Behind the Scenes Don't Date the Haunted

Behind the Scenes of “Don’t Date the Haunted,” Chapter 16

What inspired the black-out scene? Which scenes were switched and why?

The lights go out.
And as Pansy always says,

It’s never just a power-outage.

– Oz’s Haunting Survival Book

PS. That is Theo’s favorite piece of advice from Oz, but not because of this scene. You’ll find out why in the sequel, “Don’t Marry the Cursed,” which has an official release date of April 2nd!

Just in case you’re coming across this for the first time, PLEASE read “Don’t Date the Haunted” before coming behind the scenes! Of course, it’ll be more fun to read the book after reading how it all came to be, but these posts are to encourage second read-throughs.
If you don’t own it yet, you can find it on Amazon >>

Alright, let’s run into the dark together! (Don’t go toward the light!)

This scene was inspired by so many things. First of all, I wanted to show a use for Theo’s ability to see auras. He can see the silhouettes of people in the dark. He can’t control the wind to help him fly (like his older brother, Greggory), but it’s something.

Also we have Heather and Pansy “holding hands” in the dark. This part was inspired by a scene from “The Haunting of Hill House,” by Shirley Jackson. It’s a classic horror that I highly suggest to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers. In it, is a scene where two characters hold hands while an unseen force tries to open their door. However, when the door holds true, it’s revealed that one character wasn’t holding hands… So the other was holding hands with…someone or something else.

That scene really stuck with me. The very first short story that I completed was about a haunted house, and the main character was pushed away from the screams by unknown hands.

So, of course I had to include it here.

“Don’t Go Toward the Light!”

In case you didn’t catch the joke when Pansy says “Don’t go toward the light!” it’s a reference to a common saying of dying people. They say that they “see a light,” and they go to it or it comes to them. Pansy doesn’t want her friends to die, so she warns them not to go toward it.

The Sounds Upstairs

Supposing you read last chapter’s Behind the Scenes, then you may know that Marcellette’s fate wasn’t always so simple as some hickeys. For many of my beginning drafts, I had the poltergeist possess her and use her to kill people. The reader wouldn’t know she was involved until the basement scene, but there was a hint in this chapter as a second woman screamed on another floor. In previous drafts, the Haunting locked Heather in a room, tried and failed to possess her (because she was too innocent), then went after Marcellette on another floor to torture her. As it is now, the poltergeist tries and fails to possess Heather (because she’s innocent and the poltergeist can’t possess two people at once), then it makes a ruckus upstairs. Poltergeists are commonly known for making loud noises, plus this could have made the group split up–a big no-no during Hauntings.

If you remember from Chapter 7, Pansy’s curse words changed a couple times. With each revision, I also changed Heather’s curses accordingly.

“That’s her,” I said.  “Get her out of there.”
Even as I said it, though, the screams downstairs became more desperate.  Mr. E stepped up, and held Jake and Theo back.  “That thing’s not budging,” he said.  “You’ll only kill your shoulders and waste your strength.”  He knelt beside the door handle and pulled out an assortment of keys.
“You can pick locks?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied, and waved his hand to shush me as though my questions were a house fly distracting him from his task.  It still seemed to take way too long for his little needles to wiggle in the perfect position.  Jake talked with Heather, trying to calm her down, while Hank, Theo, and I stood back, feeling frustratingly useless.  It didn’t help that the screaming sobs downstairs choked into a fatal silence.
Finally, the door clicked, and immediately it swung open.
“Lady bug!” Heather said, leaping out, arms flying toward Jake.  He caught her eagerly, but didn’t act on his ‘threat’ to give her more than one or two tries to determine his kissing abilities.  I figured their tight hug in front of their friends was just as scandalous from Heather’s perspective.
“Lady bug?” I asked her.
Heather blushed, “You swear with bug names.  I thought I’d try it out.”
. . . . .
I nearly jumped from Heather’s weak explicit.  I’d nearly forgotten she was there.

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

Where’s Emma?

In full honesty, the main reason Emma’s not in this chapter until the bathroom scene was because she was already dead. When I first wrote this, they only made it halfway down the Tower when Pansy noticed that Emma was missing. There was no stairwell tumble. Emma simply started screaming from one floor above them. Mr. E took her camera to the hallway, Pansy recognized the Haunting, and then the power went out for Heather’s capture.

I switched the scenes because I wanted them to get all the way to the main floor and to cut the boring stairwell time. Also, in previous drafts, the reader didn’t know what kind of Haunting it was until Emma’s picture revealed the translucent man holding a solid broken faucet. Pansy recognized it immediately, but the big reveal has always been where it is now.

Speaking of a broken faucet, Emma’s death used to be pretty gruesome. Believe it or not, I didn’t mean to write a romance. I wrote this book with horror in mind and shrugged at the romance because most horror books have some element of romance in them. I was also basing its plot structure from the classic horrors, like “Dracula,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “The Mummy! – Or a Tale of the Twenty Second Century,” (how many of you knew that “The Mummy” was based on a book, or that was its original title?), “1984,” “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and some of Stephen King’s older horrors. Even my favorite horror, “House of Leaves,” follows the same pattern: start with the everyday, then add some little bits of uncanny until it escalates into surreal terror.
I went through every single chapter to include some element of romance and horror in it, but the story isn’t a straight horror or straight romance. When talking with my second editor, she suggested that I choose one simply to make it easier to market. I realized it would be a lot easier (and more desirable) to make a couple scenes less graphic and to focus on the romance than to add more graphic scenes to focus on the horror.
So, I accidentally wrote a romance.
And I toned down the scene of Emma gushing blood from the broken faucet that was rammed into her stomach. You’re welcome.

Hank’s Fate

“We’re goin’ to run away to my country,” he sobbed. “Live in a small town. Ya’d be the hottest chick for miles and I’d be the luckiest man in Novel. . . We’d have nine kids. I know ya only want three, but I thought we could swing with…with three sets of triplets?”

– Hank, “Don’t Date the Haunted”

Poor Hank. As I mentioned in last chapter’s Behind the Scenes, I almost killed him too. I considered making him the poltergeist’s puppet instead of Marcellette because that would have hurt more. He was just as sinful as Emma, so by all the laws of Horror, he should have died.
However, my second editor suggested keeping him alive because it was a fate worse than death for him. Also, she loved the scene of him with Emma (quoted above), and didn’t want anything to take away from that.

Not everyone knows Hank and Emma like I do (I created them after all), but his last words to her are proof that they wouldn’t have been happy together. Emma was a straight-up Contemporary/city girl, and Hank was a Western/country boy through and through. They would have needed to make some real changes and compromises to make their relationship last.

A Hint

A hand touched my shoulder and my reflexes swung out.
“Curses!” Theo shouted and raised his hands in defense. He stared at me with wide and shocked eyes. “Your aura just–” He blinked and refocused. “Sorry, I wondered if we ought to keep moving.”

Don’t Date the Haunted

The missing word there is “spiked.” You’ll find out why in “Don’t Marry the Cursed,” coming in ONE MONTH!

The First Big Twist

Aaand it’s Sean.

Join me next week to learn more about Sean’s fight with the poltergeist, and Pansy’s fight with him!

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