Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, games that dabble in the paranormal are staples of the teenage sleepover. However, in this month's Top Pick rated release, In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault, preteens Nora and Charlotte take their interest one step further when they use the occult to find their missing babysitter. Today Emily Arsenault stops by to share how her own experience at a sleepover many years ago inspired this new tale of suspense!
With In Search of the Rose Notes, I wanted to capture that phase of youth when you consider yourself way too mature to believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, but are still willing to believe in darker kinds of magic—psychic powers, curses, and ghosts.
For most kids, this age is about ten or eleven. My eleven-year-old characters, Nora and Charlotte, approach the paranormal very differently. Charlotte is very scientific about it. She has a Time-Life series of books on the topic, studies them religiously, does experiments, and applies the information to real-life problems.
Nora is more timid than Charlotte—and more sensitive to the darker aspects of everyday life. Nora isn’t really interested in pursuing the paranormal for entertainment, because she already finds normal life pretty scary. But she goes along with Charlotte because she’s soft-spoken and afraid of looking like a wimp.
As a kid, I was probably a cross between Nora and Charlotte with respect to my interest in the paranormal. By day, I tore through books about haunted houses and evil spirits, telepathy and precognitive dreams. By night I regretted my curiosity, seeing menacing shadows everywhere, jumping at every movement of the old tree outside my bedroom window.
One distinct memory that comes from my own childhood friendships is a séance we once tried to perform on a fifth-grade Girl Scout camping trip. Alone in our cabin at night, we gathered around an empty cot and attempted a séance. It was actually a bizarre cross between a séance and the game “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board”—we really didn’t know what we were doing.
Still, a few girls got so freaked out that someone suggested it would be less scary if we tried to conjure “future ghosts”—ghosts of people who would live and die in the future. It was such a strange idea, only a kid could have come up with it. We spent the next hour trying to conjure spirits of people from after the year 2000 (which at the time felt far into the space-age future). Predictably, we grew bored of this sanitized supernatural experience and went to bed.
I put this idea of “future ghosts” into a scene between Nora and Charlotte. They have a similar experience at a slumber party. Though the incident is only mentioned in the book, Nora wonders later what “future ghosts” really are, and why exactly her friends consider them less scary than regular ghosts.
The question is perhaps more meaningful than Nora realizes at the time. Only part of the book takes place when the girls are eleven. Another narrative occurs almost 20 years later, when Nora and Charlotte are reunited. As the chapters alternate between the past and present, it’s as if they affect each other. In the present-day scenes, Nora and Charlotte are haunted by spectres of their past selves. And in the past, the young girls seem to sense their own “future ghosts”—eerie flickers of the women they will become.
- Emily Arsenault
You can pick up your own copy of In Search of the Rose Notes when it hits shelves tomorrow. And for more Mystery Month coverage you can check out our Everything Mystery Page or click here. And don't forget to enter in our five book new mystery prize pack here!