Portsmouth A Love Story

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Novelist's Quest for Authenticity in Writing about the Paranormal

In 1987 I moved from Camden, Maine, to Salem, Massachusetts, and immediately I was mesmerized by the quantity and variety of businesses serving the paranormal community. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I might have read my horoscope in the newspaper but, until I got to college in the late 1960s, I knew absolutely nothing about metaphysics. Moving to Salem was an eye-opener because there were psychic readers, Wicca shops, and other such things everywhere. I quickly discovered Pyramid Books and I spent a lot of time there both buying books and attending lectures and classes. I was fascinated.

Because I am a novelist, it was always in the back of my mind that one day I would write about characters to whom the paranormal was an everyday part of their lives and, after years of thinking about it, I began a novel that I called Depraved Heart. The title comes from a legal term referring to a type of murder in which a death is accidental but happened because of the indifference on the part of the killer to human life. The killer is said to possess a “depraved heart” because a life was taken even though unintentionally. The entire plot revolves around two characters with vastly different experiences of their psychic abilities.

The male protagonist, Syd Jupiter, is a former NFL linebacker and is also the depraved heart killer. At the peak of his athletic career, he is convicted of the depraved heart murder of his brother-in-law, Raven, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. When the story opens he has just been paroled after fifteen years and is returning to the estate his teenage daughter has inherited from her recently deceased grandfather, to help organize and prepare it for sale.

In creating Syd, I wanted a character who was completely at ease with and accepting of the paranormal. His mother, Marie-Isobel, is the owner of a santeria shop in New Orleans and he grew up there, surrounded by ritual candles, charms, and spells. His mother taught him early in life to work with these things and he learned early in life to protect himself from her tendency to use her abilities to “read” her young son. Even his name, “Jupiter,” was given to him by his mother because of a unique planetary alignment of the time of his birth. An alignment that bestowed upon him an exceptional nobility and dignity.

All of this was critical to creating Syd and, in an effort to do that, I consulted with well-known astrologer, Skye Alexander. Skye, a long-time friend, has written numerous books on the paranormal and astrology. She was able to paint a picture for me of the man I wanted my character to be. In order for his character to be credible, and to do the things I needed him to do, he had to be a man who was both physically powerful and have powerful intuitive abilities. He also had to be fully accepting of these things.

My female protagonist, Tempest Hobbs, was somewhat more challenging. Tempest is a “sensitive” – and empath, who grew up in Salem surrounded by the metaphysical but whose extreme sensitivity to the emotions and thought so others, has been a great handicap throughout her life. She has no resistance to the powerful feelings of others and has, at times, been confined to psychiatric wards when she was in the grip of a “possession”, as she calls it, by another person.

My friend Terry Milton, known on the North Shore as The Stone Lady, was an invaluable resource in creating this character. Terry is a psychic reader who uses natural minerals as her medium and is one of the keenest sensitives I have ever known. Over the years she has said things to me in conversation that startle me because I cannot imagine how she knew about something. I finally realized that she didn't, in fact she was completely unaware of what she had just said. She just “knew” it because that is how she is.

Terry told me about empaths she has known whose psychic abilities are so intense and irresistible that it becomes a handicap in life and, as I created my Tempest, I tried to embody in her the things I was learning from Terry.

Writing Depraved Heart was an enlightening experience for me. Among my cast of characters I had an empath, a football player/psychic/killer, a santeria practitioner, and also a Catholic priest who is an exorcist. What I came to believe as I created my plot is that there are so many “energies” in existence that it is virtually impossible to understand and describe each one but rather that paranormal energy is as diverse as the human beings it is channeled through. I wound up loving my story and all the characters in it. Was I successful in my representation of them? Only time – and readers – can tell.

Depraved Heart is available in paperback, from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or digital, for Nook or Kindle.


Kathleen Valentine was born and grew up in the Allegheny Highlands of Pennsylvania. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in The Arts and worked for over twenty years in the art/marketing departments of high-tech corporations. Since 2003 she has run her own design business, Valentine-Design.com. She is the author of "Fry Bacon. Add Onions", a cookbook/memoir of growing up Pennsylvania Dutch, as well as 4 novels, several novelettes and short story collections, and knitting instruction books. She has been listed as an Amazon Top 100 Author in Horror. Her novellas, "The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic" and "Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter" were Amazon Top Ten Best Sellers in Horror and Ghost Stories for over 20 weeks.

Her blog at KathleenValentine.com has been read by thousands of readers since its beginning in July 2005. She currently lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts, America's oldest seaport, and is writing every day.

Author's Web Site: KathleenValentine.com
Author's Blog: ParlezMoBlog.blogspot.com

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