When you’re named after Edgar Allan Poe, your family roots are entrenched in Anoka and your favorite holiday traditions include trick-or-treating and haunted hayrides, it’s a natural destination.
And if that wasn’t enough, there have been a few supernatural encounters for good measure.
Twists, turns and creaks have marked the path to becoming a spooky thriller novelist for Allan Evans. Evans’ latest work “Abnormally Abbey” combines more haunts and laughs, just in time for Halloween.
“It was much more fun than spooky to write it,” Evans said. “I love Abbey and her supporting cast and they made me laugh too. The ending never fails to bring goosebumps when I read, even after a dozen or more times.”
Evans has turned his passion for writing into a career, first in advertising, then adding author to the list. And for Evans, there’s nothing better than writing something that can get readers laughing and creeped out in equal measure.
Real-life experiences are combined with a lot of imagination throughout the book, with Evans basing several characters on people he knows. Creating a main character who is a fan of ‘80s music added a bit of fun as well when working songs into the book.
“‘Abnormally Abbey’ has been through easily a dozen revisions and two name changes,” Evans said. “At first it was called ‘Spooky Girl,’ but along the way, I realized ‘Ghost Girl’ was a stronger title (I love alliteration!). However, Immortal Works already had ‘Grace’s Ghosts’ and ‘Dead Girl,’ and they recommended changing the title to have the book stand out. ‘Abnormally Abbey’ was the result. My first draft originally began with Abbey introducing herself and giving her background, which wasn’t a strong beginning. If the book is about ghosts, let’s put one in the first scene to set the tone! I added an action scene to start the story and then peppered in her backstory throughout the first chapters. The result was a stronger beginning that grabbed from the opening lines.
“Throughout the revision process, I printed out triple-spaced copies that allowed plenty of room to make notes and changes. I read the entire thing out loud, first to myself and then to others. The goal was to have the writing and dialogue sound natural. After that, I turned to beta readers to get feedback on pacing, character development and the overall story. Throughout the polishing of the revision process, the writing got better, and as the writing got better, a more distinctive personality came out in the writing. The magic truly happens in this process.”
If parts of the novel read as if they could have actually happened, it’s not a coincidence. And part of the pull of the plot.
“Ghosts have been a part of my life for a while,” Evans said. “Though I no longer live there, my last house was haunted. … I was sitting at the kitchen table writing when I heard something behind me. Since I was alone there shouldn’t be any noises. Creak. Something was moving behind me in the kitchen. It was a slow creak that sounded like a kitchen cabinet opening ever-so-slowly. I didn’t turn around, but kept writing. Creak.
“I couldn’t help but shiver as I wondered what could be moving behind me. I really didn’t want to turn around. What if I saw someone – or something? I kept trying to write, but my brain wasn’t having it. Creak. Not again. I could feel my heart thudding in my chest. It was like my heart wanted to pound its way out just to get away from the creaking sound. I knew how it felt. ‘Abbey,’ I tried to call out to my real-life daughter who was upstairs. The word barely made a sound as my throat was so dry that my voice sounded like two tree branches rubbing against each other. Knowing she’ll never be able to hear me all the way upstairs, I had no choice. I was going to have to turn around. I grabbed onto the edge of the table with both hands. Sliding my chair back, I pulled my feet underneath and shakily stood up. Then came the hard part. I turned around. When I turned around, the kitchen was completely empty, but several cabinets were wide open. Cabinets that were not open earlier. I walked around the island, looking for whoever – or whatever – had opened the cabinets. There was no one there. There wasn’t anyone hiding and no sign of anyone being there. Except for the open cabinets. That wasn’t the only time strange things happened or ghosts appeared. It happened so often I could write a book about it!”
“Abnormally Abbey” is a ghost story to be sure, but also about a young person finding strength.
Being a spook magnet isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds. There’s something seriously wrong with the summer camp 14-year-old Abbey is sent to. It’s not just the troubled kids, or the clueless camp counselors or even all the ghosts – yeah, the ghosts have found her there too – but now there’s a mysterious symbol that keeps appearing at all the worst moments. Abbey is not a happy camper. But she is a fighter and can go from princess to warrior when there’s a mystery to solve. As long as Abbey has her ‘80s music, there’s no one – alive or dead – that’s going to stop her. So, bring on the dead people, spooks and spirits. This girl ain’t afraid of no ghost.
“It’s very funny as well as being spooky,” Evans said. “‘Abnormally Abbey’ is a ghost story, but it’s also the story of a 14-year-old girl who finds the strength to stand up for herself and become so much more than she ever expected.”
The genre has become the home of several of Evans’ works, with “Abnormally Abbey” geared toward a younger audience than others. A new adult thriller – “Killer Blonde” will be published in February about a cat and mouse game between a killer and an investigator.
A fun, and spooky, venture.
“As the son of Doc Evans, a prominent Twin Cities jazz musician, I grew up surrounded by music, art and literature,” Evans said. “I was named after Edgar Allan Poe, so it probably isn’t surprising I followed the same path. I’ve always been a reader and began writing advertising and marketing professionally, but eventually turned to novels.
“There’s something about the feeling of getting creeped out that appeals to me. And I love mixing scary with humor. They pair very well.”