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Welcome to the digital proposal for
a paranormal thriller
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
READ THE MANUSCRIPT
When Judd Vowell dove into the research for his new book Powder House, he got more than he bargained for, including a visit from the long-dead grandfather he never met. Through it all – from befriending a real-life medium to following the breadcrumbs fate dropped for him along the way – Judd discovered writing is a process that offers many gifts. Even ghost stories.
Judd’s writing journey started four years ago when he wrote and published the first book in the Overthrown trilogy, what he now likes to call his three “practice books.” The experience began as a challenge for the former musician, to see if he could write a novel.
While those early efforts garnered a small following, Judd recognized that he needed help to grow as a writer. He found it in the guidance of a dedicated book coach who leads a weekly writing group, where he learned the conventions, expectations, and craft for writing a commercially viable book. To this day, he’s thankful for the early readers of the Overthrown series, who gave him the confidence to keep writing, and for the members of his writing group, who encouraged him through the many drafts it took to make this novel the best book it could be. His next goal? Publishing Powder House with a traditional publisher and making it a commercial success.
Judd lives with his eight-year-old son Charlie. He counts himself lucky in one regard – neither of them scares easy. Otherwise, those bumps in the night in a house where more than one person has died might have them seeing ghosts.
LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT FROM POWDER HOUSE
INTERVIEW WITH JUDD ABOUT THE DISCOVERY OF POWDER HOUSE AND HIS WRITING CAREER
JUDD TALKS ABOUT WORKING WITH CINDY KAZA, HIS PARANORMAL CONSULTANT
Did you know anything about mediums or psychics before deciding to write a ghost story?
I only knew about mediums and psychics in the most basic sense – TV shows, sidewalk palm readers, that kind of thing. One time I went with a girlfriend to a back room in New Orleans, where a woman saw her future in tarot cards. I never took any of it seriously. Not until I was inspired to write Powder House. And not until I met Cindy.
How did you meet your paranormal consultant, Cindy Kaza?
It’s a funny story. While I was fleshing out the characters for Powder House, I came up with a medium who could help guide my protagonist Julie Danner as she’s learning to communicate with the spirit in her new house. My writing group suggested I go see a medium for research, maybe get an interview. Strangely enough, a well-known medium was coming through Huntsville that night, showcasing her ability at a local comedy club. I went and was fortunate enough to meet her after the show.
What was it like to go to one of Cindy's events?
How can I put this? Eye-opening? Mind-altering? Life-changing? All those things, really. Watching her work is a spiritual experience, in so many ways. She is truly talking to the other side, and while she may not have answers for everyone who comes to see her, it’s impossible to walk away from one of her events without feeling transformed in some way.
Now that you've seen her work, are you still a skeptic?
For whatever reason that first night, Cindy came straight to me, the first person she spoke to in the crowd. That was a sign if there ever was one. She had a few messages for me from the other side, even one from a relative I had never known. What Cindy does is real, I believe it without any doubt. And I’m glad to now call her a friend.
If Alice Sebold, Gillian Flynn, and Stephen King set out to write a novel together, they would write Powder House. When the ghost of GranBelle Jenny reaches out to Julie the first night in her new home, she is determined to get Julie's attention. GranBelle Jenny is on a mission to warn Julie of the danger she is in and to enlist Julie's help to bring her killer to justice. Little does Julie know, the killer isn't a stranger but someone who shares her DNA. Powder House will leave fans of The Sixth Sense and Sharp Objects stunned by the surprise ending.
The similarities between The Lovely Bones and Powder House are difficult to miss. Both stories have murder victims who cannot depart the earth until they receive justice. Like Susie in The Lovely Bones, GranBelle Jenny is caught in the gray space between death and the afterlife. When Julie moves into the house she was killed in, GranBelle Jenny knows her time for retribution is at hand, and it is the only way she will be able to move on. Both end with surprising acts of revenge by the spirits that guide the novels.
Although Judd was a big fan of Gone Girl, he didn’t discover Gillian Flynn’s first novel, Sharp Objects, until the HBO series based on the book debuted. And the similarities between his and Flynn’s novels weren’t lost on him – the protagonists are both journalists with disturbed mothers who return to their hometowns. Both novels benefit from strong writing and interesting twists – but that is where the stories diverge. Fans of Flynn are sure to be drawn to Powder House, a tale of murder at the hands of a brother and sister so demented they make Flynn’s Adora almost seem sane.
A small town, two young women drowned near a river, unsolved murders, and secrets lurking below the surface. Both The Current and Powder House rely on past events to inform the characters’ present and sinister elements to compel readers to turn the page. Like Johnston, Judd allows the characters to tell the story. While Julie, the novel’s protagonist, is the driving force, the stories of the supporting characters come together to create a web of regrets, secrets, and revelations that pull readers toward the novel’s stunning conclusion.
The villain of Powder House is a cross between Stephen King’s character Brady Hartfield in Mr. Mercedes and the charming Mr. Brooks in the film of the same name played by Kevin Costner. Theo, the antagonist of Powder House, is a charming, attractive psychopath who kills to prove to his sister how much he loves her. Powder House has all the elements of a good King novel – an innocent, unaware protagonist, a twisted, dark antagonist, the presence of evil, and a supernatural connection to the other side.
Every year, Hollywood releases a spate of paranormal thrillers. And while some of the more salacious films do well, most are gone from the must-see lists before the popcorn is swept from the floor. A few, however, with “I see dead people” themes, have staying power, topping the box-office charts year after year. Released in 1999, The Sixth Sense has grossed nearly $300 million dollars to date. 1990’s Ghost, with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, has grossed over $200 million dollars. The Sixth Sense remains on the “Top Grossing 100 Films of All Time” list year after year.
Why are these movies still popular long after their release? Because readers and movie-goers love a good mystery, a good scare, and a good ghost story. Powder House offers all three. A tantalizing mystery, an unexplained evil presence, and a ghost determined to punish the people responsible for her murder.
Could this be the next Sixth Sense? We think so.