Today we are fortunate to have Mr. West here to answer a few questions and tell us more about the behind-the-scenes in the creation of this amazing psychological thriller. BTW, read the review of Godland I posted on Monday.
JC: Welcome, Stuart. I’m very excited to talk to you today. The first thing I thought about when I was reading Godland was how in the world did the author come up with the idea to write such a book. So, tell us, what sparked this story?
West: Joan, actually it started with the characters.
I thought of four of the most different characters I could create. Then the plot just sorta’ came together after that. Actually, it was the second book I wrote. It took quite a while to gel.
JC: One thing I loved was the way you introduced the characters. I wondered how you’d link them. Then, you skillfully showed the connection. It did feel as if the reader was experiencing a puzzle and suddenly all the pieces fit. And, indeed the characters fascinating. The most appealing is a fifteen-year-old girl. Your fans know you have written YA books. How did your experience as a YA writer contribute to Shannon’s character?
West: Not sure my YA books prepped me for this sucker. But having a recently graduated high school daughter, I had first-hand experience in watching teens, how they interact, the whole nine yards. Quite a different world. They’re welcome to it. LOL.
JC: The way you developed both Shannon and Lindsay felt very real. Your teenage daughter has taught you a lot! Let’s look at your writing style for a moment.
I enjoyed the page-turner aspect of it—short sentences, short chapters with many breaks. Tell us how you came about this style of writing.
West: Joan, I think you kinda’ need a short, snappy style for this genre. Maybe I’m wrong. But it does lend immediacy and urgency toward the stuff going on. I find action the toughest thing to write. I’d much rather be wallowing in character-building, psychological issues, and mood setting. My style kinda’ changes, depending on the book I’m writing. Usually, I like to put a lotta’ humor in my tales. Godland? Not much to laugh about.
Even though you say you like wallowing in character-building and psychological issues, you managed to do that without the wallowing. The short crisp writing in the mind of the character did it for you. And these characters have some major mental issues–One is a narcissist another is a psychopath and another is mentally challenged. What research did you need to do to create these kinds of mental illnesses?
West: Um, no real research.
Love when that happens. Edwin’s loosely based on my grandfather (whom I barely remember. But I certainly remember my dad’s stories about him).
JC: Besides having believable characters your action scenes are very believable. I can envision you acting them out in your living room (ha!). How did you create them in such detail?
West: By swinging a light sabre around in the TV room, of course! (My dog thinks I’m crazy).
JC: My mind cannot fathom the TV room scene. But, I can clearly envision the rural Kansas setting. Tell us about the setting. How did this setting contribute to the suspenseful nature of the book?
West: Well, the old adage is, write what you know. For better or worse, I know Kansas. Lived in a Kansas City suburb all my life. Visited relative’s farms. I’m pretty familiar with the terrain. In many ways, people think of the Midwest as epitomizing the heart of America. Solid family values, strong work ethics, “aw, shucks” Mayberry folks never giving it up. But that’s not the Kansas I see. It’s creepy. There’s still an active Klan. Lots of black magic worshipping and animal sacrifices. More serial killers than you can shake a stick at. Gun laws that would make Charlton Heston turn over in his grave. I’m trying to scratch the hidden underbelly of Kansas, exposing the moral decay, hypocrisy, and evil at its core. For crying out loud, Kansas just passed a law stating restaurant owners can deny service to anyone they think might be gay if it offends their religious beliefs!!!
I never planned it that way. But someone’s gotta’ do it. I guess.
JC: Makes me really not want to go there. Indeed, rural Georgia sounds similar. Deliverance created the same scary location in Georgia that you captured in rural Kansas. Remote, isolated, full of hidden secrets and hypocrisy. Can’t wait to see the movie version of Godland.
You’ve described yourself as a pantser. Most readers do not understand what that word means to us writers. For me that means that characters often pop up when I’m not expecting them. What does the term pantser mean to you in your writing style?
West: Let the characters take me on a trip. Just not so enjoyable at times.
JC: I’m not one to read horror books. I was surprised to see your book in the horror genre. I see it more as a suspense, finger-nail biting book (Is that what horror is?). Tell us what you mean by “horror.”
West: To tell you the truth, I think I did Godland an injustice by categorizing it as horror. You’re right. It’s more of a dark suspense thriller. I may’ve limited the audience by hanging the horror plate on its’ back-end. There’re plenty of horrific elements. But, no, there’re no supernatural shenanigans going on. I like to think of Godland as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre told with sensitivity. Um, did that sound dumb?
Let’s let the readers decide. Here’s a short blurb about Godland:
An embittered farmer. A New York corporate raider. Two teenage high school girls. A failed small business owner. Past and present collide, secrets are revealed. These disparate people gather at a desolate Kansas farm for a hellish night not everyone will survive.
Godland is a dark psychological suspense horror thiller. A Midwestern nightmare. Farm noir.
As for me, I will suggest to my friends that Godland is a great read whether you call it a horror or a psychological thriller.
JC: Finally, Stuart, what do you hope readers will say about Godland?
West: Call Homeland Security! This guy’s a threat!
It was great fun having Stuart here today. We invite you to ask your own questions. Meantime, do not waste another minute. You can order Godland at all the e-book outlets, including Amazon, B&N as well as MuseItUp Publishing bookstore.
Keep the lights on while you read!