I caught up with author Marilyn A. Hudson on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in the Great Reading Room in the main library. It seemed a natural setting with the polished old wood and the gothic architecture for the author of the chilling short story collection, The Bones of Summer and co-author of the horror novel, The Mound. The spirit of learning and the sum total of human knowledge seemed to hover around like a phantom seeking to possess some willing soul. A soft warm glow spilled in through old windows forming warm puddles of diffused light on the glossy floor.
You write but you also tell stories, is that right? How in the world did that come about?
I was working in a public school and this storyteller come through and I realized I wanted to learn to do that. I already did it to some extent and had as a child gotten in a lot of trouble for being a little too creative at times! I joined a local group, dived in the deep end and in a later job actually got to use those skills every week in my work in the public library.
But "The Ghost Teller" - how did that happen?
Well, I realized, I liked telling those stories as well as writing them. I saw that in Oklahoma there were no tellers specializing in telling ghost stories or spooky tales. Saw a void and tried to fill it!
Tell us how you got started as a writer.
My first foray into writing was scripting an episode of ‘Star Trek’ when I was twelve. No one ever read it but I had a lot of fun writing that and realized I really enjoyed the process. It was later, though, in college when I realized I preferred to write papers that I began to think maybe, just maybe, I might become a writer one day. I had several hundred articles published in small, regional or specialized publications, letters to editors, and company newsletters trying on styles and honing my craft.
What authors or films have most influenced you as a writer?
I read the classics – Bronte, Austin, Euripides, Poe, Wilkie, James, and even an author from the mid-fifties, Emily Loring, who had a gift for description – but had a fondness for suspense and mysteries of a more recent era. I have had the joy of reading widely and well because I always love a good story or a well-written book. Therefore, I have enjoyed many Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Kay Hooper works.
In ten years, what themes do you look forward to exploring or what new things do you expect to try in your work?
I look forward to getting these - other stories - out of me. They are nestled close, incubating, biding their time but I know their time is coming.
Will they be the same genre or will you be branching out?
Yes and no, because I think they will be more a synthesis of all that I am as a writer, or what I hope to be, as one. I think that is the goal of anyone who truly writes, who creates, out of compulsion and deep need. Genres are stepping-stones to get us to the place where we truly carve out our own territory in the landscape of words and the imagination. In that place, we explore broader vistas and more meaningful themes with the tools and skills built over time.
Tell us about your fans and readers.
They are wonderful! My readers are generally people who enjoy the genre work of the mysterious or those who are attracted to history. These can be diverse audiences! I enjoy meeting them at book signings and festivals.
As an author, what have been your greatest challenges?
There is an old Jim Croce song, “Time in a Bottle”, and in that is a line which has always stuck with me. It is about it being hard to do the things you really want to do once you discover just what that is and that is descriptive of most people. The challenge is to balance everything, all the demands life makes of you, and still have the energy, focus, and imagination left to create something of worth. The focused, driven, single minded author can be a painful sack of self-centered, disconnected, and unhappy human being. Keeping the balance and the inspiration can be tricky.
If money and time were not an issue, what would you like to do as a person or as an author?
Write all the time! I would travel and discover new things and actually walk in places where I wanted my characters to walk. I have always had a strong imagination but to see, smell, and hear surroundings can add so much to how you construct a scene and develop a character.
Sometimes people have ideas or have heard tales of writers who are very picky about how and when they write. When you write do you have any specific rituals or traditions?
I have be able to focus and to know that for this block of time I can devote myself to crafting words into story or to respond with freedom to the inspirational wave which might sweep over me. I try to keep paper and pen with me so that when that scene leaps into my head full blown I can capture it. Or, if I wake in the middle of the night from a dream I can do the same. I often play mood music – soft, nature sounds, or light classical or pop – to be white noise and to influence the tone of the writing. If a certain type of music reflects a character, then I may play it to get under the skin a bit more.
Readers always want to know – where do writers get their ideas? What generates your creative thoughts in a novel?
A writer is a squirrel who has stored up experiences, people, sounds, emotions, and desires instead of nuts. Everything we have seen, tasted, heard, or dreamed ultimately becomes part of what we write. It may be subconscious but it is there. A writer can do one piece of intensive research and then use that information or the ideas generated by them for years and in often strange ways.
In the immediate there are more appearances but what's next? What’s next for you as a writer? Any new titles coming soon or different topics in the near future?
I am finishing some steam punk, gaslight mysteries, which are a fun departure. I am also working on a novel about a serial killer and his victim. My co-author and I also have sequels roughed out for The Mound. I even have one about an ancient warrior woman – which should be fun!
--Ann Brown, for Paranormal Librarian