Tananarive Due's Novels:

Short Story Collections

Ghost Summer

Devil's Wake series

Devil's Wake


Domino Falls

African Immortals series

My Soul To Keep


The Living Blood


Blood Colony


My Soul To Take

Tennyson Hardwick

Casanegra


In the Night of the Heat


From Cape Town With Love


South By Southeast

Others

Joplin's Ghost


The Good House: A novel


Freedom in the Family


The Black Rose


The Between


The Ancestors

The Good House
Atria Books; ISBN: 0743449002

Purchase The Good House

"When it comes to suspense, Tananarive Due has no equal. THE GOOD HOUSE, as packed with thrills as it is well-written, is another winner!"
- Valerie Wilson Wesley, author of The Tamara Hayle Mysteries

"Long one of the reigning icons of suspense, with THE GOOD HOUSE Tananarive completes the near impossible: she outdoes even herself. With characters as vivid as the person standing next to you, and tension that builds moment by carefully crafted moment, Tananarive delivers a novel that is as haunting as it is humanistic. Long time fans can look forward to a welcome return. New readers are in for a great beginning."
-John Ridley, author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and A Conversation with the Mann

"A subtle tale of terror. Tananarive Due is a powerful storyteller with a rich social agenda."
- Graham Joyce, British Fantasy Award winner and author of The Facts of Life

"In The Good House, acclaimed novelist Tananarive Due enters classic Stephen King territory. Her novel, set in a small Northern town, centers on a haunted house under a deadly curse. But don't let the comparison scare you: This dark, imaginative,
skillfully written page-turner is a novel only Tananarive Due could write. Early in the Twentieth Century, a powerful voodoo priestess followed her guiding spirit from New Orleans to a small town in Washington State. But in pride and anger, Marie Toussaint unleashed a new--and very different--spirit. Now, ignorant of both her heritage and the curse, Angela Toussaint returns to her dead Grandmother Marie's house, seeking to heal her fractured relationships with her son and her husband. But the malicious spirit wishes only the destruction of the Toussaints; and as it did in her grandmother's day, it inflicts horrific death and destruction upon the isolated town. Soon Angela has lost almost everyone she loves; and she must somehow uncover the secrets of her unknown heritage if she is to have a prayer of saving her true love--and her own soul."
- Cynthia Ward, Amazon.com

EXCERPT:

ANGELA’S HEART BOUNDED. The solid gold ring was carved with African symbols that looked both geometric and oddly singular, unknowable. Gramma Marie had been wearing that ring the day she died. She’d motioned for Angela to come closer, then she’d slipped the slick, warm gold across Angela’s finger, making her promise to keep it always. This ring had been Gramma Marie’s goodbye to her, and Angela hadn’t seen it in four years.

It had been stolen. Whatever bastard had broken in through her bedroom window and stolen this ring had also somehow broken her life, the parts that mattered. 

Now, the ring was back. This was impossible. Angela stared at the ring, not touching it.

Corey’s voice wavered as he met her confused eyes, his explanation tumbling out. “I threw the brick and broke your window, Mom. It sounds dumb now, but there was this girl I liked, right? Her name was Sherita, and I knew the ring was special to you, and I thought maybe it would be special to her...” – Corey swallowed, glancing away. His voice became a monotone, signaling that he had spent time rehearsing this speech. – “It was just dumb kid stuff. I said I’d let her wear it for a week. But she said she saw me talking to some girl before the week was over, and she wouldn’t give it back. I was afraid to tell you I took it. So I threw the brick and broke the window and knocked your jewelry all over the floor, and you thought somebody stole it. I said to myself, ‘If she asks me if I did it, I won’t lie.’ But you never did ask, Mom.”

He looked relieved to be finished, blinking fast.

Angela took the ring and stared at its beautiful symbols, which looked like shiny golden light-etchings against the sunken surface. A triangle with a cross in the center, a double wave, a pear shape. Slowly, she slid the ring onto the bare finger where she had once worn her wedding ring. It was snug, but not too tight. Perfect fit, like the day it had been given to her.

Thinking of her grandmother, Angela could nearly smell the rose-scented talcum powder Gramma Marie had dusted herself with. She felt a shift in time, as if she were standing before this cellar door with her grandmother again as she had when she was Corey’s age. Angela had hauled box after box of preserves down those steps, stacking the jars in the compartments that had been built for wine. Now, Li’l Angel, you be careful on those steps. The jars were dusty now, and the preserves inside were surely dried or rotten, but some of them were still down there exactly where she’d put them.

Angela felt a single icy fingernail brush the back of her neck, hearkening to the strange cold-burn she’d felt at the store and in the kitchen. Something felt very wrong. 

“How did you get this ring back?” she whispered.

Corey didn’t look her in the eye. “I wrote letters to see if Sherita was still staying down there, and she was. I paid her for it with extra money I made from Sean’s dad, grooming his horses. I was thinking about how stealing your ring was one thing I wish I could take back. So I did.”

No wonder Corey had been behaving so strangely! He must have lain awake half the night, wondering how he was going to finally tell her the truth. And yet, it wasn’t all truth, either. Not yet. Corey spoke quickly when he was lying, like now.

“And she still had it?” Without meaning to, Angela had shifted into her courtroom voice. 

Corey shrugged. This time, he looked at her and smiled, trying to imitate his father’s playfulness, the Hill men’s charm. “Well, it’s a damn nice ring. Like they say on TV, I cared enough to give the very best. You know what I’m sayin’?”

Corey knew better than to cuss in front of her, no matter how grown he thought he was, and she’d told him she would skin him alive the next time he dropped youknowhatimsayin into a conversation with her, which sounded as ignorant to her as Jimmie Walker’s Dy-no-mite had sounded to Gramma Marie. She wanted to slap her son’s face. How many times had she told the story of her stolen ring as a woeful loss? How many times had she felt genuine hurt over it, sometimes at the mere sight of Gramma Marie’s photograph, as if allowing someone to take her ring had been a shameful act on her part? How dare Corey let all these years go by without saying anything!

Then, Angela’s anger melted, swallowed by relief. Bliss. She breathed in deeply, feeling lightheaded. Could this be real? Maybe her secretly-spoken wish was coming true after all. She squeezed her own fingers, enjoying the solidness and texture of the ring. 

“I know you’re mad at me, huh? Well, I’ve been thinkin’ about a punishment—”

“Corey...” Eyes smarting, Angela cut him off. She cupped his chin in her palm. “I don’t know if you remember, but not long after you took this ring, everything fell apart for us. Your daddy and I lived in separate houses, in separate cities, and we forced you to choose between us. I think maybe that’s punishment enough. What do you think?”

Now, it was Corey’s turn to be silent. His lips were mashed tightly together, thinned out. He was fighting tears, she knew.

“Come here, baby,” she said, reaching up to him, and he leaned against her in a hug, as he hadn’t in far too long. Angela felt her heart pounding from the simple pleasure of embracing a child who rarely gave her the opportunity anymore. “When you stole this ring, you were being a selfish, thoughtless little boy. But getting it back to me – saving your money, writing a letter to that girl, using your head – that was the work of a young man. That makes me proud of you, Corey. That lets me know you’re doing all right despite everything we’ve put you through. I’m glad, and I thank you with all my heart.” 

“It ain’t all that, Mom,” Corey said. She heard moisture in his nose.

“Yes, it is. I love this ring. And I love you.”

Corey exhaled, and his breath warmed her neck. He gave her a tight squeeze before releasing her. Then, his gaze was dead-on. “Mom, did Gramma Marie tell you stuff about the ring? Like, those symbols. Did she tell you what they mean?” 

“It’s West African, she told me. She got it from her grandmother, and I forget how far it goes back before that. At least another generation. I guess she thought it was a good-luck charm.”

He lowered his voice. “But what about the symbols? She never told you anything about them? Like…if they’re supposed to have powers or something like that?” 

“Powers?”

“You know,” Corey said sheepishly. “If they could...make things happen?”

Angela didn’t have the heart to ridicule him. The guests’ speculations about Gramma Marie must have fired up his imagination, and how would he know any better? Corey had only been four when Gramma Marie died, and he barely remembered her. This was the first time he’d asked about his great-grandmother with real interest, as if he wanted something from her memory.

“What kind of things, Corey?” she said. “I don’t understand.”

Corey’s gaze shifted away, then back again. His sigh seemed to harbor real sadness. “Nothin’. Forget it.”

“Well, hold on. Gramma Marie held onto a lot of old folks’ superstitions, so she might have mentioned something about the ring,” Angela said quickly. One of Corey’s major complaints about her was that she didn’t take his concerns as seriously as Tariq did. “I’ll have to sleep on it, OK? Ask me tomorrow. When it’s not so crazy.”

“Yeah, a’ight,” Corey said. His face brightened slightly. “Things are good with you and Dad this summer, right? I hear ya’ll sneakin’ around at night, those floors creaking. Ya’ll ain’t fooling nobody. Thought you should know.”

Angela laughed, rubbing his short, wiry hair. “Don’t get your hopes up, but we’re trying.”

“Cool. Guess we all make mistakes, huh? Some small and some big.” Corey’s eyes were unusually solemn and wistful now. He pressed his hand to his abdomen, like a pregnant woman feeling her baby kick. “And you just gotta’ try to fix them, right?” 

“Corey, you look awful. Are you sure you’re all right? You don’t have to help with the fireworks if you want to go lie down. I’ll explain it to your dad.” 

Angela saw uncertainty on her son’s face – or, more precisely, what she saw looked more like he could not choose one facial expression. First he looked nearly stricken, then sharply annoyed, then resigned. Corey rarely allowed his emotions to surface so baldly in front of her, and watching his face reminded her of studying her mother’s warring emotions as a child, trying to guess which version of Dominique Toussaint would emerge next.

“I’m fine, dag,” Corey said impatiently.

“Then do me a favor and go to the cellar and bring some sodas up, OK? They’re stacked in the corner. Bring up a couple of cases. And you might as well bring the fireworks up, too.”

His eyes flickered to the cellar door and back. She thought she heard the thckk as Corey sucked his teeth. Gramma Marie would have knocked her across the room for making a sound like that, but she and Corey had just had a rare nice talk, an actual conversation, so she ignored it.

“I have to go to Sean’s,” Corey said. “I don’t have time for the Fourth of July, Mom.”

“Take that up with Tariq, but I we both know what he’ll say. I tried to talk you guys out of a big light-show, but your dad’s looking forward to it,” Angela said. “Now go get the sodas, please.”

Corey didn’t answer. What was wrong with him today? Angela watched him prop open the cellar door and stare down a moment before he descended the stairs in silence. Now, Li’l Angel, you be careful—

She was about to call after him to flip on the light-switch when he suddenly leaned back to gaze at her from beyond the narrow doorway. He seemed glad to see she was still there. All at once, his tentative expression shed itself of everything except the unrestrained love he’d shown her when he was four and five. So loving he almost looked feverish. Little Corey. God, she missed that sweet, happy young kid. And he was here again, smiling at her like a photograph from easier days.

“I’m gonna’ take care of you good, Mom,” he said with an exaggerated wink. “You wait.”

Angela never forgot that smile from Corey.

If she had glanced at her watch, she would have noticed that it was 7:15 p.m. Exactly five minutes before the party would be over.

© 2003 by Tananarive Due

Author Q. & A.:

Q:  Why did you write The Good House? 

A:   I've always wanted to write a traditional “haunted house” story.  People tell me about their personal haunting experiences, and I've always been fascinated by it, even though I've never experienced it myself.  The haunted house is only part of this book, though – it's also a cautionary tale about the consequences of abusing magic.  I also wanted to write a book to honor my grandmother, who died in 2000.  My grandmother wore a ring from Ghana like the one in the book, although her ring was not related to vodou.

Q:  Is anything else described in the book real?

A:  Yes and no.  The major elements of this story – the supernatural entity, the real-life tragedy of teen suicide, and a shocking murder – are based on true-life incidents involving people I know, or stories I read about that were purportedly true.  Some of the house's “haunting” manifestations are also from personal accounts.

That said, there's nothing true about it at all.  Everything has been changed to fit the story, so The Good House is not meant to be a literal representation of any true-life event.  Even the Bed-and-Breakfast I based the house on isn't really supposed to be haunted, although the owner told me a creepy story after the fact.  Because I write about the supernatural, people volunteer their creepy stories, so I've heard it all: ghost sightings, possession, levitation, prophetic dreams.  You'd be surprised at how many everyday people have had experiences they cannot explain.

Q:  What is the scariest story you've heard?

A:  It was a story about a shaman who encountered an entity she was not prepared for during a ceremony.  There are some details in my book inspired by that story, but I'll leave it at that.  It's a scary experience.  But I'm just as disturbed by the horror stories in the newspaper, or tragedies from life.  A friend of mine had a teenage son who shot himself, and I'm still haunted by that awful event.  A couple of stories from my local news also ended up in The Good House: One was about a Village Voice editor who disappeared during a day hike on Mt. Rainier, near Seattle.  In the Pacific Northwest, you get accustomed to hearing about disappearances.  Another was a story about a man who drowned his son. Stories of vanishings scare me, and stories about violence against children.  I think that's why children factor so much in my books, because I consider the corruption of children, or the harming of children, to be the worst horror.

Q:  What is the hardest thing about trying to write a scary book?

A:  It's hard to guess what will scare people.  My only choice is to try to create characters with deep psychological realism, which Stephen King does so brilliantly, and then write about the things that scare me.  Hopefully, enough of the universal human experience translates to the reader; the better I know myself, the better I can speak to the readers.

Movies usually make the mistake of relying on special effects instead of character.  Special effects are only scary if we care about the characters – and even then, what we don't see is usually much scarier than what we do see.  That's why there's a lot of mystery in The Good House.  My characters are fighting against an entity they don't completely understand, and which takes many forms. It's a terrifying adversary.

Q:  Have you ever had an experience with the Unknown?

A:  I've had some experiences I could choose to see in a metaphysical way – dreams that might have been visits or somehow significant – but I haven't encountered anything that has made me drop my jaw and say This can't be real.  Although, again, I know people who say they have had those experiences.  I'm not sure I would look forward to having a moment like that.  I prefer to write about it.  The real-life house I based the Good House on isn't supposed to be haunted, which was fine with me when I spent the night there.  A friend from Trinidad once told me that if I'd ever experienced Evil, I wouldn't write about it, and I have a feeling she's right.

Q:  Publishers Weekly wrote that your book “deals with a rare theme in the horror genre—the contemporary black experience in America.”  Is that what you set out to do?

A:  I hadn't really looked at it that way, but I think it was inevitable, since a couple of key plot elements are sparked by my characters' reactions to racial tensions.  But the book is not about race.  Sacajawea, the town's setting, is Main Street U.S.A.  There are black characters and white characters, so I hope the book will appeal to readers who already know my work—many of whom, but not all, are black—as well as to all people who like supernatural thrillers.  I really intended The Good House to appeal to a broad readership.  

 Q:   Why did you write a book set in a small town?

A:  The small-town horror story is its own sub-genre, and I wanted to enter that literary conversation as a writer.  More importantly, I got married five years ago and ended up living in a small town so my husband and I could live near his daughter, who was twelve at the time.  We live ten minutes away from her.  I love my husband and stepdaughter, but the move was a very big adjustment for a Miami girl like me.  I miss my family, and I miss the cosmopolitan nature of big-city life.  By the time we leave, we'll have lived in Longview, Washington – a city of about 30,000 – for six years.  Longview itself isn't really that tiny, but it's the biggest town for miles.  The Good House gave me an opportunity to vent my city-girl fears: fear of the wilderness, fear of vanishing, fear of isolation.  Writing the book also helped me learn to appreciate the community I was living in much more.

 Q: Is Sacajawea a real town?

 A:  No.  Sacajawea is mostly based on Cathlamet, a very small town about a half-hour's drive from Longview on State Route Four.  That's where the house is, and that's where I got some of the broader descriptions of “Sacajawea.”  But I didn't want to use a real town because I wanted to have more freedom as a fiction writer.

 Q:  Who are the characters based on?

A:  I cast The Good House as a movie while I was writing it, as I often do, so the major characters, in my mind, were film stars.  But most of the supporting characters are literally based on people I've met since I've been living in the Pacific Northwest.  I wanted to the book to have a ring of familiarity to people who actually live in this area.

 Q:  Your books are page-turners, but they always seem to have a message underneath.  Is that deliberate?

 A:  Absolutely!  No writer ever wants to make the “message” the most obvious part of the story, but that's what usually comes to me first – what is the book about?  On one level, it's about a multi-generational curse; on a deeper level, it's about the importance of strong family ties and the airing of family secrets to create healing in the newer generations. 

For example, often family members with a history of sexual abuse will try to hide long-ago events from their children or grandchildren, believing they're protecting them—but ironically, that history is present whether or not it's openly discussed. That history is in the air that they breathe.  Secrets often rob us of our remedies against the family issues that get passed on quietly from one generation to the next. The “demon” in this story could represent any of those issues we all have to contend with in our own families.

Q:  Which of your books do you think is the scariest? 

 A:  I set out to make The Good House the scariest book I'd ever written.  My other supernatural suspense novels have kept away from outright Evil, but this time I was ready to make my characters face an otherworldly force that could not be bargained with, reasoned with or pleaded with.

Q:  Do you ever scare yourself?

A:   I've found that when I reread The Good House, I often dream about it.   I think I must have really captured a lot of the stuff still in the “junk room” of my unconscious while I was writing this book, so I feel it on a very deep level when I read it, even though I know what's going to happen next.  So, yes, it scares me—but in a good way! 

 Q:  Do you consider yourself a horror writer?

A:  I consider myself a writer who loves to write horror.  I've also written a historical novel and a nonfiction civil rights memoir, so I don't think I fit comfortably into an easy category.  Categories are useful in bookstores, but I try to write good books, period. 

Q:  What are you working on next?

 A:  It's a ghost story about a contemporary R&B singer whose life is changed drastically by her encounters with a ghost.  I've very excited about it, but it's still in the very early stages.  This is another book that was inspired by a story a stranger told me about his experiences with the supernatural.  I may not have a lot of my own stories, but I make the best use I can of the stories other people tell me.

Q:  Are any of your books going to be made into a movie?

A:  This summer, Fox Searchlight optioned my second novel, My Soul to Keep (the prequel to The Living Blood).  A director/screenwriter has already been chosen, and Blair Underwood will star as the male lead, an immortal named Dawit.  I'm very excited.  Hopefully, The Good House will be next!  There has been interest in Hollywood already. 


©2011 Tananarive Due