I am loving these Halloween posts! Another awesome one today, from the fabulous Sara Grant, which she wrote while sitting in...Highgate Cemetery.
Confession time. I’m a scaredy-cat.
Yeah, I write about murders, shark attacks, heists, kidnapping plots, explosions, dead bodies on ice, and a wide variety of other deadly mayhem. And yes, I love to read and watch murder mysteries and thrillers, but they can’t be too gruesome. I wouldn’t watch the TV series Dexter after 8 p.m., and I never viewed more than the movie trailer for Jaws – and even that kept me from swimming – even in a swimming pool – for longer than I care to admit.
I can write creepy stuff because I control what happens. I already know if my hero will survive – or not – so I can write tense, suspenseful and exciting scenes. I manage the gore – and there isn’t much of that in my books. Less is more in my opinion. When it comes to the frightening bits, I like to leave much to the readers’ imaginations. But I have scared myself while writing a story from time to time: the shark scene in Chasing Danger and the rattlesnake scene in Half Lives, for example. That’s usually a good sign that it will have the same effect on readers.
And yet…I’ve always been fascinated by graveyards. I find them inspiring, not spooky. I’m writing this post in the heart of Highgate Cemetery. I’ve come to ponder my post for Serendipity Reviews and seek inspiration. Each tombstone represents a lifetime of stories. I love reading the names and epitaphs and imaging the life of those buried here.
|Ivy covered tombstone|
When I lived in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the United States. I used to visit Crown Hill Cemetery and write. James Whitcomb Riley – best-selling author and poet – is buried at the highest point in the cemetery and city. Looking down over the tombstone-scattered hill and onto the Indianapolis skyline was awesome. I felt surrounded by stories, not only of those dearly departed but also of all the living in the city.
My first two young adult novels include important scenes set in graveyards – and I may have just come up with a graveyard-inspired idea for another book on this icy day in October while meandering around the graves of Karl Marx, many writers and other prominent figures from every walk of life.
Did you know that cemeteries were intended to be tourist attractions? I didn’t. Not until my visit to Highgate. According to the Highgate brochure, “visitors would be improved by reading epitaphs, admiring the art of the memorials, and escaping the noise and pollution of the metropolis.” So I’m only following an age-old tradition by wandering the graveyard today.
I thought I’d leave you with a few graveyard inspired writing prompts/conversation starters for Halloween:
* I spotted so many tombstones that summed up the person buried beneath in three words:
Teacher. Father. Friend.
Writer. Devoted husband & father.
Husband. Father. Photographer.
I not only found the words used but the order of the words interesting. Am I an author first, a wife second and cat owner third? Or should cat ownership always come first? What would that say about me (and my cat)? What three words would you pick for your tombstone? If you’re a writer, what three words – and in what order – would you pick for your main characters?
* I love reading the epitaphs! A few I spotted felt strangely ambiguous: “Let it happen” and “Deeply regretted”. Another made me laugh, “Don’t mourn – organise!” This person continuing to give advice long after he’d gone. But the following was by far my favourite: “Better a spectacular failure, than a benign success”.
Have you ever imagined what epitaph might be inscribed on your headstone? And for writers, what’s the epitaph for your main character? Can you condense the essence of your hero in a phrase fit for a tombstone?
The sun is setting, and the shadows are rising. There’s suddenly a chill in the air. That’s my cue to leave the cemetery. It’s not that I expect ghosts or ghouls to arise from freshly dug graves like in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, but it’s best not to risk it.
About Sara and Her Books
Sara writes and edits fiction for children and teens. Her new series Chasing Danger is an action-adventure series for tweens. Dark Parties, her first young adult novel, won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award for Europe. As a freelance editor of series fiction, she has worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books. Sara was born and raised in Washington, Indiana. She graduated from Indiana University with degrees in journalism and psychology, and later she earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She lives in London. www.sara-grant.com
Chasing Danger: Mystery at the Ice Hotel
After surviving a pirate attack in the tropics, teens Chase and Mackenzie escape to an exclusive resort in the Arctic Circle. But just after they arrive, suspicious accidents begin to occur. It seems like someone’s trying to scare away the guests. When the accidents turn deadly, it’s up to the girls to figure out whodunit … before they become the next victims.