I’m not sure when I met Lisa Morton for the first time — maybe the Stoker Weekend in Burbank? Years ago, anyway. I’ve been amazed at the number of plates she manages to keep spinning: President of the Horror Writers Association, an editor and author with new books coming out by the handful, and one of the foremost experts on Halloween. When I asked if I could interview her for this blog, we first had to establish which book she would tell me about. In other words, Lisa is my role model.
I interviewed her once before after our stay at the Haunted Mansion Retreat, but we didn’t get to chat much during the retreat because Lisa had the flu.
Officially, Lisa Morton is a screenwriter, author of nonfiction books, and award-winning prose writer whose work was described by the American Library Association’s Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror as “consistently dark, unsettling, and frightening.” She is the author of four novels and more than 130 short stories, a six-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award®, and a world-class expert on Halloween. She co-edited (with Ellen Datlow) the anthology Haunted Nights; other recent releases include Ghosts: A Haunted History and the collection The Samhanach and Other Halloween Treats. Lisa lives in Los Angeles.
About the eBook:
In 1863, a young woman’s heritage is stolen from her, and she lays a terrible curse on the City of Angels. Now, in the 21st century, a teenaged girl with lethal psychic abilities arrives in Los Angeles, ready to ally herself with vengeful spirits of the past to feed her insatiable appetite for destruction. Only Gwen Michaelson, a natural healer afraid of her gifts, and Sam West, a broken amnesiac who was once a brilliant historian, stand against the psychotic and increasingly powerful May Blanco. Will Gwen be able to use her skills to restore Sam’s mind, which holds the key to the mystery of May’s unearthly companion? Together, can they find a way to stop May before she unleashes a wave of death?
Malediction is a novel about magic and darkness, power and lust, folklore versus fact, love against rage, and the secret history of Los Angeles.
Did something in the real world inspire Malediction?
Yes. Many years ago I read about a legendary curse placed on Griffith Park in 1863 and it was such a compelling story that I researched it as much as I could. The story goes like this: Griffith Park was originally granted to the Feliz family (which is why we have the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles) when they accompanied the original settlers in the eighteenth century. In 1863, the head of the family was dying of small pox and had left no heirs; he had a niece, teenaged Petranilla, who expected to gain possession of the vast estate upon her uncle’s death, but she was rooked out of her inheritance by two crooked attorneys. Outraged, she cast a curse upon the land, and for at least thirty years after, the area had a continuous series of disasters: floods, fires, and inexplicable crop and livestock failures.
In some versions of the story, Petranilla is blind and left nothing. In reality, she wasn’t blind and she did receive an inheritance, just not of the real estate variety. I’ve also read enough accounts of the story that I believe it’s likely that she really did hurl a curse at the lawyers.
There are still reports of Petra’s ghost being seen in the park. Some say that Bee Rock — a strangely-shaped hill in the center of the park — looks like her profile.
I think what so fascinated me about this story was the idea that Los Angeles, usually thought of as a glittering, glamorous metropolis, was really a cursed place. It does sum up what I see as the extraordinary contrasts of Southern California.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
Despite the connection to the story of Petranilla de Feliz (which forms a prologue and backstory), Malediction is a contemporary novel that embodies those above-mentioned contrasts in its two lead characters: Gwen is a teacher who is secretly a gifted psychic healer and May is a psychotic teenager with equally strong destructive powers. There’s a scene in the middle of the novel where they have their first head-on clash, and, without giving anything away (!), let’s say it doesn’t go well for Gwen. I deliberately let this scene spin a little out of control, and I ended up being especially proud of the finished product…but it has special additional meaning for me because it takes place in Gwen’s home, a small bungalow-style house in Pasadena which is based on the first home I remember as a child.
What was your writing process like as you wrote Malediction?
The only thing I did differently in writing Malediction from my usual process is that there were a few times when I took my little netbook (my favorite writing machine) to Griffith Park and wrote there. It was a strange and special feeling to be able to craft a novel while I sat in the middle of the real-life setting.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
I was incredibly proud of the fact that the book ended up being nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Novel. It came in via the jury choices, which kind of blew me away because the novel jury reads EVERYTHING, and yet they chose Malediction as one of their top five books of the year. It lost to King’s Doctor Sleep (of course!), but that didn’t even matter to me. I’ve won the Bram Stoker Award six times, but none of those wins had as much meaning for me as Malediction’s nomination.
What do you have planned next?
I’m currently wrapping up work on an anthology of classic ghost stories that will be out from Pegasus Books in 2019. I’m co-editing it with my friend Les Klinger, so that’s been a treat to work on. After that, I hope to begin serious work on my fifth novel.
You can buy the book directly from Cemetery Dance here: http://www.cemeterydance.com/malediction-ebook.html
Check out Lisa’s work at her Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/2LoeqWD
Or visit her website: http://www.lisamorton.com