Researching the Paranormal, aka indulging my love of old bookstores.
By Sharon Ashwood
Did you know that:
The shape of your skull says how intuitive you are?
An emerald will bestow eloquence on the wearer?
Vervain was an integral ingredient in many love spells?
One of the questions I’ve been asked over and over is how I do research for a paranormal story. Nice to think that what I write appears to have involved research(!), but since I don’t hang out in vampire bars and have not lately visited too many alternate universes (outside of my day job), I think it’s safe to say an author can research around the periphery of paranormal stories very effectively, but when the rubber hits the road, it’s just you and your imagination making it up on the fly.
However, when I say researching around the topic, there’s lots of fascinating stuff to look into. For one thing, an interest in the supernatural has been around throughout history. This is particularly cool if you’re writing historical paranormal or simply like to give some antique resonance to your story or characters. Here are a few tidbits I found that have given me some great ideas:
Devil Worship in France is a fascinating true account by A.E. Waite, one of the foremost English occultists of the late nineteenth century. It gives an account of 1890’s Paris, during the era when a journalistic hoax left people in terror of a fake Satanic cult. An expert of the occultist revival, Waite’s sarcastic exposé of the Parisian journalist Leo Taxil and his made-up devilish shenanigans is a highly entertaining read.
Phrenology – there are a number of books on this subject, which is based on the idea that you could guess someone’s personality based on the shape of their skull. The best part of this was the cool model heads they used to demonstrate the various lumps and bumps.
Mysteries and Secrets of Magic was originally published in 1927. C.J.S. Thompson gives a soup-to-nuts account of assorted rites, spells, practices, books of magic, notable sorcerers and whatever else he can think of. The only problem with this book is it’s hard to put down, so there’s no such thing as dipping in for quick inspiration. He’s included lots of spells, but I’ve never tried any. With my luck I’d turn myself into a pumpkin.
Witches Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages by Claude Lecouteux (translated by Clare Frock). I love this book, though I acknowledge up front that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a scholarly treatment from the folkloric/cultural/psychological perspective that’s fascinating even if it’s not light reading. I’ve bounced off some of the ideas in here when I’ve had shapeshifter characters and have been wrestling with what it would be like to have that dual consciousness of self.
As anyone who’s ever helped me move can attest, I’ve collected quite a library of oddball books. If you want to see how I’ve used some of this “in action,” go to my website at www.sharonashwood.com/. To keep myself from losing track in my Dark Forgotten series, I created an on-line Monsterpedia as much for me as for readers. In it, I’ve catalogue all the factoids about my paranormal world. I’ve got plenty of notebooks with information on other imaginary places, too, because the moment a story really takes off, new layers start appearing with amazing backstories, histories, and legends—and it’s important to keep your worlds consistent. If dragons are pink with polka dots in book one, they’d better be the same in book five, or someone will notice and be emailing.
And, believe it or not, I love it when I realize there are readers paying attention that closely! It keeps me on my toes and helps me stay committed to the journey, too. Paranormal stories are the “once upon a time” tales where the settings are fabulous, the heroes hot, and danger is so real it’s a taste in the air. I’ve always believed it’s my job to make the story world the kind of place no reader ever wants to leave.
One kiss is all it takes to lose your soul.Holly Carver’s grandma warns her that vampires are like a box of chocolate: they seem so tempting, but over-indulgence is a killer. That doesn’t stop Holly from wanting her undead business partner, Alessandro. Unfortunately, an evil demon seems bent on dragging them into a supernatural war, and Holly’s own magic holds the key to a hell dimension.
Scorched: the Dark ForgottenWelcome to the Castle. The price of admission is your soul.
When they say ex-detective Conall Macmillan is hot, they have no idea. Now half-demon, he has ended up in the Castle, a supernatural prison. There he meets Constance, a strangely innocent vampire, who needs his help to find her kidnapped son. Will cracking this final case cost Mac his last scrap of humanity?
Unchained: the Dark Forgotten
Been there, slain that.
Ashe Carver is one kick-ass monster killer, but a custody battle for her ten-year-old daughter has led Ashe to hang up her stakes and take a job at her local public library. Now supernatural prison guard Captain Reynard has only weeks to live if Ashe can't find the thief who stole his soul.
Frostbound: the Dark Forgotten
Every dog might have his day, but the hellhound guards the night.Someone’s beheaded the wrong girl, and vampire-on-the lam Talia Rostova is the prime suspect in her own botched murder and the prisoner of her smoking-hot neighbor, Lore. He’s the Alpha hellhound, bred to serve and protect. A good thing, because an ancient vampire is wreaking vengeance on the city—and on her—and Lore will have to go beyond a stake to put their enemy back in his grave.
Stay tuned for the next series about four supernatural spies and a royal wedding coming from Harlequin Nocturne in 2013!
Leave a comment about your favorite paranormal book! I’m giving away one of my Dark Forgotten books to a commenter (winner’s choice)!
Visit my website at www.sharonashwood.com/ to read excerpts and watch videos for the whole Dark Forgotten series.
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