Behind the Scenes Don't Date the Haunted

Behind the Scenes of “Don’t Date the Haunted,” Chapter 7

Meet Mr. E, and read about Pansy’s curse words.

Happy New Year! Let’s celebrate a brighter future by starting with lucky 7! Chapter 7, I mean, as this chapter is where things pick up a bit more with Mr. E.

Oh, Mr. E. How much fun I had with you.

Before we get started, please be aware that this is CHAPTER SEVEN. If you haven’t read the book, “Don’t Date the Haunted,” I highly suggest you do that BEFORE reading this post. Spoilers ahead! Ye have been warned!

Alright, now where were we?

Mr. E

I love his name. All of his names. It’s so messed up and perfect for him.

I modeled Mr. E after the classic Noir Mystery Private Investigator. In fact, it wasn’t until my final draft that I solidified his real reason for interviewing Pansy. In the earlier drafts, he was simply (and persistently) curious about Sean’s death. He suspected there were details left out of his report and that Pansy knew the answers. But he also didn’t believe in Hauntings or the Supernatural.

For a fun idea, I’ve considered including Mr. E (by one name or another) in all of my novels. I enjoy looking for Hoid in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books, and thought if any character in “Don’t Date the Haunted,” could “world hop,” it would be Mr. E. So far, I already wrote him into books 2 and 3 of this trilogy, and have ideas where to include him in my series of dreaming princesses, and another series with a dying body-switcher.

As for the interview/interrogation itself, I chose Sean’s death as March 15th as an allusion to Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

Beware, the Ides of March

I have it marked in my calendar along with other nerdy days of note, such as March 14th (Pi Day), and any 13th that lands on a Friday. As for March Madness, I have no idea when that takes place…April? Just kidding, I know it’s in February.

Anyway, Theo comes along and recognizes Mr. E as Mr. John, because that’s the name he goes by while in Fantasy. Theo’s dad (AKA: Duke Konrad Fromm, The Horse, of Margen) has hired Mr. “John” in the past, so that’s how they know each other.

When Pansy runs away from the conversation, both men look at her like they want to chase her. In case you finished the book and didn’t have it figured out (you have finished the book, right? If not, this paragraph would be considered a Spoiler–especially by my husband, who hates spoilers), Mr. E wants to follow her because he’s her Watcher, and he has more questions about Sean’s death. Theo wants to chase after her “for reasons [she] couldn’t tell.” Those reasons are because he’s curious about her variable aura, and he experienced love at first sight with her, and really wants to figure out how that’ll work since she obviously didn’t feel it in return. Poor Theo.

Aaaand the date preparations! Pansy’s not really the type of girl to spend a lot of time preparing for a date. Even when she dated Sean, their relationship was very casual. They mostly went to the local dojo to exercise or study (for school, from the medical textbooks of Sean’s dead parents, or from the survival book of Pansy’s dead brother). The only “date” they had was when Sean proposed, unless you want to count the times they fought a werewolf together, or when they went camping for a few horrifying days.

The rest of this chapter actually didn’t change very much between edits. Actually, the biggest change was Pansy’s curse words. I went through a couple rounds of ideas before deciding on the final set. See if you can pick out the theme of her expletives from my very first draft:

The cart slowed as we approached our destination.  Theo jumped out first, then turned to help Heather down.  I was next closest to the door, and Theo held his hand up to help me out of the coach.  I resisted the urge to wave his hand away.  I can exit a Horsefly buggy by my-
My thoughts were interrupted as I stumbled over the threshold.  I fell forward with a shout of, “Agra Vation Beetle!”  I didn’t fall far with Theo right there.  He caught me in his arms as my face pummeled into his chest.  Thorn Bug, he’s strong….

Very first terrible draft of “Don’t Date the Haunted”

Yep. To my shame, she used bug names to curse.
I personally don’t like to use the typical swears. They don’t offend me (even when watching “Zombieland”), but I think they’re crude and, honestly . . . boring. I couldn’t have Pansy swear by the moon or curse with monster names like “werewolf!” or “blood sucker!” because there is a trope in Horror: if you swear by it, it’ll come after you. There’s a British folktale about a woman who often said “Let God open the earth and have it swallow me, if what I tell you isn’t the truth.” Of course, when she lied about stealing, God did just that.
So, no swears like that from Haunting-conscious Pansy. I’m not sure how I landed on bug names of all things, but it might have been influenced by my reading of “Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians” at the time. Just like the Grandpa’s cursing with sci-fi/fantasy authors, I never repeated the same curse twice, and I tried to make them applicable to the situation she was in.
(horsefly, because they were in a horse-drawn carriage; agra vation beetle, because she was aggravated; and thorn bug, because they’re one of the strongest insects.) You wouldn’t believe the random bug trivia I know because of that research.
P.S. When Heather mimicked Pansy’s cursing in chapter sixteen, she initially said “Butterflies!” and “Ladybugs!”

My next round of curses from Pansy involved anatomy. I figured that was more appropriate to her medical-studying character. That stage didn’t last long enough to be saved in a draft. I finally concluded with simple replacement words that work as follows:

Heck =Horror
Darn / Dang =Condemnation
Poop =Crap
Gosh =Supernaturals
Pansy’s swears

Much simpler, but appropriate for Pansy’s character. Personally, I think replacement words are more fun and colorful. My own vocabulary includes words like “dang,” “snap,” “oh my goodness,” and “curses.” Yep, it’s only dropped once in this book, but I gave one of my favorite “curse” words to Theo. Being from Fantasy–where people can be literally cursed–I thought it was appropriate for him.

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