Horror Writer Sued By Church?
By Scott Nicholson
My first novel The Red Church was inspired by a local legend of an actual haunted church here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with ghost stories dating back 150 years.
I’d put together a short video on the church as a college student, and when it was time for an idea for a novel, that story stuck with me. I loosely incorporated elements of the legend, modernizing it and populating it with my own characters. Only a few details came from the actual legend, such as the church bell ringing even though its rope was long gone because a preacher supposedly hanged himself from it.
The publisher asked me for cover ideas and I sent a photo of the actual church, and the original paperback cover looks a lot like the real church. When the book was released, I probably used the local legend in some of my publicity for the book.
The church elders sent me a threatening letter after my novel was published, accusing me of “slandering” the long-dead preacher and the church:
“We…are most distressed at your recent novel supposedly based on legend and “research.” Brother [name redacted] was a holy man…With the help of his flock he built the church you slander erroneously. What kind of “research” did you do for your damaging book?”
The letter went on to mention the beloved saint died of natural causes and was buried near the church entrance out of respect. They also sent a copy to the editor of the local paper, but I don’t think it was ever published.
I know slander and libel law pretty well, and a building can’t be slandered, and neither can a dead person (except maybe in California, where laws don’t make sense and Mickey Mouse has more rights than a living person). But secretly I was thinking, “Boy, I hope they take some kind of legal action. Fox News couldn’t resist the headline ‘Church Sues Horror Writer.’ And I’d sell a million copies.”
Alas, it never came to pass. Neither did my threat to hold a book-burning to protest the publication of my own book. Life went on, and so did death, and the church is still there.
I don’t know if anyone at the church actually read the book, but the truth has never stood in the way of moral indignation. I don’t go around divulging the church’s real identity and address, because the church has been vandalized in the past because of the legends.
But I also don’t think anyone owns folk legends, or can suppress them, and a you can’t keep a good ghost down.
(The Red Church is 99 cents at Amazon and signed copies are available directly from the author for $8.95 plus shipping at http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/redchurch.htm)
Scott Nicholson is giving away 15 percent of his ebook revenues in September! Details are at http://hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com. His other books include The Skull Ring, Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, and nine other novels, seven story collections, and six screenplays. Look for Liquid Fear and Chronic Fear from Amazon on Dec. 20. More at Haunted Computer
I hope you’ll go buy your own copy of The Red Church which is the book I’m promoting for the month of September!
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In addition to all the awesome stuff Scott is doing this month he’s giving away a $10 Gift Card to one lucky person who comments on this post!
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