“Lake Justice”, my ghost story, released on April 27, 2014, courtesy of Amber Quill Press. It’s only a buck, and you can buy it here.
I thought readers might enjoy some background on the piece:
Can a witch chaperoning her godson’s camping trip lay to rest the ghosts of murdered women? Or will Lake Justice take its own revenge?
When Bronwyn Rowan, a practicing witch, gets talked into chaperoning her godson’s trip to Lake Justice, she doesn’t expect to find some of his classmates have untapped paranormal talent, or that they’ll need to use it to thwart a serial killer and lay to rest the ghosts of the killer’s previous victims.
A Q&A With Devon Ellington
Question: What was the inspiration for this piece?
Devon Ellington: Photographs I took up in Maine, visiting family. They’re just north of Portland. It’s really spooky woods. Some days you can watch the fog roll down the street. One can see why so many horror writers originate in Maine! The forests have genuine personalities. There’s a sense if you intrude, there are consequences. I love old-fashioned ghost stories, and I wanted to combine that sense of the eerie lake in the woods with a ghost story. The characters of Bronwyn and her godson started talking, and I decided to follow them, at least in the first draft, to see what happened.
Question: Did the piece go through many drafts?
DE: Oh, yes. All my pieces do. “Editing” and “revising” mean more than running it through spell-check. I tore it apart and put it back together many times. I tried a few different antagonists, but the character who wound up as the primary antagonist in the piece was the most insistent, and, ultimately, the strongest choice.
Question: You make it sound like the characters are separate from you. Aren’t you, as the writer, playing God?
DE: I am and I’m not. Yes, ultimately, it all comes out of me, but from different parts. Our subconscious knows far more than our conscious minds about what works, what has integrity in a piece, and what doesn’t. The characters are created out of the subconscious and evolve, feeling like independent entities, but always tied to that core integrity. In early drafts, especially, I follow the characters and see where they lead me. As I revise, I layer in structure and deeper sensory detail, so that the craft supports the story and characters. But I usually start from character, try a few “what ifs?” and go from there.
Question: You don’t believe in breaking structural rules?
DE: I believe in breaking them if the writer has strong enough craft to break the rules while still remaining true to the characters and the genre. Outstanding authors are also outstanding craftspeople. They understand the craft of writing. When they break the rules, it is a choice, not an ego moment or out of carelessness. It works because it is a choice made out of deeply knowing and being rooted in craft. As a reader, it’s painfully obvious when a writer “breaks the rules” out of either ego or being too lazy to learn craft. Those aren’t writers I continue reading!
I don’t mean to sound perfect, because I’m not. I rely on my editors when I go off the rails. I like and need to try new things. Not everything works. But I try to learn from every piece, from every note an editor gives me, and apply it moving forward.
If you look at each note as only pertaining to the words on which it was noted, you cheat yourself, and, ultimately, you’re wasting your editor’s time. Learn, understand, apply.
<strong?Question: What happens next between Bronwyn and Kyle? Will we see more? Will Bronwyn train the kids in their talents?
DE: The story was written as a stand-alone, but if readers want to see more with these characters, I’m open to it. Definitely give me a shout, and I’ll see what they do next!
Excerpt from “Lake Justice”:
“You’re kidding, right?” I stared at my godson, careful to make sure my bottom jaw didn’t dangle down to the floor. “Do you have any idea how inappropriate I am as a chaperone for a bunch of kids? In addition to the whole Wiccan thing, which will probably cause some of the parents to picket your school.”
“Okay, first of all, you’re way cooler than most of the parents, even when you kick kid ass for breaking rules,” my twelve-year-old godson Jamie tossed a lock of dark brown hair that tended to obscure his view of the world as he listed his arguments on his fingers. “You treat us like people, not like action figures or small morons. Second, my school’s full of parents with alternative lifestyles, everything from Santeria to same sex parents to Quakers to that family that thinks they’re descended from aliens. That’s why Mom moved us up here and not somewhere like — well, whatever area I list is going to be insulting. No one’s gonna care you dance naked around a bonfire once a month.”
“Hey! That’s only a couple of times a year.” I couldn’t help smiling at him. “And how did you know that?”
“I heard Mom grilling you about it one day. Yeah, I eavesdropped. Deal.” He tossed his hair back and continued. “Third, It’s a small group of the really smart kids in the school, and you’re the one who convinced Mom to let me be part of it, even though most of them are older. Fourth, we’re going camping on a lake–”
“I don’t camp.”
“But you’re really into nature!”
“Yeah, when I can hike during the day and enjoy it from the porch of the inn, with a dry vodka martini in my hand. I don’t think that’ll go over so well.”
“It’s for one weekend. You can be in a tent for one weekend. It’s up on Lake Justice, it’s really pretty up there–”
“It’s autumn. It’ll be really cold up there.”
Available from Amber Quill Press here.