When a reviewer called my book "deliciously
creepy," I was over the moon. I used to love listening to ghost stories
around a camp fire. Loved even more telling ghost stories and scaring the
bejesus out of my friends.
I still watch reruns of Twilight Zone with its "journey into the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition . . ." And I'm a huge fan of Hitchcock movies.
I try to write the kind of creepy that earns its thrill because it feels real. Like that just-off moment when you arrive home and realize your front door is ajar. Or you hear water running and running and no one is turning it off. Or something isn't where you know you left it.
A misplaced pocketbook. A misplaced car. In There Was an Old Woman, those moments build until 91-year-old Mina Yetner wonders if she's losing her mind.
The daughter of Mina's neighbor comes back to her mother's house to find it's turned into a hoarder's nest, when her alcoholic mother was never a hoarder. On top of that, her medicine cabinet is chock full of vitamins she'd never take and she has cases of Scotch that she can't afford.
As I was writing, I consciously tried to pile on those not-quite-right moments when the everyday turns ominous. So though There Was an Old Woman is a mystery, it's more a what's-going-on-here than a whodunnit.
A touchstone for me, as a writer, is a famous scene from the Alfred Hitchcock movie Suspicion. The husband, a ne'er-do-well playboy (Cary Grant), climbs the stairs carrying a tray with a glass of warm milk up to his invalid wife (Joan Fontaine). She's sure the milk is laced with poison.
Tension mounts as Hitchcock's camera cuts back and forth between them, him climbing the stairs, her in bed tortured by the suspicion that he's going to kill her. When the camera focuses on just the milk, it seems to glow.
That's because Hitchcock put a light bulb in the milk. It's what I try to do in my novels, but with words.
Do you share an affinity with Hallie for creepy stories? If so, you should pick up There Was an Old Woman, and see for yourself how she uses words to makes moments and scenes glow.