Over the last few week's I've been reviewing the five books in Barbara Chepaitis' Jaguar Addams series in preparation for her tour stops here at Working for the Mandroid. In the first of two stops, Ms. Chepaitis has contributed a guest post regarding writing the series. Tomorrow I will post my review of the most recent book in the series, The Green Memory of Fear, which happens to be the creepiest of the lot.
I had the opportunity to take part in a ghost hunting investigation this week. I won’t tell that story here except to say that, um, strange stuff happened, and some of it involved objects being thrown. At me.
But I bring it up only because it’s an apt metaphor for what I do to write the Fear series.
My protagonist, Jaguar Addams, rehabs the worst criminals by making them face their deepest fears. She does this mostly through telepathic and empathic contact, diving into their experiences, sharing their darkness, sometimes sharing her own. She is, in that sense, a ghost hunter, seeking the personal ghosts and skeletons that wounded people keep tucked away in their emotional closets, or in the cobwebby basements of their souls.
And when I write her stories, I’m hunting those same ghosts, seeking whatever would make someone commit horrible crimes, trying to name the fears and tears that drive us away from our best human impulses and toward what looks like madness. Also seeking what someone would have to do to help those ghosts cross into the light, because Jaguar’s job is about that.
I have the sense this is good in a few ways. I like to keep the stories fast-paced and entertaining, but I also believe we all want ways to explore and overcome our own ghosts, which are mostly composed of old fears and tears.
Of course, the equipment I bring to the task is different than what ghost hunters have. I don’t do EVP or thermal imaging. In fact, I go in without weapons, bringing only the stories I have of a world that can be equally composed of nightmares and miracles, along with my best ability to translate experience into words.
Fortunately for me, Jaguar loves her work, and will keep on getting into trouble as long as she can. And I’m more than willing to keep telling her stories because she’s one of my favorite imaginary friends, always amusing or dazzling me, always teaching me something new.
Barbara Chepaitis is author of eight published novels and two nonfiction books. Her most recent novel is The Green Memory of Fear, fifth book in the ‘fear’ series featuring Jaguar Addams. She is also director of the fiction writing program at Western College of Colorado’s Master’s program in creative writing.