When Tara Hudson visited her grandparents in southeast Oklahoma as a child, they would often take her to their family cemetery, which was overgrown with vegetation and nestled in the mountains.
While the entire area is beautiful, it's also “kind of creepy,” she said, making it the perfect setting for her first novel, “Hereafter,” which HarperTeen is releasing Tuesday as part of its “Dark Days of Supernatural” tour. Demigods, fairies, grim reapers and ghosts are among the paranormal creatures that make an appearance in various young-adult books by the seven authors on the tour.
Referring to her time exploring in and around the southeast Oklahoma cemetery, Hudson, 30, said she always had the sense that someone was watching her.
“And when I reimagined the book, that's a ghost,” she said in a recent phone interview.
The ghost who stars in the book is Amelia. She often wakes up in the cemetery after a drowning nightmare that starts with a fall from a spooky bridge. She doesn't realize she's dead. She doesn't know her full name, how she got there or any of her life's details.
The novel begins with Amelia's wanderings, but it ends up part-romance, part good vs. evil thriller, as Amelia unravels the mysteries that surround her with help from Wilburton High School student Joshua. The high bridge that's the center of the mystery is modeled after a truss bridge that existed years ago in Latimer County.
Hudson lives in Choctaw with her husband, Robert, and their 7-month-old son, Wyatt, and is an attorney who works as a landman for Chesapeake Energy Corp.
She started writing “Hereafter” two years ago, when she was looking for a creative outlet and turned to her English writing major from college at the University of Oklahoma. Inspired from a short story she wrote in college about a ghost in the southeast Oklahoma cemetery, Hudson wrote one chapter of “Hereafter,” then another, sending each one to a couple of girlfriends, one at a time.
They kept asking, “What happens next?”
After she finished telling her story to them, Hudson started sending it off to potential agents to see what might happen next.
Hudson had more than 30 rejections before the agent she calls her “dream agent” called to say she was interested. At the same time, Harper Collins called the agent, Catherine Drayton with Inkwell Management, to ask if she knew of a young adult book that could round out its planned “Dark Days” tour.
“Within 10 days, we had a three-book deal with Harper Collins,” Hudson said, adding that Brayton called it “the fastest deal she's ever done.”
Hudson has just completed the second novel in the trilogy, “Arise,” which will revisit the ghosts and be set in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She used a storyboard and flash cards to outline the ghostly world she created and made more intricate in the second book.
“I think that's my inner attorney coming out. I just have a hard time creating an entire world in my brain without getting ready to visualize it,” Hudson said.
She also has a list of songs — listed on her website, tarahudson.com — that inspired her as she wrote.
“I can't write without a playlist,” Hudson said. “For me, music kind of keeps things cinematic,” whether fast music for an action scene or slow songs for a romantic one.
However she writes, she's still relishing in all the events that have happened for her in the last year.
“It's a really, really big year. 30. New baby. Book. All of it,” Hudson said. Having “Hereafter” published is “sort of an overnight dream come true for my family and me.”
BOOK RELEASE AND SIGNINGS
HarperTeen, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, will release “Hereafter,” the first novel by Choctaw author Tara Hudson on Tuesday as part of the publisher's “Dark Days of Supernatural” tour, which includes authors Aprilynne Pike, Veronica Roth, Amy Plum, Ellen Schreiber, Kim Harrison, Josephine Angelini and Hudson. Hudson's first stop on the five-city, official “Dark Days” tour with the other authors will be in Chicago that same day.
Hudson will be in Oklahoma City at 3 p.m. Saturday, signing her book at Full Circle Bookstore, 50 Penn Place. That signing is not part of the multi-author tour.
For more information, go online to tara