As the number of novels I’ve written increases, it’s become increasingly difficult to conceive of original stories. After all, love stories are among the oldest of all genres and have their roots in the Greek tragedies. Still, originality is one of the most important considerations of the genre, and for this story I chose to use the theme of ghosts. Ghosts, however, have been used in dramatic stories for centuries. One need only to remember Hamlet by Shakespeare or A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to realize that, and film has only added to the genre: Think Ghost, starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, or The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, one of the all-time classics. How then, could I include a ghost story, without being accused of cliche? The answer to me seemed obvious: to make it an anti-ghost story, in which neither character believes in ghosts, but decide to investigate what is probably an explainable situation. This then, is what I decided to do. I knew I’d be blamed for “lessening the mystery” (by making it explainable), but it was either that or being blamed for being cliched. Sometimes, it seems, an author can never win.
Once I’d made the decision, however, the next difficulty was in making the next aspect of the story somewhat original as well. In most of my previous novels, either one or both characters was looking to fall in love. In this story, again for originality, I wanted neither character to be lonely or upset that they hadn’t found someone yet.
My next step was research. Though I’ll be perfectly honest when I say that research generally comprises a small part of my work, I did find myself doing quite a bit of research into two different areas. The first was what might be causing the mysterious lights, particularly in eastern North Carolina. The second regarded Jeremy Marsh and exactly what it was that he generally wrote about as a debunker. To accomplish this, I read or skimmed approximately thirty books, looking for legends and ghosts in North Carolina. While I did find some interesting stories and legends, most were simply that: stories that seemed to have faded away over the years. After some time, however, I discovered the legend of the Brown Mountain lights, a mysterious phenomena of lights that occurred regularly in western North Carolina. Not only did I read about the legend in detail, but I was also able to find a scientific explanation by someone who’d spent a great deal of time investigating them. It seemed to be the perfect scenario that I needed—with one exception. Note the name of the legendary lights—Brown Mountain lights. This was a problem; in eastern North Carolina, there are no mountains. In fact, there’s barely even a hill anywhere within a hundred miles of the coast; the biggest inclines around tend to be freeway overpasses. Yet, the Brown Mountain lights were perfect, and as a novelist (not a non-fiction writer), I’m allowed certain privileges, one of which is the ability to “lie” for the sake of the story. Thus, I created a fictitious town with a fictitious mountain (Riker’s Hill).
(Note: For all those who want to come to Eastern North Carolina to visit Boone Creek and Riker’s Hill, please don’t bother. Really and truly, it’s all made up.)
The second step was Jeremy Marsh and his career as a scientific debunker. Fortunately, I’ve seen every episode of the X-files, I was raised by a father who loved horror stories, I’ve read everything by Stephen King, and I’ve long had a love for legends and superstitions. Jeremy’s thoughts, in most ways, resemble my own regarding supernatural phenomena. He doesn’t believe in UFOs, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, ghosts, teleportation, psychic abilities, tarot reading, fortune telling, faith healing, vampires, werewolves, goblins, demons. . . in his view, unless it can be proved (and with the exception of God, whom he believes in for scientific reasons), he doubts its existence. For those who are curious, I’m exactly the same way.
As for Lexie (named after my daughter, by the way), I decided to model her character after her my wife. For those who want to know what Cat is like. . . well, here she is.
Boone Creek, despite being a fictitious place, also played a prominent role. It was the first time I’d attempted to make the “setting” a “character” (something commonly done in much ‘Southern Literature’) and I hope you think I succeeded. As crazy as it seems, Boone Creek is the kind of place where I’d feel right at home.