All About Writing The Blue Ghost
The author, Marion Dane Bauer, answers these questions about writing The Blue Ghost and where a writer's ideas come from:
Was Gran’s cabin inspired by a cabin you’ve visited?
It was, probably more than anything, inspired by an old log cabin in the mountains of Colorado I lived in for a summer when I was twenty. It had been built by original settlers, then added onto and added onto until the original cabin was impossible to distinguish. There were even two separate upstairs that had to be reached by different stairs. You couldn’t get from one set of upstairs rooms to the other without going down and climbing the other staircase. Now that I think about it, there may be more stories residing in that old house.
Does your family tell stories about connections?
My mother used to tell stories about her family, her mother’s father, who brought a colony from England to Minnesota. (I wrote about him in my Dear America novel, Land of the Buffalo Bones.) She told of her mother’s years of teaching in a one-room school and of her homesteading grandfather, her father’s father, who moved across the country homesteading in different places until he finally reached Minnesota, where he settled and stayed. My father had almost no stories to tell about his family, so I felt closer to my mother’s people. Stories brought them alive, even the ones I never knew.
Where did your idea come from for having Liz walk through a wall to visit the past?
Ah . . . that’s a rather long story. In quick summary, I may not believe in ghosts, but I’ve always believed in being able to walk through walls. When I was very youngperhaps four or fiveI had a dream in which a wagon-load of kids pulled by two huge, dapple-gray horses came to me during the night and took me to a playground in the dark of my wall. There we played the night away. The dream came back several times, and I used to lie in bed, facing into the fearsome darkness of my wall, waiting for the dream to come again. Even today, walls never seem completely solid to me.
Is it harder to write a mystery than another type of story? How is the process different?
In some ways a mystery is easier, because it is more about plot than about character. All I have to know before I begin to write is what is going to happen and why, and then I can write the story fairly quickly. In more deeply character-based stories I often have many discoveries to make along the way before I can fully know who my characters are, and that makes for slower writing and more circling back to rethink what I have already written.
Do you believe in ghosts?
I’ll answer that question the way I once heard the writer Avi answer it. I believe in ghost stories, but I don’t believe in ghosts. I enjoy writing ghost stories, because they always deal with large issues, issues so large that they continue to be important even beyond someone’s death. As to believing in ghosts themselves, I’ve never met one and I’d be astonished if I ever did.