When you read the first couple of chapters from my debut horror novel, ‘Maria’s Walk,’ it becomes clear that Jack Foreman is one of the key protagonists. Here he comes, back home to Ardenham after the sudden death of his parents. An ex-minister, he’s lost his religious faith and has been struggling to make a go of ordinary life in the corporate workplace.
Then during a café breakfast, he has an unexpected encounter with Gabriella Wagstaff. She joins him for coffee and you know the sparks are going to fly – even if the fire is a long, slow burn. It’s a coffee that changes her life (and his, for that matter).
“Jack?” the musical, lilting female voice evidenced a hint of surprise and cheekiness. It stirred the diner from further deep thoughts his fathomless mind had wandered into whilst eating. “Jack Foreman?” the tone sounded again, as if to reinforce its first word with a reassurance tag provided by his surname.
Jack looked up, a piece of sausage and mushroom squashed together on the back of his fork.
A slender, shapely woman – about five and a half feet tall – had walked past him on the pavement, before glancing back over her shoulder. Long, wavy, light brown hair cascaded across bare shoulders leading down to a white, strapless top. Below that a slim waist and tight, rounded buttocks were wrapped in a pair of stonewashed jeans. Her legs ended in bare ankles and open low-heeled sandals. Jack moved his focus back north. It followed an elegant neck to where a pair of aventurine eyes sparkled out from beneath subtly shadowed lids. Neatly trimmed eyebrows raised slightly as the woman regarded him. A long, slender nose led down to full, coral lips and pristine white teeth.
The man regarded her a moment longer, before his mind adjusted for the years and the penny dropped who it was.
“Gaby? Gaby Wagstaff?!” Jack released the knife and fork with a clatter, rising to his feet as the vision approached wearing a wide smile. He took her by the hand and planted a reciprocated gentle kiss on the side of her face.
This younger sister of his childhood best friend, was deliberately created to be a perfect mirror character for Jack. In fact, the book is nothing without her. She is – in many ways – a stronger person than the quiet, brooding but sensitive man.
Gaby has been a massive success in the city, but now lost her faith in empty materialism. At the same time, her long-supressed psychic abilities kick-in with a vengeance.
So in Jack we have someone who once focused on the spiritual and ignored the material, but has now lost faith in the spiritual but wrestles with the material. While in Gaby we have someone who once focused on the material and ignored the spiritual, but has now lost faith in the material but wrestles with the spiritual.
Gaby wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s gentle but tenacious and often doubts her abilities. She finds strength in sharing her concerns with Jack. Her love for him and the figures in the unravelling backstory behind how the haunting of ‘Maria’s Walk’ came about, evidence genuine tenderness and empathy.
As the drama relating to the ghost of Maria unfolds, the conflict moves from internal struggles Jack and Gaby are wrestling with, to a full-blown, physical, emotional and spiritual battle that challenges both their worldviews. It takes a real ghost to help lay their personal ghosts to rest.