EDITOR’S NOTE: “Yachats author Mylene Dressler writes ghost story trilogy, signs movie option,” Cheryl Romano’s story about Yachats author Mylene Dressler, was published originally on March 17, 2022, by YachatsNews.com, an ArtsWatch Community Partner. ArtsWatch is republishing the piece with permission.
When Mylene Dressler and her family moved to Yachats three years ago, an extra soul might have tagged along — the spirit of an Irish chambermaid who’s the lead character in Dressler’s ghost story trilogy, The Last to See Me.
Now that the novel has been optioned for a movie, many more people may get to “see” Emma Rose Finnis, who lived, worked, and died more than 100 years ago in a northern California village.
The last in Dressler’s trilogy, Our Eyes at Night, has just been published. As Dressler (called “M” by her friends) embarks on her new book tour, a notable film figure is working on bringing ghostly Emma Rose to movie life.
Livia De Paolis has optioned The Last to See Me and plans to write the screenplay once financing has been secured. Also an actress and producer, De Paolis wrote and directed a movie called The Lost Girls, inspired by J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan and scheduled for release in June. She stars alongside Vanessa Redgrave and others.
“It was my dream to have a woman director, someone who really understands Emma Rose Finnis,” said Dressler. “My book is her next project; I’m in good hands with her. We think of ghosts as static, frozen characters, but Emma Rose is here to tell us that the past is never dead — and neither is she.”
“Emma went ‘poof’ and just appeared”
In between the first and third volumes of Emma Rose’s saga, Dressler produced another novel, I See You So Close. In all, she has written seven books. She has won several literary awards, including a fellowship from the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians and a Fulbright Award.
The Last to See Me is published by Skyhorse Publishing, a New York City house known for bestsellers, such as Disloyal by Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to Donald Trump. A division of Skyhorse published the second and third novels in the Emma Rose series.
A retired associate professor of English and creative writing at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., Dressler said the inspiration for her ghost series is as supernatural as her plots.
“My husband and I were driving along the California coast near Mendocino. I turned to him and said, ‘It’s so beautiful here, even if you died you wouldn’t want to leave.’ The moment I said that, Emma went ‘poof!’ and just appeared.
“I could see her pompadour hair, high-necked blouse, nipped-in waist,” Dressler said. “I knew she had to be at least 100 years old. And I knew I had to listen to her and find out who she is. The Emma Rose series was born from that moment.”
Born in Holland, Dressler moved with her parents to California as a child. Her first career was as a professional ballet dancer. “I always had the idea that when I was done dancing, I would write. Both of these art forms require storytelling and rhythm.”
As the Emma Rose fables started to take off, garnering glowing reviews and lots of media attention, Dressler found the series requiring more of her time. So she retired from Guilford College, and she and her husband, Dennis, started exploring new home locations.
“Yachats is a huge inspiration to me”
“We were looking for a place to semi-retire (Dennis is a retired academic) and someone urged us to check out Yachats. We weren’t here but an hour before knowing, ‘OK, we have to live here.’”
The Dresslers and her parents moved to a home on Horizon Hill three years ago. “Now Yachats is a huge inspiration to me.”
“I’ve met lots of creative people in town — fellow writers, editors, and artists. Yachats seems to attract people who are willing to be in a small but open space. You feel grounded, but you also feel this expanse around you of ocean and forest. It’s enormously creatively sustaining, to feel both rooted and airy at the same time.”
Dressler composes her works on a computer, writing for “about four hours a day before I run out of gas.” She doesn’t draft outlines before sitting down to write. “I have no idea where it’s going when I’m writing; I figure if I’m surprised, then the reader will be, too.”
It takes her several years to complete a book, and she takes time out from writing afterward. When her book tour concludes in late April, she’ll recharge by pursuing a different type of adventure.
Since moving to Yachats, Dressler has taken up surfing. “I’m a beginner; I stay in the bay” where the Yachats River meets the Pacific Ocean. Exploring the beaches with her two border collies is another favorite pastime.
The Yachats resident is on tour to promote Our Eyes at Night, the last in the Emma Rose series. She’ll visit libraries and bookstores in Houston and Denver, with stops in West Virginia, North Carolina, Utah, and California.
While she doesn’t expect to “see” Emma Rose again, that doesn’t mean there won’t be further contact.
“Now she lives in the books and whispers in my ear,” Dressler said. “She has transitioned.”