Friday, September 2, 2011

The making of HUNGRY GHOSTS

For the past four months I have posted an installment of the modern Gothic romance novel I was writing, titled Hungry Ghosts. I am both relieved and sad to say, I finished the novel last Friday. So I decided we need a wrap up.

Why did I decide to write a modern Gothic romance novel? I've been following the Gothic book club on Jenny Crusie's Cherry Forum. We have been reading and discussing a gothic novel each month for the purpose of learning to write them. I was inspired to try my hand at the genre.

Cherry Forums taught me that Gothic romance novels have specific requirements. You don't have to meet all of them, but you do have to meet some. Those requirements are:

"A Young Heroine who is sent to
A Big House located in the middle of
A Wilderness, owned by . . .
A Threatening Patriarchal/Matriarchal Authority Figure, who has
Endangered Children Who Need a Governess and who are plagued by
Supernatural Elements, all complicated by
A Demanding, Aloof Hero with the Sensitivity of a Wombat (Wikipedia: “They can be awkwardly tamed in a captive situation, and even coaxed into being patted and held, possibly becoming quite friendly. . . . However, their lack of fear means that they may display acts of aggression if provoked, or if they are simply in a bad mood.)" (This quote came directly from the Cherry Forum from Molly.)

Wanting to make it modern the first thing that came to me was - how would modern day children be endangered? I had been reading a lot (thanks to Betty Fokker) about eating disorders in models. So I thought - the threat to them could be that someone is trying to keep them too skinny so they can exploit them as models.

What do endangered children Tamara and Crystal look like in my head? 
Meet Tamara (whose mother gave her the dreadful nickname, Twig, to encourage her to be skinny)
Actress: Yohana Cobo

Meet Crystal - horrible nickname Slinky - same reason; to encourage her to be skinny:

Actress Irene Escolar

Who should rescue children endangered in this way? I figured the perfect heroine would be a former too skinny model who had given up the supermodel lifestyle to make healthy choices and would today be considered plus size. So I made the girls mom a ghost who left their guardianship to Clementine Dancer, formerly Tiny Dancer. (If I had it to do over, she'd have a different name cause I could never figure out how to shorten Clementine.) Meet Clementine:

Plus-size model Tara Lynn

Dead mom ghost Tiffany Dish left the house to Clementine. Easy right? Except that the house is pink stucco and it's not in a dry climate. It has to be tented when it rains. And the grounds are covered in kudzu.

Ghost Tiffany's backstory: smoked & chewed ice to stay thin - smell of tobacco smoke & sound of ice chewing - in one room of the house also the sound of tv & a vibrator humming)
She was dismissed from a model shoot by Malvin Mein at 16 for being overweight at 5’8 and 110 pounds. She was obsessed with being too thin and trying to get another shot at super model or star status. She died of lung cancer at 41 when the girls were 13 & 11
Meet Tiffany:
Actress Cate Blanchett
Tiffany and her girls were living with a photographer when she died. Enter the villain - Nate Ferber - who is suing for custody so he can exploit the girls. Nate is a sleazoid asshole user. He cozies up to movie director Humbert Blatt (yes the Lolita reference is deliberate) in a way that is probably obvious but I'll not give specifics to avoid spoilers.
Meet Nate:

Maroon 5's Adam Levine

Meet Humbert:

Woody Allen

That leaves the aloof alpha male love interest - Danilo Torres; injured pro-soccer player. He arcs throughout the book into a man who can love Clementine and be a good father for Tam and Crys. He will never be wholy tame, though. He will always call Clementine, 'sugar' and pat her on the butt in public, never knowing why anyone would consider that demeaning.
Meet Dan:

Pro-soccer player Carlos Tevez

Of course, Clementine and Dan must fight supernatural elements; three ghosts that haunt the pink stucco nightmare house. These were inspired by a blogpost in JulieLand in which she drew the tarot card: Hungry Ghosts. (Sorry I didn't keep the specific post link.) The ghosts are obsession, scarcity consciousness and attachment.

Obsession is dead mother Tiffany ghost - obsessed with being thin.

Scarcity consciousness is Lulu Magrico ghost who grew up in abject poverty. When she is out of control she scarfs down vast quantities of food in case that is the last chance she’ll have to eat, then vomits. Smell of  bacon cooking and sound of vomitting are indicators of her presence. Haunts the kitchen and bathroom.

Attachment is Elly Magrico ghost who was attached to the notion that she and Lulu had to bring their family out of poverty. Deprives herself of food to remain a super model. She chewed sugar-free grape flavored gum and the smell of artificial grape flavor and sound of gum chewing indicate her presence. Haunts the pool.

Lulu and Elly are modeled after dead super model sisters: Luisel and Eliana Ramos who died for real at 22 & 18 of heart attacks brought on by malnutrition due to anorexia.

The song 'The Wrong Way' by Sublime kept me on focus while writing the scene between Nate and Slinky at the photography studio.

The song 'Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress' by the Hollies subdued Lulu ghost.

And finally my Happily Ever After was powered by The Faders song 'No Sleep Tonight'.

I have questions for you - should I do this again? Another modgothrom? Or what new genre should I try next?

Do you have questions for me?


  1. Love your "cast"! I think another modgothrom would be fun, and you're obviously good at it. :)

  2. Great cast. Next, you should write whatever story is clamoring loudest to get out of your head. :)

  3. This really was a lot of fun, but I'm with Delia, whatever story is shouting the loudest to be told now.

  4. yay another book! Well i still have to read the last four chapters of this one, because I just made them into ebook form and transferred them to my kobo. But I'm getting an ipad (for my new job, let's hope I keep the job!) which means in future I should be able to read internet-stuff as a book. (You know... on the bus... flopped in bed... while brushing mah teeth...) I look forward to your derby romcom.