Barzak’s New Novella Unravels a Home’s Haunted History

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Christopher Barzak’s newest work of fiction is actually one of his earliest stories.

The Youngstown-based author recently released “A Voice Calling” (Psychopomp, 96 pages). It is available at the publisher’s website and other online retailers.

The Youngstown State University writing professor wrote the novella at least 10 years ago, and soon afterward condensed it into a short story so it could be published in a literary magazine.

Last year, Barzak was asked to write a novella for the Psychopomp publishing house and jumped at the opportunity. It provided a chance to finally get his novella brought to the public in its original length.

There was just one problem: Barzak could not find the computer flash drive where he stored the piece.

Christopher Barzak

But working from memory, the published short story and several pages of notes he saved from his original writing process, he was able to rewrite the novella. It was published last month.

Barzak wrote the novella around the same time he penned “One for Sorrow,” which became the basis of the acclaimed 2014 film “Jamie Marks Is Dead.”

To rewrite the novella, Barzak had to recapture the mindset he had when he first wrote it. That added to the challenge.

“I was a much younger writer then and still figuring out a lot of things,” he said. “Since I was able to restore the story to its original length – even though it’s probably a bit different than what the writer I was 20 years ago made of the material – I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity.”

The research that Barzak did on the history of Kinsman, Ohio, in writing “One for Sorrow” came into play when he wrote “A Voice Calling.”

“I had picked up a lot of historical details and references in researching the history of this region that didn’t necessarily fit into the scope of the story of ‘One for Sorrow,’ but that I wanted to explore,” he said. “[The novella] was the vehicle that allowed me to do that.”

The novella was Barzak’s first foray into historical narrative but will likely not be his last.

Similar to “One for Sorrow,” the new novella is also set in rural Trumbull County, and also Pittsburgh.

The story centers on an out-of-place but extravagant old house in the countryside, not far from the Pennsylvania state line.

When a young woman from a nearby town takes up with the strange man who lives there, her life becomes enmeshed with the spirits of the house. She becomes a recluse, worrying her family, friends and the gossipy townsfolk.

The story then peels away the house’s shroud of mystery to illuminate the unseemly lives of its earliest inhabitants and their accursed descendants.

The historical detail in “A Voice Calling” enhances its spine-tingling aura.

Barzak often explores the intersection of the spirit and human worlds. He said he will continue to write ghost stories with historical flavor, as well as other types of novels.

“Some of my other short stories and pieces of my other novels have historical aspects to them, and it’s been a wonderful way for me to explore the past, take what I learn from it, and render it into a story for the present, and hopefully for future audiences,” he said.

Pictured at top: The cover of Christopher Barzak’s new novella, “A Voice Calling.”

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