“A blast sheared open the night sky. An ear-piercing shriek followed. Bats and birds fled trees, draping a transient veil across the face of the moon. A moan gained in intensity—not quite human, not quite animal—and rumbled across the cornfields like a runaway train.
For those gathered at the small Kansas farm, the long night of survival had begun.”
So Stuart, what inspired you to write Godland?
Stuart: Actually, Rosalie, it started with the characters. I had an idea of four very different characters: a bitter farmer, a troubled teen girl, a ruthless corporate marauder, and a failed, gay entrepreneur. I thought it might be fun to see how they might be connected. The interwoven, puzzle plot followed. Now, of course, when I say “fun,” I probably have a different concept of “fun” than most people.
Do you wake at night, reliving scenes? Tormented by the lives you create for your characters?
Stuart: Honestly, as I wrote this book, it put me in a very dark place at times. Usually I like to insert humor into my novels. Not so much this one.
In Godland the idea of escape and survival are important. Each of the characters have their own ways of coping with the trauma of their previous lives. You capture their resourcefulness and coping mechanisms well. Some more successful than others. Have you studied psychology? How do you get into your character’s heads so well? You make them seem very real.
Stuart: Great question, Rosalie! Yes, escape and survival is an important theme of the book. Especially the parallels of physical and psychological escape. Something every character in the book strives for. The past forms the future. For everyone. And, yeah, psychology was my under-study in college. Can’t say I drew too much on that though. Most of the book’s just my putting myself into the characters’ mind-set, then letting it rip. As I said, “fun!”
Family and family ties play a huge part in GODLAND. Some of the ties are not what most family values promote. GODLAND isn’t based on any real or living situations is it? You had me wondering if there are places where the type of people in GODLAND might really exist.
Stuart: Well, my burden is Kansas. I live in this Godforsaken state. I’m embarrassed at some of the primitive beliefs and practices that go on here. For cryin’ out loud, we still have an active Ku Klux Klan chapter, lots of dark secrets and horrific situations going on in the farmlands, a violent mob presence in Kansas City, black magic worshippers, antiquated political beliefs and laws. Recently, a law was passed allowing restaurant owners to refuse service to people who they believe may be gay. You believe that? In my books, I’m trying to expose the hidden, awful underbelly of the Midwest, even though the loudest proponents of Kansas’s Norman Rockwellian surface—wholesome family values--are the biggest hypocrites. Don’t visit Kansas!
The names of each character in the family are straight from the Bible. Are you a religious person? Or do you see religion as being an obsession like it is for Edwin. Obviously naming his children after characters from the good book, didn’t help him raise them well, or them to be righteous. Although, in their darkest hours, some of the players in the drama find a germ of compassion.
Stuart: LOL. I think compassion’s key, Rosalie. If characters don’t have it, or find it eventually, then I find books like that generally hard to get behind. True horror comes from humanity’s foibles, something awful, inescapable. Yet humanity also shines sometimes when hidden reservoirs of compassion surface. Am I religious? Not particularly. Mostly because I had it beaten into me (not literally) as a kid. A rebel, I suppose. But if I’m writing tales set in creepy Kansas, I can’t escape religious themes. Part of the general make-up. Funny thing about the names, Rosalie. At first I had three integral characters named Peter, Paul and Mary. My wife caught it, said, “uh, no.” Took me a minute before I realized what she was on about.
I came away from reading GODLAND wondering how an author can write such dark and traumatic stories. I don’t usually watch horror movies… I really don’t understand when there is no logical reason for violence, or supernatural haunting/violence. GODLAND transcends that nonsensical horror by bringing its characters to life with deep motivation and logical reasoning for each and every action. Makes it all much scarier. My hat goes off to you for creating a dark landscape with a story that pulls the reader into every scene and has them on the edge of their seats, ready to run, as they turn each page.
That’s not a question…
Stuart: I hear ya’, Rosalie. I agree logic is important. As for how I write such dark and traumatic tales? Well, actually, it’s probably the darkest of my books. As I said before, I do like humor believe it or not. This book is exorcising demons, I suppose. Kinda’ like most of my books. (My YA series deals with my awful high school years of bullying and senseless violence). And Edwin’s loosely (VERY loosely) based on my grandfather. Didn’t know him very well, he died early. But my dad told me lots of awful tales about him. Of course he wasn’t as bad or evil as Edwin. But he had his moments of mental and physical abuse.
Final question is how does an author capable of writing GODLAND, turn back to writing for young adults?
Stuart: Not sure I’m turning back to writing YA books. Godland was actually the second book I wrote. But I had to let it gestate for a while. And I have about four more adult suspense thrillers on dock. Then again, I have an idea for a couple of YA books. Another Tex, the Witch Boy tale set in college. And a story about Satan’s son being banished to a Midwest high school for being too lenient on the damned souls in hell. Many laughs (I hope) will ensue.
I am reading ‘Elspeth the Living Dead Girl’ at present and find you have captured the voice of a teenage girl. The change of voice shows the level of expertise you have mastered in your writing. Congratulations.
Stuart: Well, thanks, Rosalie. It helps having one of those curious, completely alien creatures–one you have to constantly walk on eggshells around--known as a teenage girl under your roof. I listened to her, her friends. Talked to them. Um, shamelessly eavesdropping. Probably my biggest challenge, that book. Writing POV from two very different teen girls’ perspectives. Very fun, too. Unleashing my inner teen girl!
Where can we find you, and your books online.
Stuart: Let’s make it easy. All my books can be found here: Stuart's Amazon page
And here’s my blog. Generally I don’t chat too much about writing, find it kinda’ pompous. But If you’d like a laugh, wanna’ read my gripe of the week, have at it: Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley
Thank you for being a guest on my blog.
Stuart: Hey, thank you! Now go get back to writing about Caleath. And everyone check out Rosalie’s beautifully written sci-fi/fantasy epic.