Behind the Scenes Don't Date the Haunted

Behind the Scenes of “Don’t Date the Haunted,” Chapter 14

Masquerade! A deleted sneak peek to the Haunting, and Mr. E’s accusation

As always, if you haven’t read the book up to chapter 14 yet, please do so now! If you don’t own “Don’t Date the Haunted,” here’s a link to get it!


I attended a total of four high school dances (two of them were girl’s choice, and the last was stag). However, I went to countless Stake Dances. These were dances set up by church congregations for ages 14-18 (though it was mostly 14-16, because most people older than 16 went on real dates). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a tradition of “no dating until age 16.” That meant that these Stake Dances (where everyone comes wearing their Sunday best without dates) were the primary places to learn to flirt and dance. I was terrible at both.
Cue the awkwardness.

Despite the ballet, gymnastics, and multiple dance classes I took as a kid, my best dance moves were the Shopping Cart, the shuffle, and alternating finger exercises.

Pansy’s experience at the masquerade is very much like those I’ve experienced myself. Well, okay, most of the dances I attended were without a date, and I spent them either swaying by myself near the wall, or standing with my limited friends in a circle wondering why we weren’t dancing together.

We’re at a dance. We might as well dance.

Very Terrible First Draft of “Don’t Date the Haunted”

I modeled Pansy’s experience after my very first high school dance–Homecoming. I had recently turned seventeen as a Senior, and I was asked by a boy I kind of liked (little did I know that I was his third choice for the dance). No matter, he did ballroom dance, so even though I wasn’t a great dancer, he was a good leader and I was a decent follower.
The following quote is based off a personal experience:

I sensed his steps as he took them, and moved with him to keep us from stumbling. This way, Theo led me into twists and turns, directing me through crowds so we miraculously didn’t bump into others.

“Don’t Date the Haunted,” chapter fourteen

There’s actually a deleted scene in here when I tried to add something suspicious to the masquerade (before it all goes to horror anyway). Theo left Pansy alone to grab some drinks, and the reader got an early glimpse of the Haunting.

Something pinched the back of my knee.  I jerked around, but of the crowds around me, no one was straightening from the low pinch.  I stepped away from any possible creepers, toward Emma and Hank on the edge of the crowd.
“Hey, Emma!” I shouted.
“Ouch!” she cried back, flinching at me.  “Pansy!  Have you been pinching me?”
“What?  No, someone pinched me too.”
. . . . .
A light touch slid across my back that sent chills up my spine.  I turned with a smile, then stumbled.  The man standing beside me was not Theo with his white horse mask.  A stranger with a black hood and soul reaper mask stared at me with dark eyes.
I stepped back and grabbed for my emergency pack.  Condemn this dress, I couldn’t reach into my pack without lifting a dozen layers of skirt.  Before I could begin such a struggle, the reaper’s eyes met mine.  They were the only visible part of his face behind his glittery white mask.
Glitter.  Right.  No real soul reaper would shimmer that much.  Also, the man’s eyes were familiar.  Did I know him from school?
“Are you here stag?” he asked.  His voice was like a mutated memory.
“I-I guess,” I stammered, glancing for Theo.
The peculiar man’s eyes crinkled with a sensual smirk. “Well, then you can call me Mr. Hunter.  I’d say, if you’re the game I’ve been searching for, you’ve already sent me on a marvelous chase.”
I stammered for a reply as Theo returned with two drinks.
“Excuse me,” he said, his eyes openly curious about the soul reaper.  “Was that a horrendous pick-up line, or an actual attempt to become better acquainted?”
The reaper’s eyes narrowed at the challenge. “That would depend on who you are.”
I silently pleaded to Theo for an excuse away from this creeper.  Theo caught my message with a glance then wrapped an arm around my shoulders.  “I am Lord Fromm of Margen and this woman’s escort.  Now, you are?”
The soul reaper’s mask quirked to the side though his challenging eyes remained the same.  “Mr. Hunter,” he said, “and it seems the hunt has only begun.”
He stepped back and became lost in the crowd.
. . . . .
“Did you know Mr. Hunter?”
“I don’t think so,” I said.  “Thanks for being my creeper repellent.”
“Of course,” he smirked.  “I will happily rescue my flower from strangers with black auras.”
“His aura was black?”
“Indeed, whatever that means,” he said.  “How long do you request that I uphold the charade as your date?”
I looked up at him and struggled to restrain my timid smile. “Does it have to be a charade?”
Theo’s smile bloomed from behind the folds of his mask.  My heartbeat stuttered.

I ultimately deleted this scene when changing Pansy’s morning of terror to relaxation and bonding. If she had any indication the masquerade was Haunted, she would have left.

Hey, Look! A Distraction!

Mr. E and his dead cold hands are actually based off of my own hands. In high school, I joked that I was a vampire because my hands were always freezing and–because “Twilight” was rampant–I had yellow-tinted eyes and sparkly lotion.

By the way, yes, Theo’s quote of “As you wish,” is a reference to “The Princess Bride.” Classic.

Mr. E’s accusation and Pansy’s excuse has always been a pivotal moment. I needed Pansy and Theo to have a struggle in their relationship (as Emma mentions in chapter twelve). At this point, Pansy’s just annoyed by Mr. E. He interrupted her dance with Theo, refuses to believe in Supernaturals and Hauntings, and wouldn’t believe the truth even if she told it to him. So, SPOILER ALERT: she lies.

Unfortunately, Theo overhears. They go to the balcony to talk, and it’s a good thing Pansy doesn’t kiss him then because the poor guy would have been so confused.

When the power goes off, Theo has a different reaction than everyone else. He grew up with fairy lights and torches – no power outages. However,

“It is just a power outage.” He breathed with surprising relief and his arm relaxed beneath my grip. “This is not my brother’s Night Shade ability. The lights should return soon.”

“Don’t Date the Haunted,” chapter fourteen

Theo’s youngest biological brother is Dunstan the Night Shade, currently known as Dunstan the Night Terror. He has the ability to seemingly create darkness. In D&D terms, it’s basically the Darkness spell (I actually didn’t make that connection until now). You can look forward to learning more about Dunstan and his ability in “Don’t Marry the Cursed,” coming out April 2, 2021!

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