Writing About Ghosts: a Guest Post by Sanctuary Author Andi C. Buchanan

Please welcome author Andi C. Buchanan to the site today, to talk about writing about ghosts and specifically doing so in their brand-new contemporary fantasy Sanctuary, which released this weekfrom Robot Dinosaur Press! Here’s the story:

Morgan’s home is a sanctuary for ghosts.

The once-grand, now dilapidated old house they live in has become a refuge for their found family—Morgan’s partner Araminta, an artist with excellent dress sense; Theo, a ten-year-old with an excess of energy; quiet telekinesthetic pensioner Denny—as well as the ghosts who live alongside them. All people who once needed sanctuary for their queer, neurodivergent selves.

Now they offer that safety to the dead as well as the living.

When a collection of ghosts trapped in old bottles are delivered to their door, something from the past is unleashed. A man who once collected ghosts – a man who should have died centuries before – suddenly has the house under his control. Morgan must trust their own abilities, and their hard-won sense of self, to save their home, their family, and the woman they love.

Buy it: Books2Read

And here’s the post by author Andi C. Buchanan!

Somehow, I keep writing about ghosts.

In From a Shadow Grave (Paper Road Press, 2019), I took a local ghost story, and imagined the futures a murdered teenager could have had: if she’d survived, if things had changed, or if her ghost had been freed from the road tunnel it haunts.

Now, in Sanctuary (Robot Dinosaur Press, 2022), I tell the story of a queer, neurodivergent found family who live in a haunted house, how they live alongside ghosts.

Both these stories are fundamentally queer at heart, and the link is no accident.

When I was a small child we lived, for a few years, near Shibden Hall in the north of England, a large old house not unlike the setting for Sanctuary. I remember family meet-ups in the gardens, running round on the lawns, hiding behind hedges. We toured the old house at least once, but it was cheaper to access just the gardens. I was in my twenties before I realised the hall’s most famous resident was Anne Lister, often described as the “first modern lesbian”and more recently  inspiration for the Gentleman Jack TV series.

I don’t think it was a history actively concealed from me, so much as an indication that queer people need to look so much harder for their histories, and they can be hard to find even when you’re really close.

Later, my time at school was spent under a law derived from – though stricter than Britain’s Section 28. In practice, the impact of that was to ban any positive mention of queer people in schools. Even though I had some excellent history teachers, there was no chance of queer history making its way into our discussions. We had the infamous picture of the burning of Hirschfield’s library in our textbooks and were told in generic terms that the Nazis burned books they didn’t like.

If ghosts exist then they are a direct connection to our history, one that can’t be legislated away, one that we don’t have to search for. Queer people still need our ghosts.

And then, of course, there’s having to live in communities where death is so common. The threat of being buried or commemorated under the wrong name. The frequent loss of religious beliefs around death – or being told you will be unwelcome in any afterlife you believe in.

I’ve long felt that those of us queer people who are older millenials, born in the early to mid eighties, occupy an almost liminal space in our relationship to queer history and culture; the last ones to experience being entirely shut out from information, and the first to have the experience that we could never be shut out. And sometimes it feels like I’m forever on one side of that boundary and the other doesn’t seem quite real.

And so I write about ghosts. Ghosts that seem to be from a different side of a world that isn’t so far away. Ghosts that are sometimes overtly queer – or were, before death – and sometimes not, but all carry with them the possibility of a link to the past, a sense of connection that resonates for those looking for queer history.

Ghosts are the fleeting glimpse of a history we have the privilege of looking at, but only sometimes, in unexpected places. We can’t guarantee we will always be able to find it. Sometimes it is translucent, distorted – we can see parts of it, but not the whole, have to rely on guesses and assumptions. We have to face up to the inaccuracies our assumptions bring. We can’t promise it will stay. We tell each other what we have seen. Sometimes we are scared. We try not to forget what we have seen.


Andi C. Buchanan lives just north of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Winner of a Sir Julius Vogel Award, their genre-blending novella From a Shadow Grave explores a historical murder, the legends surrounding it, and what might have been. Andi’s short fiction has previously been published in Fireside, Cossmass Infinities, Apex, and more. You can find Andi at https://andicbuchanan.org or on twitter @andicbuchanan.

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