To kick of the 206-2017 season of Mystery Mondays, we have Laurel S. Peterson joining us today. We’re celebrating her new release, SHADOW NOTES, published by Barking Rain Press, and she’s going tell us about…
THE TENSION OF BELIEVING—AND NOT
by Laurel S. Peterson
Thanks for having me on your blog, Kristina. I’m honored to be here.
Part of the core of my novel Shadow Notes is my own wrestling over the validity of intuitive or “psychic” powers. I have friends who tell me they “know” things, that they are connected with aspects of experience that are unseen by most people. I have had moments in my life where I also have had experiences like this. One vivid moment was when I was a teenager, sitting on a park bench somewhere in Europe waiting for my parents. I had a sudden flash where I understood that I could have been, could be, any of the people walking by me. We were all the same, while at the same time we had ended up in different bodies. It was a moment of profound oneness with all that was around me.
Another time, I was waiting for a response from a literary agent. Two days before I got the letter, I became absolutely certain that she had rejected me. (Of course, we all carry some of this around, I imagine!) It was the kind of certainty I’ve experienced on one or two other occasions, one of which was an acceptance. Where did that certainty come from? Where did that awareness of one-ness come from? I don’t have an explanation for it, and the rational, scientific skeptic in me says those kinds of moments are explainable if I understood brains better—or if I would just allow myself to believe. Believing isn’t something I’m so good at.
My protagonist, Clara Montague, has dreams and gets visions of things through touching. In one instance, she foresees a character’s death when she grabs that person’s hand; in her dreams, she sees a wave of blood falling toward her and her mother. The dreams repeat and intensify until Clara can figure out what’s causing them.
Because I’m not sure how I feel about this, or because I don’t know how to resolve the tension between my friends’ assertions about their very real experiences and my own secret belief that there is no such thing (not so secret anymore!), the only place for me to tackle it is in my fiction. I love my friends. I believe them. I worry about them. I don’t see my way clear to one point of view or the other; I have to hold both in tension within me all the time. Clara herself maintains this kind of tension; she doesn’t want her gift. She believes her mother has the same gift, but Constance refuses to discuss it with her. She doesn’t want to act on her gift, but if she doesn’t, she is physically and psychologically damaged by her attempts to suppress it. Early in the book, we learn she spent some time in a Swiss psychiatric hospital.
I think one of the hardest things we do as human beings is to learn to accept that there are things we can’t resolve, that opposite things can both be true at the same time. The simple example I give my students is that we can love and hate the same person at the same time. The fun part, the part that makes us interesting, is that complexity. Accepting it isn’t easy, but it’s much more interesting than if it weren’t there at all.
What do you think about intuition? Do psychic phenomena exist? Is this something you’ve experienced? What kinds of opposites you find hard to resolve? Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing your comments.
WHO IS Laurel S. Peterson?
Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College. Her mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was just released by Barking Rain Press. She has published two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds, (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press, 2010); a full length collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You?” will be released by Futurecycle Press in 2017. In 2016 – 2017, she is serving as the town of Norwalk’s Poet Laureate. She also co-edited a collection of essays on women’s justice titled (Re)Interpretations: The Shapes of Justice in Women’s Experience (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009). You can find her at www.laurelpeterson.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LaurelPetersonWriter/, and on Twitter: @laurelwriter49.
SHADOW NOTES: Clara Montague didn’t even want to come home. Her mother, Constance Montague, never liked her—or listened to her—but now they have to get along or they will both end up in jail or dead.
Clara always suspected she and Constance share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara is twenty, she dreams her beloved father dies of a heart attack, and Constance claims she is being hysterical. Then he dies.
Furious and betrayed, Clara leaves for fifteen years to tour the world, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she can’t ignore it, no matter how she feels. Shortly after Clara returns home, Constance’s therapist Hugh Woodward is murdered and Constance is jailed for the crime.
Since her mother refuses to tell her anything, Clara enlists the aid of brother and sister Andrew and Mary Ellen Winters, Constance’s enemies, to dig out Constance’s secrets. First, however, she must determine whether the Winters, wealthy socialites with political ambitions, are lying and what their motivations are for helping her. In addition, why does the mere fifteen year age difference between Clara and her mother make them nervous?
Starting to explore Constance’s past, Clara discovers a closet full of books on trauma and gets a midnight visit from a hooded intruder wielding a knife, who tries to scare her off her investigation. But her dreams become more demanding and there’s a second murder. Realizing she can’t run back to Paris as she wishes, she works with the town’s sexy new police chief to find the truth about Hugh’s murder and its connection to her mother’s past. Only in finding the connection will she be able to figure out how those secrets have shaped both Constance’s life and her own. Only in finding the connection will they finally be able to heal their relationship.