Updated: Jan 7
Two years ago on my 40th birthday, the fam and I had picked up lattes and was driving through university district in downtown Bellingham when an old Victorian house caught my eye. It was on a side street. The landscape was ancient and immaculate, but the house was old. The white paint was peeling. The windows were dark with that slight oily mirage look that only century old windows have. I got the chills. I wondered what ghosts wandered in those halls. I wondered if the owners ever felt another presence as they sat in those old rooms with nicotine seeping through the paint on the walls. The rooms had seen many souls through the gold mining craze, the raging twenties, the world wars, the market crash, the free loving sixties, the rocking eighties, and now the cyber age. But the truth was that the owners had probably barely given a thought to ghostly presences. Beat up cars littered the driveway. A faded couch sat on the porch. A couple empty cans around it. The home was obviously rented to college kids. Then I started wondering if the kids would notice anything late at night when lifting their heads from text messaging on their cells, closing up their text books and cooking top ramen in the microwave. I felt a ping in my stomach…yes, they felt it. I knew right then that I wanted to write a ghost story about an old Victorian house filled with college students. That would be my next novel.
When I first sat down to type a little bit later, I put my fingers on the keyboard and I kept hearing this name in my mind…sounded like era or ira. I went through a list of era sounding names…coming up with Mira. But that didn’t feel right to me, because the image in my mind of what a Mira would look like or act like was all wrong. No, that wasn’t right. I started looking up various spellings for the name Mira, and when I found Meera, I felt an instant connection. It turns out to be the name of a fifteenth century Indian princess who was a mystic and a poet. Lovely. Perfect. I’d start the story with an Indian student named Meera who has a the heart of a mystical poet and a yearning to go back home.
Then I encountered my next challenge, if I had an Indian main character who has a special love of her native country, then I needed an Indian ghost in an American house. How was this going to work? These are my favorite kind of challenges, taking the impossible and making it possible. I threw my heart into Indian lore, religion and mythology, looking for a very specific feel and flavor. It didn’t take long. I came across a very frightening entity called Brahmarakshas. I thought our American ideas about demons to be scary, but this entity is like a demon times one thousand with a specific craving for flesh. I don’t want to say too much, because if you are still reading the story, you’ll find out exactly what it is— but folks, the nature of the entity and what I wanted to do with the story flowed together so harmoniously that seriously, I couldn’t make this up…even though I did.
Once more, the imagination ceases to amaze and lure me. I have always said that I don’t write these stories, I’m simply a vessel they flow through to the world. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.