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A Ghost Story Needs ... a Ghost


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 …

Stalking the Spectre

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.

Googling the Ghost

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

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.

The stories that inspired Laying Ghosts have become a collection of creepy adult tales called Leaving Birds. Each story has an explanation of how it gave me ideas for the prequel. You can check out Leaving Birds HERE and read an extract HERE.



A version of this post first appeared on ‘Hey Said Renee’ book blog in May 2016