Thursday, July 26, 2007

Phantom Lover by Susan Sailors


Susan M. Sailors lives in Knoxville with her husband and three cats. She began writing seriously in graduate school and sold a short story to The First Line in November 2003 just after graduating with an M.A. in Literature from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Leading Edge, Horror Carousel, Dark Legacy, Tales of the Talisman, Wicked Karnival, Worlds of Wonder, and Mount Zion Speculative Fiction Review, among others. Her novella Eternal Kiss is available at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid, and her short stories have appeared in many of their anthologies since July 2006. She edits and also writes for StarDust Press and Four Girls Publishing. Her debut novel, a fantasy romance entitled Night Gardening, is available at Whiskey Creek Press. When she isn’t writing, she spends lots of time editing between watching episodes of Dark Shadows and Doctor Who and reading H.P. Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman. When she is writing, she’s usually listening to The Cure, The Damned or My Chemical Romance. To make money to pay bills, she works in a department store. Check her out on the web at and on MySpace at



Phantom Lover
Susan Sailors

Christine does not believe in ghosts, no matter how many stories she hears from the theatre’s longtime employees. However, when the shadows she sees backstage follow her home and a handsome ghost saves her life, she starts to believe in lots of things, including true love and second chances.


Here’s an excerpt from “Phantom Lover”:

Christine looked up at the balcony again. She saw a shadow there, but it didn’t move. She’d thought it was the curtain at first, but it seemed to be standing just behind it.

“Hello? Is someone up there?”

No one answered, and the shadow remained still.

She knew there were other people working in the theatre, but she didn’t like the idea of some unknown person watching her work. She stared up at the figure a moment longer, then went back to taking her measurements.

The managers had promised they’d have a renovated stage for the new season, but that promise had fallen through. Again. Now she was stuck yet another season designing sets for a stage that needed to be at least five feet longer and ten feet wider. She knew it was a money issue, but she couldn’t help feeling bitter.

“Stupid managers. What do they know about the arts?” she murmured.

She heard a man laugh softly somewhere behind her. She turned around, thinking she’d see one of the new grips getting a good look at her ass, but no one was there. When she turned back to the balcony, she noticed the shadow was gone.

Someone had been standing up there.


“He won’t answer you. Not yet,” said a voice behind Christine.

She sighed as she turned to the dance mistress. “Who won’t, Madame Moncharmin?”

“The theatre ghost. He will reveal himself when he is ready to do so.”

“This isn’t Paris, Madame. We don’t have ghosts wondering the corridors here in America.”

Madame Moncharmin smiled. “Every theatre has a ghost, and it is bad luck to deny their existence. This is New England. Is it not the most haunted part of America? Tell me I am wrong.”
Christine knew she couldn’t. “It has more ghost stories, yes. It’s older, and the buildings have been around longer. But that’s all it has, stories and old buildings.”

“I can’t make you believe me. That will be up to him.”

Christine had grown tired of the stories, which she’d been hearing off and on for five years, and she really did have work to do. “Is he cute? Because if he isn’t, I’m not interested.”

Madame Moncharmin’s face stiffened as she frowned at Christine. “I don’t know what he sees in you, or why he has never appeared to you in the years since you came to work here, but something in you has touched him. Please don’t say such hurtful things again.” She turned on her heels and walked away.

Unsure what to think, Christine stared after her. Madame Moncharmin possessed a fierce temper, but in this case, she had seemed genuinely hurt by what Christine had said, as if it made her sad instead of angry. Christine had grown accustomed to the superstitions of the theatre, but the dance mistress certainly took them to extremes.

Sighing, she pulled the clip out of her long black hair, shook it out, then started to put it up again. She had a lot to get done and the curls kept getting in her face.

She jumped when she felt something tug on her hair. She did a complete circle, hoping to see who had done that, but there was no one, and she wasn’t close enough to anything that could have caught her hair.

It hadn’t really felt like a tug though. It had felt like someone running their fingers through the ends of her hair. She quickly finished securing her hair in the clip and picked up her tape measure. She wasn’t going to let Madame Moncharmin or any of the other members of the company spook her into believing in ghosts.

* * * *
Christine shone her flashlight up as high as she could. She saw there were at least five backdrops hanging quite a way out of her reach. Based on the inventory, she knew one of the company’s original backdrops for Mozart’s Don Giovanni hung among them. The opera had been staged twenty years ago, so the backdrop might be useless, but she wanted to at least get a look at it.

The whole theatre buzzed with gossip because of what had happened during that production. The young singer playing Don Giovanni had been crushed when the lights above him had crashed to the stage right in the middle of opening night. The theatre had ended its season then, and the manager had left, claiming the theatre was cursed. The theatre had stayed closed for five years before new investors were found and a new company was put together. Madame Moncharmin was the only original employee to return.

Christine shook her head. Shouldn’t the tragedy have attracted people? Most people had a macabre fascination with tragedies, and a haunted theatre seemed like a pretty nice tourist attraction to Christine.

“Silly people. There’s no such thing as curses or ghosts.”

She took one last look toward the rafters before turning away, but a movement made her stop. The backdrops swayed as though a breeze was blowing across them. As she stood frozen, she realized that one of them was being lowered. When she saw the flames at the bottom of it, she knew it was the very backdrop she’d come to find. She backed up, almost afraid it might fall on her. She realized the backdrops hadn’t moved because of a breeze. They’d moved because someone had passed by on the catwalk behind them, and now that person was lowering the one from Don Giovanni.

She waited until the backdrop was just above the ground before she spoke, not wanting to startle the person lowering the massive cloth down to her.

“Who’s up there? Can you come down and help me?”

No one answered her. She peered up, trying to aim her flashlight at an angle that would illuminate the catwalk, but the scenes were in her way. Then, at the very end of the catwalk, she saw a face. When she finally trained her light on him, he was gone.

“Hello? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blind you with the light, but when no one answered, I got curious.”

She couldn’t hear anyone moving.

“Are you still there?”

She pointed her light at the spiral stairs that led up there, but she knew they had pulled away from the wall and started rotting years ago. Why had someone risked going up there? How had he made it to the top at all?

She heard a sigh right next to her ear.

She whirled around, only to see no one. The face she’d seen far above her flashed through her mind. Pale skin, flashing eyes, dark hair. And a scar on the right side of his face.

She shook off a chill and made one last attempt. “Well, thank you, but if you won’t help me anymore, I’m gonna go find someone who will.”

When nothing but silence met her ears, she turned around and headed for the door.


Why did you become a writer? Was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
I always loved to read, and I had a vivid imagination, so writing just came naturally at a certain point. It was definitely always a dream of mine.

What do you love about being an author? Is there anything you dislike?
I love getting an idea and developing it, especially developing the characters and making them come to life. At times I dislike the editing process, but more because it takes away from the writing of new stories than anything else.

How do you balance your personal and writing time?
That’s hard at times. When I feel like writing, I keep going until either I’m tired of writing or I’m “done” with whatever pulled me to the computer in the first place. I try to budget my time, as I work full-time, plus have a job as an editor for a small press. It’s often very hard to find time to write.

How do you write? Do your characters come to you first or the plot or the world of the story?
Usually the opening scene or a character will come to me first. I usually sit down and write out a whole scene, or at least a conversation, first thing because a character or situation has gotten my imagination’s attention. With my novel Night Gardening, available at Whiskey Creek Press, the first scene came to me very vividly and the story grew form there.

What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
I write mostly paranormal stories. I’ve always loved speculative fiction. I read to escape or be stimulated, and I feel like stories about things like ghosts or vampires or faeries can help a reader do both.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
It’s a bit of both. I usually make them up and then give them maybe one or two qualities based on real people I’ve known.

Out of all the characters that you've written, who is your favorite and why?
That’s a hard question. I think it would probably be Dante, the hero of my story “Welcome to the House of Fun.” It’s available at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid. I think I love his character because of how quickly he took on his own voice and started, essentially, writing himself.

What would you want readers to take away from your books?
Really, I just want them to enjoy them. I hope some of them make them think about the world in a different way.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers in regards to writing a book?
Write as much as you can, and even more important, read as much as you can.

What are you reading right now?
I am reading Lara Parker’s second Dark Shadows novel, The Salem Branch, and Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.

If you could be anyone or anything that you wanted, who or what would you be?
Totally cheesy answer, but I would be a writer. I would wish for just enough success to be able to quit my day job.


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posted by Rachelle
at 4:18 PM