsome, adorable Troy Minear; and wicked mad and sexy Miles Winters, the twin brother of the ringleader of the evil girls, the beautiful and spoiled Mandy Winters. Each in his or her tormented way tries to find the light. But some will walk in darkness…forever.
My hero, Edgar Allan Poe, found his light in the darkness. He wrote about people whose obsessions occasionally unbalanced them; who dared to hope and dream past the point of reason. He was a writer possessed, as am I. And that is why I spent my vacation visiting his memorial.
I’m hard at work on the third book in the series, bunkered in my room, scaring myself half to death all over again! And now that Halloween is here, and the nights are cold and filled with ghosts, I hope that you will let Possessions give you a few spooky chills , and that Lindsay and her story will possess you, as I have been possessed.