Friday, December 14, 2007

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Project 17

I've got a spooky Girlfriends Cyber Circuit entry, Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

High atop Hathorne Hill, near Boston, sits Danvers State Hospital. Built in 1878 and closed in 1992, this abandoned mental institution is rumored to be the birthplace of the lobotomy. Locals have long believed the place to be haunted. They tell stories about the unmarked graves on the premises, of the cold spots felt throughout the underground tunnels, and of the treasures found inside: patients' personal items like journals, hair combs, and bars of soap, or even their old medical records, left behind by the state for trespassers to view.

On the eve of the hospital's demolition, six teens break in to spend the night and film a movie about their adventures. For Derik, it's an opportunity to win a filmmaking contest and save himself from a future of flipping burgers at his parents' diner. For the others, it's a chance to be on TV, or a night with no parents. But what starts as a playful dare quickly escalates into a frenzy of nightmarish action. Behind the crumbling walls, down every dark passageway, and in each deserted room, they will unravel the mysteries of those who once lived there and the spirits who still might.


And now, the interview:

What inspired this story?
I wanted to do a companion book to Bleed, using one of my Bleed characters. Around the time I was thinking up ideas for a new project, the newspapers in my area were flooded with stories surrounding the controversial teardown of Danvers State Hospital, an abandoned mental hospital 30 minutes north of Boston. Many people were against tearing it down because it is considered an historical landmark, built in 1878. But, still, developers wanted to use the land to build luxury apartments and condos. In the end, the developers won, and two-thirds of the hospital was torn down. People are now living in the new developments.

Growing up, the hospital, which was finally shut down in 1992 due to budget cuts and overcrowding, was rumored to be haunted and became a notorious hot spot for break-ins and dares. Coincidentally, in Bleed, one of my characters, Derik LaPointe, breaks in to the hospital to go exploring. This is how the initial idea for Project 17 sparked. I thought, why not have Derik break in with a group of teens, on the eve of the demolition to spend the night and film a movie? There are six teens who break in in total, all with their own motivations and agendas, but what they end up finding is far beyond anything they could ever imagine.

Are you a fan of haunted house/other location stories?
The very idea of haunted houses terrifies me. I chicken out of scary movies and haunted house tours at Halloween.

(so, I'm not the only weenie!)

Do you like scary movies or TV shows? What are some of your favorites?
I like the idea of scary movies, esp. psychological thrillers. I'll watch them and then find myself awake half the night. Every time this happens I tell myself I'll never watch another one, but then I do. My favorites? I can't honestly say I enjoy any of them. It's a love/hate relationship really. I recently watched Vacancy and it completely freaked me out.

Would you be willing to take on the challenge you gave your book's characters? If you did, how do you think you'd react?
No way. I wouldn't last five minutes. Once the story idea and sample pages were accepted by the publisher, I started to delve into the research -- visiting the hospital, talking to former patients and staff, and reading and viewing everything I could get my hands on concerning the hospital. I got completely haunted by the research, so much so that I started keeping myself awake at night. I couldn't get it out of my mind, particularly after I visited the place from a writer's perspective -- how was I going to write an entire novel that takes place here? The hospital itself had always been a source of scares, growing up, with its gothic spires and castle-like architecture, but nowhere near as scary as when I started to really get into the individual stories of those connected to the place

After a while, though, for better or for worse, I started to numb up a bit to everything I was researching, including hours of audio and visual footage. That numbness enabled me to take a step back and write the book.

The novel took me about five months to write. I wanted to write it quick -- to get it done -- so that I could put it behind me. It took me another seven months to edit it.

Why do you think people like scary stuff (I'm a big weenie, so I'm always curious about that)?
I think it's like a rollercoaster -- a huge thrill ride that has us clinging to our seats.

(And I'm too chicken for most rollercoasters. I don't like the vertical drop.)

If this sounds intriguing, you can learn more at Laurie's web site. Or you can order the book from Amazon (Tuesday is the official release day).

And now I really have to get to the post office (I sort of procrastinated yesterday) and cut up a couple of pineapples because they're starting to make the house smell like pineapple (which isn't a bad thing, but it does mean they're really ready to eat). And I think I'm going to decorate the little tabletop tree in my office. Then just before the end of the day, my agent will probably get back to me with revision notes on the latest section, so I'll get to spend the weekend working.

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