Mylène Dressler debuts new novel at Scuppernong

Mylène Dressler, Associate Professor of English, and fellow Associate Professor Diya Abdo had to change their planned three-week, study-abroad course to a class they titled Writing in Real Time // Photo by Maia Dery.

Maia Dery

Mylène Dressler, Associate Professor of English, and fellow Associate Professor Diya Abdo had to change their planned three-week, study-abroad course to a class they titled Writing in Real Time // Photo by Maia Dery.

On Friday, Sept. 8, Assistant Professor of English Mylène Dressler launched her first supernatural book.

“The Last to See Me” was released on Sept. 5 and is already receiving praise from many authors and readers online.

The book’s launch party was held at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro. Many of Dressler’s students and colleagues from Guilford College attended the event to celebrate her story.

“I’m feeling super happy right now,” said Dressler. “Many writers, I think, have no idea how these events are going to go, but you’re always a little bit nervous. You never know how many people are going to show.

“You have no idea if you’re going to be articulate about your book because it’s the first time you’re really trying to talk about the book beyond the scope of the pages itself, but it seemed to go well.”

The event began at 7 p.m. with cookies inspired by the novel and its cover were served to the attendees, they offered a prelude to the night’s reading and discussion.

“The Last to See Me” tells the story of the ghost that inhabits the Lambry mansion in Benito, California. The ghost is Emma Rose Finnis,  and she has haunted the mansion since her death over a century ago. Emma must try to “survive” while a ghost hunter, Philip Pratt, tries to exterminate her from the property Emma believes to be hers.

This is Dressler’s fifth novel and is different than anything she has ever done.

“It took me four years to write this book, and that’s not unusual for me, but … I told myself that it was taking so long because I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Dressler. “Now I know it’s because I’ve never written a ghost story before.

“I’ve always written realistic fiction. I was also trying to write a ghost story that had literary language in it as well. I wanted this novel to have the page-turn quality of the genre, but I also wanted to hold the reader back and make them go down and deep into the water.”

The experience behind the story was also different than her other books.

“About six years ago, (my husband) and I were driving up Highway 1 in California,” said Dressler. “So we’re getting up close to Mendocino in this beautiful atmosphere and bewitching road, and I look … to (my husband) and I say ‘What if someone lived here and they never wanted to leave? And what I meant by that really was what if someone lived and died here and they never wanted to leave?

“So I had this idea and then suddenly … Emma Rose Finnis started to take shape in front of me. It was as if she was forming on the dashboard in front of me. I could see her heart-shaped sharp face, her cleft chin. She looked strong; strong neck, strong shoulder, strong hands, strong body… it seemed to me she was a working person, a young workingwoman. I could see her hair; it was dark, (and) there was something that suggested she was the child of immigrants.”

From that moment on, Dressler would spend several years working to find the secrets of Emma’s life and how her ghost was going to fight to stay in a place she felt she belonged in.

Dressler made sure to not only speak to the attendees, but also to engage them. She asked the audience to participate along with her and asked questions and created discussion about fear, literature and passion.

“I thought it was really good and interactive,” said junior Gillian Sherman. “It wasn’t just a straight reading. I liked that she asked questions and that she really engaged the audience. I also love her emotions and (how) expressive (she is). I also just love Mylène.”

Dressler read parts of the book that brought emotion and context to her characters’ journeys.

“I think the sections that Mylène chose to speak about were really good picks,” said junior Casey Graziosi. “They made me want to buy the book for the story (and) for everything else that’s in it, the writing, the characters, the themes… They were able to shine through in what she read to us without giving anything away.”

“The Last to See Me” is available now for purchase at Scuppernong, Amazon and all major book retailers.

“(Mylène) is a beautiful writer and even a better speaker,” said junior Caleb Amstutz. “And I am thrilled to read this book all in one night.”