Ghost Stories with a 


Goan Flavour


Iris C F Gomes


Author Jessica Faleiro’s maiden novel, Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa, was published in 2012. She remembers suppressing her latent talent as a writer for as long as she was a student and untill she had graduated in Environmental Policy as an environmental scientist. She worked in research and policy and as a lobbyist before engaging her desire to write as a hobby. Soon it became evident that writing was an intrinsic part of her being and she says, ‘I’m happiest when filling a blank page with words, and creating stories and poems generated by something deep within myself. …at some level within myself I did always want to be a writer.’


Born in Goa and brought up in Kuwait, Jessica is a globetrotter of sorts having lived in Goa, Mumbai, Miami, Paris and London, and travelled to Afghanistan, Haiti, the Philippines and other countries for work. Her many travels have naturally given her the impetus to write travel features. She also writes essays, poems and articles which have appeared in The Times of India, Muse India, India Currents, Mascara Literary Review, Tambdi Mati and Skyscanner. Between bigger writing projects, Jessica works for international charity organisations as a communications consultant. ‘It appeals to the part of my brain that deals well with conceptual, abstract and strategic ways of thinking and working,’ says Jessica.


The gritty, open and passionate poetry of Sharon Olds and Maya Angelou inspires Jessica through their unique style of writing. Jessica seems particularly taken up with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. She says, ‘Both writers seemed to have so much fun with the language. I didn’t know that any writer could write in such a way and be published – where the rules of writing were thrown out and readers were left with such great big, bountiful images and incredible narrative, characters and landscapes.’


For her novel, Jessica drew her inspiration from her beloved Goa. Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa comprises of a number of short stories that are interlinked and recounted by different members of the Fonseca family, who come together in present day Goa to celebrate the 75th birthday of their patriarch Savio. In the eerie ambience of lashing rain and a house bereft of electrical power, the reader finds through each story how the family members are connected as they reach deeper into their history to discover the secret behind their family name.


It was Jessica’s own encounter with the supernatural as a child that sowed the seed for this novel. She says, ‘When I was ten years old visiting my grandmother’s house I believed that I encountered a ghost.’ The impact it had on her led her to enquire about similar experiences that other people might have had. In addition to ferreting out these accounts of the supernatural for two decades, she did extensive research about paranormal activity which eventually evolved into her novel.

Describing the process that brought this novel into being, Jessica recalls the many years she spent nurturing the concept of this novel and writing on and off but not really getting anywhere. She began taking writing classes after work and continued with them for three years untill she realised that they were not helping much either. During that time she never managed to complete a full length story. Finally, she elected to join a part time master’s programme in Creative Writing at Kingston University, UK. She continued working full time and so it was a trial completing writing assignments at the weekends and while on flights, since she had to travel extensively for work. Rubbing shoulders with well known authors and having deadlines to meet prodded the litterateur within her. For her MA thesis, she produced a 15,000 word document that was of publishable quality. It would become a very rough draft for her future novel. She says, ‘There’s a vast difference between my thesis and the published novel, so there was a large learning curve even after I graduated but the first huge step I took paid off.’


When questioned about the choice of the genre, Jessica says, ‘I guess you could say that I didn’t choose the genre, it chose me! I wouldn’t have written this book if I hadn’t had the experience I did at my grandmother’s house all those years ago.’ 


Considerable research has been carried out in shaping Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa before and after Jessica started writing the novel. She researched ghost stories, Gothic literature, frame narratives and interlinked stories, and read ghost stories by Satyajit Ray, Ruskin Bond, Vikram Chandra, M R James and others. She says of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which is one of her favourites, ‘What I loved about it was how the author used language to create a landscape, both physical and emotional, that really heightens the reader’s emotions and takes over one’s imagination.’


Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa has received much praise but has disappointed aficionados of gory and overly horror inducing ghost stories. It is the psychological element attached to hauntings that Jessica wishes to present to her readers by examining the true basis of ghosts and supernatural occurrences. 


The most difficult aspect of being a writer is sustaining creative ideas to the end of a finished product. The ideas by themselves come easily to Jessica, but evaluating the potency of an idea and knowing when to keep writing aside until inspiration motivates her to pick up where she left off, are some of the problems she faces. She says, ‘But like with everything else worth doing, it takes practice, experience and trusting one’s intuition.’

The most difficult aspect of being a writer is sustaining creative ideas to the end of a finished product. The ideas by themselves come easily to Jessica, but evaluating the potency of an idea and knowing when to keep writing aside until inspiration motivates her to pick up where she left off, are some of the problems she faces. She says, ‘But like with everything else worth doing, it takes practice, experience and trusting one’s intuition.’


The Goa based writer has three books in various stages of progression. ‘One is in the editing stage, another in the research stage, and another is still at zero draft,’ says Jessica, who is looking to generate renewed interest in her novel Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa.