The Big Thrill Discusses PHANTOM With Helen Power
Regan “Roz” Osbourne is broke. Her ex-boyfriend won’t take no for an answer, and no one is taking her artwork seriously. So when a mysterious stranger offers her a million dollars and safety from her unstable ex in exchange for her left hand, she can’t afford to refuse.
Immediately following the amputation, she’s racked with insufferable phantom limb pain. Desperate for relief, she enrolls in an experimental drug trial. But this drug has a peculiar side effect—she develops a psychic connection to her missing limb. She soon discovers that Chicago’s long-dormant Phantom Strangler is now wearing her hand and is using it . . . to kill.
Helen Power recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her paranormal thriller, PHANTOM.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
As an academic librarian, I get a lot of students coming to me for help finding resources on their research projects. At the time, I was working as the nursing liaison librarian.
Typically the research questions are all variations on the same question—quality of life, experiences of patients in the emergency department, etc. But one day, a student came to me with questions about how to use mirror therapy to treat phantom limb pain. After we’d found some peer reviewed articles on the topic, I fell down the rabbit hole of researching this unique condition and the treatment that is so simple it feels like magic.
Within a half an hour, I’d drafted out a loose plotline for PHANTOM.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
As soon as I came up with the idea for the book, I was caught up in the unique premise and world that I’d created. While I set the manuscript aside a few times to work on other creative projects, I always found myself coming back to it, because I knew this was a story that needed to be told.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
I do have a Spotify playlist, though many of the songs on it have been added and removed over the time it took me to bring this book from conception to publication.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
I’ve always been fascinated by unlikable protagonists. Roz is a train wreck, one you can’t bear to look away from, as she makes so many poor decisions throughout the book. She’s self-destructive and self-centered, but as the book progresses, she starts to care about something other than herself. The Phantom Strangler is out there, killing again, and Roz feels compelled to do something about it. She feels responsible for the killings, and she’ll do whatever it takes to stop them.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I had a lot of fun with the mirror imagery in this book, and I hope that readers will pick up on it. Roz and the killer are two sides to the same coin. They both had similar upbringings, as revealed in the killer’s POV scenes, but they couldn’t have turned out differently. Even though Roz is pushing thirty and her entire life is a train wreck—she’s lost her job, her dreams of being an artist are in tatters, she still has the opportunity to turn her life around and do the right thing. In this case, it’s finding and stopping a killer.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
The book I’m currently polishing is yet another thriller that blends paranormal elements into a traditional thriller formula. After that, I’m trying my hand at a thriller with no paranormal elements. We’ll see how that goes, or if a ghost suddenly pops out of the woodwork!
Helen Power is an academic librarian living in Saskatoon, Canada. Her debut novel, The Ghosts of Thorwald Place, was published in 2021 with CamCat Books. It won gold in the 2022 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards for Best New Voice: Fiction, was nominated for a Killer Nashville Silver Falchion award, and was a Mystery Scene Magazine 2021 Editor’s Pick. Her second novel, PHANTOM, released October 2023.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.
Phantom with Helen Power
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