The update is coming, but first...
The Tough Questions
• Where is your favorite place to write? Read?
In the plot development stage of novel writing, I love hiking into the woods and writing in a notebook. When it’s time to write the manuscript, I work on my laptop at home or in a library.
• What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a writer, but when I was six, I also wanted to be a professional ninja.
• What is one thing you need when you sit down to write?
Headphones full of ambient music. No negotiation.
• What is one tip you would like to share with an aspiring author?
Finish your projects. Do not relent.
• Are you a pantser or plotter?
I’m the most obsessive plotter I’ve ever met, and ironically my most successful work is the product of the one time I pantsed.
From BOH reader Heather L.
• You need to hide a body - who do you call to help you?
I won’t say his name, but his service is of the highest quality, and his price is quite reasonable.
• How old were you when you wrote your first story?
I was in fourth grade, and it was a two-page creative writing assignment. I turned in a twenty-two page epic about a planet made of Jell-O.
• Favorite book of all time?
I feel like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein changed my experience of myself, of others, and of books.
From BOH reader Derek T.
• Are there any things required when you write?, i.e., listening to certain music? an adult beverage? complete silence? stuff like that.
I’m super ritualistic about writing. I library-hop and stake out a good spot to set up. I’ll use candles if I’m writing at home. I like low light, good headphones, and mysterious music. But this guy drinks only water
• Mountains or beach?
Mountains, Gandalf! Mountains!
• Would you go to space?
The hardest nope you can possibly imagine
• Do you eat supper or dinner?
Depends on how well I’m dressed
• Were you a good student?
I was a straight-A middle-schooler, a C-average high schooler, a straight-A college student, and a mediocre graduate student
From BOH reader Shannon E.
• What’s something you want to learn/ get better at?
I desperately need to brush up on German. I devoted years of my life to studying it as a young person, but regrettably switched to Latin at the university
• Is there anything you don't eat?
No alcohol, no mustard, no pickles
• If you could have 1 hour to sit down with anyone and talk? Who would it be and what would you talk about?
I would get stoned to shit with Carl Sagan and lay on a hill under the stars with him, rattling off incoherent questions about the cosmos
• What would you do if there was zombie apocalypse right now?
Channel Leon Kennedy. I’ve been training for this moment since 1998.
On my current project
I’ve mentioned several times over the past year that I’m working on the prequel to Stolen Tongues, but I haven’t yet announced the title or shared much about it. But now that all the character arcs and worldbuilding are finalized and the manuscript is under construction, I feel better about sharing a little more… without making any big announcements.
The reason I’ve been tight-lipped about this book is because the process by which I’ve developed it has differed from my three previous publications. As a result, today I’ve got two hundred pages of notes on plot, character arcs, setting, backstory – and only fifty pages of manuscript. This time around, I wrote each scene of the book independently, and now I’m stringing them all together, copy / pasting, refining and streamlining, and sort of tying a Gordian knot of four or five different narrative threads. The process is slow. Ughhhh it’s slow. But I’m proceeding with this method of book-building because of how challenging it is. I consider myself a novice of this craft, having never really taken any courses on writing, and not even being certain what an adverb is as I write this essay. Stolen Tongues was a fluke in an otherwise unremarkable writing career, and this time I want to really dazzle.
I’m navigating a particularly big constraint while developing this novel that I didn’t have to deal with on the other two: this story owes explanations for a bunch of loose ends in Stolen Tongues. When I wrote that story (which was originally written for an online roleplaying community and only by happenstance became a novel), I went in blind, releasing each piece of the twenty-part series in rapid fire, never knowing where the plot was going in the next entry. As a result, some things went unexplained, and now all of those chickens have come home to roost in the form of readers who demand satisfaction. What’s the deal with the cellar? Who made the dreamcatchers and what do they symbolize? Where does the Impostor come from, and why does he kill some people at random while becoming obsessed with others?
I think I’ve struck a fine balance with this prequel novel. It manages to address a number of questions in Stolen Tongues without overexplaining or spoon-feeding. It also opens up new worlds of possibilities for future works in that universe, and presents a few new questions to the reader that might never be answered. After all, books in the Pale Peak Mythos, as I’ve come to call it, are intended to be “scary” stories – but they’re also mysteries, and they take place within a Lovecraftian reality whose strangest wonders we humans can never comprehend. I think horror is scarier when we don’t know everything about the danger, and we are left to our own devices to puzzle over the whys and hows and what-ifs. This prequel very much embodies that spirit.
Several of my peers are cranking out amazing books in the interim between Stolen Tongues and its prequel – which I hope to release in late 2023, by the way. It feels like every time I text John Durgin, he’s released a new and high-quality book, and his proliferation engenders in me the fear that I’m failing to deliver to my audience. But I’m being slow for a reason: I’m doing things I’ve never done before in fiction writing, and I’m a very slow learner.
Despite this, I can already see that a contrast between Stolen Tongues and its follow-up will be apparent in short order: the characters in this new novel display far more interesting personality arcs than anyone in its predecessor, and the plot takes place across the entire territory of Pale Peak. That dreadful mountain is home to the Indian reservation from which Tíwé, Nathan, and Angela come, and the story involves the people who lived there in the 1960s. We will follow Tíwé’s father over the course of a year as he confronts the At’an-A’anotogkua, as well as a multitude of other obstacles to the quiet and peaceful life he so desperately seeks.
What I like most about this book is that it is foremost a character drama, and secondarily a horror story. The pacing, I daresay, is superior to Stolen Tongues, because it is bigger in scope and longer in length, its characters have room to breathe and grow and show us more of their dimensions, and the horror scenes have a fundamentally different relationship to the plot. Stolen Tongues was an experiment with the question, “Am I capable of writing horror scenes that creep people out?” and I’m grateful that the result was mostly a “yes.” However, because of the first episode’s immediate popularity on reddit, I was forced to build the plane in the air, and as such the horror scenes are a strobe of similar events that don’t drive the plot with much force. In fact, from a writing instructor’s perspective, my most popular book contains my lowest-quality writing.
In the prequel novel, the horror scenes derive from the character drama. The bad things that happen to the characters don’t just happen to make the reader’s skin crawl; they happen because of who the protagonists are, because of their difficult history, and because of the cultural collisions that plague the reservation and divide them against each other. And beneath it all, a deeper mystery weaves together the terrifying events, which Tíwé’s father has endeavored to unravel for most of his life. Ultimately, this story is about the confluence of history, memory, culture, belief, and loss for a people who find themselves in a land that does not belong to them. The project is informed by my academic background in History, and by my personal interest in Indigenous Studies, and its primary intention is to continue casting Native characters in new and interesting ways in horror fiction.
I think this prequel will be engaging to thrill-seekers who didn’t care for Stolen Tongues due to its lack of gore, and to drama fans who needed more than what the thin cast of characters could offer. Although I’m not fond of extreme horror or Splatterpunk, the terror scenes I’ve written for this project are more visceral than what I’ve done in the past, and I feel they do ratchet up the tension and the stakes beyond anything in the previous novel. Lastly, I rather think that fans of the first book will enjoy the prequel as well, not only because they’ll get more context on the Impostor and some of the unanswered questions, but because they’ll get to return to Pale Peak and experience a fascinating new tale with the dark, wintery atmosphere they’ve come to love. In fact, they’ll get to explore much more of the mountain (and its lightless innards), and encounter it not just as a hostile setting, but as a menacing antagonist.
The going is slow, but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it. I truly love this story and it’s certainly the most complex project I’ve ever undertaken. If you’ve read my work or intend to, thank you so much for the support. It has changed my life.
THE PALE MOUNTAIN CRUMBLES
THE HOT FOREST BURNS
THE HIDDEN VALLEY DROWNS
THE CITY OF TOWERS FALLS
Thank you Felix for stopping in and sharing the update! Looking forward to this release! 💕
Drop a comment on this post to be entered in this month's giveaway or you can fill out the FORM.