We are thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for Claire Legrand’s second novel, The Year of Shadows, a middle grade ghost story about love, loss, and friendship! Today, Claire is over to talk about ghosts – specifically, why she believes in ghosts, and how that belief informed the creation of The Year of Shadows.
Please give a warm welcome to Claire, everyone!
Why I Believe In Ghosts
Confession: As silly as it sounds, I’ve always believed in ghosts.
As a writer, a part of me is wired to believe that the extraordinary—the magical, the inexplicable, the strange—exists in our reality if you know where to look for it. I know that’s not true, of course. Or I should say, ninety-nine percent of me knows that’s not true. But that stubborn one percent persists: What if?
When I was in sixth grade, I went to the slumber party of a friend who was celebrating her birthday. Someone had brought a Ouija board, and at midnight, as a storm rumbled outside, we gathered around the Ouija board and started to ask it questions. For the most part, this was all giggles and nonsense. Does So-and-So like me? Who among us will grow up to be rich and famous? But then we asked any spirits present to prove they were with us by making my friend’s black cat run across the room. Immediately after we asked the question, lightning flashed, thunder erupted, and the black cat? It yowled and ran across the room. We screamed and put the Ouija board away. Some of the girls were genuinely terrified. (I was feeling more along the lines of, “AWW YEAHHH! Bring it, ghosts!”)
Growing up, whenever a door blew open of its own accord or a strange noise creaked in a dark house, my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles blamed the family ghost, Chester. It was a fun family tradition, but even though everyone laughed when they spoke of Chester, mention of him always gave me chills. He was friendly, they said, but sometimes mischievous. He didn’t mean to frighten us—usually. If a door blew open, instead of assuming it was due to a draft, we would say, “Hi, Chester!” I knew from the start it was just a game, although I liked the idea of a single ghost traveling back and forth between my home and the homes of my extended family members, like some kind of supernatural pet. Ridiculous, of course. It was just the wind, or the house settling. The strange, flitting shapes in the nighttime shadows were my eyes playing tricks on me. The feeling of a presence in the house, especially when I was alone, was the wild imagination of a child. Right?
One of my aunts and one of my cousins recently experienced their own brushes with the supernatural—or did they? (I solemnly swear these are true stories, retold here as they told them to me.) The cousin in question was babysitting the two young sons of one of our aunts. She put them to bed and returned to the living room to study. Later, the younger boy came out and told her there was a boy in the room he and his brother shared. The boy, he said, wouldn’t leave. My cousin returned him to his room and put him back to bed, but then, later, she saw a tiny boy run across the living room. It wasn’t either of our young cousins; it was something . . . else. Strange things started to happen in that house; as my aunt tells it, things would fly or fall off shelves, even when no one was near them. She heard a boy laughing—a boy that wasn’t one of her own. One night, she woke up to see the handle of her dresser drawer flying up and down, up and down, like a child was playing with it just to annoy her—only no one was there. She screamed out into the room: “Go away! Get out of here!” The handle stopped moving.
Some will argue that these incidents have perfectly cogent explanations, grounded in reality: The cat and the Ouija board? Coincidence. Chester? A silly family tradition, a child’s imagination. The boy phantom, the drawer handle banging around by itself? Dreams or hallucinations brought on by exhaustion or stress.
But I can’t quite convince myself with that logic; I don’t want to.
I want to believe that no matter how much logic we use to try and understand the world we live in, no matter how much science or rationality we throw at bizarre events, there will always be things we can’t explain, questions we can’t answer. Believing that there is more to the world than what meets the naked eye — even the most coldly logical scientific eye — is as comforting to me as it is unsettling. I think that’s why I gravitate toward fantastical stories, both as a reader and as a writer—why I wrote about ghosts in The Year of Shadows, and why I so envy Olivia’s experiences with her ghostly friends Frederick, Tillie, Jax, and Mr. Worthington, as horrifying as those experiences were at times. Like Olivia, I want to believe in the unbelievable. I search for it, I crave it, I explore it through my writing as Olivia does through her art. I step into buildings or neighborhoods heavy with history and know that I tread on ground marked by the footsteps of countless souls, just as Olivia learns to feel that her ghosts, tethered to her father’s crumbling music hall, are nearby without even having to turn around.
It’s that feeling of What if? that keeps me writing — exploring, searching, and believing. Maybe someday I’ll witness concrete evidence that ghosts and other unexplainable things exist around us; maybe I won’t. But either way, I’ll keep believing in them. That What if? is too potent a question — and too delicious an inspiration — to ignore.
About The Book:
Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.
Her mother left, her neglectful father — the maestro of a failing orchestra — has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.
Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help — if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.
Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.
About the Author:
Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a writer, Ms. Legrand can often be found typing with purpose at her keyboard, losing herself in the stacks at her local library, or embarking upon spontaneous adventures to lands unknown. Her first novel is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, a New York Public Library Best Book for Children in 2012. Her second novel, The Year of Shadows, releases August 27, 2013, with her third novel, Winterspell, to follow in fall 2014. She is one of the four authors behind The Cabinet of Curiosities, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction due out in July 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Claire lives in New Jersey with a dragon and two cats. Visit her at claire-legrand.com and at enterthecabinet.com.
As part of our stop on the tour, we have ONE copy of The Year of Shadows up for grabs! The contest is open to addresses in the US and Canada only and will run until Friday, September 6 at 12:01am. To enter, use the form below. Good luck! And make sure to stop by later today as we review The Year of Shadows!