I’ll confess it: In each of the Haunted Guesthouse mysteries and pretty much every other novel I’ve written, there’s one scene I can’t wait to get to. It’s not usually a “plot” moment because those are the hardest for me to tackle.
No, the ones I’m talking about are the scenes in which a character has a moment of growth or a respite from the pursuit of the book’s antagonist (I don’t use the word “villain” because I believe that really only applies in politics). It’s a moment that goes to the heart of the series characters and hopefully touches or amuses the reader as well.
In the latest Haunted Guesthouse book, SPOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, the scene I couldn’t wait for is almost the last in the book. No fair checking ahead because I’m not going to tell you what it’s about anyway. Suffice it to say it has nothing to do with the mystery at the center of the plot but it does push forward a couple of character arcs I’ve had going for a number of books. And that’s all you’re going to find out until you read the book.
Also, if you’re a newcomer to the series, don’t worry. No prior knowledge is assumed. Everything is explained in each series novel so you can jump in anywhere. Obviously, we’d like you to jump in with SPOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and then be so enthralled you go back and read the other seven installments. That’s the theory.
In the previous book, GHOST IN THE WIND, because the story dealt with a deceased rock star, I wrote a jam session at Alison’s house that included every deceased musician in the New Jersey/New York (yeah, you got second billing, New Yorkers—cope with it) area so I could indulge myself. A number of people got in touch to let me know they’d enjoyed that scene and to suggest musicians who might have dropped by. That’s great. They’re invested in the scene as I was when I wrote it. But I get my musical heroes and you can have yours.
The thing about anticipating that one scene in each book—as a writer—is that it gives me something to work toward while I’m keeping the story going and doing all the things I should be doing to hold the reader’s interest. It’s the carrot I use to get through the days when that thousand words I’m going to write might not be driving me toward the keyboard at warp speed.
Because I do write a thousand words. Every day. Weekends, holidays, sick, well, no matter what. Writing is a form of entertainment (for the writer as well as the reader, because we want to make sure we’re interested or you won’t be) and when people who aren’t me do it, maybe an art form, but it’s also a job. Getting those words out every day isn’t always the most fun thing in the world to do.
Ah, but that one scene I have in my back pocket: That one is enough of an incentive to slog through the tough days because it’s going to be such fun to write.
In SPOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, Alison Kerby is dealing with the usual load an innkeeper with ghosts in the house can expect—a few guests even during the winter (she has a guesthouse on the Jersey Shore, but even then she gets some tourists coming by), the threat of snow, home repairs, a couple of ghosts who have to be kept happy because they put on “spook shows” twice daily to entertain the guests, and oh yeah there’s one other thing.
Alison’s ex-husband Steven (to whom she refers not-at-all lovingly as The Swine) shows up unexpectedly and there are people following him. He says they want to kill him. Alison responds, “Again?”
So there’s that. But I’m thinking about my one scene, and that’s not coming until the end.
I’m not suggesting for a second that the rest of the book doesn’t matter; of course it does, very much. I’m saying everybody needs a reason to get up and go to work every day no matter what the job. And mine is that one scene. Near the end. You’ll see.
If you read the book.
E.J. Copperman is the author of the Haunted Guesthouse mystery series, the Mysterious Detective Mystery series and with Jeff Cohen the Asperger’s Mystery series. Next year will bring the beginning of the Agent to the Paws Mystery series. So things are pretty busy at the moment.