As seen in the October issue of Uncaged Book Reviews
Uncaged: What attracted you to writing in the paranormal/mystery genre?
I love the idea of solving a mystery. And, for me, it just doesn’t get any better than when a mystery has paranormal elements entwined in it. The original Twin Peaks was a major influence on me. The X-Files, Ghost Whisperer, all these shows have mysteries where the paranormal has to be explored to solve them. And they are all fantastic.
Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about The Haunting of Dylan Klaypool series? Do you have a set amount of books in mind for the series, or is it open-ended to see where the story takes you?
As the title suggests, this story is centered around Dylan. This is a ghost story, for sure, but at its heart, it’s a story about a troubled girl. For as long as she can remember her life has been on a downward spiral, and she believes the only way to correct it is through paranormal investigation. Ironically, Dylan’s initial inability to connect with people and with society is what ultimately helps readers connect with her. Readers are on a journey with Dylan, as opposed to watching her go through it from afar. Dylan has knowledge that the reader doesn’t. But, never at any point does the reader know more than Dylan does. Because of that, they experience everything right along with her. Seeing how Dylan grows has been something readers tell me they really enjoy.
This series is planned to be three books. I had a beginning, middle, and end planned from the start. But, I will say, Dylan took me places I didn’t expect to go in Book One, and I imagine she will in the subsequent books, as well.
Uncaged: You have been attending quite a few book signings. What is your favorite part about those?
I’m amazed at the amount of people that come to me to share their personal experiences with the paranormal. Readers tell me stories about ghosts, spirits, and dreams that they haven’t shared with anyone. Having them give me that trust is something I cherish. It’s remarkable that someone would find it appropriate to open up to me, a complete stranger, about something so personal.
And, of course, discussing Dylan, who she is, what she’s battling, and how people are identifying with her.
Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them?
Not sure what I take away, good or bad. I don’t think a review could ever carry enough weight to change what I write or how I write. But, I do read them.
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
When someone tells me they are disappointed that they have to wait for the next book. Their eagerness to find out what will happen next tells me I wrote something that touched them in one way or another.
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
I enjoy doing a lot of different activities besides writing. I like hiking and fishing, attending concerts and plays, watching sports, movies, and TV. I read psychological thrillers. And, of course, I enjoy conducting paranormal investigations.
I love to travel and visit new places, but home is definitely one of my favorite places on Earth. Whether I’m with my daughters, hanging with my girlfriend, or even by myself, home is a great place to be.
Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you?
I actually have had a paid gig as a Michael Jackson impersonator.
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
I hope you are enjoying Dylan as much as I am. Thank you for reading, thank you for coming to events, and I hope to see you soon.
James Alan Ross loves ghost stories. Not only in novels, but in real life.
The Haunting of Dylan Klaypool
James Alan Ross
To hear the truth, she must listen to the silence.
Dylan Klaypool’s dark history has her searching for answers that can only be found down a single path: paranormal investigation. Battling demons from her past, the high school junior’s obsession with proving the existence of ghosts has become the only consistent aspect of her troubled life. Now living with her estranged grandmother in a new town and attending a new school, Dylan’s focus has not wavered. And the boarded up, abandoned house she discovered on Cemetery Road might hold the key that can unlock the secrets that have long haunted her.
Willing herself to focus, she gently closed her tired, itchy eyes and concentrated. Dylan Klaypool’s white earbuds fit snugly inside her ears which fought to curtail long strands of curly brown hair from tumbling in front of her narrow face. Still, one mischievous lock snuck from the top of her head and dropped to tickle her nose. With an angry puff of air from under her pouty bottom lip, Dylan briskly blew it away, but the undisciplined curl had already severed her attention.
It didn’t take much to lure her attentiveness away from the three straight hours of total silence she was playing back on her digital recorder. Only the occasional sounds made by birds or bats randomly sprinkled through the otherwise tranquil sea of nothingness that had been washing over her ears.
Dylan exhaled her frustrations away, sank back into the hard, plastic seat connected by a bent metal rod to the wooden desktop, and watched seconds pass as the recording lagged on. She gripped the front of the desk with her sweaty palms, leaned back, and pulled her arms straight, staring at the miniature, black digital recorder.
As the quietness traveled from the small recording device over her delicate eardrums, her dry and scratchy eyes surveyed Room 234 for signs of life. Most of the students had their faces firmly attached to smartphones: posting and texting, spreading rumors, and making plans for the Varsity football game later that night (or more likely the party afterwards in a freshly cut hay field, with a large fire surrounded by rampant, underaged drinking). None of those things interested Dylan. Not even slightly.
Yawning, Black Willow High’s newest student rubbed her sharp knuckles over a squinted eyelid and listened intently to more of nothing, like a phone call with no one on the other end or a CD with no songs. Spying through the window, she found that the boring hum of silence played the perfect soundtrack to the drably, gray skies serving as the backdrop to dozens of gangly, leafless trees that surrounded the school.
Dylan glanced up at her study hall teacher, Ms. Castle, who sat properly behind her shiny desk but whose thoughts looked to be somewhere else. Framed images of the teacher’s twin toddlers posed by a hip, young photographer sat proudly facing out towards the uninterested students. The thin, tall, early-thirties teacher crossed her unseasonably tanned legs and laughed at the five-inch screen in her palm. Dylan swore she saw the divorced woman blush and wondered if the exchange happening through the teacher’s personal device was appropriate for school hours. The way Ms. Castle carried herself, Dylan guessed not.
Dylan’s brown eyes rolled in their deep sockets, as the eleventh-grader fought the urge to stand up, walk out, and never return. It had become difficult, pushing herself to achieve even average grades with all she was trying to accomplish outside of school. The real world had assigned Dylan other, more important things to worry about than math equations and forming a fluent sentence in French. Just passing and making it to graduation next year would’ve been sufficient enough for her.
Dylan was tired. Not just tired of her current life circumstances, which she truly was, but physically tired. She needed sleep. She ran the pad of her thumb over the tiny back-lit screen on the plastic digital recorder that she had retrieved from the rugged, abandoned house down the road early that morning. Her black sneakers still carried dust from the long gravel road between it and her grandma’s house: the only two houses for miles on a rural, country road fittingly named Cemetery.
Closing both eyes, she laid her forehead on folded arms feeling the threads of her knitted sweater pressing into her skin. Her breathing slowed, each inhale stretched to full capacity, and the teenager could hear her heartbeat pulsating over the dull hissing that still funneled into her ears.
Buh-bump… Buh-bump… Buh-bump… “huh-huh-huh” … Buh-bump…
Suddenly, Dylan’s sleepy shell shattered.
Between the beats of her heart, she had heard something. Quickly, she raised her head from the desk and hit REWIND on the device. She impatiently watched the seconds rewind from three hours, twelve minutes, and twenty-two seconds. Twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY.
Furling her eyebrows, she concentrated. Sitting alone in the abandoned house on Cemetery, the recorder had captured something. Something that did not belong.
REWIND. Twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY.
Goose pimples covered Dylan’s arms under the long, black sleeves of her sweater. Quickly, she sat up, straightened her spine like a wooden plank. REWIND. Twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY.
There, on the recording made overnight in a house that no one lived in, were words. But, what were they saying? Dylan’s thoughts ran a race with her pulse.
No sense? No cents? Know sense?
REWIND. Twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY.
“…in no tents…”
The hair on the back of her thin neck stood tall; her hands trembled, as the whispering syllables became more apparent each time she played them. REWIND. PLAY.
“…in no tense…”
Past tense? Some tents?
REWIND. PLAY. REWIND. PLAY. REWIND. PLAY.
“…in no scent…”
Her bones, wrapped tightly with pale, stretched skin, rattled together like primitive instruments playing a worship song to holy, unknown deities. REWIND. Twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY.
Dylan elevated six inches off her chair when a deafening bell reverberated off the four concrete walls that had held the stirring class hostage for the previous forty-five minutes. Rapidly, her classmates shuffled their belongings with eagerness to calm their rumbling stomachs downstairs in the cafeteria with pizza, chicken nuggets, and nachos.
Dylan, however, didn’t budge. She sat frozen as solid as a block of ice floating in the Arctic Ocean. Placing her hand on her chest, the hopeful girl took several calming gasps into her heaving lungs, as eighteen other teenagers made their way past her out the door and raced to lunch.
Her left hand scribbled the tip of a ballpoint pen on a bright white, blue-lined sheet of paper. The black ink spelled I-N-N-O-C-E-N-T. A fiercely drawn exclamation point followed and a bold, deeply compressed line below it nearly tore through the page. The word repeated in her mind over and over and over…
Coincidentally, there had never been a word that meant more to Dylan Klaypool. Hearing it there, stamped into the white noise, it now meant more than ever.