Mystery Month: How Thrillerfest Authors Are Inspired To Write Paranormal Tales

Ask any author and they will tell you one of the most frequent questions they hear is, “Where do you get your ideas?” This was certainly the case for the authors at this year's Thrillerfest convention who took part in the panel Do You Suck Blood? How to Get Inside the Supernatural Head run by Heather Graham. Graham asked the popular question to the authors and got some very interesting answers that we thought we would share. 

Author Jeannie Holmes said that she feels comfortable writing about the "other side" since she has actually lived in several haunted houses. The smells she has encountered — including smoke and perfume — while cohabiting with spirits definitely give her ideas for her own urban fantasy tales. 

But you don’t have to have person experiences with the supernatural to read — or write — scary stories. Author Jonathan Maberry admitted to being a skeptic. He said while he may be “superstitious as hell” he was also taught that evil is a human concept. So, in order to become inspired for his horror stories, he oftentimes looks to old wives’ tales and other stories passed down through the generations. 

Rochelle Staab, author of the upcoming mystery Who Do, Voodoo, said that she takes her researching one step further and actually visits places where the supernatural is often found. During the panel, she related two of her most memorable research trip moments. The first was during a trip to New Orleans where she was given a tour of some very creepy spaces by a Voodoo priestess who taught the author how to stop spirits from attaching themselves to humans. The second took place while the author was visiting Los Angeles — a local Santeria practitioner told Staab about a crucifix that recently happened in the city. 

But you don't necessarily need to travel to find story inspiration from paranormal forces. Another route is to learn from others' experiences. Janice Gable Bashman, the only nonfiction author on the panel, said, “For the fight between good and evil in Wanted Unead or Alive, I interviewed hundreds of people from authors to actors to screenwriters to hear about their experiences.”

In response to this, Dakota Banks, the author of the Mortal Path series joked, “I’d have to time travel in order to personally research my novels.” However, Banks continued that while time travel is not out of the question, it is beyond her capabilities “at the moment.” So instead she turns to mythology and her imagination for interesting ideas for her books. “I have to have a willingness to step into the position of a Sumerian person 5,000 years ago and imagine what life would be like … I really get into this mindset. I mean it took many people a long time to put together these belief systems that worked for thousands of years. There has got to be something to it.”

Interested in hearing more about this year's Thrillerfest Conference? Catch all the action listed in our Mystery Month coverage here!