Sue Grimshaw, formerly of Borders and now an acquiring editor for Loveswept, emailed me and asked if we would be interested in having a guest post from Karen Robards. I said sure. Ms. Robards decided to share her inspiration for the location of her latest book.
Winding waterways stretch out amongst thick forests like tentacles that are constantly writhing and changing their shape, as if they’re searching for something. Predators that have been forgotten by time itself lurk in the hidden depths, their fluorescent eyes catching the light from the handful of shacks that a few daring souls have erected along the muddy banks. Beautiful, alone, wild: This is the scene that I encountered deep in the bayous of Louisiana, a place I was lucky enough to visit during some of my research for THE LAST VICTIM. Usually when I sit down to write a story I already have a little seed of an idea in my head, perhaps a character I want to flesh out or maybe a great line of dialogue that will eventually grow into an entire world. But it’s almost always something that has been rattling around in my brain for a while before I unleash it upon the world. Sometimes, though, I come across something unexpected that demands to be included in a story. Such was the case the first time I ever visited New Orleans and the surrounding swampland. I originally went there with the intent of researching the rich paranormal history of the city and, to be perfectly honest, because I’ve always wanted to see The Big Easy for myself. So when the idea to write my version of a ghost story popped into my mind, I immediately gave much of the credit to New Orleans itself. Really, can you think of a better place to be inspired by the supernatural than this city with its rich history of ghosts, voodoo, and the undead? As I expected, all the above was to be found in abundance, but what I did not expect was that the place itself would cry out to be the setting of a future story (which believe me it will be) – but I’m getting ahead of myself. When I arrived at my hotel, right on the edge of the beautiful French quarter, my first order of business (after kicking off my shoes and tending to my slight caffeine addiction) was to track down a reliable place to start my research into haunted New Orleans. A few calls to the hotel’s front desk and about a dozen different Google searches later, I decided that my first stop (once my feet forgave me for the shoes I wore on the plane) would be Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop pub, a bar on Bourbon Street that was once a blacksmith’s shop (hence the name) back in the 1700’s and, most importantly, one of the more haunted buildings in the city. That evening saw me standing in the courtyard of the pub watching a young woman, our tour guide, begin a voodoo ritual that was meant to keep us safe on our subsequent journey through the streets of New Orleans and, hopefully, prevent us from bringing any entities back with us. Now, many of the stops on this tour can be visited by anyone, but this particular version of the tour was private and what fascinated me the most were the personal encounters our guide shared with us on our adventure. From watching a spectral figure appear in the window of the LaLaurie House, to seeing and photographing spectral orbs, to the shadowy appearance in a haunted cemetery of a supposed Loup Garou, it was fascinating and chilling stuff. However, it was the next morning’s activities that proved to be the most surprising. In an effort to take a break from exploring the haunted side of the city, and to kill some time while waiting for my meeting with a voodoo priest that was to take place later that day, I decided to take a tour of the swamps surrounding the city. This is where I stumbled upon a truly amazing setting for a future book. Coasting in a flat-bottomed boat along those inland waterways, seeing the incredible villages only accessible by boat that have sprung up deep in the swamp, and even watching my guide entice huge gators toward us with marshmallows, which apparently they love (seems we have something in common), all served to plant seeds in my head that I can’t wait to nurture in a future book. I ended up getting plenty of amazing material for my ghost story, THE LAST VICTIM, during my stay in The Big Easy, but I probably took more notes while on that little boat on the bayou than during the entire rest of the trip combined. In fact the only reason I chose not to set this book there is because the locale inspired its own story for me, a story that I’m very much looking forward to telling soon. In the meantime, I thank New Orleans for inspiring THE LAST VICTIM.