CRANFORD, NJ — Just in time for Halloween, a local author has released her first book, ready to give teens and tweens a little scare.
The hair-raising story is called “Ghost Room” and Cranford author Janelle Schiecke says it’s about friendships and things that are spooky, but it all got its start from a scary dream.
“I had that dream about the room and I wanted a spooky story and I wanted friends to come together and discover this mystery,” said Schiecke in an interview with LocalSource on Friday, Oct. 25. “I’ve always loved ghost stories and reaching beyond the realm, so to speak.”
Schiecke hasn’t always lived in Cranford, although she has called it home for 17 years. Born and raised in Ohio, it was there that she first got the horror bug.
“I read ‘Misery’ when I was 11 or 12,” said Schiecke, speaking of Stephen King’s frightening novel and Academy Award-winning movie. “I had to use a dictionary to know most of the words. But after I read it, I had never gotten so scared. I’ve loved words and language ever since.”
Graduating from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, where she majored in English, Schiecke said she knew she wanted to be an editor. Two years later, she was one. Unfortunately, she was later laid off, and she and her husband moved to Brooklyn. After seven years in the Big Apple, they moved to Cranford to start a family.
“I love Cranford so much,” she said. “It’s such a great family town.”
It was about this time she had that scary dream.
“I had this dream,” she said. “And I had it for so many nights. My husband said I should just start writing and it started evolving and I was too scared to do anything with it. My parents both passed away the first year of COVID and, after they passed away, I was spurred to finish it.”
Of course, there are far too many writers to count who create that great masterpiece, yet never get it published. For Schiecke, however, she had a leg up over a lot of wannabe authors.
“I’m a freelance editor myself. I am at this company, Urban Writers, where I edit books for people who self-publish,” she said. “I self-published. It wasn’t that hard. I had to create my own logo. Emerald Link Press. I found a platform.
“I found a company called Reedsy that helps you self-publish. I hired an editor there. I hired a book designer there. You can just kind of add your book there and export into your pdf and your Kindle and then just upload it onto Amazon and then you can order it and get a paperback. There was a lot to do, but I really wanted to get it out there.”
Without giving away too much, “Ghost Room” is a story about a group of friends who find something a bit unusual, even scary, about the new house one of them has just moved into with her family. As to why the story is set in the ’90s, Schiecke says that’s easy to explain.
“I don’t like all this technology,” she said. “I wanted to build suspense and I think that’s more doable when there’s no technology. I grew up on an acre of land in Ohio. Where she (the main character) moves is basically based on where I grew up. I love Tim Burton. I liked how he connected with outsiders. Tim Burton tapped into that.”
The ’90s references were also a pleasure for her.
For young kids, I want them to feel the vibe of the ’90s,” Schiecke said. “It’s a different decade that I think would spur kids to maybe find out who Pearl Jam is. I loved Pearl Jam and I loved Unsolved Mysteries, so it’s fun to put in these little Easter eggs. It was a fun escape for me to go back to the ’90s. Max and Amy are based on my childhood friends. I feel we would have been awesome ghost hunters.”
Schiecke said she got ideas from other people as well, which she incorporated into her novel.
“The prologue was my son’s idea. He had this vision of this bookcase and this witch. I was like, how am I going to tie this into the story?”
But tie it in she did. Even the villain can be traced to her youth.
“When I was in high school, there were always these jocks who got all the attention and I wanted him to be the bad guy.”
If you read this book — and you should — the ending is sure to leave you wanting more, even a part two. Schiecke says this was done intentionally.
“I’m a big fan of open endings. I love when a book ends and you have to figure out what happens next. I wanted the story to go on. I didn’t want it to end.”
“Right now, what I’m writing is something different, but I do think of going back to it.
“I do want to either finish it or do a Goosebumps series of stories. I do like writing books for teens. It’s fun to write. You have to put your mind into the mind of a teenager. I wouldn’t want to put my mind into the mind of teenagers in the time we live in, because I don’t feel you get enough suspense.”
In the meantime, Schiecke is hard at work on her next novel, something a bit off the beaten path.
“My next one is about murder in a midwestern town.”
“Ghost Story” can be purchased online at Amazon in Kindle or paperback at http://www.amazon.com.