The Next Big Thing — CHILDREN OF NO ONE
Surely by now many of you have already become acquainted with the “next big thing” writer promotion meme that’s been growing over the blogosphere like kudzu over an abandoned tractor. Now it’s my turn to succumb to the infestation! (And succumb I will, happily!)
Last week, fellow DarkFuse scribe Jeffrey J. Mariotte (author of the forthcoming novel, Season of the Wolf) “tagged” me to talk about my forthcoming novella, Children of No One. Around the same time, my dear friend William D. Carl (author of the forthcoming novel Primeval: Werewolf Apocalypse 2) also “tagged” me for participation. (What is it with me hangin’ ’round all these meme-taggin’ wolf-fellas, lately!)
Anyway…without any further delay…bring on the questions!
What is the working title of your book?
Children of No One. (At this stage, it’s more than just a working title. That’s the definite title.)
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I’ll resist the temptation to give the snarky, Harlan Ellison answer to this question (“Schenectady!”).
Sometime earlier this year, I started reading Jorge Luis Borges for the first time. In his short fiction collection Labyrinths (specifically, in the story “The Garden of Forking Paths”), there’s a sentence that made a significant impression on me. Borges writes, “…I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous, spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars.” In the very next sentence, Borges dismisses this as just one in a series of “illusory images”, but I think he was being coy. For me, that sentence gave birth to a great deal of speculation that eventually worked its way into my book.
I began to contemplate what the world would be like if it was just one, huge labyrinth. What if Borges’ “sinuous, spreading labyrinth” was more than an illusion. What if it was a reality? I had a visual image of an endless labyrinth, and I found it quite compelling. If the world was just one large labyrinth, why would people even bother trying to find their way out? Why wouldn’t they give up? What if someone placed food at various places further along in the labyrinth? That would probably get people moving. And what if the labyrinth was a deceptive maze, constantly changing? And what if it was pitch-black (like the pitch-black maze I’ve experienced at my local Halloween haunted house). And what if the entire world wasn’t stuck in this labyrinth, but just a few dozen teenage boys who had been imprisoned in there for ten years and didn’t know that anything outside the labyrinth existed? What if it was only the entire world in their (limited) perception?
So, that string of “what ifs” started to roll through my brain like a snowball rolling downhill, getting bigger with each turn. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea of this labyrinth being the creation of a odd, underground performance artist named Thomas Krieg. (Three or four years ago, I tried to write a series of stories about a cult leader named Krieg. All of these stories failed. But I like to think that Thomas Krieg carries some of that original Krieg’s personality.) The whole arts angle to the story invited me to draw on my previous interest in unusual performance art, such as the provocative “Cut Piece”, as well as the work of Alan Moore and Alejandro Jodorowsky. I suspect there’s something of a Thomas Ligotti influence at work, too.
Alas, I’ve gone on a while, now, haven’t I? It probably would have been sufficient to say: “It’s complicated!”
What genre does this fall under?
It’s a dark, supernatural horror story. It’s a shame that I have to add this caveat, but I should explain that when I’m talking about a “supernatural horror story”, I mean in the tradition of Poe and Lovecraft and Shirley Jackson, not in the tradition of Friday the 13th Part Gazillion: Jason Goes to the Grand Canyon. (Me and my big mouth…I guess making that comment means I’ve lost the opportunity to cast Kane Hodder or Rob Zombie as Mr. No One in the film version).
Anyway, I don’t think you have to be a horror junkie to appreciate the book.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?
Alas, I just screwed myself over with Hollywood in my last answer. Next question.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?
Dozens of boys have been imprisoned in a pitch-black underground maze, and an English occultist named Mr. No One wants to use this maze as a place to invoke the God of Nothingness, the Great Dark Mouth.
(Honestly, I think one-sentence synopses are kind of stupid. But, hey, I tried.)
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Okay, this question is sort of goofy. It assumes that if you’re not agented, you’re self-pubbing your stuff. Weird.
Anyway, as you may have anticipated, my answer is “neither of the above”. Children of No One will be released by a reputable publisher, DarkFuse (formerly Delirium Books), despite the fact that I don’t have an agent.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I honestly don’t know. I started it during the summertime. I took a break from it for about a month or two and worked on other projects. Then I went back to it in September and finished sometime in early October, I think.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m probably not the best judge of this. I think readers and reviewers will make their own comparisons, and that they’re likely to be at least as valid as my own. But I’d like to think that folks who enjoy the work of Thomas Ligotti, Alan Moore, Phillip K. Dick, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Evenson, or Glen Hirshberg would enjoy this book.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I think I covered that pretty exhaustively in the “where did you get the idea for this book” question.
What else about your book might pique the interest of readers?
One of the big lies about fiction (and movies and music) is that a work can’t be both entertaining and thought-provoking. There’s so much evidence out there to the contrary (the work of the aforementioned Phillip K. Dick, for example).
I’m not sure where this notion came from. Maybe it comes to us from the education system – which seems to do an excellent job of taking the joy out of thinking. Most children come to school naturally curious and naturally imaginative, but along the way have that curiosity and imagination confiscated from them by the teacher (as though they were spitballs, whoopee cushions, or other pieces of contraband).
I think we, as a readers and writers, need to rebel whenever someone suggests that thinking about things is a sort of drudgery (or worse, that presenting a book that makes people think is the equivalent of giving them a chore to complete). Think of Children of No One as a tiny musket shot in that rebellion.
Or, if that rebellion metaphor doesn’t work for you…if you’re more a lover than a fighter…try this one. I maintain that thinking is like sex: if it’s not entertaining, you’re doing it wrong. Or, perhaps, you just haven’t been exposed to the proper titillation. Think of Children of No One as brain-porn.
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Okay, so now it’s my turn to “tag” other authors. I’m tagging two folks (Douglas F. Warrick, who has a collection of short stories coming out in the near future from Apex, and another DarkFuse author, Keith Deininger whose novel The New Flesh comes out in June. )