Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"Our House" -- the idea (reader question)

A reader writes:

Dear Ed: 

I enjoyed your novel Our House. Would you care to share with us where the idea for this story came from?

Our House is a novel about a young couple who buys their first home--only to discover that the former owner of the house doesn't want to give it up, and is ultimately willing to kill to keep it. (That's a very short synopsis, the longer version you'll find below.)

Actually, the idea for this story did have a basis in real life:

About a year ago, I heard secondhand about a young couple who was harassed by one of the former owners of their new home. The harassment took bizarre forms: threats scrawled in chalk on the driveway, disturbing surprises left in doorways and in the mailbox, etc.

Just like in the book, the harasser was the former lady of the house. The former man of the house was in favor of selling the home, but his wife was dead-set against the sale--for reasons that never became completely clear. 

Also like in the book, there were twelfth-hour appeals from the realtor, who counseled the buyers to back out of the deal. The realtor told the buyers that the woman was disturbed, and that they would probably regret the purchase.

But the buyers insisted on exercising their purchase contract rights, and they endured months of harassment from the home's former matron. (I never did hear how--or if--they resolved the situation.)

That is where the similarities between Our House and its real-life inspiration end. The particulars of Deborah Vennekamp's personality, and the mischief she inflicts on the Hubers, are entirely fictional. The backstory of the Vennekamp family and their house at 1120 Dunham Drive is also entirely fictional.

Deborah Vennekamp's creepy adult son, David Vennekamp, is entirely fictional.

Her shifty adult daughter, Marcia Vennekamp is entirely fictional.

The entire murder mystery is entirely fictional.

The Hubers' marital problems--including suspicions of betrayal and infidelity--are entirely fictional.

But the basic concept: of homeowners being tormented by a former occupant of their house--that came from real life.

And that's the way stories often work for me: I experience, see or hear something strange in real life; and the wheels start turning. 

As was the case with Our House, the final story that comes out of these moments of insight is usually very different (or highly embellished) from the original idea itself. 

Book description:

Some dream homes are deadly…Appearances can be deceiving.

On the surface, 34-year-old Jennifer Huber seems to have it all: a handsome, loving husband, a six-year-old son whom they both adore. A respectable job.

Jennifer and her husband have just purchased their first house: The neo-Tudor house at 1120 Dunham drive appears to be their “dream home”.

But everything is not what it seems: The previous owner of the house has an unusual—and ultimately violent—attachment to the house. After the Hubers move in, sinister things begin to happen: Dead animals appear in closets, strange figures disturb the Hubers’ sleep in the middle of the night.

There is more to the house at 1120 Dunham Drive than meets the eye: As Jennifer uncovers the secrets behind the home’s history, she finds herself drawn into a web of lies, violence, and sexual betrayal.

All the while, Jennifer struggles to contain a secret of her own—and to combat an act of blackmail that could destroy her marriage.

From the author of the crime novel ‘Blood Flats’, and the horror novel ‘Eleven Miles of Night’, ‘Our House’ is a riveting thrill ride through the dark undercurrents that might lie beneath the placid surface of a suburb near you.

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