Where did you get your character names? I find several of them intriguing.
I began thinking about this book a number of years before I actually started putting thoughts to words. When I was employed in the Insurance industry I would spend some downtime with a good friend, Greg, on Friday afternoons when we would enjoy a hot tub and a few beers at his place winding down from the drudgery of our long week at work. I was actually in the midst of composing another book which I had been writing for several years (ten in all, before editing began – Gairfield……., as in the Air).
One of our crazy conversations led me toward the concept of the Tom and Lovey book – the premise of the evil character having a desire to create the perfect man-beast, an entity able to revert to either at will. The conversation led me down to the filthy bilges of an engine powered tugboat, a boat pulling or pushing a barge. Having worked in such a place during my military career, I knew the things floating in the muddy water, along with the oil and grease mixture could look and smell pretty nasty. My engine room was clean, so I never had to deal with any rats – but why not? So I came up with the idea of tugrats. Greg and I popped open another beer and found that by spelling the name backward Stargut was born. The story sat for a number of years until I responded to a prompt writing contest. Stargut never left me.
I chose the name Tom for one of my leading characters as I did not want the name to have an influence on the reader’s perception of him. I wanted something plain and simple. I wanted the development of his character to create that distinction. And that will still be happening as we head into the sequel, Tom and Lovey: Pursuit of the Thunderbird.
With Lovey, I wanted a name that is somewhat unique, something enchanting. I do reside now here in the State of New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment. We will explore some of Lovey’s history in the next episode and I plan a lot of development for her character as she comes to grips with her new found youth.
Red Deer is yet another story. The Navajo have been known to adopt a number of names throughout their lives. We will learn how this particular name stuck with him as we head back in time to the days he and Tom try to solve the mystery of the missing Navajo people and how Red Deer was chosen by the Thunderbird to partake in a holy sacrifice.
Was there a reason you chose to set a mystery/horror piece in a small town? What about small towns captures our imagination? Do you think that scary things can still hide away there?
I chose the small town atmosphere as the set for the book as I believe the concept of the small town presents an aura of mystery and intrigue, the unknown. If you have ever lived in one for an ample period of time you would find that everyone knows everyone else and everybody knows what everybody else is doing or would like to do. But at the same time, they all have their dirty little secrets. Unraveling the mystique lies in bringing them to light, one by one.
Small towns can be dull and boring. It is our imagination that brings things to life. Because of the repetitive nature of small town living, void of crime and treachery, the only excitement being the annual summer fair, we do not expect the unexpected. But where else would it lurk, but in the shadows of an alley next to a small town bar? And when it strikes, it strikes not at individuals, but the entire community becomes trapped in a web its horror.
Your book seems to probe the nature of good and evil, with Tom as a preacher. What do you think evil is, and where does it come from? How can a creature become evil, and how do we combat evil?
In the genre of fantasy and horror it is quite common to see the good engaged in a struggle against evil. But does good always win? No, it happens not in fantasy and not in real life. Upon birth man is given a gift of choice. During his maturation there is a very long chain of choices that are made that leads an individual toward a direction of destiny. Some of us have the power and strength to divert from wrong or bad choices, or learn from mistakes. Others just do not give a damn. Some people are led by their religion, others by their convictions and conscience. Others just do not give a damn. They were born evil, greedy, lusty and they love it.
In fantasy and horror I believe that as writers we create our creatures as evil beings. We want them to be evil. We want the readers to feel the contemplation of having our creatures step into their conscious lives. In our living existence, we feel that creatures – wild animals – may be evil, but they are fighting for their survival. When a hunter is facing down a grizzly bear in the wilds of the Alaska Yukon pointing a large bore rifle at its head, which one is evil? Don’t misunderstand me. I would not be looking for a handshake. But wildlife can become evil – after a taste of blood, some may not be able to resist. Others look to survive.
We have been combating evil since the existence of mankind. It will forever be present. The best place to start combating evil is at home. We need to resist the temptation. When it leashes out at us, we need to defend ourselves, but choose our means wisely. Provocation begets provocation.
I also see a motif of mutant creatures who are only partly human in Tom and Lovey. Do you think that a mutant is scarier than say, an angry person with a hacksaw or a large wild animal? What interested you in writing about half-human, half animal creatures?
In my humble opinion, there appears to be a striking similarity between mutant creatures or partly human beings and the angry, mad or insane person. Both can be pretty scary. Consider the look on Jack Nicolson’s face in the movie adaption of Stephen King’s The Shining. Awesome! A deranged character with a butcher knife in her hand can be just as terrifying as a hairy four legged beast with foot long fangs foaming at the mouth. I love framing pictures of these characters and creatures in my mind, but I would certainly provide each and every one of them with a Get Out of Jail Free card if confronted by one under an unlit overpass.
I believe I would have to revert back to my friend Greg and our hot tub days some ten years ago. Greg was a very good friend that met his maker a bit too soon. I would talk to him about the current project I was working on and some of the script I had completed the prior week after my work days. He would interject with ideas and we would bounce them around. A couple of them I even employed in the Gairfield piece I mentioned earlier. One was a character I labeled Bubbles and another about a matter of always keeping a piece of rope close at hand. Bubbles is a man whose mind becomes occupied and he winds up having a tryst with a barrel of wine. A length of rope can be handy when you are in a jam. Somehow our weekend conversations led me to the concept of the half man half beast and one thing or anther led me to Stargut, the devil that just could not get it right, a comedian that could not pull a punch line, the sax player that could not hit that high note, the carpenter that could never get a door to stay open. I won’t mention the writer that could never finish a complete line of prose. But they all have one thing in common. They keep trying. I might say that Greg helped plant the seed, or fertilize same. I do miss him … that son of a gun.
How is your story different from other horror novels? What makes it unique?
I might start by saying that I might be the fortunate one who put the story to pen, provided it gathers an audience. A lot of horror novels have very similar concepts, the vampires feeding on the innocent, the monster on a rampage and the good guys coming to the rescue in each of them. Successful writers are able to create their own unique story, a theme that sets it apart, totally different from others. I believe mine differs in the manner in which the story is presented; the development of the characters having what I hope is considered a central focus. I also use the frame of time to move the storyline back and forth, filling in blank spaces in the process while developing characters. Our bad guy sets back a bit in their shadows as Tom and Lovey make their plans together, but separately, to bring him down. In this book I stray the person from the third to the first to put the reader inside Lovey’s mind as she recalls what took place in the Village of Wrong before Tom mysteriously arrives at her doorstep and then together when they take a leap toward another doorstep.
I had so much fun as I followed Tom and Lovey, forging me ahead to the last line in the story. I look forward to meeting them again as I travel along the highway, going south, down Route 66. In the meantime, I am looking forward to launching Claim Denied in the near future. Our claims adjuster, Benny, has a date with a phantom, as well as his fantasies.