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Help for the Haunted: A Novel Hardcover – September 17, 2013
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Author One-on-One: Gillian Flynn and John Searles
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.”
Top Customer Reviews
To be clear, this is not a book about demonology or the occult nor is it remotely chilling. It's a coming of age story about a girl dealing with a very unusual home life and family, and her observations about the world around her. That alone would be a sweet story, but when the author leads you down a road of potential frights and doesn't deliver, it's just plain disappointing. Then there are aspects that don't make sense, like Abigail and the doll. Why were they even in the book? They show up and hang around for a while, then it's as if the author decided he was bored with them and pushes them to the back burner.
The worst part of all is the ending. Not to give it away but the resolution was a cop-out and a rip off. Why introduce a handful of characters if you're going to completely change course at the very end? Ugh.
I wish I could get my money back for this one.Read more ›
The synopsis and blurbs from other authors suggest that this will be a scary haunted house tale or riveting thriller. These statements are somewhat misleading. There is certainly an undercurrent of menace running through the novel. The Masons are involved in very mysterious activities, giving lectures on spirit activity and meeting with supposedly haunted people. They're loosely based on Ed and Lorraine Warren, ghost hunters involved in many supernatural investigations throughout the 70s and 80s. The occult museum in the basement and haunted doll locked in a case are borrowed from the Warrens. The gothic elements of the story add a spooky tone throughout, but this is where the `ghost story' plotline ends.Read more ›
The story drags a little in the middle, but pulls you in. The ending has a surprise. There are overtones of spookiness (what's is going on in the basement), but it's not overdone.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very enjoyable - a fast pace kept up through the entire book. Everyone who reads mysteries is invited to speculate, but this one had enough twists and turns to keep me hopping. Read morePublished 20 days ago by Kim
I really enjoyed this book. Usually I'm not a huge fan of reading, but I finished this book is 3 days. I recommend it to everyone.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I just finished this captivating murder/mystery, -
Kept me intrigued as to the true culprit literally until the surprise ending ! -- loved it !
I didn't like it. Felt contrived with a needless graphic violent scene. Surprise ending ...Not. By that time, I didn't really care.Published 2 months ago by Barbara
Interesting story. Could have used better editing. I like the basis of the story, but the day to day existence was boring. Also, the uncle character wasn't properly developed. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Alauda Trevor
It was a good read, not my favorite but that's what happens when you download free books. The truth was a surprise which is good. Most books I see the end far before the end. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jennifer Collins
The author mentions in an interview that this book combines murder mystery, paranormal activities, and coming-of-age stories. For me, it never hit any of these genres cleanly. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Barbara Searles