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Alexandrea Weis: Ode to My Ghosts

Alexandrea Weis: Ode to My Ghosts

I’m often asked why I write so much about spine-tingling spirits. If you’ve ever strolled the streets of my hometown, you would understand. Ghost tours clog sidewalks, FOR SALE signs warn of haunted houses, and the locals love to scare tourists with spooky tales. That’s the way of things in New Orleans. Living with ethereal visitors is as commonplace as beignets and showers every summer afternoon. There isn’t a home, shop, hotel, restaurant, bar, or street corner that has escaped having at least one eerie brush with the dead.

My introduction to the other side began at an early age. I grew up in a haunted Creole cottage in the French Quarter on Dumaine Street. Ghoulish happenings were the norm. I had so many unearthly run-ins that they became the status quo. Banging on walls, flashes out of the corner of my eye, and even strange voices calling my name in the wee hours were common. Lights would flicker on and off, and the spirits were fond of playing with televisions. I took it in stride.

But what I enjoyed most were the stories I learned from neighbors about our uninvited guests. They were scandalous accounts of heartbreak and ruin suffered by those who lived, loved, and died in our home. Once I became acquainted with the tragedies behind the hauntings and saw the names of the former occupants in historical documents, I was no longer afraid but intrigued. They weren’t intangible entities anymore but people. Their odd activity turned into a friendly reminder that the dead are just like the living—they want to be heard.

Those close ties with the past made every apparition and their story matter to me. So when I began writing, I gravitated to what I knew best—ghosts. I approach the supernatural in a way that makes the unreal seem real. Thanks to my upbringing, I have a healthy respect for the strange, the unusual, and the dead. I try to weave that regard into most of my books, even the romances. I see my tales as a continuation of the ones that filled my head as a child.

When not writing about New Orleans, I strive to incorporate the lore and ghostly legends of the area where a story is set. It adds what we call Lagniappe—a little something extra—to every work of fiction.

This also applies to my newest release, River of Ashes, book one in the St. Benedict series. The town of St. Benedict, set along the banks of the Bogue Falaya River, has a lot in common with New Orleans because ghosts, curses, and scary legends abound. With a remarkable history steeped in dark sagas of lust and murder, St. Benedict has the same balmy essence and sultry energy as The Crescent City.

Almost two hundred years of love, loss, suffering, and happiness are pressed into every oak tree and grain of sand along the Bogue Falaya River. It makes St. Benedict a spooky and unique place, but it would never have come into existence without the macabre lore and floating apparitions that saturated my childhood. Many may find my encounters farfetched, even frightening. But to me, they were a gift because I would not be the writer I am today without them.

River of Ashes is published by Vesuvian Books on 2 August 2022

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