In How to Sell a Haunted House (Berkley, Jan. 2023), Grady Hendrix digs into grief, family dysfunction, and houses with minds of their own. “We really like to form connections with things that aren’t human,” says Hendrix, whose previous books include The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. “Maybe it’s a two-way street and the place has feelings about you back.” He spoke with PW about financial horror stories and what the dead leave behind for the living.

Do you have any real-life experiences with haunted houses?

My family lived in a haunted house before I was born. My mom saw apparitions, heard people walking around—the classic haunted house stuff. And everyone was really matter-of-fact about it. These were practical, straightforward folks who just acknowledged that it was haunted with 100% conviction. It was a given—the Hendrix house on Pitt Street was haunted.

What haunted house tales is your new book in conversation with?

Nineteenth-century gothic stories are much more about family secrets, and this is closer to those. But the ones it’s most in conversation with are the Burnt Offerings kind of haunted houses. Burnt Offerings [by Robert Marasco, 1973] was the first one that was like, “You
got a bargain on a house that’s way out of your price range, and now you’re gonna pay for it.”

How has economic scarcity influenced your writing?

When interviewers have asked, “What are you really scared of?” I’d say, “Being broke.” Because I am! That’s a feeling unlike any other, and it’s a familiar feeling people just don’t think of as horror. I can’t get a handle on a character unless I know what they do for a living. Work is just a huge part of being alive.

Was there a particular haunted house trope you were excited to explore in this book?

I normally don’t like the history of a place somehow informing the haunting itself. I worked for a parapsychological research place for a while, and the majority of hauntings take place in unremarkable places, like medical records storage facilities. But family’s all about history, and I really fell into the history of the place informing the haunting. So something I hated wound up being fun to do.

How do you think the horror genre has responded to issues like Covid-19 and quarantine?

Domesticity itself is intrinsic to horror. Horror has only gotten more popular during the pandemic, because we’re living the genre. How to Sell a Haunted House deals a lot with death and mortality, and puts it front and center in a domestic setting. People are going through a period right now where they don’t want bummer endings, which I get, but horror gets a pass because the genre always looks at death.

Do you think that a lack of closure is essential for a haunted house story?

Grieving is an overwhelming and intense process. We accumulate stuff that doesn’t mean anything to the people coming after us. We have weird relationships with inanimate objects—most people have that comfort object when they’re kids, a blanket or a doll, and you understand the point it served, but put it through a shredder? You can’t do it. And it doesn’t make you stupid or weird, it makes you human.

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