I’ve long said that writing is a way for me to process the issues and burning questions that I can’t or don’t want to talk about with—gulp—real people. Friends and family who know me well and who have read my paranormal mystery books have commented about how much Kyrie Carter sounds like me. They have noticed that she has a lot of the same foibles, character traits, and personal struggles that I have.
One struggle that has been dancing around the ring but has not as yet been fully introduced into the story is the struggle between Kyr’s fascination with the paranormal and her religious upbringing. It is that struggle that has at last stepped forward and loudly proclaimed that it is time to be dealt with.
I attended a writers conference this past weekend, hoping to learn some new tidbits, and perhaps to share some of the things I’ve learned over this past year since self-publishing my first book and subsequently getting a publisher. What I didn’t expect was having the session on Memoirs and the session on Characterization collide in my brain and shatter Pandora’s proverbial box, leaving me with a burning question that screams to be written into a scene between Kyr and her now-boyfriend Spook Steele.
As many of my friends and some of my family know, I had my first paranormal encounter at the tender age of four, in the back bedroom of the Victorian duplex where I lived during my preschool and early elementary years. As I lay awake one night, while my seven-year-old brother snored in the twin bed across the room, my eyes wandered to the foot of my bed where, to my surprise, stood an elderly woman who stared silently back at me. Her dress was unfamiliar to me; it wouldn’t be till a few years later when I would first see the late-nineteenth-century style of dress and recognized it as that which she wore. Thinking someone might be visiting my parents, but wondering why they would choose such a late hour to do so, I asked, “Who are you?”
The strange woman said nothing, but simply ceased to be there. She didn’t fade away or walk through a wall to exit; she just vanished.
Realizing that I had just seen a ghost, I did what any other four-year-old would have done: I screamed my head off, waking my brother and bringing my parents at a run to our bedroom. Of course, they brushed it off as a bad dream, or my imagination, or anything but what I knew was true. You see, there had been other indications that we weren’t alone on our side of the house, mostly in the form of voices that came from nowhere and the occasional catching movement at the corner of my eye.
The incident was soon forgotten by everyone but me, and within my immediate family, it was never talked about again. Still, it came to mind many, many times over the years, and it finally found a home as the catalyst for Kyr’s initiation to the world of ghost hunting.
As for the clash with religious upbringing, well, that fine point is more of Kyr’s world than mine. The church I grew up in was for the most part open and accepting of people’s experiences, whatever they might be. Now, that being said, I still didn’t find much commiseration with what I had seen, but no one shamed me or told me I was embracing the devil. My own personal struggle between my experience and my beliefs did not come until my adult years, after I had gotten married and began attending a different church in a different denomination with my husband.
It also coincided with the advent of the many paranormal investigation shows that are so common now. When I first saw the show Ghost Hunters, I was skeptical and a bit incredulous. Although I was a firm believer in ghosts and rarely questioned anyone who said they’d experienced one, I looked askance at this crazy idea of a show. Did people really go around dark houses at night trying to talk to these entities? How strange and, yes, how stupid.
Still, I watched the show and began to understand their techniques and their jargon. I learned the difference between residual hauntings and intelligent hauntings, and I made note of some of the situations that might be mistaken for paranormal experiences, such as plumbing problems or sensitivity to EMFs.
Where I got myself into trouble was on social media (there’s no surprise, right?). In those days, many of the celebrity Facebook pages had the option of discussions; a member of the group could post a topic for other members to debate or comment on. I joined many of these discussions on Jason Hawes’ page, and started a few of my own. Now, to make this long story a bit shorter, someone at my current church saw the things I was posting. Since the beliefs I held (the fact that ghosts exist and may or may not be some residual energy from living persons) differed from my church’s beliefs (the only “ghost” is the Holy Ghost, and all other spirits are either angels or demons), I was called into a meeting with one of the pastors. I will not dredge up old grievances and chronicle everything that was said in that meeting, but suffice it to say, it did not end well. My husband (who does not share in my beliefs or experiences) and I left that church and are attending another.
Suffice it to say that I still have questions about the paranormal—not just ghosts, but also things like UFOs, cryptids, and all sorts of psychic phenomena—but I am much more guarded in whom I share my experiences with. I still watch some of the paranormal shows, and I still search the Bible trying to understand the differences between my views (and my interpretation of Scripture) and the church’s. I believe that continued struggle largely influences many of the things Kyr experiences in my stories. I don’t think I will ever really reach a conclusion, but as with many other issues I have had to work through, it does certainly help to be able to write them down in an environment where I can freely express and explore them.