Haunted. This word lurks within our deepest emotions. It’s a fear we can’t let go of, or that won’t let go of us. It’s a place we dream of going, or a place we can never leave. An LAPD detective is haunted by the case she never solved. A Century City financial advisor is haunted by the greed he cannot escape. A bridge is haunted by ghosts of despair.
In a city of 10 million people, the haunted could be the man waiting to cross the street, or the memory that keeps you awake at night.
FATALLY HAUNTED, a Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles anthology, includes original stories by Julie G. Beers, Julia Bricklin, Roger Cannon, Tony Chiarchiaro, Lisa Ciarfella, Cyndra Gernet, B. J. Graf, Mark Hague, A. P. Jamison, Micheal Kelly, Alison McMahan, Peter Sexton, Gobind Tanaka, and Jennifer Younger.
The Big Thrill caught up with Sheila Lowe to discuss the creation of the latest Sisters in Crime Los Angeles anthology, FATALLY HAUNTED:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
We hope readers will see that the genre can be so much more than just a locked room mystery.
Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?
With the theme of “fatally haunted,” the traditional mystery could be broadened to include all manner of interesting tales. The authors were challenged to come up with a mystery in a story where someone or something haunted them. As Jack Kerouac said, “If you’re not haunted by something, as by a dream, a vision, or a memory, which are involuntary, you’re not interested or even involved.”
‘Haunting’ means so much more than a ghostly figure in a white sheet clanking chains and wailing in the night. In our anthology it means a famous place, haunted by the spirit of the young woman who completed suicide there. An engineer, haunted by the memory of a tragic event involving his train. A long-past war whose memories continue to haunt a survivor. And a whole lot more creative visions.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
I’m just one of three editors (Rachel Howzell Hall, Laurie Stevens, and me, Sheila Lowe), but in my view, the biggest challenge was reading through dozens of entries and selecting the ones we felt 1) best fit the theme and 2) were the stories that most intrigued us. We each read all the stories and discussed them, narrowing them to the ones that would go into anthology and then dividing the finalists between us. That made it easier to work closely with several authors each to tweak and hone their entry.
We didn’t know whose stories we were reading (they were sent to us blind by a committee). That allowed us to be objective. The greatest opportunity came with the discovery of some exciting new voices. The authors I personally worked with were receptive to suggestions for improvement and expressed appreciation for the considerable time and energy such a project requires, and I believe that is true of the other editors, too. It was a wonderful way to get to know local chapter members we had never met.
What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?
Having asked this of one of the authors, the response was: is the short story still a viable medium in the genre? The answer: yes!
Rachel Howzell Hall is a New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including The Good Sister, co-written with James Patterson, and the critically-acclaimed Detective Elouise Norton series. A featured writer on NPR’s Crime in the City series and the National Endowment for the Arts weekly podcast, Rachel has also served as a mentor in AWP’s Writer to Writer Program and is currently on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.
Like her fictional character Claudia Rose, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert who testifies in court cases. The mother of a tattoo artist and a former rock star, she lives in Ventura with Lexie the Evil Cat, where she writes the award-winning Forensic Handwriting series. Sheila has also published a series of non-fiction works about handwriting and personality.
Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay psychological thrillers. The books in the series ha vewon multiple awards. Laurie is a “hybrid” author, both self-published and traditionally published. She is an active member of MWA, ITW, and a former board member of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles.