HAPPY HALLOWEEN FOLKS
In case you hadn’t heard, earlier this year, a little horror novel called POE won the Amazon Breakthrough Contest this year! Today, I have author J. Lincoln Fenn telling us all about it.
After you read the interview, type in the comments below with your SCARIEST HAUNTING STORY (preferably real) that has happened to you or a friend or that you heard through the wilds of the interweb and I will send you AN E-COPY OF POE! Winners announced Nov 2, so you have until Nov 1 to enter!
It’s really a mix of concepts influenced by my life. I’ve experienced horror, I’ve been haunted, I’ve seen things that can’t be explained away by science. But I can’t ditch my own doubt. A Tibetan lama loved to tell a story about how he’d perform dharma ceremonies in the houses of his Western students, and here they are all chanting in unison to conjure a deity, but no one believes it. Then they’d freak out when cabinet doors started opening and shutting on their own. He thought it was hysterical – like, What did you think would happen? Dimitri embodies my doubt, and his character really drives the narrative. He attends a séance he thinks will be a waste of time, but it’s the inciting incident that changes his life. Things he thinks are random prove to be mysteriously connected. He comes to a realization I envy. I’m like Mulder – I want to believe.
2) When you set out to write about Poe, what sort of research did you do? Just how much about Poe did you have to know to write the book?
Yeah, about that….I can’t give away too much without dropping a spoiler, but the novel isn’t about Edgar Allen Poe. It definitely has that gothic vibe, but let’s just say I did quite a bit of research into Russian occultism in the early 21st century.
3) Was “Poe” the first novel you wrote? Do you have other WIP your working on now?
Poe was my first completed novel, but I had plenty of false starts before it. Like many beginning writers, I looked to what was popular and tried to write that. Then I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing, and he said write what hasn’t been done. Of course when I did that, agents loved it because it was different but had no idea where to sell it. Poe is horror, but it’s also dark urban fantasy, includes a new adult/coming-of-age arc with paranormal mystery elements, all wrapped up in a sardonic, first-person narration. Everyone wanted me to choose a shelf, but I couldn’t write it any other way. Considering Poe won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award this year for Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror, I’m glad I stuck to my guns. Currently I’m working on a sequel to Poe.
It’s a strange thing, but when you’re up close and staring at each word in your novel, it’s hard to see it as a whole. It took me four months to write the first draft, but easily double that on revisions. You need to have people you can trust reading your work, and if you hear some kind of consensus, be open to changes. Poe had a much, much darker ending and an extra 100 pages. I cut many passages that I loved to make it work better as a novel. If you’re acting as a critique partner, be honest but give specific feedback. Don’t just say, “I didn’t like this chapter.” Think about what would make it better, like “the dialogue here just dragged.”
5) What’s the hardest thing about writing horror? What are some common misconceptions for writers interested in trying the genre?
Horror can be daunting – it’s a genre that has iconic, masterful, successful authors and just the thought of tossing your hat into that ring is incredibly intimidating. It feels like trying to climb Everest when all you’ve got is a backpack, a box of matches, and pluck. But we can all find the kernels of life that scare the bejesus out of us, and write to that. With Frankenstein, Shelley was horrified by electrical experiments being conducted on dead flesh. That horror translated to her time, and ours.
6) What was the most exciting part of working on your novel? The hardest?
The most exciting part was discovering the story as it gradually surfaced. I had a general baseline of a plot, but all the details were completely organic. I chose the name Dimitri because I liked it, but then that meant he was of Russian origin, then when I wrote in his father, he had an accent, which surprised me. Later I found a connection between the name Dimitri and another famous Russian, which added a major dimension to the plot. The hardest part was fitting all the pieces together at the end. I had to let go of some, re-write others to fit the most compelling story arcs. It was like putting together a massive jigsaw puzzle.
7) Last but not least, I ask every interviewee to share a scary story. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever experienced? How does it inspire you to write dark tales?
Well…I saw the shadow of a demon once. Not even remotely kidding – horns, the works. I was in a basement, and there wasn’t anything down there which could even cause a shadow like that. I don’t know what to make of it, but moments like that make me think that there’s something unexplainable pressing into what we call reality. Norman Mailer called writing a ‘spooky’ art, and dark tales are the spookiest of the spooky arts, because we play where our greatest fears are. ‘Dark’ is equated with ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, but really, it’s just the unknown. For a curious person, that’s the only place to be.