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Chatting with Author Ken McGorry About His Breakout Novel Ghost Hampton

Ken McGorry’s breakout novel Ghost Hampton is a must-read for the holiday season, but be warned it may well make you forget about finishing up your holiday shopping. Why?

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Because it takes readers on a fast-paced paranormal driven ride that will not only have them on the edge of their seat but have them chuckling along the way too, due to McGorry’s wicked sense of humor. The mix of thrills chills and humor is why this novel has broken out of the pack. We were thrilled when McGorry agreed to sit down with us to chat about his book and his life.

Every novel has its own origin story, what’s the story behind Ghost Hampton?

My wife works in real estate. Years ago, we were driving down a sedate road in Westhampton Beach, NY, lined with higher-end homes. My wife had a start when she recognized a lovely, large old Colonial from a prior sale, freshly painted white. Her experience came back to her. The purchaser, once taking ownership, was informed there was a ghost on the second floor and that the place had long ago been a bordello. Sure enough there was a ghost—that of a little girl in Victorian dress. She would sit peacefully on the edge of a bed in the girls’ room and watch them play. The two young sisters were not afraid of her and they seemed to feel mutual appreciation. A few years later the parent decided to sell. During the final walkthrough the day of closing, as the new buyers looked in every room, water pipes burst overhead, on cue, showering each room! The seller attributed this phenomenon to the little ghost girl feeling betrayed over losing her two young friends.

By the time I got out of our car, I saw my next novel playing out before me: a ghost girl, a haunted old brothel. And two words: Ghost Hampton.

Your book takes readers on a paranormal driven ride, have you always had an interest in this genre?

Not really. Although I’ve read and enjoyed Stephen King and William Peter Blatty, I made a conscious decision to avoid the big paranormal titles. I hoped to create something fresh and decidedly different, and not be haunted by other authors’ and readers’ visions as I worked. Of course, I wanted to attract paranormal fiction fans, but also very much wanted the mainstream reader, even those who typically eschew fiction. Why? Something besides Authorial World Domination. Have you ever met new people at a party and feel the hair on the back of your neck stand when the conversation turns to how the house you’re visiting is haunted? Or feel a chill when your acquaintances, who swear they never before believed in ghosts, describe repeated encounters with a denizen of the spirit world? These are the folks I “aimed” for writing Ghost Hampton.

 Why did you choose the Hamptons as the backdrop for this novel?

The Hamptons is a good place for bad things. No, a great place. My family and I gravitated to Westhampton long ago as a summer refuge. Mind you, Westhampton is not officially recognized among the brotherhood of Hamptons hamlets, but I got a stiff dose of Hamptons lore and culture early on, during my college summers, working as a bellboy, a cab driver and a van operator delivering Dan’s Papers all over the South and North Fork. Later in life, made aware there could be such a thing as a haunted house in the Hamptons, I developed a tale set in posh Bridgehampton—but in autumn, when most of the summer people leave the year-rounders in peace. That peace is shattered by our erstwhile hero, Lyle Hall. Rich in his own right, Lyle stands out as the town’s most despised, greedy drunk lawyer. Since his deadly car crash took the life of the kindliest old lady in the village, Lyle is even more reviled. But his near-death experience gave him a strange gift: empathy. Now he cannot shake the guilty compassion stirred by the plaintive, girlish whispers only he hears emanating from a condemned Victorian mansion. And he cannot stay away—until all hell breaks loose.

 Did you learn anything new about yourself while writing Ghost Hampton?

There’s an old writers’ cliché that I learned might sometimes be true: If your characters are defined clearly enough, they begin telling you what they’d do and say in certain situations. I work alone, but found it important to listen before committing new words to a page. And I often liked what I “heard.”

Another old cliché proved true: You cannot rewrite your own reputation. For me, it’s fun how the townspeople have totally got Lyle’s “number,” while new acquaintances, such as paranormal buffs, see him with fresh eyes. Until some start to die.

Your writing style includes a good dose of comic relief in even the darkest moments. I have to say that it makes this book even more fun to read.  How did this aspect of your style evolve?

I believe humor keeps us alive. As a dutiful English lit major at Manhattan College (yes, James Patterson’s alma mater) the value of comic relief was drilled into me and, writing fiction, I can’t help but insert a jape when and where appropriate. Since our hero is justifiably despised, if only for his reputation, his detractors often treat him as an insult piñata while he’s stumbling toward his one, big heroic act.

Some readers have told me Ghost Hampton is the scariest book they’d ever read (not sure what else they read). I can’t imagine keeping such a story alive without humor.

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