Saturday, April 14, 2007

Jennifer McMahon

Mia King recently interviewed Jennifer McMahon, author of Promise Not To Tell.

The opening exchange:

What was your inspiration for Promise Not To Tell?

I was living way back in the woods of Vermont with no running water, electricity or phone. It could get scary out there at night. Sounds play tricks. You tell yourself that what you hear is an owl, but some part of your brain is screaming, “No, it’s a serial killing clown blowing a slide whistle. Now run for your life, you idiot!”

Every day, I’d walk down the old railroad bed that bordered our property and if I went far enough, I’d pass a group of ruined buildings that locals call The Hippie Shacks. Built in the late 60’s/early 70’s they now stood abandoned, covered in moss, roofs collapsed. I’d imagine the hope that went into them; the promise of living simply, going back to the land. I wanted to write a story that captured both the creepiness of living way out in the woods and the sorrow of those abandoned buildings. I knew right away that it would be a ghost story. I just wasn’t sure how to get started or who my ghost would be.

Then, one day, I was driving by a vegetable farm down the road from us, and saw a dead crow hung up in the center of a field. I’d heard some farmers did this to keep other crows from pecking newly planted seeds out of the dirt, but I’d never seen in it practice. For days, weeks, that crow hung there, quietly rotting. When I sat down to start my story, I began with the image of the crow. Then, from nowhere, a hand began to stroke my dead bird. The dirty hand of a little girl. And I knew I had my ghost.

Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue