Friday, October 15, 2010

Author Spotlight: Kathleen McKenna

The Crazy Bookworm is thrilled to have Kathleen McKenna join in on the countdown to Halloween on The Crazy Bookworm blog!

Hi Cathy,

Thank you so much for having me and happy Halloween! It’s definitely one of my favorite holidays. When you told me I could blog, I was thrilled but as usual I didn’t have a clue what to talk about that might not put people into sleep comas and then I came up with this one; I hope it’s okay.

I want to tell a little about the two houses on which I based my books. ‘The Comeback’ is the first sequel to ‘The Wedding Gift.’ In ‘The Wedding Gift,’ I invented a whole story based on a beautiful old house in New Orleans I saw once and started imagining things about it, but ‘The Comeback’ is based on not only a real house, but a real ghost story. Back in the sixties there was a glamorous movie star named Jayne Mansfield, (Mariska Hargitay’s mother). She was sort of the Paris Hilton and the Anna Nicole Smith of her time, but she took her publicity a lot further than even today’s stars would. She posed nude in Playboy, sure, but she also dived in with a Killer Whale and nearly got herself and a trainer killed. She put her little boy in a layout with herself and a tiger and the child was mauled nearly to death. She let Anton Lavey, the head of the Satanic Church, claim that she was a high priestess and was photographed with him and that last bid for attention is where her luck ran out. Lavey cursed her; he told her she would die in a car accident. A year later she did, violently and horribly; her body separated from its head on a back road near Biloxi. After that things were never the same in the fabulous mansion she had built in Beverly Hills, the Pink Palace. Pipes burst, rats moved in, the piano played by itself, the rooms reeked of Gardenia perfume, her scent. Accidents happened; her little girl was nearly killed on a small toy train; the only son of the new owner was killed in a single car crash in the driveway, swerving to avoid something no one else could see, and then Englebert Humperdink bought the place. He had known and liked Jayne. He didn’t fear her ghost, but he did want to remodel. He tried to paint over the exterior pink walls but no matter how many coats he applied, the pink bled through . One day there was a small earthquake; no property damage occurred, but when the ground had stopped shaking, a small heart shaped wading pool appeared where none had been before. I wrote the book believing that Jayne, like all stars, just couldn’t bear to fade away.

The next book and the next house share the same name, ‘The House on Easton Drive’, a small fairytale Bavarian home up on Benedict Canyon. A funny little man named Paul Bern built it as a wedding gift for his gorgeous bride to be, Jean Harlow. Three months later the honeymoon ended. Paul was dead, a gunshot to his head, self inflicted or a kill shot made by his jealous first wife. To this day no one knows. Jean, unable to bear the memories, sold the house. The next owner drowned in the pool, as did the one after that. A maid hung herself in the stairwell and Jean herself died mysteriously at the age of twenty-six. Renters came and went until a young man named Jay Sebring bought the house and then moved in his beautiful young girlfriend, the actress Sharon Tate. Jay traveled a lot and one night alone in the house Sharon was awakened by what she described as “a funny little man.” Terrified, she ran down the stairs only to trip over the bloodied body of a pregnant woman drenched in blood and tied with ropes. Screaming she fell to the bottom of the staircase, looking up in horror but there was nothing there, nothing at all. Two years later at the age of twenty-six, a heavily pregnant Sharon Tate was tied with ropes and butchered by the ‘Manson Family’ less than a mile away, at another strange Hollywood address on Del Cielo Drive just a mile down the road from the house that Bern built for Harlow. I don’t know what lives in the house on Easton Drive, but to this day it remains one of the saddest most haunting places I have ever seen. So those are my ghost stories, or maybe they are just stories of bad luck; being in the wrong place, who knows? As always, it must be up to the reader to decide.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Kathleen McKenna
Find out more about Kathleen McKenna and her books here!
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