The Challenges of Writing Paranormal Fiction by author Susan Berliner


Susan Berliner, author of the supernatural thrillers, “DUST,” “Peachwood Lake,” and “The Disappearance,” has been a nonfiction writer for nearly her entire career. She had originally planned to be an elementary school teacher, but left after a year to become a newspaper reporter for Fairchild Publications. She covered men’s retailing for Daily New Record, a men’s wear/textile trade newspaper, which was the “brother” paper of Women’s Wear Daily.
After Susan’s children were born, she switched to freelance writing–mainly in education–publishing several book series dealing with editing skills, language arts, and standardized testing. She has also created teachers’ guides, student activity sheets, and test passages. During this time, Susan was the project editor for a national science magazine for elementary school students and edited subject-related manuscripts for children in grades 7 and 8. In addition, she freelanced as a local reporter, covering board meetings for the North County News, a weekly newspaper in Yorktown Heights, New York.
When she returned to work full-time, Susan became the promotion manager of the Yorktown PennySaver, a job she held for 20 years. She created many original weekly contests–Phony Ad, Rhyme Time, and PennySaver Prophet.
Susan lives with her husband, Larry, in Yorktown Heights, where she’s editing her fourth book (Corsonia), and writing her fifth novel (The Touchers).
To find out more, please visit her at
  The Challenges of Writing Paranormal Fiction
by Susan Berliner, author of The Disappearance, Peachwood Lake, and DUST

I write supernatural thrillers. However, each book is a realistic fantasy, set firmly in the "real" world with just one paranormal element.

In DUST, my first novel, an evil swirl of colorful dust sneakily attacks random victims in Rock Haven, a quiet suburban condo community. Although there's no such thing as wicked dust, the story is based on an actual weather phenomenon called dust devils. The town of Rock Haven doesn't exist either, but it's still a typical northeastern suburb. The condo inhabitants are people we all know; their situations are recognizable too.

Peachwood Lake, my second paranormal book, is also based on reality: a jumping fish in Florida, the gulf sturgeon. Of course, my villainous fish is a much weirder, kind of mini-Jaws creature. This book also takes place in a realistic setting—the mythical town of Peachwood, a quiet Connecticut resort town with a serious problem: a killer fish in its normally tranquil lake.

My new novel, The Disappearance, isn't reality-based—unless there's proof that someone has traveled through time. But the story is set in another familiar place: the mythical northern Westchester suburb of Southvale, which is populated with recognizable characters.

Even though the people and settings in my books are true to life, all three novels are still fantasies, and, to enjoy any kind of paranormal fiction, the reader has to be willing to suspend disbelief. Some people have trouble doing that. Many are nonfiction readers while others prefer true-life novels. These pragmatists complain about my novels' impossible situations, making comments like, "People can't time travel," There's no such thing as an evil fish," and "Dust can't be red, green, and blue."

My answer to these non-believers goes something like this, "In my books, I can do anything I want. People can time travel, a fish can be wicked, and dust can be brightly colored." That's the beauty of imagination—and the power of the novelist.

In some ways, paranormal fiction writers like myself probably have it easier than authors of elaborate high fantasy. I bet writers whose stories take place in mythical worlds, populated by strange imaginary creatures, get even more flak than I do from pragmatic readers. But, on the other hand, writers who deal with vampires, witches, and werewolves may be in better shape: Those supernatural beings are "in" right now (Twilight anyone?). Since so many new novels are based on vampires and werewolves, there's obviously a large paranormal fan base. I hope some of these paranormal-lovers will read The Disappearance, Peachwood Lake, and DUST!



When Jillian Keating is arrested for the murder of her missing boyfriend, Ryan Cornell, she has two immediate questions: Why did he frame her—and where is he hiding?
Using her own ingenuity, plus the help of a resourceful lady lawyer and a dashing young private investigator, Jillian discovers the surprising—and disturbing—answers. Her boyfriend is not what he appears to be. The real Ryan, consumed with hate, has devised an ingenious scheme to destroy her while he escapes into the past via a hidden time travel portal. But even knowing all this, Jillian is left with a more difficult question: How can she capture Ryan and bring him back?
Filled with memorable characters, bizarre twists, and riveting suspense, The Disappearance culminates with an elaborate sting operation as Jillian and her friends travel through time to lure Ryan into their clever trap. If they succeed, she will go free. But if they fail, Jillian will surely face murder charges for the death of Ryan Cornell.

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