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Gillian Flynn: Writers imbue their characters with a little bit of themselves. Obviously, Sylvie Mason is very different from you. How did you find a window into Sylvie?
John Searles: I joke that, deep down, I’m really a teenage girl. Growing up, my dad worked as a cross-country truck-driver and my brother was usually off with his friends, so my mom, my sisters and I spent were always together. As an adult, I become an editor at a women’s magazine. So in a weird way, it was almost easier for me to write from a female perspective.
GF: You’ve talked before about how your sister’s death affected your writing. How so in this book?
JS: After my sister, Shannon, died, my parents divorced and I left for New York to try and become a writer. Our youngest sister, Keri, was left behind. Keri was around the age of Sylvie, and I realized while writing the book that I was channeling her emotions from that time. She was so young to be faced with tragedy, but like Sylvie, had a resilient spirit.
GF: Help for the Haunted has some seriously scary moments and delves into the subculture of haunted souls and paranormalists. What inspired you?
JS: As a kid, I was obsessed with scary things. I made haunted houses in our garage, and when I got my license, I used to load my friends into my station wagon and drive us down a dirt road at night, where I’d try to scare the hell out of them.
Also, I grew up in the same town as the couple who inspired “The Conjuring.” Seeing them in church used to frighten me! Years later, I saw the woman at library event, and I wondered what it would be like if Sylvie’s parents dealt with the paranormal too.
GF: Do you believe in the supernatural?
JS:In Help For the Haunted, Sylvie says, “I do and I don’t believe.” Her mix of feelings is like my own. Logically, I know better, but then life serves up something unexplainable and I can’t help but believe again.
GF: How do you think you’ve grown as a writer over the course of your career?
JS:I’ve always tried to take risks with my writing, but in Help for the Haunted, I took more: writing from a girl’s perspective, combining a murder mystery with a coming of age tale, playing with time and the supernatural. I used to ask my editor, “Is this story too weird?” Thankfully, she always told me to keep going.
GF: Did you begin Help for the Haunted knowing what was going to happen?
JS: All I had was the voice of a girl left in the care of her tough older sister. The rest came in pieces. The old Tudor where the family lives was inspired by an old Tudor where I stayed at Yaddo. The sisters’ job doing surveys was one I had in high school. The doll came when I discovered Raggedy Ann dolls in my mother’s attic. I forgot she once made them until they were staring me in the face—and scaring me!— once more.
GF: Lots of writers have quirky writing habits. What are yours?
JS: Lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. Push-ups. Runs. Baths. When I go into a writing jag, I don’t change my clothes, shower or shave. While revising Help for the Haunted, I took a break and stumbled into a restaurant. All of New York City and who sits down next to me, but Jay McInerney. He looked at me with my greasy bedhead and rumpled clothes, and I swear he was about to say, “The soup kitchen is down the street.”
UGH. I felt betrayed by the ending. Overall the book was an interesting easy read. It kept me wanting more.I related to the characters & their struggle to unearth family truths. Read morePublished 2 days ago by OK RACH
Great book full of mystery and up and downs could not put down.
I love this kind of reading, do not want to say more. Buy it!
Hard to find a good book for me lately. I got this one and started to read and it's an easy read and kept my interest and I could hardly put it down.Published 13 days ago by Darlene
Searles' Help for the Haunted is a perfect blend of mystery and thriller with a supernatural twist guaranteed to keep you up at night. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Trinity Buis
I loved this book! The characters were realistic and complex and the mystery keeps you guessing until the end. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Sara Reese
Help for the Haunted, by John Serles is definitely worth your time. The main character is a little girl growing up in a very dysfunctional family. But interesting family. Read morePublished 20 days ago by MK Earp
This story definetly has some twists and turns- and will surprise you in bits and pieces, but I kept asking myself if I was close to the end yet b/c it just dragged at parts and... Read morePublished 20 days ago by K. Holcomb
It's a good and easy read with a few twist and turns that really comes to a somber conclusion.
I would say the story of this family is well portrayed but the truth behind... Read more