I totally stole the title to this post from Jay Wilburn, my co-writer for The Enemy Held Near, a ghost story/haunted house/family conflict novel.
He started using #WeAreAllHaunted on Twitter and Facebook and it really hit me when I first saw it, because there are so many layers to it when you read our book. I’m not going to try to make you believe we wrote the next great American epic novel, but we wrote a pretty damn good book together.
A beta reader kept coming back to the fact it was really a book about a dysfunctional family who happened to live in a haunted house with ghosts who weren’t always nice. I thought it summed up the premise. When they asked me if we’d thought about it before we started the book or if it was one of those happy coincidences…
Jay had the concept from the beginning. To be honest, when he pitched the idea to me as we sat behind a table at a convention, our book displays blocking potential customers so we could chat about books instead of actually selling the ones we had out already, I didn’t understand exactly what he was talking about.
Was this a ghost story?
Was this a haunted house story?
Was this a dramatic contemporary fiction story?
It turned out it was all three and more.
I’d love to take credit for the concept or some of the minor ideas for the novel but it was all Jay Wilburn. Don’t let him know I said that. If you feed his ego we’ll create a monster.
I think, looking back, he already had this idea for a book he was going to write but when we started talking about doing another project together after the Hellmouth trilogy we co-wrote with Jack Wallen and Brent Abell. We knew it would be more horror and less humor, which we both normally write anyway.
The pitch was bare-bones but Jay already had the tone and the dynamics of the family in his head. He knew the basic plot and when he explained it to me I was still not one hundred percent sure what he wanted but I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Then… weeks went by. We both had other projects to work on and sell and make money to pay the bills. It’s fun to toss ideas around but we both write full-time and depend on this money to survive. The days of writing just for fun are now behind me, sadly. I’m sure Jay feels the same way. Not to say we don’t love what we are writing but we have to do it so it makes sense for the career.
Jay and I revisited the idea again and Jay wrote up a two page with the characters and a short, concise paragraph for the main plot. I loved it.
He’d been working on this in his head while doing other stuff. The character sketches were very brief but I saw immediately we could really get into the meat of each unique person involved.
I gravitated towards the wife immediately. She was flawed. Ruthie had a very flawed past with drugs and alcohol and many bad decisions before she’d met Foster, her husband. She was conflicted about her family, her life and the urges to drag her back into the gutter. I loved getting inside her head and seeing what she was thinking and ultimately doing about her life.
Before we’d even finished the book I was quite happy and waiting to read what Jay had added to it and wanting to write more chapters on my own. We realized we had a winner here and immediately the talk went to publishing.
Self publish like we did with the Hellmouth trilogy and promote it ourselves?
We decided to pitch it to one small press publisher, one I’ve been working with, and if they passed on it we’d do it ourselves. We’re both familiar with the process and have many books out we’ve done so it wasn’t a big deal to us.
Devil Dog Press loved the idea and by the time we were finished with the first draft and had eyes on it with beta readers a contract was coming our way.
Everything fell right into place for The Enemy Held Near and it is one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written… and I’ve written quite a few.
Hopefully you’ll pick up a copy and see what all my bragging is really about.