E.S. Magill is the editor of the anthologies The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One and Deep Cuts (co-edited with Angel Leigh McCoy and Chris Marrs). She is also a former columnist and reviews editor for Dark Wisdom magazine. Her most-current short fiction can be found in the Horror Writers Association’s anthology Blood Lite III. She has an M.A. in English, specializing in the postmodern gothic. By day, she teaches middle school English; night is a whole other story. Southern California is home to her and her husband Greg and their menagerie of cats and Corvettes.
Q: Had you ever had a paranormal experience before you came to the Haunted Mansion?
ESM: In fact, I wrote an essay about my childhood paranormal experience for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. It’s called “See Anything?” and explores that adage of “Seeing is believing.”
When I talk about the Haunted Mansion Retreats, people always want to know if I saw anything: ghostly apparitions, things moving around. I didn’t see anything paranormal that first weekend, only my roommate S.G. Browne freaking out in the middle of the night from having his own paranormal experience. Without giving away too much of my essay (which you can read in the anthology), I didn’t see anything during my childhood experience because I had my eyes squeezed shut—but to this day I wonder what I would have seen if I had opened my eyes.
Q: Is that the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
ESM: Yes. It’s an experience that I don’t wish on anyone.
Q: Did anything spooky happen to you personally at the Mansion?
ESM: Nothing spooky happened to me, but I do have to say that we broke so many “horror movie rules.” The Mansion is beautiful—from the front. The grounds out back are creepy. After nightfall, a group of us traipsed out onto the darkened path—trees looming over us, bushes rustling—with nothing more than a weak flashlight and our cell phones to guide us.
At the start of the path, there’s a meditation table that we pretended was a sacrificial altar. Some of the guys took turns lying down on it. We then made our way down to the crumbling, algae-fouled pond. Of course, we should have turned around and returned the way we came—but, no, we elected to take the path that went around the back of the Mansion—a path we didn’t have any experience with. During our adventure, we brazenly laughed about our defiance of all those laws of self-preservation we hold holy as horror writers. It was good, scary fun. S.G. Browne wrote an essay about it in The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One called “Haunted Mansion Rules and the Writers Who Mock Them.”
Q: What inspired the pieces you wrote for the books?
ESM: The Mansion itself. I’ve recently discovered that I’m one of those writers really influenced by setting, by actually visiting a place. The Mansion is absolutely ripe for this kind of inspiration.
In my essay “Coming Home” in Year One, I draw parallels between the Mansion, our experiences, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Not only is this the greatest haunted house novel ever written, but also an exploration of how environment impacts personality and behavior.
Both fiction pieces I did are direct products of setting. What’s great about these anthologies is there are photographs, so our readers can actually see what inspired us.
Q: Do you expect to come back to the next Haunted Mansion Retreat in 2015?
ESM: My current plans are to attend the next retreat. Unlike conventions, we actually write. And writing with other writers is powerful. I find my work infused with this incredible synergistic energy.
Q: What’s coming up for you next writing-wise?
ESM: First order of business is to finish the novel I’ve been working on for a zillion years. In addition to that, my co-editors (Angel Leigh McCoy and Chris Marrs) and I released an anthology this year, Deep Cuts, and we’re actively promoting that. Plus, we’re contemplating doing a Deep Cuts 2. So the coming year will be a busy one.
Keep up with her:
Check out her blog at www.esmagill.com.
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/E.S.-Magill/e/B00820NTO4
The Deep Cuts site: www.deepcuts111.com
Interested in the next Haunted Mansion Writer’s Retreat? You can follow updates at http://hauntedmansionwriters.blogspot.com/.