Today, I am delighted to host Ralph Hartman, author of one of my favourite paranormal books of the year, 'The Loosening'. I asked him about his interest in the paranormal. Here's his response (and thank you for the kind compliments, Ralph!):
Thanks Cat for inviting me over. Thrilled to be here and humbled by your interest in my writing. I loved The Demons of Cambian Street and can only hope my stories will one day touch the bar you’ve set with yours.
We talked a little about the origins of story ideas and what my ‘take’ on the paranormal might be. I’ll be honest with you; I gave this some thought and came up blank. So... I figured I’d get some work done on my latest story and come back to your question when I wasn’t so preoccupied. I write purely by ‘the seat of my pants,’ an idea ghosts out and builds and takes me where ever it thinks I need to go. As words tumbled onto my monitor I realized I was answering (sort of) your question. For me, it kinda goes like this: I start with something totally ordinary...
...Talking with an individual one day and finding the interaction left me feeling drained and tired; I got to thinking how I felt as though my energy had been stolen from me. I wonder if a person could unknowingly be an energy thief. What is energy? Do we each have our own and it is possible...can it be taken from us and used somehow...? I imagined someone who had a connection with a stream of unconscious energy, and didn’t know it. A young man, tormented by a strange affliction...and so it begins:
It was the creepiest damned feeling. Something behind him, watching and waiting. Little spider legs crawling over his back, the sensation growing stronger as minutes ticked by. He sat frozen, fingers hovering over the keyboard, unable to move. Then, barely noticeable fingertips touching his hair and moving to the naked skin of his neck, at the nape, beneath his shirt collar. Cold lingered where the fingers touched. He shivered. The fingers lifted and touched down firmly on his right shoulder, once, twice...three times.
Tap... Tap... Tap...
It wanted him to turn around.
Soon enough another character enters the page; she’s here to teach my MC the art of meditation. He’s a little reluctant but he’s promised a friend, the meds aren’t working and he’s about ready to try anything. Next thing I know I’m writing a scene early in the story meant to lay a credible foundation for the incredible events which will certainly follow... This is really cool because now—I know what’s coming next.
It seemed he had two choices: close off or open up. He considered the two options and remembered his promise to Ashley. “I don’t understand,” he said. “I’m not too sure I get this whole thing about meditation and energy and stuff.”
Cassandra stood to water in the seedlings. Water sprinkled from the bulbous, perforated sprinkler head, absorbed and taken into the soil. “Humankind has always sought to manage and understand their environment, both the physical and the spiritual. Early in our evolution we determined a need to explain what we could not control or understand. We invented supernatural beings and made them responsible for our welfare. Even so, we thought to influence these deities, these constructs of our innermost need to be special and unique amidst all other life, and sway the gods to favor us, spare us from the unknowable world.” She set the can down, empty, and sat cross-legged directly opposite Jeff.
“Essentially every human being was born the same... It was our gods who were created unequally.” She paused at his expression, pursed her lips, and forged ahead, “We worshipped, lived in rapture or despair for many thousands of years. Placing our very existence firmly in the hands of our gods, our lives lived only to glorify theirs. As we moved across this world and encountered more of it and of each other, our gods were reinvented and evolved to explain the ever deepening mysteries of our world. They became whimsical and unknowable and as unfathomable as an earthquake or lightning in the sky. So began the time of prophets and priests as the bringers of truth and the facilitators of salvation.
“Now we had another reason to fight and go to war. Now we had those who spoke for our gods and against those of others. This was a time of kingdoms and new world orders, of servants and servitude, a hedonistic rush to convert and possess. But the priests proved unreliable, our gods deaf to the tithes offered; drought and flood came as before, and the priests were found to be corrupt and impotent. Then we found a new religion called science.
“Now we sought to explain the world in only its own terms. For many, life became nothing more than a magnificent rationalization, the discovery of sub-atomic particles an epiphany of understanding. Matter and energy is the same thing, Einstein taught us and we teach our children. We have the language of mathematics to explain chaos and computers to peer into the cosmos. And because of this we are more unsettled than ever before.”
Jeff shifted to relieve a cramp starting in his leg. A plane droned overhead. He could hear the soil sucking up the water, he looked at the base of a newly planted seedling to see the soil move and settle around the thin stalk. Cassandra watched him with her eyes hooded, a half-sad smile tugged at her lips. “So what’s it all mean?” he asked.
“Don’t you think someone somewhere, every second of every day, asks exactly that same question?”
“I dunno...” he shrugged, “I suppose...”
“What if,” she locked her eyes on him, impossible to look away, “the spirit world is real? What if it’s as real as the ground we’re sitting on?”
Jeff lifted his hands palms up and dipped his head.
”What if I show it to you?” she asked.
Now... I can go anywhere I want. And I’m going to. I’m going to follow Jeff wherever he takes me. Once I get there, and back again, I may have a novel worth sharing. But whether it finds its way to a publisher, or claims a space next to the others resigned forever to a trunk...I’ll let you know how it ends.
What’s the paranormal all about, Catherine? I think it’s about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Wishing for you a wondrous multitude of imaginings,
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Ralph's riveting psychological action suspense novel,'Ever Since' is also available from Amazon Barnes and Noble
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Both are published by Etopia Press.
'Rat Rod' - a contemporary YA paranormal novel - is due out later this year, from Musa Publishing
You can find Ralph on his website: http://ralphhartman.wordpress.com/
and on Facebook