Dark dispatches 

Norman author Sonia Gensler gets spiritual in The Dark Between.

by malena lott

Sonia Gensler isn’t afraid to walk into the shadows. The Norman author tackles both illusion and metaphysics in her sophomore novel, The Dark Between, available from Knopf in hardback and ebook formats.

The historical work of fiction’s setting — Cambridge, at the turn of the 20th century when séances and spiritualism cast a wide net — provides an eerie ambiance. Believers, scientists and crooks all contributed to its popularity. Gensler pointed to another book, Deborah Blum’s Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death, as her personal inspiration for the tale.

That quest for truth in the book led to a quest of her own.

“My writer brain was more interested in what life might have been like for their teenaged children, especially if one of these teens was hiding a paranormal ability of her own,” Gensler said. “So I took a few liberties with the time line, created my own teen protagonists, and voila! The Dark Between was born.”

Those protagonists — Kate, Asher and Elsie — find a body in the woods and start an investigation. Was something otherworldly at play, or are their minds playing tricks on them? With the backdrop of the scientists studying the paranormal and one character formerly making her living by playing a ghost in seances, the conflict runs high.

And romance? Yes, there’s that, too.

Young-adult novels continue to rise in popularity, although their readers tend to be adult females, but what draws Gensler to the category is the immediacy and intensity of those years.

Teens know drama and conflict better than any age group.

— Sonia Gensler

“For me, the teen years were a time of new freedoms, alarming responsibilities, passionate friendships and dizzying romances,” she said. “On an emotional level, I existed at the edge of a cliff, certain that any moment, I could be knocked into the abyss. Teens know drama and conflict better than any age group, and drama and conflict are essential for great stories.”

Gensler is uncertain if she herself believes in ghosts or mediums.

“I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of ghosts or spirit mediums. All that really matters to me is their story potential,” she said. “I love to write about ghosts because I’m fascinated by the idea of emotions and desires so intense that they continue after death, lingering as a residue that interacts with the living.”

Gensler is on tour promoting The Dark Between and working on a contemporary story with younger characters. “It’s a tale of friendship, creativity and betrayal. And there just might be some spookiness thrown in for good measure,” she said.

Gensler’s first novel, The Revenant, won the Parent’s Choice Silver Award and the Oklahoma Book Award.

As for Oklahoma, what she loves most is its people. “This state is full of warm, friendly, passionate, talented people. They never fail to charm and inspire me.”

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