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'Ghostlove': Dennis Mahoney's Haunting Love Story

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Dennis Mahoney (photo credit Sarah Nicole Mahoney).jpg
(photo credit Sarah Nicole Mahoney

In Dennis Mahoney’s novel Ghostlove, protagonist William Rook is a reluctant occultist living in a brownstone in upstate New York that’s haunted by a ghost named June. She is trapped in a limbo and Rook is determined to help her move on from that space. That will mean letting her go from the house he lives in with his cynical doppelganger and a three-winged pigeon. But how? He has fallen in love with her.

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William Rook makes the decision to move into a house he knows is the scene of some terrible occurrence that affected his mother in the last months of her life. There are many questions he has that he believes will be answered if he inhabits this house. He comes to encounter marvelous and confounding situations and creatures. And something he hadn’t counted on was falling in love — with a ghost.

Highlights of the Interview with Dennis Mahoney

On the influence of literary ghost stories on his writing

I tend to operate in a strange fictional place of writing things that I'm not currently devouring. So, I'm not reading a ton of ghost stories or thinking about them necessarily… I suppose the tradition of weird fiction, however one would define that, is what's most interesting to me and that it tends to ask more questions than it answers. I like confronting those elements of the supernatural because they seem to register with the very natural. They resonate somehow with all the unanswerable, just-a-regular-Tuesday-of-ordinary-life. So it's a great way to explore things like depression and grief and suicide and wonder and curiosity. And that ended up being my way towards this material. It gave me a new access point for thinking about basic existential questions and just regular human life.

His thoughts on the popularity of television shows about ghosts and the paranormal

My wife and I stumbled into a complete obsession with Ghost Adventures specifically… I used to work at a cable network. I did TV research, and you can see networks go that way, once in a while, where they have a hit show that was an outlier. They didn't expect it to be the hit, and suddenly it begins to overwhelm the network. It's almost like what happened when MTV introduced reality TV and suddenly videos became less and less relevant and it's not music television anymore, this other thing. And it seems like the travel channel has become that. They've got a dozen ghost shows now… And I think that's appealing. When people really believe in something and really go for it, it starts to convince you that there might actually be something there.

On how the fascinating cast of characters in this novel emerged from his daily writing

This is the most organic my fiction ever was. I was between projects. My second novel, Bell Weather, I'd been working on that for a long time and it had a female protagonist. And so when I went to start something brand new, I just decided, well, I'll pull a 180 and I'll write something very different. And that included this — writing a male lead. So almost to keep my arm in shape as I was waiting for the next big idea, I started blogging as this man named William who lived in a haunted house. And I just thought, well, I'll just do these little throwaway updates on a blog and do them a few times a week, just to sit down and actually put words on the page. And then he began to experience the phenomena of this house. And he began to meet this ghost that he couldn't identify, to the point where I started to get curious because I didn't know who it was. I didn't know if it was a woman. They didn't know if it was a man, didn't know if it was a malevolent or benevolent entity. In the relationship-building that just came out in those little entries, I started to see that they were falling in love and I was starting to get very curious about knowing her more. And so the trip I kind of took with William, enough of those elements came out of the early blog pieces where all of a sudden, I just decided that this feels like a long story, and I think I'll write it and see where it goes.

Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.