Because it’s the Fourth of July — time for camping, cookouts, s’mores, and of course GHOST STORIES — I thought I’d ask Joanne about the hilarious cast of misfit ghosts that people — er, ghost? — SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE.
Usually when we see ghosts in books or movies, they have some unfinished business that’s keeping them tethered to this earthly coil, and won’t rest until they finish that business. But Lilah’s ghosts seem to have much less pressing concerns. What inspired you to write such friendly ghosts? Were there other ghosts in books or movies you drew from? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter, yourself?
Thanks for this great question, Molly! There’s actually more to it than you might think. When I first wrote the book as a YA, it was pretty dark. Like, really dark. One of the ghosts, Alex’s sister (Alex is Lilah’s best friend), had committed suicide a few months before the book opens, and returns through Lilah to try to explain and beg for Alex’s forgiveness. Also, later on, Tamsin (who was actually the mean girl in the old version) is suffering from depression and a ghost from her family appeals to Lilah save her after a suicide attempt. Yeah, it was pretty dark (but yet funny, somehow). So when that wise editor asked me if I would consider rewriting the book as a MG, she specifically asked for happy-go-lucky ghosts-ones who were okay with being dead. I struggled with that for a while, especially with the young ones like Rufus, because I really didn’t want to scare kids, but when you’re talking about ghosts, you inevitably have to talk about death. I tried to keep the death stuff pretty light, especially with the younger ghosts.
I haven’t had an encounter with any ghosts myself. But I used to have a lot of dreams about my grandfather after he passed, and also still have dreams about a guy I grew up with who died in his early 20s. I sometimes wonder if they’re talking to me through dreams or if I just shouldn’t eat burritos close to bedtime.
Joking aside, writing this book has made me really think about ghosts (and thunderstorm safety!) and wonder what happens to us when we die. Obviously, I still have no idea, but I’d like to think that our friend and families stick around and watch out for us and whisper in our ears that maybe we really shouldn’t eat that burrito at such a late hour. Doesn’t mean we’ll listen, but it would be nice to know they’re out there.
Wow, the book reads so smoothly — and the ghostly characters are so clear and well developed — I never would have guessed that they weren’t hanging around from draft one!
And for everyone spending the holiday camping, pick up a copy of SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE on your way to the woods — it’s the perfect campfire read!
AND don’t forget that you have an opportunity to WIN a signed and annotated copy of SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE! To enter, tell us your favorite ghost story in the comments below!
M. Molly Backes
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