E.J. Copperman is a New Jersey native and the author of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED, which begins the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime June 1. This is E.J.'s first novel, but not the last--two more Haunted Guesthouse Mysteries (at least) are on their way!
The first thing people ask you when they find out you write a mystery series about a haunted guesthouse is an obvious question: "Do you believe in ghosts?"
It's a tricky thing. If, as the author of a book called NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED, in which a woman finds two ghosts hanging around her newly-purchased Victorian, which she plans on converting into a guesthouse, you say that you believe in ghosts, the next logical question will be, "Why?" The reader, or interviewer, or transient who happened by, will want some evidence--some personal experience you've had--that made you so certain of your position.
But if you tell them you DON'T believe in afterliving visitors, you're liable to disappoint, or worse, to completely shatter the questioner's belief system.
It's a lose-lose situation. So I'm going to definitively state my core belief here, and let it stand for the record.
I don't know.
No, that's not a dodge. I've never had a life experience that made me certain someone from beyond the grave was trying to communicate. Unlike Haley Joel Osment, I DON'T see dead people. None of my departed relatives or friends has left a message on the spectral answering machine. No mysterious chills up my spine at appropriate moments. No "sensing a presence" in the room. It just hasn't happened to me.
On the other hand, I have no evidence that such things don't happen. I have friends whose intelligence and sanity I can personally vouch for who tell me they have experienced just such phenomena. And just because it hasn't happened to me doesn't me it doesn't happen.
In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED, Alison Kerby (extra points if you get the reference) discovers a talent she didn't know she had--she can see two spirits inhabiting her house. It's not an ability she's been wishing for, and in fact, Alison finds it a major inconvenience. See, the two ghosts in her Jersey Shore guesthouse want her to do them a little favor: They want Alison to find out who murdered them.
Alison doesn't believe in ghosts until she starts seeing Paul and Maxie. And she would prefer not to see them now, truth be known. But once she realizes that this isn't the result of head trauma or insanity, Alison does her best to avoid doing any investigating. But circumstances--let's leave it at that--make that impossible.
So off she goes, and there will be a good number of surprises for her (and hopefully for you) along the way, including the fact that Alison is not the only person around who can see her two spectral guests. And that the person (or persons) who murdered Paul and Maxie might be getting wind of Alison's investigation--and targeting her to be the next ghost haunting the house.
Alison, if nothing else, becomes a true believer in ghosts during NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED. It's hard for her to deny the existence of two people who are making her life miserable--and exciting.
For me, the jury's still out on ghosts. But I'm wondering, from a reader's point of view: Does an author have to be a true believer to make the story work? I'd appreciate your opinion.