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This Sibling Writing Duo Explores the Connection Between Addiction and Ghost Stories

Maddie, Simon, and Wally in School Spirits. Maddie sits on a desk with Simon and Wally behind her.

School Spirits, a new series about a high school student tasked with solving her own murder, is now streaming on Paramount+. What sets School Spirits apart from other ghost stories and murder mysteries is its unique model of the afterlife, in which Maddie (Peyton List) is confined to her old high school campus, but finds friendship in a support group made up of other students who have died throughout the years. That structure allows the show to explore themes of healing and recovery in surprising ways.

We spoke with Nate Trinrud and Megan Trinrud, the sibling writing team who created the show, along with showrunner Oliver Goldstick, about their inspiration for the story. It turns out that although the plot of the show is fantastical, the heart of the story came from a very personal place.

“Ten years ago, we had some very unfortunate events happen in our family,” Nate explains. “We’d graduated from college, made it out into the big world, and then our father, who has always struggled with alcoholism, became very ill. We ended up having to move back to our hometown in the midwest, and kind of re-figure out what our lives were going to be.

“It was a really tough time for us, and there was a moment when we knew wanted to write about what we’d been going through,” Nate says. “At the time, one of us said we felt dead inside, so we took that and ran with it. We wanted to make a show that’s very much about when you’ve hit the lowest part of your life, what can you do to try and find your way back? To try and recover, and heal, and move on?”

Although the origins of Maddie’s story aren’t immediately obvious in the show, the Trinruds say that the show’s subplots about addiction were very deliberate. “It’s something that we were personally exploring, and that we’ll continue to explore, for the rest of our lives,” Megan says. “It’s part of how we live. But we also realized that as we were finding catharsis and coming up with this story, we were sharing more with people around us, and realizing that our story wasn’t particularly unique to us. A lot of people deal with very similar issues, whether it is addiction in the family, whether it is feeling aimless and confused about what to do with your life … Talking about it is how we started to heal.”

Check out the full interview below!

(featured image: Paramount+)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and covers film, television, and books for The Mary Sue. When she's not making yarn on her spinning wheel, she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. You can check out more of her writing at, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.