Friday, February 17, 2012

Chasing Ghosts

I have just signed a new book contract.   There is some irony in my book contract because it isn’t for the book I would have ever imagined myself writing.  The book is Haunted South Alabama so I will spend my spring chasing ghosts again.   Haunted South Alabama is the third Haunted America book I’ve written.  This isn’t a bad thing.   I never meant to write ghost stories.  I just happened upon it, but now I am most known for my ghost stories and, despite my reluctance to write them, I’ve learned more from ghost stories than anything else I have written.
What have ghost stories taught me?  It may seem ridiculous to say ghost stories taught me anything but folklore, but chasing ghosts has taught me a thousand things no writing workshops ever could.  It taught me about people.  Everyplace I go to talk about ghosts, people share with me.  They share their family histories and bring me their family photos and they tell me how their great aunt still walks and then they tell me why.  At one ghost talk I did, an elderly lady brought me pictures of her family graves and told me how her grandfather was hung from a tree after being pursued by outlaws.   At another, a young woman told me of the ghosts that haunted her childhood home.  I have learned as much about the people as their ghosts and listening brought me closer to those parts of people they seldom speak of.
Ghosts have also taught me about history.   Regional history never interested me, least of all Southern history, but now I can say I know the battles that were fought in the civil war and I know where they were fought.  I know them because I know the ghost stories the battles left behind.   I know the old courthouses and their histories and the ghost stories in the courthouses.    I learned all these things because I’ve chased ghosts for my books.   But most of all I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to go where life takes you.   I may have dreamt of being a bestselling novelist, but I was taken someplace else.  I have been taken to a place where I can chase ghosts and tell the stories of all the wonderful people and places I meet along the way and even though it wasn’t what I thought I wanted,   it has been an amazing journey.    
Jessica Penot


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

You areblessed to be doing something you love. Ghost stories are a wonerul way to interact with yor audience (and sell books.)

If you ever get to the Daytona Beach/Ormond Beach area of FL, please look me up. We have a famouse ghose whom andold friend grew up with at Lillian Place. She was part of the family!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I should proof read more often. Yikes

Jessica Penot said...

I will definately look you up. That sounds like an interesting ghost story. Farmhouse ghosts are always interesting. Don't worry about the proof reading. I'm lucky if I spell my name right most of the time.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Sounds like a fascinating project, Jessica - all the best with the new book.