Interview with Paula Cappa

What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is The Dazzling Darkness. It's a "quiet horror" story, a supernatural mystery. We have a cemetery. An ancient secret. A lost child. The opening line on page one is "Elias Hatch is a old soul who spends each day trusting the dead." This story gives the reader a peek behind the veil of death through Elias Hatch, who is the owner of Old Willow Cemetery.

We follow the Brooke family ... Adam, Antonia, Laura, and five-year-old Henry through their supernatural adventure. At the start, 3 things happen. The Brookes move to Concord and within a short time, Henry is missing. A police dog tracks Henry’s scent inside Old Willow Cemetery. Detective Mike Balducci launches an investigation … but this investigation goes far deeper than locating Henry. Mike begins to unravel the clues that expose the real secret that lies buried in Old Willow Cemetery… an ancient secret that Elias Hatch has vowed to protect.
Is there a central message in the book?
The central theme is within the Brooke family. This story is really a family love story. Antonia and Adam are on their own journey in this search for Henry and exploring the cemetery. Their relationship is ripped open and from that raw wound, they struggle and find redemption once they enter the darkness. The message is in the darkness.
If you could compare this book with another well known book out there, which would it be?
I think The Dazzling Darkness might be similar to Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. Susan Hill's story is about life after death, about a mother and her boy. The time periods of the stories are quite different. Hill’s story is set in historical time. Mine flashes back to historical time. In Susan’s book, we hear the boy’s muted sobs in the fog. In mine, we hear Henry’s terrified voice when it shakes the walls of his bedroom. What’s key … is that both stories are an exercise in atmospheric mystery … ghostly action … and the psychological twists.
Where did you get the title for this book?
From Henry Vaughan's famous poem, The Night, which I quote at the opening of the novel …His line reads, “A deep but dazzling darkness.” Actually, it was originally coined by Dionysius (500 AD). Dionysius said, “Truth lies hidden in the dazzling darkness.” Vaughan's poem emphasizes light can only be seen from the darkness. Essentially Vaughan is telling us that we can see more than just surface reality.
What part of the book did you enjoy writing the most?
I think working with the ghosts, the residents of Old Willow Cemetery. Their mysteriousness, their elusive and yet desperate presence captured me. I fell in love with them on that other side of reality. I wanted to know their stories and why they appeared to me in this book. I couldn’t tell their whole stories because it would have taken too much time and focus away from the hunt for Henry, but the ghosts of Old Willow are the stars of the story. I can still see their faces if I close my eyes into their darkness.
Who should buy this book?
Supernatural fans, horror readers (quiet horror or soft-core horror fans), mystery lovers, or ghost story fans. But also readers who love a story about the joys and trials of family life and relationships. And of course … Ralph Waldo Emerson fans would find this story appealing; so much in the story honors him and his personal life in Concord during the 19th century. And any one who likes a dash of scientific element in their fiction … The Dazzling Darkness touches on crystal energy and the metaphysical nature of the human body.
What role does Ralph Waldo Emerson play in this story?
Emerson is not a live character, nor is he a ghost, although his presence is felt by the characters. Emerson’s thoughts and transcendental teachings act as a creative energy for Elias Hatch, for Mike Balducci and even Antonia Brooke. The novel actually developed from a line in one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays in his address called Nature. He wrote … “Even the corpse has its own beauty.”
Shocking statement, right? The more I read about Emerson’s personal experiences with death, the more the story began to take shape. Emerson lost his young wife Ellen only a short time after they were married. He buried her in the family vault and a year later … still driven by intense grief … he opened her coffin. What a heart-breaking experience! And then twenty-five years later, after his young son dies at five-years-old, Emerson opened his coffin as well. These images all connected for me: images of a cemetery, images of a boy named Henry suddenly appeared, coffins opening. The story just unraveled in a very exciting way and Emerson was that foundation.
Why is Concord Massachusetts the setting for this novel?
The path to understanding this idea of the dazzling darkness is based on the metaphysical thinking of transcendentalism. During the 19th century, Concord was the center for the new thinking of transcendentalism, and even today still carries all that transcendental history (especially from Ralph Waldo Emerson … his philosophy about intuition … insightfulness … and creativity). The historical aspect of the story is mostly how Concord’s transcendental history is still affecting life 150 years later.
Tell us about the main character Elias Hatch
Elias Hatch is the threshold guardian in the story. He knows the secrets of Old Willow Cemetery. He is a devoted transcendentalist and clings to using these philosophies. He can be a dangerous man, though … as most threshold guardians can create obstacles and delays. One can’t be totally sure about Elias because he is so secretive and elusive. Most of the story was revealed to me by Elias. He was the character that held all the information for me.
Who is Henry and what is his role in the story?
Henry is the hero in the story. And this passionate little guy carries it off with a lot of charm. Something happens to Henry in this call to adventure. Once he crosses that threshold, his journey changes everything for him. He brings back with him the “elixir” (so to speak metaphorically), and life for the entire Brooke family enters a new realm.
How is Detective Balducci different from the usual detective?
Mike Balducci is grounded in reality and evidence, but because he is an admirer of Ralph Waldo Emerson and all that Waldo believed, Mike practices intuitive thinking to solve this case. It is Mike who digs up part of Old Willow Cemetery, and this is when the story takes a sharp turn into the supernatural. Mike can no longer rely on just evidence, method, analysis. He enters new territory with this case because he now has to trust more than the evidence, more than his instincts … he has to trust the "unseen elements of power" to locate Henry.
Is there a specific style to your writing?
I don’t have a specific intent to create my style, no. For me, character and story are first … then style emerges out of that unique story perspective. It’s not so much the choice of words, or phrases that achieve a writer’s style, but the effect that is created, that rhythm that stays with the readers and hooks them to keep wanting to read more.
Who influenced your writing the most?
Probably authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, and M.R. James, and Lovecraft. Nobody does the imaginary better than Lovecraft. But the author that has greatly influenced me as a writer is May Sarton, who didn’t write in the supernatural at all. She’s was a popular author during the 1980s … for her poetry, her novels, but more for her journals. “Journal of a Solitude” was her best seller. Her journals have all her salty wisdom and teach about perspective and observation. And not just for fiction but also for the creative process. And that kind of insightfulness helps me to grow as a writer.
Tell us about your cover design?
The Dazzling Darkness cover was designed by Gina Casey. The cover won Joel Friedlander's Ebook Design Cover Award for May 2013 (thebookdesigner.com), so we are very proud of it. I wanted something very mysterious and Gina Casey captured that perfectly!
With so many books out there, what makes The Dazzling Darkness different?
The Dazzling Darkness is in the horror category (more ghost story) but it's not your garden-variety. This is not blood-splatter, or gore meisters. This is the supernatural world, spirits, human reality, psychological twists and some historical mysteries too. I think The Dazzling Darkness breaks some of the barriers of the genre.
What other fiction do you have out there?
My first novel is Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural. Angels and demons, psychological twists, romance, and murder make this little supernatural thriller a fast-paced read. I also have three short stories free on Smashwords: Abasteron House (haunted house story); Hildie at the Ghost Shore (historical mystery); The Haunting of Jezebeth (witchcraft). All my short stories have been published in literary journals and ezines, but I'm offering them free on Smashwords.
Do you have a blog, web site, and official bio?
I write a weekly Reading Fiction, Tales of Terror blog with links to classic short stories. On my web site are samples of my work, my short stories, and many book reviews of my novels. Here is my official author bio:

Paula Cappa is a published short story author, novelist, and freelance copy editor. Her short fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Every Day Fiction, Fiction365, Twilight Times Ezine, and in anthologies Human Writes Literary Journal, and Mystery Time. Paula’s writing career began as a freelance journalist for newspapers in New York and Connecticut. Her debut novel Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural launched in October 2012. The Dazzling Darkness, her second novel, won the Gothic Readers Book Club Choice Award for outstanding fiction and won the Ebook Cover Design Award for May 2013 by Joel Friedlander (Gina Casey, cover designer). She writes a weekly fiction blog about classic short stories, Reading Fiction,Tales of Terror, on her Web site http://paulacappa.wordpress.com/
Has your writing won any awards?
The Dazzling Darkness just recently won The Gothic Readers' Choice Award for outstanding fiction in August 2013.
What is your best book review?
Here are a few that I am very proud of ...

The Dazzling Darkness
GOTHIC READERS BOOK CLUB CHOICE AWARD WINNER
★★★★★ “Dazzling sums up Paula Cappa's paranormal/supernatural novel … an elegance and grace that seduces you.”

Laura Thomas of Laura's Ramblin and Reviews
★★★★★ "Supernatural mystery/thriller laced with Gothic horror. It reads like a classic, reminding me of a vintage bottle of wine. ... bold, fresh, almost poetic writing, I can honestly say, I was beguiled."

Wesley Thomas at Horror Novel Reviews
★★★★★ "It is riveting, and becomes an excellent game of whodunnit with unusual characters and creepy revelations weaved into the story."

Readers Favorite Reviews
★★★★★ "Beautiful and high standard writing style. The pacing of the story is excellent … a comprehensive supernatural fiction which will delight the readers.

SatinPaperbacks, UK "Gripping and absorbing, this is worth your time. A veritable journey of twists and turns.”

Monster Librarian “A heady tale set against the horrific tension of the search for a missing child. Many-layered imaginative tale of the supernatural, science, religion, and love. Recommended.
Published 2013-09-23.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Haunting of Jezebeth
By
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,270. Language: English. Published: August 23, 2013. Category: Fiction » Horror » General
Deborah knows that shadows can’t survive in the twisting Lantz Gorge where her family of witches lived. The gardens are grizzled now. And the mountain Jezebeth holds the secret to the curse. Short story originally published by Twilight Times.
Hildie at the Ghost Shore
By
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,370. Language: English. Published: August 23, 2013. Category: Fiction » Historical » Paranormal
Hildie is the mistress of Runecraft. Come meet her in Belgium and experience the magic of the Runes, Sleipnir, and Odin. This is a historical and supernatural mystery, a short story that was originally published at Fiction365. If you like quiet little mystery stories with a flavor of the past, and a dash of the spirit world, Hildie will bring you there.
Abasteron House
By
Price: Free! Words: 5,530. Language: English. Published: August 23, 2013. Category: Fiction » Horror » Ghost
Want to know what is haunting the attic in Abasteron House by the sea, at low tide … in a dead calm? Readers' comments: "Great tale. If you like ghost stories, worth reading this short but chilly tale. Love the little scare tucked neatly into the final line, and an effective one at that.” “An electric atmosphere from the opening lines.” Short story originally published by Every Day Fiction.
The Dazzling Darkness
By
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 78,660. Language: English. Published: August 4, 2013. Category: Fiction » Horror » Ghost
A cemetery. A lost child. An ancient secret. Do you believe in ghosts? Come with the Brooke family on their search for their lost boy, Henry, inside Old Willow Cemetery. Discover the dazzled faces in the darkened air and know their secret. Gothic Readers Book Club Award Winner for Outstanding Fiction, 2013. Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner, 2014.
Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural
By
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 70,960. Language: English. Published: January 17, 2013. Category: Fiction » Horror » Occult
A demon haunts artist Kip Livingston in her cottage by the sea. The demon is a firehawk, a dark invader who lives inside her dreams. But the firehawk does not dissolve when Kips wakes up. Supernatural powers drive the firehawk into Kip’s waking life. Even Kip’s Jungian therapist, Dr. Laz Merlyn, cannot resolve Kip’s dilemma. Who can rescue Kip or does she have to pay the ultimate price?