Author, paranormal investigator, Darkness Radio correspondent, and all around afterlife aficionado Jessica Freeburg has been very busy as of late. Her debut novel, Living in Shadows, is available now, her second book comes out later next year, and she spearheads a ghost hunting collective for Creatives, called Ghost Stories, Inc. She is also frequently heard on the extremely popular, self-described, “Best in Paranormal Radio” Darkness Radio, hosted by Dave Schrader. In the midst of all this, Jessica also somehow finds time to serve on the editorial staff of FATE Magazine and is the Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for the state of Minnesota.
MH: Your debut novel, Living in Shadows, is a Young Adult Paranormal story about a girl who sees spirits. How did your interest in the world of the paranormal begin?
JF: When I first started writing I planned to write picture books. My first published works are poetry for kids and a few stories in parenting magazines. I never thought I’d write a paranormal novel. Editors would read my picture book manuscripts and say, “You have a great voice, but this is not a picture book…” translation: picture book manuscripts should be about 500 words long, and mine were usually 5000 words. Then they’d say, “Have you ever thought about writing a novel?” Sure, I’d thought of it, but I had young kids, and I couldn’t imagine finding the time to write an entire novel.
One day I sat down and wrote the first 10 pages of LIVING IN SHADOWS, and took it to a writer’s conference where I had it critiqued by an editor who told me the night before that she hates YA paranormal. Going into that critique knowing I had given her a genre she hated made me sick to my stomach – I was prepared for the worst. But she liked my first 10 pages, and she wanted to know more! The only problem was, I hadn’t thought past page 10 so I made something up on the spot. She was extremely enthusiastic about the story and told me if that story (which I had just concocted on the fly) came across her desk, she’d read it. And that is pretty much exactly the story I ended up writing.
I never set out to be a paranormal author, and the truth is, not all of my books will even fall into that category, but I enjoy writing in that genre. I love the audience and the fans that come with my paranormal work, so I will keep writing it. It’s so fun to craft a story so scary I make myself look over my shoulder and jump at the things that go bump in the night.
MH: So, I’ve been hearing you more frequently on Darkness Radio, the popular paranormal show anchored by Dave Schrader and Tim Dennis. Tell us a little bit about how your roll on Darkness Radio came to be and ultimately evolved into a Correspondent.
JF: Honestly, I sort of stumbled into Darkness Radio. I met Dave when I attended my first paranormal convention. The Darkness Radio table was right next to my friend’s table where I found myself hanging out much of the weekend, so we got chatting. I told him about my writing and my Ghost Stories, Inc. group. He told me I should stop by the show sometime. So I said, “How about Monday?” It was such a blast hanging out with Dave and Tim during the show, and as I was leaving the studio, Dave said, “Come back anytime!” To which I said, “See ya’ next week!”
I wasn’t able to go every week – three kids, book deadlines and all the whatnot that comes with living got in the way, but I would sneak in whenever I had a little free time. When Mallie (Fox) was leaving, Dave asked if I’d help fill in the gap while they found a replacement. I was actually surprised they asked me to become a regular correspondent, but I’m so glad they did. I’m pretty lucky to be part of the fun, and even luckier to call the whole crew at Darkness Radio my friends.
MH: You also founded a bit of a ghost hunting collective, called Ghost Stories, Inc. which looks really cool. Tell us about what that is and how that came to be.
JF: Ghost Stories, Inc. is the weirdest children’s authors and illustrators group ever created. It was sort of an off-shoot of the professional writer’s organization I help run for the state of Minnesota, The Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators (SCBWI). When I signed with my literary agent, she told me I need to get my name out there even before she sold my book. Since my story was paranormal, I figured I’d start visiting and blogging about haunted locations. When friends in SCBWI heard what I was doing, they wanted to come with. So I organized a group ghost hunt at the Palmer House Hotel. All the founding members of GSI were at that investigation. We had so much fun and found it to be so creatively inspiring, we
decided to do it more often.MH: These are investigations which fans can actually join you on?
JF: We host writer and illustrator retreats at haunted venues where we offer craft oriented workshops on writing and illustration during the day and cap off the evening with a group ghost hunt. We also do smaller events with less writing/illustration focus where people not as interested in that piece of what we do can join us for a fun evening of hunting ghosts. Our focus is the history of these locations and the stories and images they can inspire, but we also love the thrill of the unexplained that comes with the paranormal investigations.
Our fist anthology comes out this fall with stories and art inspired by our investigations together, and we’ve opened it up to people who have attended one of our events. I know first-hand how hard it can be to get your work published, and we wanted to give that opportunity to our friends/fans who want to see their stories in a book. This first anthology will feature the work of a New York Times best-selling author and a few first time authors. It’s so gratifying to have that range within our book.
MH: What have been some of the more memorable places you’ve investigated with Ghost Stories, Inc?
JF: One of my favorite GSI outings was in California this past January. We went hiking through the wilderness in search of Spahn Ranch, Charles Manson’s one-time home base during the time when he incited the Tate/LaBianca murders. It took us forever because the area is not marked. They don’t really encourage people to find the spot. But we found it! And when we finally stood in that space, all the silliness and laughter we’d projected on our way there just stopped. We all fell silent, and each went off to have a moment alone to just take it in. There was a strange sort of emotional power in that moment that is hard to articulate. But it struck every one of us. We were in the exact space where one of the most horrific crimes in American history was spawn – where Charles Manson in all of his depravity sent people away and said, “Leave something witchy.” I’m not ashamed to admit that it brought tears to my eyes just thinking of the horror that came from this beautiful place I was standing in.
MH: You have a second novel scheduled for release in the spring of 2016. Aside from that, what other plans are in your foreseeable future?
JF: My second book is a middle grade narrative non-fiction book about the Holocaust. The release date was moved back to the fall of 2016. I’m also finalizing details on another book that I’m not allowed to talk about yet – which is killing me because I’m so excited about it – but that will be released in the spring of 2017. I’m working on book two for the SHADOWS SERIES which I hope to have out sometime next year, and I’m hoping to release book 3 of that series in 2017. If all goes smoothly, I should have two books release each year for the next two years. Actually verbalizing that publicly makes me sweat, but two of the books are already written and coming into edits with my publishers, so it’s really just writing two new books…I can totally do that! I’m also working on a history book with my GSI-sister, Natalie Fowler. And of course, we’ll release another GSI anthology. My goal is to release one anthology from the group each year.
MH: How can everyone connect and find more information about you as well as other projects you may have in the works?
JF: I love connecting with people through social media. I’m pretty active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I also have a personal website with a blog that I try to keep up with all my projects, and Ghost Stories, Inc. has a Facebook page, website and blog, as well. I’m also becoming more active in speaking at conventions and events, so people can come out and say hi to me at stuff like that.
Social Media Links:
Author Website: www.jessicafreeburg.com
Ghost Stories, Inc. Website: www.ghoststoriesinc.com
Scott Wittman is a professional Historical Landscape photographer, writer, researcher, and traveler. More of his work can be seen at www.scottwittmanvisual.com.
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