I recently talked with Annie Wilder, author of three books dealing with true life paranormal experiences. Her first book, House of Spirits and Whispers, is about her experience living in a haunted house and working with paranormal investigators. Her second book, Spirits Out of Time, recounted her own extended family’s experiences with the supernatural. I enjoyed her latest book, Trucker Ghost Stories: And Other True Tales of Haunted Highways, Weird Encounters, and Legends of the Road, a compilation of stories told by folks who encountered eerie phenomena while traveling highways and back roads. You can learn more about Annie Wilder at her website.
Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Trucker Ghost Stories.
Steven: You mention on your website that you and your sister had a supernatural encounter on the road that neither of you would talk about with other people for years. What led you to decide to partially break that silence in your book, and what motivated you to compile the stories and write Trucker Ghost Stories at this point in your life?
Annie Wilder: I included the story of what happened to my sister and me in Trucker Ghost Stories because it involved an encounter with a freaky astral being and a semi-truck. We both saw the same thing (something that looked like the Michelin Tire Man) hanging onto the back of a truck for an extended period of time as we drove through a blizzard. This cartoonish-looking being seemed to interact with us and even help us. The experience was pretty bizarre — the fact that there was another witness, and it wasn’t just me who saw the Michelin Tire Man definitely made it easier to write about.
Trucker Ghost Stories is my third book and I thought it was a cool mash-up of paranormal encounters and one of the traditionally uber masculine professions. Plus, I wanted to hear the stories of what truckers and other travelers were encountering on the roads.
The hallmark of a good interviewer is to draw people out and get them to tell their story. You mentioned that when you were a child you were encouraged by a man who worked with your father who was reticent to tell his personal ghost story to others, but was willing to talk to you. How are you able to get people to talk about these supernatural encounters, especially when they know they open themselves up to ridicule?
People are always telling me secrets and interesting things. I think they know they can trust me and that I will respect them. I’ll also keep their story to myself, if that’s what they want. I’m a really good listener and am genuinely interested in other people and their stories. And, I’m pretty open and that usually inspires the people around me to be open as well.
Regarding Bill Sykes, the trucker who told me his ghost story when I was 13, I
think the fact that I was a kid made him feel safe. When I tried to track him down so I could put his story in the book, I discovered that Bill had passed away some years ago. So I dedicated the book to his memory.
Who were some of your literary influences or favorite authors? Are you interested only in reading and hearing about “true” ghost stories, or are you also a fan of speculative or other fiction?
Oh, there are so many writers and genres that I love. In sci fi and fantasy fiction, I loved the Philip Pullman trilogy HIS DARK MATERIALS. I also just learned of a fabulous writer named Leigh Bardugo when Tor featured her short story “The Witch of Duva” in their newsletter. It was so well written and so powerful, I posted a link to it on my Facebook page and also emailed a link to my mom and a bunch of my friends.
I read Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour a number of years ago and was so terrified by it that I was actually afraid of the book itself. I didn’t want it near my bed.
Have you got any future projects that you’d like to tell our readers about?
My first book, House of Spirits and Whispers, was about living in a strange and magical haunted house. I still live in the house, and for my next book,I’m actually collaborating with some of the house spirits, including Leon Kuchenmeister, the old man who lived here before me. I consider Leon to be a gatekeeper and protector of this house, and an ally in the spirit world.
There’s a psychic from Texas named Linda Drake who has great success in talking to the spirits in my house. I booked two sessions with her and just posed questions to the house spirits, via Linda. The spirits answered some of the questions I’m most often asked about my house, giving answers that were intriguing and enlightening and sometimes surprising. I think people will enjoy it; it’s been fun to work on.
Thanks, Annie, and best wishes!
Readers, Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Trucker Ghost Stories. If you want a copy before Halloween, Kindle and audio versions are available.