Today my guest is Laurel Garver, here to talk about her debut novel, Never Gone.
How did you get your ideas for Never Gone? What inspired you?
The idea of parental haunting is pretty old. Shakespeare uses it in Hamlet, for example. I also was inspired by the TV show Providence that aired from 1999-2002, in which a young woman moves home after her mother’s death, and often has long heart-to-heart talks and arguments with her mother’s ghost. The idea of a parental presence lingering to help a child fascinated me, especially when it’s unclear why it’s happening (is it supernatural or psychological?).
After losing my own father, I began reading about grief experiences and how varied and confusing they can be, especially for kids. I got thinking about other circumstances that might make grieving more of a pressure cooker–like being left with the parent you’re alienated from, having a family culture that frowns on expressing negative emotions, and coming from a faith tradition that tends to emphasize the joys the departed gains in the afterlife. The question of “how do I cope without my loved one?” will be more urgently felt in circumstances like that. The psychology of father-daughter relationships inspired me quite a bit too. I’ll be talking more about that at Tyrean Martinson’s blog next Wednesday (http://tyreanswritingspot.blogspot.com/).
Clearly everything I read and experience is fodder for fiction. Putting research time into areas that naturally raise my curiosity has led me to be a bit more fearless about story situations I’m willing to tackle.
What kept you motivated to complete this project?
More than anything else, having a young fan who wanted to look at drafts kept me going. My pastor’s daughter and I struck up a friendship when she was around the age of my protagonist (she’s now in college). She’d recently moved to Philly from NYC, so I thought she’d have valuable insights. She gave me so much more than critiques (she rarely corrected anything, actually)—she gave me a reason to keep going. She wanted to know what happened next and loved my characters as much as I do. When I praised her highly in my acknowledgments, she was pretty surprised since she hadn’t really critiqued. I told her “everyone’s a critic, few are encouragers.”
Combining ghosts and God is pretty unusual. Why bring those things together?Generally, ghost lore in our culture is associated with bad deaths, with unfinished business. The question for me is whose unfinished business? The departed’s or the survivors’?
My protagonist, Danielle, is a fairly grounded Christian who knows enough “proof texts” (scripture quotes used to prove a particular point) to shut down her own natural emotions in the wake of a devastating loss. Her dad is bound for a happy eternity in heaven, she reasons, so she’s really not supposed to be upset.
This kind of warped stoicism that sometimes arises in my faith tradition concerns me. It’s bad theology to my mind, giving a false view of who God is and how he relates to humanity. In the face of it, a really hurting person can suffer some pretty deep internal fracturing. My story’s ghost is in some ways a manifestation of that inner state. I’d love to say more, but I’d only end up revealing spoilers. You’ll have to read the book to see how Danielle resolves her ghost problem.
Days after her father’s death, fifteen-year-old Dani Deane begins seeing him all around New York — wading through discarded sketches in her room, roaming the halls at church, socializing at his post-funeral reception. Is grief making her crazy? Or could her dad really be lingering between this world and the next, trying to contact her?
Dani desperately longs for his help. Without him keeping the peace, Dani’s relationship with her mother is deteriorating fast. Soon Mum ships her off to rural England with Dad’s relatives for a visit that Dani fears will become a permanent stay. But she won’t let her arty, urban life slip away without a fight, especially when daily phone calls with her lab partner Theo become her lifeline.
To find her way home, Dani must somehow reconnect with Mum. But as she seeks advice from relatives and insights from old letters, she uncovers family secrets that shake her to the core. Convinced that Dad’s ghost alone can help her, she sets out on a dangerous journey to contact him one last time.
Thanks, Laurel. It’s great to have you here on my blog today. Your book sounds great. Thanks, also, for sharing your inspiration with me and my readers.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Do you believe in ghosts? What do you think happens in the afterlife?