For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination with the paranormal. Ghost stories, UFOs, fantasy worlds, the supernatural, all triggered an intense curiosity from a young age that informs my writing and creative endeavors to this day.
I wrote about this before in a previous blog, a theme in my work I seem to keep returning to.
Perhaps it has something to do with a story my parents told, about the time my infant sister passed away. She was born four years before me and lived to a mere 11 months, so I never knew or met her. But I feel her presence and guidance to this day.
At the time spina bifida was a pediatric death sentence. A birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. Thanks to huge strides in medical and surgical interventions over the past 40 years, children who are born with spina bifida today lead active and productive lives. According to the Spina Bifida Association, approximately 90 percent of infants affected with the defect live well into adulthood.
Back then my sister Donna Marie was not so lucky. Given three months to live at birth, she nevertheless powered through to nearly quadruple that prediction, and shock her doctors along the way. They couldn’t explain her resilience beyond an incredible will to live.
My mom was a concert pianist at the time and had a piano in the house. I’m told my young sister loved to hear her play. Perhaps the music helped sustain her.
When she finally succumbed, she was in my mother’s arms. And this is where the story gets a bit … paranormal.
The way my parents told it, the moment Donna Marie’s life left her, the piano began playing. By itself, like a child’s hammering on the keys.
Then they saw a kind of shadow, what they described as, and believed to be, her soul, flying around the room. My mother yelled, “Let her out of the house!” My dad ran and opened the front door. At which time they say the shadow flew out the door and disappeared.
And the piano stopped playing.
Perhaps this was the hallucinating imaginings of two grief-stricken parents. Perhaps something else. All I know is they truly believed what they saw, and always became very emotional when retelling the story.
A somewhat similarly weird experience happened to me the night my mother passed. I was staying at their house, and after she was gone I swore I could smell her distinctive perfume in her old bedroom.
That alone was weird enough, as she hadn’t worn perfume in months after falling ill, so I walked around the room to see if I could find the source (and convince myself I wasn’t crazy). To my shock I looked down at my feet near the bedroom door to find her perfume bottle and favorite soaps impossibly scattered on the floor, across the room from the adjoining bathroom where she kept them.
Yeah, chills. No one but I had been in the room. And I certainly hadn’t put them there.
An otherworldly message from mom? Who knows. But “freaked me out a little” would be the understatement of the century.
As a result of these personal experiences, and frankly a childhood of growing up on episodes of The Twilight Zone, Stephen King books, then later The X-Files and other supernatural fare, I’ve grown an appetite for ghost stories and the paranormal. Tales of otherworldly events fascinate me. So it’s no wonder that my debut novel Afterlife deals with these themes.
Wait, a debut novel you say?
Yes kind reader, as of Tuesday, February 11th, 2020, I am now officially a published author. Pretty crazy that.
After nearly two decades of screenwriting and filmmaking adventures in Hollywoodland, I partnered with an author friend, J.K. Ishaya, and together we wrote this novel, which was just released from Zimbell House Publishing.
It is the story of Elaine Ways, a young mother and competitive martial artist, who has to battle dark forces to save her child from an evil that threatens not just their lives, but her sanity… on a journey to becoming a powerful warrior named Arcadia who protects children’s souls in the afterlife.
It’s a big idea many years in the making that began life as an award-winning short film, Passing Darkness, starring and co-created with Debra & Gerald Hopkins.
In the ensuing decade since it’s release in 2005, Debra, Gerald, and I developed the story into a feature-length screenplay, then a TV pilot and series pitch, then a web series concept … all the while fleshing out the characters and world-building until about three years ago when, in the midst of finishing production on my latest feature film Displacement, I had this crazy idea to turn it into a novel.
But not just one novel, mind you. An entire book series. Four volumes that follow the journey of Elaine Ways/Arcadia as she navigates this place called The Realm and her destiny as a warrior in the afterlife protecting children’s souls.
We’ve already begun writing Book Two—in fact you can see a preview chapter at the end of Afterlife—with Books Three and Four mapped out. In fact just the other day I had a major epiphany for the ending of Book Four and “the big finish” that I am very excited about. Elated really, as it was one of those “right in front of my nose” ah-ha moments that finally revealed itself in a rush of sensory emotional overload.
This whole journey has been a testament to never really knowing where your ideas or content will come from or how they will evolve, but that listening to inspiration, following your gut, and having the perseverance to push through, will result in something only dreamed about a few short years ago. And as far as we’ve come, the journey has only just begun.
Welcome to The Realm.
Have you had any paranormal ‘Afterlife’ experiences? Comment below to share your story.
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Kenneth Mader is an award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, and now published author. Much to the chagrin of the “committee” in his head.
His critically acclaimed feature film Displacement was released theatrically in Spring 2017, acquired by A+E Networks for broadcast on Lifetime, curated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for inclusion in their historical Margaret Herrick Library, and is now available on VOD and DVD. For more info click here.
He was named one of the “Top 100 Indie Filmmakers in the World” in the book by Action On Film’s Del Weston. He is the founder and operator of Maderfilm Studios, a full-service boutique production studio specializing in high-quality films and entertainment projects, along with its Nightfall Studios post-production division. He is available for consulting on scripts and film projects as well. Contact him here.