Ian Rogers is a writer, artist, and photographer. Every House Is Haunted (ChiZine Publications) is his first collection. A second collection of stories, SuperNOIRtural Tales, featuring supernatural detective Felix Renn, is forthcoming from Burning Effigy Press. For more information, visit ianrogers.ca.
I’ve always been a fan of connected stories, the kind that share the same characters and/or locations. I think of these stories as being part of a “silent series.” They usually aren’t directly related, and the connections aren’t strongly emphasized, but they greatly enhance the reading experience for those who spot them.
I think the reason people enjoy connected stories is because it’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle you didn’t know existed. There’s a sense of surprise in realizing that the book world you’re inhabiting is much bigger than you thought. Seeing a character from another story, even in a minor role, is like bumping into a friend you haven’t seen for years.
One of the most well-known “silent series” of stories are those that take place in Stephen King’s quaint Maine town of Castle Rock. That’s where the kids in The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) are from. Same goes for the psychic in The Dead Zone, as well a certain doggie named Cujo. Like King, the authors who write the best connected stories are the ones where the connections are simple and unobtrusive. They enhance the experience of those readers who catch them, but don’t detract from it for those who don’t.
I tried to do something similar in my collection Every House Is Haunted. Not all of the 22 stories are connected, but several of them are, and while I enjoyed creating these connections (the fancy word for this is “world-building”), I tried to keep the connections small and subtle Take, for instance, the four stories I think of as my Maritimes Mythos — Autumnology, Leaves Brown, The Currents, and Twillingate. While none of the stories share the same characters, they all take place on the East Coast of Canada, and they all possess a thematic connection to a supernatural world, one that can only be seen at a certain time of year, or a certain time in one’s life.
Several stories in the collection, including The House on Ashley Avenue, The Dark and the Young, and A Night in the Library with the Gods, hint at an organization devoted to studying, controlling, and sometimes eliminating the supernatural. While these stories function perfectly fine as standalone tales, I feel that when they are read together they are even more enjoyable.
Of course, the most obvious connection among these stories link back to the title of the book itself: haunted houses.
Only a handful of the stories in Every House Is Haunted featured actual haunted houses. The reason for this is probably obvious to most readers. While three or four haunted house stories may be scary and entertaining, a book of 22 of them is probably overkill. What I did instead was collect stories that have thematic connections to haunted houses. While I was putting the book together, I realized that houses are metaphors for all kinds of things, not the least of which are people and their lives. There is something so innocuous about a neighbourhood of houses, entire suburbs of homes that look identical on the surface, but behind closed doors… Well, anything can happen, right?
In that way, houses are a lot like people, because people can be haunted, too. Take a look at the narrator of the opening story, “Aces.” Tobias has a little sister named Soelle who isn’t quite right. Strange things happen around her. Sometimes people even die. One day she comes home carrying a leash. She tells Tobias it’s for her pet familiar, which she calls The Haxanpaxan. Tobias rolls with this, as he has rolled with everything that’s happened to him over the years. Living with someone like Soelle (and the Haxanpaxan) just goes to show that even if the house you live in isn’t haunted, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring something in with you.
If this collection has an overall theme, it’s that we’re all connected in different ways. I think of this book as a neighbourhood — Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood, if I may be so blatantly obvious — and the individual stories are like houses. Of course, my neighbourhood is a bit darker than the one you might be familiar with, and all of the houses here are haunted, but I still have to ask the question:
Won’t you be my neighbour?
Head over to Every House Is Haunted to find the rules for the Haunted House photo contest!