Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Alexandra Sokoloff Reveals The Unseen

by Caren Crane

I know there are those among the Banditas and Bandita Buddies who long for the chills from things that go bump in the night. I have a special treat for you, my terror-loving friends. My guest today is Alexandra Sokoloff, whose first book The Harrowing was nominated for both the Bram Stoker and Anthony First Book awards. Alex's latest release The Unseen deals with parapsychology, poltergeists and...well we'll get to all that shortly.

Welcome to the Lair, Alex!

Thanks, Caren and Banditas! I am thrilled to be in any lair, but especially this one.

I am the first to admit I am a big old chicken about reading scary books anymore. As a young woman, I read Stephen King and Anne Rice books at an alarming rate, but stopped somewhere in my 20s. So I was curious how my chicken-hearted self would take to The Unseen. I'm happy to report that I made it through without any night terrors or flying leaps into bed! Of course, I read it mostly in the break room at lunch. *g* What is that attracts you to the dark side of writing?

I actually think The Unseen is my "safest" book so far for those who are sensitive to that scary stuff. There are some good spooky chills, but it's more romantic and mysterious, too.

I always loved reading the darker, ghostly books - gothics, Anne Rice, the Brontes, Stephen King, Ira Levin. That all seems to start young. But I also did a ton of musical theater, so it wasn't all dark in my childhood! I guess I was always sensitive to the fact that scary things happen - I myself was almost abducted by a child molester when I was eight, but realized something was terribly wrong with the man and luckily, I got away. Others of my friends were not so lucky. So that was my first brush with true evil, and it started my obsession with the idea of a constant battle out there between good and evil. I love books and movies that acknowledge evil does exist, often in the form of people gone bad, but that have a strong theme of good people fighting it and triumphing. That's what I explore in my books.

Oh my, you learned that lesson far too young. It's easy to see why the good vs. evil theme is such a strong one for you. I was intrigued by The Unseen for several reasons. Much to my husband's dismay, I have long been fascinated by all things "woo woo" as Tawny would say. When I was a kid in the 70s, astrology and psychic exploration of all types were big, even without drugs! So setting The Unseen at Duke University (just down the road) which had a fully-functional parapsychology department for decades was a real hook for me. What made you choose Duke and the work done there as the basis for a book?

Just like you, I got hooked on the psychic stuff as a kid back in the 70's, which was, let's face it, all about that mind-expansion thing! I must have heard about the Rhine ESP experiments when I was just 9 or 10. I remember my little sister doing a science report about the Rhine experiments - she even made her own Zener ESP cards.

Then, way later, several years ago, my screenwriting partner and I were doing a movie assignment, adapting a book about a famous poltergeist experiment, and we decided to set the story on the Duke campus because of the whole history of the parapsychology lab, and I took a research trip to North Carolina to check out the campus and just fell in love with it - it's so Gothic and spooky - actual gargoyles! - and that great chapel. (By the way, that was the film assignment that drove me to write my own first novel, The Harrowing.)

But the spark that, uh, lit the fire of The Unseen, was my significant other handing me an article in the paper about a lecture on the Duke campus called: "Secrets of the Rhine Parapsychology Lab". He told me - as he is wont to do - "You should go to this." And he was right. At that lecture I learned that when the lab closed down in 1965, seven hundred boxes of original paranormal research files were sealed up and stored in the basement of the graduate school library, and were only just opened up after 40 years.

Now, is that a story or what? What the HELL is in those boxes?

So I pitched that to St. Martin's as my third book and they flipped for the idea, and there you go.


I would love to know what's in those boxes, too! It was a great idea that you turned into a riveting book. I loved the feeling of uncertainty throughout The Unseen. The heroine is quite a skeptic about the paranormal activities she sees (or doesn't) and she is also not sure who to trust. A big theme in The Unseen is what the characters want to believe. This seemed to include not only the paranormal stuff but also what the characters believed about each other. I am always tempted to rush to answer questions in my books, which is a suspense killer. *g* Was it hard to write a book where you had to leave so many questions open-ended as to what really happened or who could be trusted?

It was hard, thanks for asking! Because the thing about a poltergeist is that there is no concrete explanation, really. It could be the psychic projections of a troubled adolescent, it could be an aspect of a traditional haunting, it could be extra-dimensional entities, it could be sheer human fraud. So I had to create a situation which could be any one or all of those things, and as usual, I wanted to keep readers guessing all the way through about what was really going on (an author friend of mine calls my books "whatdunits") - while providing a great roller coaster ride - and then resolve the mystery in a scary and satisfying way.

And of course, on the human side Laurel is very damaged from her recent experience with discovering her fiance cheating on her, so it's difficult for her to trust anyone. That whole issue is what she has to resolve personally in order to grow. She wants to believe in psychic phenomena, and believe in people again, but is protecting herself, possibly for good reason.

Now that everyone's curiosity is piqued for The Unseen, what other spooky projects do you have in store for readers?

I just turned in my fourth book for St. Martin's, Book of Shadows, which I just love - it's about a Boston homicide detective who has to team up with a mysterious and of course very sexy witch from Salem to solve what looks like a Satanic killing. Again, crossing real life with the paranormal! I'm doing a paranormal trilogy with Heather Graham and Deborah LeBlanc for Harlequin Nocturne, and an anthology of four interconnected novellas with Heather, Sarah Langan and Sarah Pinborough. All three of my first books, The Harrowing, The Price, and The Unseen will be available in England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand starting in October. And I'm just finishing up my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors book, based on the story structure methods I teach on my blog. Hmm, no wonder I'm tired!

I'm tired just hearing how busy you are. It's a great thing for us readers, though! Any last thoughts for the Banditas and BBs?

The Unseen explores psychic phenomena like hauntings, poltergeists, precognitive dreams, and crisis apparitions (seeing a loved one at the moment of death or extreme trauma). I treat the subject very realistically (and even stayed in a notoriously haunted mansion in North Carolina for a week to add that extra layer of realism!)

So my questions for our readers today are all about that. Have you - or someone you know - ever had a precognitive dream or experience? Some kind of visitation from a dead loved one? A ghost or haunting experience? Experience with ESP or telepathy? Let's hear it!

We'll pick two commenters randomly to win a signed copy of The Unseen and a signed copy of my first spooky ghost story, The Harrowing (inspired by a poltergeist experience I had when I was 16).

Thanks for having me here, and thanks for sharing!

For an extra chance to win a signed copy of The Unseen, just sign up for Alex's newsletter at her website: http://alexandrasokoloff.com, where she gives away a book a week.

110 comments:

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Here chooky chooky...

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome to the Lair, Alexandra!

BIG THANX to Posh/Caren for inviting you! I lurve reading and writing about 'things that go bump in the night' but NO THANK YOU to those things happening in my real life!

Of course, tonight the noises will undoubtedly be from the GR, who is getting read for some kind of big family event, I think. He is acting very strangely, even for him!

AC

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Aunty Cindy.

Hi Alexandra,
Congrats on the new release. I love dark, ghostly books, too. I've never had a paranormal experience or precognitive dreams, but there are times when I get a weird feeling and I know that I will have a bad day.

Lynz Pickles said...

Hi Alexandra! Gotta say, I love your name. I have a cousin named Alex, but I've always felt sorry for her since it's not just a nickname, it's her real name. She doesn't get a gorgeous long version like yours to enjoy.

Aaaanyway, back on topic. Apart from passing feelings of déja vu, I got nothing. I'm pretty boring in that regard. But some of my favourite fictional characters aren't, so I guess I'm stuck with living vicariously through them. My favourite is probably Yelena from Maria V. Snyder's Study series - there's just something I find so interesting about her specific set of powers. But I won't go into more detail since the ones I'm talking about really don't come into play until the third and final book in the series.

Helen said...

Congrats Aunty Cindy you two are sure to have fun

What a great interview Ladies

Alexandra these books sound very good I haven't even read a Stephen King book although my daughters read them. I will be looking out for them when they are released here in Australia and definantly telling my daughters about them.

I haven't had any strange things happen to me or anyone I know but I really love hearing about them

Have Fun
Helen

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Okay, maybe it's the fact that I'm wrestling with insomnia tonight but GR?

Am I just being slow?

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Jane! I know what you mean about that weird feeling preceding a bad day. Actually I think we all get intuitions like that all the time, but rarely pay attention to them, when if we were just a little bit more aware, we could save ourselves some grief. Or ride a lucky streak.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hi Lynz! YOU'RE the one with the interesting name - that's a first for me. Love it.

Maria Snyder's books have been on my TBR pile forever - thanks for the reminder on that one.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Helen. Maybe it's the fact that people have always told me about their strange experiences that I've realized I've had a few of my own.

Now I'm really intrigued about this GR thing. Congratulations to Aunty Cinty are in order... it sounds like... maybe?

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Aunty Cindy! congratulations on snagging the Golden Rooster. I'm sure the two of you will have an...interesting day together. *g* I hope he calms down. Can't imagine what sort of "family event" the bird would be up to.

I have long been intrigued by all things spooky, but I have an excess of imagination, which makes it hard for me enjoy without glomming onto the scary images. They stay with me forever! I still have really spooky images from reading The Shining. Not even the movie - the book! Oy.

Caren Crane said...

Jane, I think we underestimate our "weird feelings", don't you? I mean, some days you may just need more coffee or whatever, but other times they do seem to be a portent of things to come.

I have learned to trust when I get weird vibes from people. I think my first tendency is to try to explain it away, but generally they prove true. Doh! Should have gone with the weird feeling. I've learned some, though.

Caren Crane said...

Lynz, I love getting new recommendations. Especially for books with psy powers. I took two great courses from Mary O'Gara on psychic powers. One was on what a psychic knows and one was on creating psychic characters. Mary is a practicing psychic and writer and, also, a lovely person.

Psychic stuff just lends itself to stories so well!

Caren Crane said...

Alex, I'm sorry I left you in the chicken coop regarding the ill-behaved Golden Rooster. He is the dubious "prize" of the first poster of the day. "Prize" being a loose and subjective term.

He has many adventures and has been known to wreak havoc. He has also been to Special Ops-type training, but we don't like to remind him of that. He is either a treasured companion or a nuisance, depending on his mood. We'll see how he and Aunty Cindy get along today...

Caren Crane said...

Helen, lucky for you that Alex's books are being released in Australia! I think you will love The Unseen. It's tremendously atmospheric and the house the research team stays in is both incredibly intriguing and somewhat bizarre! They will be a treat for you.

Margay said...

Alexandra, I don't like horror novels, per se, but yours sounds fascinating, so I want to read it! As for your question, yes to all of it. I have had precognitive dreams, I was visited by my father the night he died (he lived in Virginia at the time, I live in Massachusetts, this was after he died), I have lived in at least two houses that had ghosts, and currently have experiences with ghostly happenings in my apartment, and I always joke with my sisters that we are on a psychic wavelength because we often read each other's thoughts. I think if you are open to the experience, as I am, you will have it. Luckily, I'm not freaked out about this kind of stuff and find it very fascinating - much to the chagrin of my daughters, who have to put up with all of the ghost shows I watch!

Margay

Minna said...

Well, I've told this one before, but here goes:

My grandmother's brother used to live nearby, he visited us at least twice a day with his cat -who followed him everywhere- and in order to come here he had to walk past our cousins' summer cottage. He also hated dogs, for some reason. Eventually he died and his cat had to be put down. Now, some years later my cousins who own the cottage told that their son had this imaginary friend, an old man who hates dogs, who has a cat and who passes the cottage with his cat couple of times a day in order to visit my home. They claimed, they hadn't told anything to their son about the old man who used to live near by.

Enigma - Beyond The Invisible
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwEak8AWv7E

Doing It All For My Baby - Huey Lewis & The News
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=090DlQcnh18

Ray Parker Jr - Ghostbusters
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4uxIo4t7xM

chekru said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chekru said...

well now I'm spooked lol

I have had many experiences with "ghosts" when I was younger. Thankfully most have stopped now. still get things happening every once in a while. some pleasant some not so much..

Christie Kelley said...

Welcome to the lair, Alexandra! You're book sounds fantastic. And the next time I go to NC to visit my sister-in-law, I will have to go to Duke.

No real ESP experience over here. Although, my husband and I can usually finish each other's sentences but I think that has to do with living with each other for so long.

I did grow up in two houses that had spirits. Or maybe the spirit came along with us from the first house. Either way, it was fun as a child to have things go missing only to find them in the exact spot you placed them a week or two later. Or to hear footsteps upstairs when you're the only one in the house and the cats are sitting next to you.

Karen from Mentor said...

Alex,
My copy of THE UNSEEN finally came last night but I was waiting for DAYLIGHT to crack the cover.
I read part of the interview through my fingers so I wouldn't read any spoilers!

Nothing spoiled, just wet my appetite all the more.

Paranormal sighting...I had this really funny feeling that you'd be here today....woo woo

Hugs!
Karen :)

housemouse88 said...

Hello Alexandra,

I've not an ESP experience. However, I did feel my grandmother's presence at her funeral. It was like she put her arms around me. I'll never forget that moment. Please enter me for the contest. Have a great day.

house_mouse88 at yahoo dot com

jo robertson said...

Great interview, Alex and Caren. When I was young, I ate up those kinds of books too, Caren. It was all about the thrill of being scared and I loved it the same way I loved "spooky movies."

I'm afraid I'm psychic-challenged, however LOL. Probably my pragmatic mind won't allow any of that alternate reality in! But I'll definitely pick up your books, Alex. It's so much fun to be scared!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Caren, THE SHINING might be the book that scared me the most when I was a kid, and I read everything. I could not read that book unless there was someone else in the room with me. Not in the house, in the ROOM.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Margay, I would absolutely not call THE UNSEEN horror (you can debate about my other two books, but not this one!). It's a mystery and a thriller and it has a lot of suspenseful paranormal stuff going on but no leering zombies or gore of any kind, no gibbering skeletons, nothing at all like that. It's more about those hair-raising quiet things that FEEL other-worldly.

Your experiences are exactly the ones that Dr. Rhine's wife and colleague, Dr. Louisa Rhine, was dedicated to studying. They happen to so many people, in exactly the same pattern, that I HAVE to believe something is going on, there.

Billie Jo said...

Hi Alexandra

I absolutely loved The Harrowing. I have The Unseen on my to buy list. Congrats on the newest release.

I can honestly answer yes to all your questions.

I had a short story published two years ago about one of my experiences. It was spooky and very scary. My great grandmother always told me that I have a lot of shaman or an old Indian soul in me.

I listen to my instincts and dreams and on more than one occasion they have protected me.

Sorry for going on, this is a favorite subject of mine.

Billie Jo

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Oh, Minna, that is such a totally sweet story in made me tear up. Kids SO often see those echoes of people that we sometimes seem to leave behiind.

Thank you for that one.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Christie, that does sound exactly like a haunted house!

You MUST go see Duke. I'm not sure that Caren pulled the exact photo of Duke Chapel to illustrate (thanks, Caren!!), but it does look incredibly like that!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Ah, GR = Golden Rooster!!!

I feel better, now.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Chekru, it's true, we seem to have these things happen much more when we're younger.

This is interesting - Billie Jo said that she listens to her instincts and dreams and sometimes they have protected her... and Caren said that sometimes she DOESN'T listen to those "feelings" when she should have.

One of the best books I've ever read - for writers and for just people, especially women, is Gavin deBecker's THE GIFT OF FEAR. He's a security consultant to the stars, longtime law enforcement expert, and the book is about how we ALWAY know when we're in jeopardy, if we learn to listen to our intuitions - it's a survival mechanism that all human beings have.

It's great for creating suspense in your writing, but even more importantly - it may save your life to know.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Billie Jo, thanks so much, I'm thrilled you enjoyed THE HARROWING!

You know, your grandmother is right - it's a shamanic quality to be open to these kinds of experiences. I'm glad you're writing about them.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hi Karen - thanks for stopping by! This is a great blog - these ladies know how to throw a party.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Housemouse, that is a lovely story about your grandmother. I felt my grandmother the day she died, too. They never really leave us.

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome Alexandra! What a thrill to have you in the Lair!

I've enjoyed reading you on Murderati! (I lurk - bit of a Tess fan-girl!)

My little sis was always the horror reader, while I stuck to the romances. Now, my tastes are getting darker *g*.

Coming from England, we have plenty of ghoulies and ghosties and other kids of beasties. And lots of places where you get 'that feeling'. One of the houses I used to live in, in Beverley, had 'that feeling' and I never liked to walk around the house, particularly on the top landing, in the dark.

I've certainly had a few experiences which have been interesting - one involving the ghost of a servant girl from our Civil War!

Anna Sugden said...

Housemouse's story reminded me - my mother is Persian and she believes that when someone dies, they go to a place where they account for their deeds, good and bad. After that's done, they move on (I think just to Heaven). This time can be anything from minutes to years.

During that time, no-one dreams about them or feels their presence. When they move on, someone will see them in a dream - usually someone in the family, but not the partner or son/daughter.

When my grandmother (Mum's mother) passed, I dreamt of her and she was sitting on a gravestone crying, because she'd been buried in the wrong place. Unknown to me, she had (she was in Persia)!

Recently, my beloved MIL passed and I was wondering who would dream of her. Sure enough, my younger step-d dreamed she met her at a fair, by the cake stall (she was famous for her cakes!) and she told her to tell us she was okay.

Nancy said...

AC, you nabbed the rooster! Do see what you can find out about this "family event." Any party he looks forward to has the potential for trouble.

Didn't Lucien report something about June 30?

One shudders to think . . .

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Anna, 'that feeling' describes it perfectly. I always had 'that feeling' in the front bedroom of my house in L.A., and weird, weird dreams of the same small and angry little woman if I ever had to sleep there. Then my cats moved in and whatever else was there disappeared completely.

You couldn't be more right that England is just crawling with these things! ;) That's why I love it.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

PS. Well, that and the English men.

Nancy said...

Alex, welcome! One of the most interesting programs I attended in college was a lecture by people from the Duke parapsychology program. Among the topics they discussed were poltergeists.

A friend's brother reported a poltergeist experience one summer when he was on an archaeological dig in the West. Lasted about a week, I think my friend said.

I have occasional deja vu feelings and some uneasiness but nothing I'd call real psychic power. A couple of times I've been about to turn into a parking lot and gotten a really bad feeling, which has led me to go somewhere else.

Unlike Caren, I'm not allowed to read Stephen King and Ann Rice. Or Patricia Cornwell. A friend who has known me for years assures me I won't sleep if I do, so I've taken her advice to heart.

I do subscribe to Hamlet's belief that there are "stranger things in Heaven and Hell than are dreamt of" in most philosophies.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Oh my gosh, Anna, what a fascinating view of the afterlife! I love it!

And all of your stories suggest what I really believe to be true: death opens up a door between worlds, and that's when it's most likely that there will be communication between the worlds.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Nancy, wow, a poltergeist at an archeological dig - now THAT'S a story!

You said, "A couple of times I've been about to turn into a parking lot and gotten a really bad feeling, which has led me to go somewhere else."

That's EXACTLY what this deBecker book, THE GIFT OF FEAR, is all about. He breaks down what you see, hear, smell, sense, to give you those warnings. It's fascinating.

flip said...

I love paranormal stories. Watch Medium weekly. Your books sound so good.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Flip! Yeah, MEDIUM is a great show. That's the stuff I love.

Margay said...

Okay, Alexandra, I absolutely HAVE to read your book now! I don't like the gore, etc., but I do love the suspense and those quiet moments that make the hair on the back of your neck tingle because you just know something is about to happen. Like in the Sixth Sense. That was one of the best examples of suspense out there - who could forget that surprise twist at the end? I would love to go to one of those research institutes one day to see what they can make of my experiences - I've had quite a few.
Margay

Nancy said...

Alex wrote: Nancy, wow, a poltergeist at an archeological dig - now THAT'S a story!

The dig was a Native American site, but the poltergeist turned up at the house he was renting. This was long ago, so I don't remember the details. I do remember being fascinated.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Margay, I think you'll be just fine with this one. THE SIXTH SENSE is one of my favorite movies, too.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Nancy, that's even better - it followed him home from the site! Awesome!

Donna MacMeans said...

Caren - Thanks for inviting Alexandra to the lair - and Alexandra welcome. You two have certainly piqued my interest!

I have yet to experience any kind of visual psychic event, but I know people who swear they have seen ghosts - and I believe them. THis is not an easy thing to say as I'm usually a cynic, but to listen to these people - hear the honesty in their voices - I believe them.

The closest I've come is a feeling that passed through me when my mother died. I was speeding down the highway, trying to make it to the hospital when she passed away. I felt it like a fresh breeze flowing through my body and I knew she was gone. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. I arrived at the hospital about 30 minutes later and learned she had died. I asked the nurse for the time of death. It was the same as I had noted on my dashboard clock. Mom was saying goodbye.

I'll have to watch for this book.

Hey AC - Congrats on the rooster nabbing!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey, AC! You got da bird! :> Have fun with him today, as Helen would say.

Hey Alexandra! Welcome to the Lair! I'm chiming in late, but wanted to be sure and say howdy. I love Duke - Duke RULES! - and I too was fascinated by the Rhine institute stuff. I had no idea they'd opene all those old files though. Coool!

I'm excited about your books, and am adding them to the towering, leaning TBR pile. They sound like great reads!

As to ESP and the unseen, we're full of that around our house. A couple of ghosties for sure. Several family members have that "gift" for knowing when things are either happening or going to, that sort of thing. I guess if you grow up with it, you take it for granted that everyone has an auntie or cousin who calls and says, "you should get those brakes checked, you know!"

Grins.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Donna, what you experienced at the time of your mother's death is reported over and over and over again, throughout the world and down through the centuries. We are more connected than we think, and I think that's incredibly wonderful.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Duchess... guess it makes sense that you would be into Duke!

Yeah, finding out about those sealed boxes was just a jaw-dropping moment for me.

The only member of my family who was that overtly psychic as your relatives was my mother's mother. And she's the one who visited me at her moment of death - a very beautiful experience.

Lynn said...

I never thought I had experience with the paranormal until...

My "other" and I had been together several years before she finally fessed up that, as they say in the movie, she saw dead people. Only with her, it's not dead people per se. It's shadows, full-body apparitions, and mists that may or may not be traditional ghosts or hauntings. She has never claimed to know exactly what they are, i.e. dead people. But she sure knows when they are there. And it's not a scary thing.

She also gets "out of sync" with the normal human timeline. She knows things that are going to happen, but it's because she's there when they do happen. It's like she's inhabiting two difference time streams that are slightly misaligned. I find myself sometimes coming back into a conversaton with her that we had part of two or three days ago. Weird, but again, not scary.

Her fessing up to her experiences (which apparently she has been having since she was very young) helped me re-evaluate several things that happened in my younger days too. Like when I visited my grandmother in the hospital when she was dying and she kept talking about flying and "that guy" who wanted her to go with him. Only later, giving the situation more thought, did I realize she was talking about my grandfather -- who had died about 20 years before. And I knew that it wasn't her imagination. He was there. But only she could see him.

If I talk about this at all, which is rare, people ask me if I really do believe in ghosts. To me, now, it's not a matter of believing or not believing. These things happen whether we believe them and can explain them or not.

plastic santa

Nancy said...

Wonderful interview, Alexandra!

I've had precog dreams, and most of them weren't pleasant. I found a way to turn them off, though the occasional one will sneak in.

I've also had some fun times with ghosts - and only one very bad run in with a negative entity. Touches I can handle. Shoves to the pavement, not so much.

Congratulations, Alexandra!

Light,
Nancy Haddock
nancy@nancyhaddock.com

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Caren, you get us some great guests. Alexandra, what a great interview. I love the sound of your books. I must say I was hooked on woowoo stuff when I was younger too and I love the sound of your stories. And I loved hearing the real life inspiration behind your ideas. Duke University sounds great! Actually I firmly believe there is an unseen dimension. I had a mother who was erratically psychic - and not just about when I was doing naughty things as a kid ;-) Sadly, she never came up with stuff like lotto numbers but when she got one of her feelings, she was uncannily accurate.

Anna Campbell said...

Aunty Cindy, congratulations on the chook! It's a while since he's visited you, isn't it?

Really loving everyone's woowoo stories. Keep 'em up!

And I agree, the Shining is seriously scary. I think the book is scarier than the movie, and the movie is enough to give anyone nightmares.

Anna Campbell said...

Alexandra, on a much more prosaic level, I'd love a glimpse into your working day and how you put a book together.

buddyt said...

Please enter me in the drawing.
Thank you.

Carol

Suzanne Welsh said...

Welcome to the Lair, Alexandra! Make sure Caren takes you into the deepest part of the Lair...the writer's cave. We're sure strange things happen down there, because Banditas will go into it and not be seen for weeks at a time!

As for "woo-woo" moments, my mothers is probably the one person I know of who has the most uncanny sense of "knowing" something is going on 1100 miles away and will call to aske specifically about the person going through some sort of life altering experience at that exact time!

Estella said...

I have read some nice things about The Unseem!

Christine Wells said...

Alex, welcome to the lair. Wow, what a fascinating blog! Caren, thanks for a great interview, too.

I'm such a wimp when it comes to scary stuff so maybe I need to start with The Unseen. I've never been aware of any paranormal activity but I know a very pragmatic accountant who said his old house was haunted so I don't discount it. Sometimes I dream about something and it comes true, but that could be coincidence. I suppose I'm a skeptic who's willing to be persuaded!

Congrats on the rooster, AC!

Susan Sey said...

Hi, Alexandra! Welcome to the lair! Your stories sound absolutely wonderful--intriguing & chilling & sexy! Can't wait to get a copy of the Unseen for myself.

As for paranormal experiences, nope. I'm waaaaay too pedestrian for anything weird to happen to me. Not that I don't still run up the basement stairs when I'm home alone, or save the laundry (which is also int he basement) until day light. :-) I'm easily freaked out, with absolutely no reason to be.

I'd blame it on our basement, except that I generally feel that way about EVERYBODY'S basement. They're just creepy places, you know? Underground & all? I don't know.

Anyway, thanks for coming by today!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan, I'm pretty much the pedestrian when it comes to poltergeists encounters, too. But when I lived in Florida, there was a nurse there who refused to walk to a certain elevator, because she said she could feel the ghosts that hung out there. Come to find out, not only was it a hospital...so the likelihood of ghosts haning out was definitely increased, but the place was built on the site of an old Indian burial ground. Yep, kinda freaky weird.

And I just have to wonder, why were the ghosts hanging out at this old elevator? Were they going somewhere?

Pat Cochran said...

Good interview, Alexandra and Caren.

I've probably mentioned this at
some point, but here goes: my
younger sister passed away in 1975.
Honey and I were named her 3 1/2
y/o daughter's guardian. Every now
and then, I would catch a whiff of
what seemed to be my sister's
favorite fragrance. I just passed
it off as my weird imagination.
Then it happened too frequently
to ignore. I had to accept that
we had a visitor. At one point,
the fragrance was so strong that
I had to speak to her about it!
The fragrance lessened! One other
thing that has occurred: babies
that come into the house will coo, smile, kick their feet and react
as though to someone is playing
with them!! That's my "woowoo"
story for today - I have more!
BTW, we think Audry came to see
how Shannon was doing.

Pat Cochran

Tawny said...

Hi Alexandra and welcome to the Lair :-) Your books sound fascinating. I read the tarot, so thats about as close to precognitive dreams as I've ever gotten, but my husband has had a few. I love the paranormal, especially when its so well woven into the day to day and hard to tell if it's real or just sorta weird LOL.

Caren Crane said...

I have a sister and niece who are both very sensitive to "bad vibes" about places. My sister sees spirits, but she says she can control the experience. If she doesn't want to see them, she just tells them to go away. My niece is too young yet to be that aware (she's 10), but she is intrigued by it all.

Oh, and my husband saw his grandmother one late night/early morning, then learned she had passed away that night. He is a huge skeptic and doesn't believe anything. *g*

Nancy said...

Donna wrote: I know people who swear they have seen ghosts - and I believe them.

I'd forgotten about this until I saw your post, Donna, maybe because I never saw it myself.

When my mother was dying, she complained of seeing strangers in the room when her friends visited. Her friends reported this to the nursing staff, who told them that's quite common with people who are dying. They report seeing people no one else can see.

When my mom's roommate died, Mom claimed to have seen angels take her out the window. My sister was there when Mom died, and she said that near the end, Mom was looking up at the ceiling and making hand-over-hand motions, reaching up. When my sister asked what she was doing, the reply was, "I have to climb up. They're waiting for me."

Now, maybe that's wishful thinking when looking to one's own end, maybe it's all hallucinations due to reduced oxygen to the brain from congestive heart failure.

But maybe not.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Lynn, what your "other" is seeing they call "Shadow People" here. Nobody really knows what they are, but everyone says the same thing - they're not ghosts. I'm glad they're not scary for her.

Another great grandmother story! I love that. It's a huge comfort to think a loved one comes for us at the end.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi again everyone,

Just popping out of the depths of the writing cave to say that the chook is behaving very strangely even for him.

He's been down here with me all day and has been doing this non-stop workout regime that includes martial arts moves and other weird things. He keeps muttering about being in 'top form' for this 'family thing' that is happening.

I think Lucien is right about it being the 30th and heaven help us all if there are MORE like the GR hanging around! I don't think it is in the Lair, however. THANK GOODNESS! The GR was also muttering about the old homestead and the bayou...

AC
scratching her head in wonder

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Nancy, shoves to the pavement? Yike! It sounds like you take these things in stride, though.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Anna - yeah, I'm loving the stories, too!

Re: my working day, I'm a full time writer, and have been most of my adult life (I was a full-time screenwriter before I started writing novels) so I sit down to it after coffee, just like a regular job only I don't get dressed and my commute is a short walk to whatever room I feel like working in to start.

Of course a lot of my day is sucked up by internet business stuff, it seems endless, but my normal schedule is at least five pages a day. And how I put a book together is to brainstorm on index cards and then outline extensively - 50 to 70 pages. I have dozens of articles on how I use film techniques to help me write novels - all on my blog, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors: http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hi Suzanne! The Writer's Cave, hmm? Sounds like my kind of place on all sorts of levels.

Must have been interesting growing up with your mom....

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Estella! Glad to hear the book is getting good buzz!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Christine, I also approach the subject from the POV of a complete skeptic (my parents are scientists!). But that's what I loved about the Rhine experiments - they were using very controlled laboratory conditions to test phenomena like ESP, precognition, and psychokinesis (the movement of objects with the mind).

That combination of the scientific and the paranormal is irresistible to me

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks, Alexandra. I'm endlessly fascinated by how other writers get a book together. There seem to be as many ways of writing a book as there are authors!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Susan, I couldn't agree more - there is NOTHING scarier than a basement. Anyone's basement!

It's interesting how psychologists call our worst fears and traumas "basement issues".

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Okay, Suzanne, next to basements, hospital elevators.... brrrr.

I used that feeling a lot in my second book, THE PRICE.

So a haunted elevator in a hospital on top of an Indian burial ground - YIKE!!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Pat, that is just beautiful about your sister's visits - the perfume and the babies who reacted to her. Thank you so much for sharing.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Tawny, I love the Tarot - such powerful symbols. And yes, I prefer my paranormal very close to reality. I love to walk that line so that you never really know...

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

More good stories from Caren! This is EXACTLY what Dr. Louisa Rhine was doing - collecting real life stories from people all over the world - and they all seemed to fall into the same few categories. That moment of death visitation, or crisis apparition, was the most common pattern.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Nancy, you're so right that hospital personnel have heard these stories over and over and over again.

I agree with you... maybe it's oxygen deprivation... but maybe not.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hmm, this GR sounds like an entity like no other...

The Banditas' animal totem!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Sorry for the deluge of posts, everyone - I have a signing tonight at the great Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego, and it was a long drive from L.A. that I HAD to do before traffic! Just catching up...

Lynn said...

If anyone here has read this deep in the comments (and you should!), you really really need to go over to Alexandra's blog and read her long series of posts on using screenwriting techniques. So informative. And so fun!

Can't wait for the book, Alex!

plastic santa

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Lynn! Yeah, there's a lot of great stuff there, that a lot of authors just have never been exposed to.

It is SO EASY to structure a book by using film structure techniques!

Treethyme said...

This book looks great - I just ordered it!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks a million, Treethyme - I really hope you enjoy it!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Hi, Alexandra. Sorry I'm late posting today. I don't know where the day went. Your books sound interesting, and I bet there's all kinds of fodder for stories in those boxes of files.

Virginia said...

Welcome Alexandra! Nice to see you here. Your books sound like great reads! I love to read about things that go bump in the night! Thanks for sharing them with us.

Kirsten said...

Hey Alexandra -- late arriving Bandita here to welcome you to the Lair. Your books sound like they'd scare the pants off of me (what can I say -- I'm a lightweight!) but would be fantastic. :-)

And -- I'm a DUKE ALUMNI, so I can say with absolute confidence that it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. Do you know about the tunnels under the school? There is a network of tunnels on both the East and West campuses that I think are supposed to be from old steam heat equipment.

Spending time in the tunnels was supposed to be one of five graduation requirements (the list also included doing unmentionable things in the library stacks -- LOL). Luckily for me, they waived that requirement! I would have had a heart attack!

Nancy said...

Susan, my grandparents lived in a big old house with a basement and a coal bin. One of the books my grandfather and I read over and over, probably because I loved it, was the Little Golden Book of Disney's 101 Dalmations. We used to go down in the basement and he would tell me he thought Cruella de Ville might've sneaked into the coal bin, and he'd rattle the doorknob and say, "We're coming to get you, Cruella," and I would squeal and run up the stairs.

Never went down there alone.

Amy S. said...

I have seen the ghost of an older man in my kitchen about 3 times. On one night that I saw him, my niece said she had a dream of a ghost being in her room.

Caren Crane said...

Amy, yikes! Does the ghost freak you out? 'Cause I would be scared spitless. Your niece must be sensitive like you are, too! You are brave to stay there.

One of my requirements when we were buying a house was that it couldn't have any funky energy. We looked at a bunch of houses in our area and two of them had funky, bad energy. My husband really liked one and I couldn't formulate any real objection except it didn't "feel" right. It felt bad and dangerous. He thought I was crazy, but he let it go. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Lynn, I think you have a great attitude about all the odd things that happen. They do happen, whether we can name them or not. They also happen a lot more frequently or strongly to some people than others. I think your partner's experiences are exceptionally cool.

I have a friend who lost two siblings in a car accident when they were teenagers. One of her older sisters, who regularly sees spirits, said her brother came to her that night and said, "I always knew I was going to die young, but I didn't know I'd take my little sister with me." Her sister told him it was okay and no one blamed him and that he needed to go into the light now. And he did.

The way her sister describes it, these visitations aren't scary or weird. It's just like talking to or seeing regular people, only they're not corporeal. Of course, they are of Irish descent and I think as a people the Irish are much more tolerant of psychic type powers.

Caren Crane said...

Anna S., I love that Persian tradition regarding the dream of the dead person. I hope I get to be the dreamer for someone one day. What a wonderful gift from beyond the grave!

Caren Crane said...

Pat C., I don't remember hearing that story before. That is very cool! I love the thought that your sister was coming to check on her daughter. What a wonderful thing! I can't imagine losing any of my sisters, so I think it would be a comfort to have her presence with me. I'm glad you and Audry's daughter had that!

Caren Crane said...

Margay, I loved The Sixth Sense. Great movie and I generally don't do horror movies.

Well, I was predisposed to like TSS because I loved the TV series of the same name when I was a kid. It was the only quasi-spooky thing we were allowed to watch (well, besides the "Creature Feature" movies we watched when we were supposed to be asleep on the weekend. *g*)

Caren Crane said...

Minna, that is a GREAT story. I don't think I heard it before now, either!

Caren Crane said...

Billie Jo, I would love to read your short story! Is it still available?

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I had to laugh about your grandfather telling you Cruella might be down in the coal bin. When I was little, we lived in a rambling old log house, the main part of which had been a carriage house in the 1700s. My parents' bedroom was under the eaves in the old part of the house and there were closets running along both walls.

Daddy used to tell us he had a crazy cousin named Hector who lived in one of the closets. I must have gotten a hefty streak of storytelling gusto from him, because he scared the crap out of us ALL THE TIME. Fun for him and fun for us. Mostly. Sometimes it was just terrifying, though. *g*

sybil said...

Very interesting sounding book and great blog. I am just starting to make the rounds again (wireless willing) my the bandits have grown *g* in the bestest ways.

If I haven't missed you, Alexandra can you drop me an email?

Thanks
sybil

*hey anna ;)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, we got to get to 100 as it's the mystical number for blog comments ;-)

Sybil, great to see you here. I often lurk over at the Good, the Bad and the Unread - you've had some fab reviews up there lately! And I like that you pick books that sometimes have been overlooked. And hon, that princess isn't at all like you! ;-) She doesn't have enough of an evil glint in her eye! LOL.

Caren Crane said...

Anna C., I was thinking the same thing about Sybil's avatar. *g* Sybil, it's so good to see you back! We have missed you and hope to see you at conference!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hi Trish - now I'M late again - just drove back from San Diego.

Yeah, there's enough in those boxes to keep anyone writing for a good long while!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Ooh, Amy - TWO of you saw him... is it an old house?

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Virginia!

And Kirsten, you'll be happy to know I'm doing a signing at the Gothic Bookshop on campus. I'm really looking forward to that one.

I have heard of the tunnels but never went into them. I was trying to work out a way to use them in the book, but it all felt too contrived, so I cut it.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Caren, that's an amazing story about the brother and sister. I'm so glad she was able to give him some peace.

I agree about the Irish!

donnas said...

Your books sound great. I am always looking for something spooky to read or watch and I cant wait to check them out.

Me, my mom and my sister have all had a variety of experiences over the years. Everything from little boys in chairs and end of hallways to seeing a figure at the end of the bed when someone dies.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, Sybil - but can't get e mail form to work. Can anyone e mail me Sybil's e mail?

alex at alexandrasokoloff dot com

sybil said...

lol it is the top right (http://goodbadandunread.com/) where it says quack@us... yes I think I am amusing.

LOL and I just assume EVERYONE has it (yes I know what they say about assuming *g*). It is redwyne @ gmail.com or at least that will work

or should ;)

sybil said...

But the icon is a redhead ::innocent blink:: It was made for me ages ago cuz I tend to say I am sweetness and light ;).

I also have one of the witch that winks and snow whites stepmom that says I am a nice girl or something like no clue WHAT that means. Sorry I shall stop hijacking your blog now...

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Donna - "little boys in chairs at end of hallways?"

I don't think I'll ever sleep again.