About New York Times Bestselling Author Nancy Holder
I drew a lot from real life to tell the story of the Possessions trilogy. In The Screaming Season, I tried to answer some of my own questions about what drives us, what possesses us. Scary questions, scary answers? I did learn the most important lesson of all, which I’ll share in a few days.
Here are some of the things that influenced the writing of The Screaming Season:
When I was around ten or eleven, my cousin and I were convinced we had a ghost. He (somehow we knew he was a guy) haunted my grandparents’ house and he would just sort of loom around us. He had no form. He was a spirit. On occasion, we would both simultaneously announce, “He’s here!” and run like hell until we couldn’t breathe. As we got older, I tried to explain him away, joking with my cousin that we made him up just to goose each other. Then one night, I started joking about him and making fun of him. How cute of us, to pretend we were being haunted by a ghost!
But my cousin looked hard at me and said, “You know he was real.” And…suddenly, completely, I did know. In the intervening years, I had been pretending to pretend. But I dropped the pretense…and he stayed.
That was the scariest moment of all.
When I was twelve, my father, who was a psychiatrist in the US Navy, was transferred to Yokosuka, Japan (and you can bet I am following all the news coming out of Japan.) He was the Chief of Psychiatry, and among other things, he ran a lock-down ward for sailors suffering from severe emotional illnesses.
I found out that he used electro-shock therapy on at least one patient, who then tried to sue him over it. As an adult, I realize just how much power my father had over his military patients. I used that in my story about Marlwood Academy for Girls, an isolated girls’ school where the men in charge have the power of life or death over the students. The vengeful ghosts of the inmates of Marlwood are haunted by their own rage over the terrible things done to them, and that they did to each other. And I’m haunted by the idea that my father did something so controversial, so violent, to a man who was already suffering. I know that treatment of the emotionally ill has a barbaric past, and that there have been changes through the ages—and that my father is part of that past. (I also know that some people who have had electroshock therapy swear that it saved them.
My father died when I was sixteen, so I can’t talk to him about any of this. So I’ve had to deal with it myself—much as Lindsay deals with her own ghosts.
This is taken from a letter I wrote to my younger self, from the Dear Teen Me project:
“Dear Teen Me,
“You’re sixteen, and you’re standing in the senior lot of Grossmont High School, leaning against a car, and he (the senior whose presence makes this location legal) is leaning against another car, facing you. So you are both en profile. He is Kevin, and he is hot, and is breaking up with you. Kevin. But here’s the deal: even while your heart is shattering into billions and billions of shards, and each of those shards is being pulverized into quadrillions of granules, you find yourself thinking: “The way we’re standing would make great blocking in a play.”
And you think that must mean there is something seriously wrong with you, because how can you think of that at a time like this? How does it even occur to you? You feel like you’re about to die, and you’re thinking about stage directions?
“Then you go over to Marcia’s to fall apart. She’s your best friend and her mom is never home, so Marcia knows how to cook. And Marcia makes that salad with the blue cheese dressing and tiny shrimp, and between sobs, part of you thinks, “I love this stuff.” “At the time, as you eat salad and lie on Marcia’s bed, you think that here, finally, is proof that you’re shallow, or schizophrenic, or that Kevin hasn’t broken your heart after all. Maybe you are heart free. Because there is more salad, and you are stoked. You think you have to feel something one way, a hundred percent, or you must not really care about it.”
This is echoed in the confusion of the main character, Lindsay, as she tries to sort out her feelings for the boys who come into her life while she is struggling with ghostly possession. Which one is right for her? Which one is really on her side? After one of them breaks her heart, can she dare to care that deeply ever again?
Official Biography of Nancy Holder
New York Times Bestselling author Nancy Holder was born in Los Altos, California. Her father, a professor at Stanford, joined the navy and the family traveled throughout California and lived in Japan for three years. When she was sixteen, she dropped out of high school to become a ballet dancer in Cologne, Germany, and later relocated to Frankfurt Am Main.
Eventually she returned to California and from the University of California at San Diego with a degree in Communications. Soon after, she began to write; her first sale was a young adult romance novel titled Teach Me to Love.
Nancy’s work has appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, LA Times, amazon.com, LOCUS, and other bestseller lists. A four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association (HWA), she has also received accolades from the American Library Association, the American Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and Romantic Times. Nancy is serving as the chair of the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award for the HWA.
She is also the author of the young adult horror series Possessions for Razorbill. She has sold many novels and book projects set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Saving Grace, Hellboy, and Smallville universes. Nancy and Debbie Viguié co-authored the New York Times bestselling series Wicked for Simon and Schuster. They have continued their collaboration with the Crusade series, also for Simon and Schuster, and the Wolf Springs Chronicles for Delacorte (2011.)
She has sold approximately two hundred short stories and essays on writing and popular culture. Her anthology, Outsiders, co-edited with Nancy Kilpatrick, was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in 2005.
She teaches in the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program, offered through the University of Southern Maine. She previously taught at the University of California at San Diego and has served on the Clarion Board of Directors.
She lives in San Diego, California, with her daughter Belle, their two Corgis, Panda and Tater; and their cats, David and Kittnen Snow. She and Belle are going to be guests at GeekGirlCon next October and they cannot wait!