Fran Friel is a two-time Bram Stoker Award Finalist and winner of the Black Quill Award. She enjoys life by the sea on the Central Coast of California with her lovely Scottish husband and her doting dog. She also serves as full-time staff for Alice the Cat. You can follow Fran’s latest writing adventures at her homepage, Facebook, Twitter, and her blog, Fran Friel’s Yada Feast.
Q: Had you ever had a paranormal experience before you came to the Haunted Mansion?
FF: One of my earliest paranormal experiences was as a small child. It started when I was about six years old. Every night when I went to bed, there was a tapping on the wall behind the head of my bed. I told my parents about it and they tried to assuage me by saying, “It must be termites. Just ignore it.” Even at that young age, I knew it couldn’t be termites, unless they were wielding little ball-peen hammers behind my wall.
This went on for quite a while. The tapping was insistent and I could feel it was meant for me. After months of being terrified and not sleeping well, a thought suddenly came over me one night: it was my granddad. He had helped my father build that house and he died before I was born. In the simplicity of a child’s mind, I knew he was just trying to get my attention. When I realized this, a great calm came over me and I simply said, “Hello, Granddad. I know it’s you. Thank you for watching over me.”
After that, the tapping ceased. Either it was indeed Granddad and he was satisfied by my response, or it was the “termites,” who just so happened to coincidentally wear themselves out that very same night.
Q: What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
FF: For a number of years, I lived in quarters with my family at the US Military Academy at West Point in New York State. It’s a beautiful place, steeped in tradition, with a long history of ghost sightings and hauntings. We lived in townhouse-type quarters literally called Grey Ghost. I suspect the name was referring to the Long Grey Line, a term used to describe the lineage of the Corps of Cadets and their traditional grey uniforms.
Anyway, during our stay in those quarters, I began waking up at 4:22 a.m. to the image of a contorted face floating across the bedroom. It was bodiless—just the head. It didn’t say anything. It didn’t threaten me, but it was horrifying to look at and disconcerting to wake to nearly every night. The haunting stopped when we moved to different quarters.
The connection to West Point is often very profound for the graduates and soldiers stationed there. I suspect that lost spirits who were West Point officers, soldiers, and grads return to this place, because of its great importance during their lives.
What inspired the story you wrote for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two?
My wonderful roommate at the Haunted Mansion, Rena Mason, and I were housed in the back corner of the building, just above the chicken coop. I strolled out on the balcony early one morning and heard the clucking and vocalizations of the chickens. In the right state of mind, the soft braying sounds of the chickens could be construed as the voices of ghosts taunting their victims. My story, “The Whispers of Chickens,” was born.
Q: Do you expect to come back to the next Haunted Mansion Retreat in 2015?
FF: If I get up the courage to face the ghosties (and the chickens) again, I’ll be there for sure. It was marvelous spending time with my fellow writers in such a beautiful, albeit haunted, setting.
Q: What’s coming up for you next writing-wise?
FF: Most recently, I’ve had the privilege of being invited to write for the anthology, Barbers and Beauties. The theme is Beauty in all its dark and lovely expressions. The book is a collection of novellas written by four men and four women in the form of a flipbook. Reading the book from the front gives you four tales by the men. Flipping the book over and reading the book from the back gives you four additional stories from the women. In fact, the front of the book is really determined by where you, the reader, decide to start reading.
The other writers in the book include Gary Braunbeck, Tim Lebbon, Kealan Patrick Burke, Lee Thomas, Lisa Morton, Rhodi Hawk, and Roberta Lannes. I’m honored to be included in such an illustrious group of writers, some of whom I’ve idolized for years. And the wonderful cover art was done as individual portraits painted and compiled by the very talented Cortney Skinner.
Barbers and Beauties can be found at Hummingbird Press: http://hummingbirdhousepress.com/store.shtml
Additionally, I’m working on a dark fantasy story for a British anthology on the subject of Chance, edited by Alex Davis. The anthology is slated for publication in 2014. My story includes mystical artifacts, childhood horrors, adult regrets, the price of magic, and mice. The working title is “The Words of Wishing.”
I can also be found blogging at Amazing Stories. Right now I’m doing the ASM Blog Horde Interview series—attempting to interview all 100+ ASM bloggers. You can follow my antics at ASM here: http://amazingstoriesmag.com/authors/fran-friel/
Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk with you, Loren. The Haunted Mansion Retreat is a singular experience, one that I will remember and cherish for a lifetime and beyond.
You can follow the plans for the 2015 Haunted Mansion Retreat as they unfold here: http://hauntedmansionwriters.blogspot.com/.