Tara is one of the authors in the (extremely!) soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m so happy to have her featured on my blog for an interview.
What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?
The paranormal genre really gives me a lot of room to let my imagination go free. It not only includes fantasy, but also mystery and unexplained occurrences as well. You can say something happened and the paranormal genre naturally allows that strange and wonderful event to take place in the world that you’ve created.
What prompted you to write this story?
I was on the train going into the city, listening to music on my MP3 player. I was thinking about the project, wondering what I should write about when Josh Groban’s song, “The Bells of New York City” came on. I immediately stuck it on loop and kept on listening to it for the whole ride. Music often helps inspire my writing. The song is about a grey, snow filled night in New York City. At the time, I worked down near Wall Street so naturally Trinity Church’s cemetery came into my mind. Then in my head, I got an image of a man from the late 1800s walking down those streets and I just went from there.
What other things have you written/are you writing?
I have written articles as the New York Paranormal Examiner for Examiner.com. I have also kept a blog called Gay Family Life in which I talk about what it was like to grow up with a gay parent during the 1990s. I currently write articles as a Yahoo Voices contributor. I am working on building a collection of short stories, mostly about ghosts. I also have written a novel that I am hoping to find an agent for and to get published someday. It is a ghost story that talks about the importance of brotherhood and how love can last from one lifetime to the next.
Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven?
A little of both, actually. Usually the main character will introduce themselves to me first. Then they tell me about the situation that they are in. I guess really the character is in charge of my writing.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
I usually have an idea of what direction I want the plot to go in, but ultimately there are some twists and turns as the story progresses. I have found that it doesn’t work well if I try to force something too much, so I just wait for my inspiration to lead me down the right path.
Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?
I have several. Some of my favorite authors are J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Amy Tan, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, Mitch Albom, and Charles Dickens. My favorite book of all time is The Hobbit. I like writers that create other worlds for their characters to go into or create odd situations for their characters to encounter in reality.
When and how did you first become interested in writing?
My family raised me to love books. They took me to libraries and bookstores, they read to me every night, encouraged imaginative play, and had discussions with me about what I was reading. One day, I was in a bookstore pretending to be Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I was actually reading a novelization of it as I was walking through the store. Being something of a tomboy, Belle was the one princess character that I really identified with because she loved to read. Then suddenly, I stopped and looked up at the walls of books. Turning to my mother, I told her that I wanted my name to be up on those shelves someday so that everyone could read my stories.
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
I tend to write for one to three hours at a clip. I don’t really keep a strict writing schedule. Instead, I just write my heart out every time I sit down at the computer and try to make sure that I find time to do this at least three to four times a week.
I’m going to keep on writing more short stories and see if I can get them published. I’m also pretty sure I have another novel that is almost ready to bloom, but I don’t think I’m ready to start it yet. Also, I need to focus on getting a literary agent.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have created two Facebook pages, one to help showcase my online work as a writer and another called Ghost Fanatic to share my interest in ghosts. You can also check out my Twitter page, @TaraTheresaHill. I’m really excited about the Urban Harvest anthology. This is my first official story publication.
The following is a short excerpt from Tara’s story in Urban Harvest.
Don’t Be Afraid
Every night, I rise just as the twilight ends and night descends around the city. Walking through the old cemetery, I wander to the front doors of the church. Old Trinity Church welcomes me long after the last visitor’s steps have faded into the sounds of the bustling streets. Walking the long aisle, I always stop at the altar to pray. Only this night will be different. This is All Hallow’s Eve, the one night of the year when the veil between the Spirit World and the Living is thinnest. Every year at this time, I go back to the old neighborhood hoping to find the one that I lost.
Having said my piece, I exit the church and start the long, lonely walk. The city is busy with people and spirits roaming about. Another gentleman and lady from my time nod their heads as I pass by. I tip my hat in return, but there are plenty of spirits from all walks of life and eras here. If the Living only had the sight, they would see souls of people from modern times all the way back to the ancients who first walked the land. All gather together sharing ideas and helping to influence the ones on the physical plane when they can. Most come and go as they please, but others are stuck here on the Earth. I should know because I am one of them. While people use the terms interchangeably, the real difference between a ghost and a spirit is that a spirit has the ability to shift between the two realms at will.
How I died is not important. I do not really remember it being different from any other day. I seemed to wake up just as I always did. Actually, it was a lot like waking up from a nap. I opened my eyes to find myself fully dressed even though I thought I remembered having gone to bed the previous night. I was sitting in my study, only the shades were drawn and the windows were closed. I had always liked to have them open even during the coldest days so that a bit of air could get into the room. Standing up, I walked out into hallway and toward the center of the house. That’s when I heard the weeping. It was a sad sound that shuddered up and down as it came to me from across the hall. Astounded at the noise, I still swept forward to find the source of it. My hand stopped at the parlor door, which was wide open for a viewing. Everything was draped in black and candles burned all about the room amidst the overwhelming perfume of flowers.
My wife and our grown children sat in the parlor, surrounded by friends and other members of the community. The grandbaby sat on his mother’s lap, his fingers stuck in his mouth to soothe himself. They all wore black and grey. Shaking my head, I looked toward the raised dais in the back of the room. All conversation was lost on me for the moment; I had to see for myself to make good their words.
Walking over to the coffin, I stared down at the remains of the body that I had only recently occupied. There was the strong, square jaw, the jet black hair laced delicately with grey at the temples, the broad shoulders and wide chest. I had been in the peak of health for a man in his sixties. What had happened? Surely someone must know.
To read the rest of Tara’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon in just a few hours!