THE BIRTH OF WHERE DEMONS DANCE
It started in the beginning months of 2015. I was living with my sister, Erika, and brother-in-law, Ben, and their two kids in a three-bedroom house that once belonged to my grandparents. I lived in the back room. It was rather small, but it fit my single bed, desk, dresser, and record player. I was nineteen at the time and it had been almost two years since I had written a book—it felt like forever ago. The last book I had written, Ghosts That Haunt My Steps, was a historical fiction murder mystery based on the Great Chicago Fire, and I had loved every moment of writing it. Now at nineteen, having dropped out of college, I was itching to write another book. Something like the last one I had written, only longer, more intriguing, a more complex plot, more characters, more mystery. It had to be better.
At the time, I had no idea what to write about, only that I wanted to write a new book. I began to look for different historical topics that weren’t overdone. I kept hitting a wall. I talked with Erika and Ben, who asked if I had heard of the Donner party. I had heard of it, but I didn’t know much, so I started reading more about them. It was an intriguing story, but it didn’t feel right for what I wanted. I don’t remember all the historical events I looked at, but there were many. It wasn’t until Ben suggested I look at the Mormon massacre of 1857 that something clicked. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but I began reading more and more about the history behind the tragedy; ideas began to form, and a book was beginning to take shape in my mind. Penelope was the first character that I came up with as I based the whole story around Henri’s murder. Ava came second. Something that was a driving force was wanting to accurately portray a character struggling with schizophrenia, especially in a time period where it would be looked down upon and stigmatized.
The book wasn’t easy. It took months to come up with and plot out, and within that time I moved back in with my parents where I had a slightly bigger room—a bigger floor space on which to lay out my pieces of paper where I wrote all of my plots.
By that time, I had a great deal written—it was a book consisting of two plot lines of two girls, one trying to find who killed her husband, the other trying to find out what happened to her real parents. I read the book over and over, but it didn’t feel complete.
Finally, an idea came—Lawrence.
Even though I’d thought up Penelope’s character first, Lawrence is who I consider the main character of the book since he has a part in all three plot lines.
However, finding his plot line was difficult. I was at a loss of how to tie him into the girls’ plot lines and make it work. Again, my sister, Erika came to my rescue.
Erika told me about a house in California called the Winchester Mystery House—if you go online, you can see videos of it and people walking through it. A rather brilliant woman in the 1800s decided to build a mansion that is a maze. It’s said that no one has even been through all of it. I loved the idea of it.
Of course, I couldn’t put Lawrence into the Winchester Mystery House, but instead, I built him a house of his own that he couldn’t escape. Surprisingly enough, it worked.
After I had finished Lawrence’s plot line, I had a draft that finally felt complete. It was the longest book I had ever written, coming to approximately 140,000 words—a length I would later find was far too long. But I was proud. After months of planning, it took approximately three months to write, and in June of 2016, Where Demons Dance was born.