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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

For Love of Things That Go Bump in the Night by Devon Ellington

I’ve always loved what most people consider the “unknown.”  Ghosts don’t particularly bother me, although they can be irritating at times.  I’m not afraid of dusty attics or murky basements.  I’m comfortable around a lot of things most people fear.

Many of these exterior entities are either manifestations or projections of what we fear.  When we face our fears, when we accept the parts of us we don’t necessarily like, we become more “whole” (at the risk of using psychobabble), more complex, and more interesting.

As a writer, manifesting fears does two things -- one, it provides a physicalization of what remains unnamed, helping me create a character and therefore giving it a form that is more easily understandable than a theory.  For instance, when kids at school tease my godchildren and tell them, “Santa doesn’t exist”, I remind them, “Yes, Santa DOES exist.  Santa is the personification of giving.  Every time you give someone a gift from the heart, no strings attached, you ARE Santa.”

Unpleasant stuff also exists.  Blood sacrifice has been around for centuries, and many of those sacrificed didn’t choose to be the sacrifice.  Exploring the concept of immortal life through someone else’s blood sacrifice -- vampirism -- is a way to go deep into the fears and the somewhat taboo pleasures the power of taking someone else’s blood presents.

My protagonist in the Jain Lazarus series, which starts with HEX BREAKER, is a practical, butt-kicking heroine who handles paranormal anomalies.  In this particular book, it’s zombies.  I am not a fan of zombie tales -- don’t like reading them, don’t like watching them.  Yet, BECAUSE they are one of the manifestations that makes me squirm, I wanted to explore them in a book.  I wanted to explore the different possibilities involved in making a zombie - and in potentially curing one.  I had to give Jain a previous high, personal stake in the matter in order for her to have had the motivation to work on these aspects.  Both in HEX BREAKER, and in the second book, releasing shortly, OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, the theme of having one’s choices taken away and having to fight and take action to get them back are central to the conflict.  We are afraid of losing choices -- that’s why elections have become so important and contested.  We want control of our own destinies.  Yet, since ancient times, the concept of “other” having more power over us than we have over ourselves, whether as a way to refuse responsibility or fight for what we want, is deeply ingrained.

Setting the book on a film shoot came naturally.  I worked backstage on Broadway and in film and television for many years.  My paranormal romantic suspense, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT (written as Annabel Aidan), takes place almost entirely backstage at a Broadway show.  I’ve worked on film shoots similar to the one in HEX BREAKER - it was comfortable territory.  I used the comfort of a familiar setting to explore aspects of human/non-human that were unfamiliar.

One of the exciting things about being a writer is that, once you start personifying these ideas and ideals, they evolve into complex and interesting individuals.  Billy Root, the actor who’s always the “sidekick” wound up being more complex and interesting than I ever expected, and with hidden talents revealed during the book.  Originally, I toyed with the idea of having Billy or Nick, the lead actor, be Jain’s main foil in the book.  However, Wyatt walked in, and it was all over.  The chemistry between Jain and Wyatt is undeniable, and only builds throughout the series.  Billy, however, became a fan favorite.  He’s got his own blog now (http://billyrootblogs.wordpress.com), and is central to the third book in the series, CRAVE THE HUNT, where he really comes into his own.

Writing is about exploration, about manifestation, about discovery, and about learning what makes us human -- even when what teaches us isn’t.


Devon Ellington is a full-time writer, who publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction, and teaches writing all over the world.  Her Jain Lazarus Adventures are handled by Solstice Publishing (http://hexbreaker.devonellingtonwork.com) and her romantic suspense novel, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT (as Annabel Aidan) is out with Champagne Books.  “Sea Diamond”, featuring Fiona Steele, is included in the DEATH SPARKLES anthology, released in Fall 2012.  She’s published hundreds of stories, articles, speeches, and scripts throughout her career, and is on the Board of Directors at the Cape Cod Writers Center.  Visit her blog on the writing life, Ink in My Coffee (http://devonellington.wordpress.com) and her website, www.devonellingtonwork.com.


Hex Breaker Jain Lazarus joins the crew of a cursed film, hoping to put to rest what was stirred up before more people die and the film is lost.  Tough, practical Detective Wyatt East becomes her unlikely ally and lover on an adventure fighting zombies, ceremonial magicians, the town wife-beater, the messenger of the gods, and their own pasts.


Pamala Knight said...

What a fascinating analysis of the things that frighten us! I agree with your explanation about Santa. I tell my kids something similar that involves belief and once you hit the area where you can't suspend belief, then Santa doesn't exist for you. Until you believe again, then voila! There he is, once again, bearing gifts like an old friend ;-).

Thanks for the excellent post.

Devon Ellington said...

Thanks for stopping by, Pamela. Terry Pratchett handles this whole belief/non-belief wonderfully in his Discworld novel, HOGFATHER (which is one of my favorite novels, period). I read it and went, yeah, that's what I think and look how well he explored it!

Pat said...

I've used this concept with my characters' fears and it really does make for a better story. Great blog!

site angel said...

Hi, Devon. Thanks for the insightful piece!
Cheers, Kelly

Dawn Chartier said...

Hi Devon,

Can't wait to read this one. I love anything to do with magic and/or ghosts.

Dawn Chartier

Paula said...

One thing I love about zombies... because they aren't usually portrayed as sexy, seductive, desirable paranormals, they seem to encourage human characters to rise to the occasion and become the best they can be. Facing our fears does make us more whole... and maybe it can do the same for our characters!