I’m pleased to introduce today, author and avid reader Dianne Hartsock, talking about her book Alex and the inspiration behind her complex character.
Dianne lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play.
Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which she says is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write her tales. There’s something about being cooped up in the house while it pours rain outside and a fire crackles on the hearth inside that kindles her imagination.
You can find her out and about on the Internet here:
A Reluctant Psychic
by Dianne Hartsock
We have a ghost haunting the gift store where I work. Faucets will turn on when no one’s near them. Things will fall off shelves. A co-worker says a pair of scissors flew off a table and landed in the middle of the room in front of her eyes. I know she seemed shaken up when she came running over to tell me about it. Actually, I would consider this to be the work of a poltergeist, but since we don’t have an angst-ridden teenager working with us, it’s unlikely.
Now, do I really believe we’re being haunted? Probably not, but isn’t it fun to think so? Doesn’t it give you the shivers to imagine a specter creeping around the store trying to convey some sort of message? To me, the paranormal adds that spice of the unknown and thrill of danger to life.
And really, who can resist those romantic as hell vampires, werewolves and shifters? Not me! In and out of a book, I like to think they roam the darker edges of the world.
But more than these, I’m fascinated by psychic phenomenon. The thought of telekinesis and mind reading, the power of the mind over matter, fills my world with wonder. What if it is true? What if there are people whose visions are real and dreams foretell the future? It’s this feeling of amazing possibility I try to capture in my writing.
My paranormal thriller novel, ALEX, is the story of an unwilling psychic. I wanted to create a character who, by his very nature, could suspend disbelief for the duration of a novel.
With ALEX, I wondered what extreme circumstances could lead to his ‘gift’. I decided it would have to start with his childhood. Alone and isolated, living with the anguish of an abusive parent, perhaps a person’s mind would expand, seeking escape from the sadness and loneliness of life.
He stood at the top of the basement stairs, his heart racing. He could barely stand, he was so frightened, and he had to clutch the railing to keep from falling. He didn’t even know what he’d done wrong this time. She hadn’t told him.
A sob choked him, but he swallowed it back. She wouldn’t make him cry! Not again.
“Alex!” she called from the darkness.
A violent tremor passed through him. He took one last look at the kitchen. He just wanted to look at the sky beyond the window. He just wanted Mama to be kind.
He squared his shoulders and took his first step into the darkness, then another. It was his birthday today. He was twelve and he had to be brave.
I believed his isolation would also make Alex hypersensitive to the people around him. He’d be empathetic to the point where he could sense and sometimes see the emotions of others. Their thoughts would leap to him in a wave of a sympathetic connection.
“Doctor Beckett’s here. Will you let him take a look at you?”
He widened his eyes in alarm. “What?”
“It’ll be okay, I promise. Will you do this for me? I called him because I’ve been worried about you.”
He looked closely at her. She seemed tired and stressed. “Okay. But will you stay with me?” He regretted sounding like a child. “Forget I said that.”
She nodded and called the doctor. When Beckett entered the room, Alex stared unwittingly at the angry swirls of purple and blue radiating from him. His thoughts became entangled in a web of the doctor’s own. He saw the images of a tiny girl with enormous blue eyes and a bleeding heart. “Megan,” he whispered, tears in his eyes for the little girl on the cold table.
Beckett gave him a piercing look but said nothing.
A knock on the front door disrupted their kiss. They both looked up and Jane reluctantly stepped from his arms. “Come in.”
The screen door creaked open and Ben joined them. There was strain around his eyes. He ran a hand through his hair, not meeting anyone’s eyes. Alex began to ask a question but fell silent when Ben glanced up. The man’s eyes were dark with emotion and his thoughts leaped to Alex in a wave of anguish.
“No,” Alex said.
Ben’s shoulders sagged. “Sally had a stroke this morning.”
“Oh, no,” Jane murmured.
“She doesn’t remember me.” He made a visible effort for self-control, folding his arms across his chest.
Alex cleared his throat. “Can we see her?”
“She’s in the ICU.” His armor cracked. “I can’t talk about her right now.”
Ben cut him off with a sharp gesture, his voice bitter. “I don’t want to know what you see.”
After establishing Alex’s gift in the story, I wanted to add the danger such ability could bring to him. Another fascination of mine is the police psychic. They must be driven by their visions to help the police. Why else would they risk retaliation?
His back was to the door, but an icy chill ran through him anyway. Instinctively, he knew who’d come in. Looking around, he saw that Angie had disappeared, while Becca was on the other side of the store with a customer.
Warily, he turned. Bobby Gibson stared at him with dull, emotionless eyes, his young face expressionless. A rugged man with shaggy blond hair stood at the boy’s shoulder. Alex staggered as the man’s dark aura struck him like a physical blow. The black and deep purple boiling from the man engulfed him. He couldn’t think, much less breathe.
The man held out a thick callused hand. “Name’s Gibson. I just wanted to thank you for saving the boy here.”
He stared at the hand in horror, seeing blood where there wasn’t any.
“The misses would like to thank you, too. Unfortunately, she can’t leave the house. I’d like you to come with us so she can thank you in person.”
Alex blinked at him. The man spoke, but it sounded like babble. The blackness surrounding Gibson found its way into him, making him sick and dizzy. He swayed helplessly, while confusing images crowded his mind, one after another, impressions of darkness and rusted chains, damp walls.
Gibson grasped his arm and guided him from the store, finding him compliant to his directing. A gray flatbed truck stood at the curb. Rousing to the danger, Alex balked when Gibson opened the door. He pulled sharply on his arm to be free, but a blow to his face staggered him. Dazed, he was shoved onto the oily floorboards, and the boy climbed in on top of him. Doors slammed and the truck started.
The heat and smell of gasoline exacerbated his nausea, and he vomited. The man swore and cuffed him, knocking his head against the corner of the glove box. After that, all went black.
I had the premise for ALEX, next came the research, research and more research: true stories of psychic phenomenon, police procedures, murder cases, and child abuse. I can tell you truly that some of the scenes in my story are the most difficult I’ve ever written. There were times I had to walk away, go outside and clear my head of the horror and sadness caused by the things I was writing down. Was it worth it? Oh, definitely. The time and commitment I put into this story makes ALEX a book I can be proud of.
A huge thank you to Dianne Harstock for sharing these insights into her character. Be sure to pick up a copy of Alex from Amazon today!
Alex is twenty and confused. He always is. He hears the cries of children, the screaming women. He sees the brutal images of the tortured victims. Severely abused as a child, he is left with horrible scars on his body and even worse scars within his mind. Even though it puts him in danger, he’s compelled to help those who call to him. He’s driven, motivated by his visions to rescue them and uncover the killer. When he can, he helps the police; yet some detectives suspect he’s the cause of the problem, not the solution. Often, Alex finds himself alone and afraid in a world he doesn’t always comprehend.