Featured Guest Author B.A. Chepaitis on ‘Digging For Souls’

After devouring the first two books of the Fear series, I invited the author – B.A. Chepaitis – to talk about the research involved in writing the series.

Research for the Jaguar Addams’ novels primarily involves using my claws to dig through flesh toward the heart and soul of human fear, human love, human joy and pain. That’s what Jaguar does for a living, and to tell her stories I have to be constantly learning about the art and disaster of being human.  That learning has three layers – psychology, mythology, and experience.

For the psychology, I read articles and books about the functioning of the mind, the vagaries of emotions.  Right now I’m reading a book called The Ecstasy of the Mind, about the neurological and psychological intricacies of music, because Jaguar will soon be dealing with a prisoner who was a popular rock singer – until he killed a chunk of his audience during a show.  That kind of reading gives me good details to play with and new concepts to explore.

I use mythology in a different way.  The old stories are rich with patterns and archetypes, and I want to ground my characters in both.  For instance, in the newest Jaguar novel, The Green Memory of Fear, Jaguar and Alex suspect that the main bad guy might be a kind of modern day vampire, known as a Greenkeeper.  I’m aware of all the current ‘romantic’ models of vampires, but I wanted to return to the older type, and see what I could discover of its mythic origins.

As it turns out, the vampire archetype is associated with pedophiles, preying on youth to maintain their own immortality.  That makes intuitive sense to me, so in The Green Memory of Fear uses it the Greenkeeper uses children to further his own agenda.  And here, of course, you can see where psychology and mythology intersect, because that meant I also had to research the psychology of child abuse.

The final component of my research is experience.  Sometimes that’s gathered fro stories other people tell me, and sometimes it’s mine.  In The Green Memory of Fear, it was both, because the plot grew out of a court case I witnessed, when someone I knew brought charges against an abuser.

That kind of research requires me to not only know what happened, but also to explore, as deeply as possible, my feelings about it. And I have to describe them as honestly and as richly as I can.  The texture of my anger, the sound of my sorrow, the color of my fear – all that will go into what I write.  In many ways, it’s the most demanding research of all.

Of course, no matter what research method I use, the most important part is connecting it all together with the story, folding it in as naturally as egg whites into batter, so that what I know elevates the plot rather than slowing it down.  That’s the place where knowledge leaves off, and art begins.

barbara BARBARA CHEPAITIS is author of 8 published novels, including the critically acclaimed Feeding Christine and These Dreams, as well as the sci-fi series featuring Jaguar Addams. The fourth novel in that series, A Lunatic Fear was a nominee for a Romantic Times Bookclub award.

Her scripts have placed semifinalist with Niccholl’s Fellowship and finalist with Sundance Screenwriter’s award.

She is founder and director of the storytelling trio The Snickering Witches, host of WAMC Writer’s Forum, a Teaching Artist with the Lincoln Center-based Aesthetic education program, and concentration direction in fiction at Western State College of Colorado’s graduate program in creative writing.

You can visit her website at Wild Reads and her blog at M&C Literary Lunch

You can also follower her on Twitter and Facebook