Did you expect the success of your first book, Stiff?

I was absolutely floored. When I was working on [Stiff], I'd wake up and think, What are you doing? You're going to turn this thing in and Norton's going to go, "What is this? I'm sorry, there's some misunderstanding... clearly no one will buy this." I remember the day when my agent called, and he said, "You're on the list." And I honestly had no idea what list he could be talking about—the Illinois teen reading list?

Did that success influence you in writing Spook?

Yes, I was to a certain extent immune to those late-night terrors, the sense that the combination of my humor and the subject matter was a mistake, that I should rein in some of my comments and try to play it straight.

You write about many scientists who believed in paranormal phenomena. If scientists are gullible, what hope is there for the rest of us?

There's a couple of television shows, Mediumon NBC, and something called Ghost Whisperercoming out on CBS, and I don't know if we're seeing the pendulum swinging back, not just to renewed interest, but an interest without any critical thought, a blind acceptance of people saying that they are able to be in communication with the dead. It looks like we may be on the brink of a bit of a trend toward accepting the implausible without having any evidence. In that case [laughing], I couldn't be publishing at a worse time.

You had a "dazzle shot" moment with a medium, when she mentioned an hourglass, and your brother collects hourglasses. How did that make you feel?

It was a bit of a shock, really, because there isn't any way that she could have known that, it's such an obscure nugget of information about my brother.... And then I went, but this doesn't fit and that doesn't fit, so what's the deal?

When I think about where I'll go after I die, I think, well, where was I for billions of years before I were born?

My husband will wake up in the middle of the night thinking about death: "It's just not fair. My God, one day I'm going to be gone." I say, from the time you go to bed till you get up, you're pretty much gone. There's really not much difference. What scares me is being old, being senile, being in pain, being decrepit.

There are feet on the cover of Stiff, and feet on the cover of Spook. Is there a theme here?

I think it is an effort to pick up the thread and keep a similarity in the visuals to match the similarity in tone. And to kind of say it's the same kind of book, Mary hasn't gone all soft around the edges and found God. Though it's not the same pair of feet, I'm sure.