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Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Where Does Inspiration Come From?
And sometimes, inspiration comes to me through other stories. I was in New Orleans a few years back, taking a nighttime ghost tour of the French Quarter when the guide stopped us in front of a large home and told the creepiest story...
In the early 1800's, Delphine LaLaurie was a lovely young French socialite and her husband Louis was a respected doctor. On the surface, the LaLauries were wealthy New Orleans residents who just seemed to have a run of bad luck because a number of their slaves kept going missing. Their twisted double life wasn't discovered until a slave set fire to the kitchen during one of the LaLauries extravagant parties. Neighbors trying to put out the blaze found that slave chained to the floor in the kitchen and a torture chamber in a small room on the roof, with conditions inside so horrible, I won't describe them here. After the fire exposed them as sadistic murderers, the LaLauries fled New Orleans with an angry mob chasing after them. Their whereabouts afterward remained unknown.
I was riveted by that story, especially since that same small room is still visible on the top of the LaLauries former house. Not surprisingly, the home is supposed to be haunted, with several former owners recounting strange noises, cries, figures in chains, etc. Skeletal remains were found between the floors of the house during a renovation, explaining perhaps one of the ways the LaLauries secretly disposed of their victims when they lived there.
On that night listening to the tale of the LaLauries, inspiration struck me right between the eyes. I wanted to write a story making the LaLauries inhuman killers who had returned to New Orleans, where my vampire hero Bones would cross their paths, but at the time, I hadn't even sold the first novel in my series. So a side story featuring my hero was a bit premature :). However, a couple years later when the UNBOUND anthology became a reality, I finally had a chance to weave the tale that had been inspired by a haunted tour of the French Quarter. That idea became Reckoning, where my hero Bones takes a contract to hunt down the LaLauries, who are back in New Orleans during Mardi Gras to start another killing spree. Of course, when you have serial-killing ghouls, a vampire hitman, a mysterious adviser, and a voodoo queen, all set inside one of the world's spookiest cities, nothing goes smoothly. Soon, Bones finds himself as not just the hunter, but also the hunted.
I had a lot of good old-fashioned, creepy fun writing Reckoning. It gave me the chance to tell a story that had been simmering in my mind, and a chance to write through Bones's point of view narrative (something my Night Huntress readers have been asking for). Reckoning is set about six months before the first novel of my series, so readers won't see my heroine Cat in it. However, I think it will give readers a special insight into Bones's mind, and a little more into the paranormal world that the Night Huntress series revolves around.
And if you're ever in New Orleans, go to Governor Nicholls Street and Royal. You'll see the LaLauries old house still standing there, and if you're anything like me, when you look at it...you just might find yourself shivering :-).
Misc: some links to stories about Delphine and Louis LaLaurie: