A novel has to have that something special to qualify for the Editor’s Choice accolade. Something special can be as simple as making the prosaic interesting – or having an original theme (which is rare). But most of all, it has to lure, then drag me into its fabric; be well-contrived and balanced; uncompromising; and most of all, written with honesty.
And so, with my usual reticence to spoil the plot for searchers of the eclectic out there, my latest recommendation is to treat yourself to a copy of The Devil Stood Up by prolific paranormal and horror author, Christine Dougherty.
And don’t be put off if this is not your favourite genre, because this latter day parable is as enticing as it is charming – as charming as it is thought-provoking – as thought-provoking as it is brutally honest. Not for the faint-hearted (though not gratuitously graphic) this tale had me hooked from start to finish – I read the novel in one sitting, literally unable to put it down. If you don’t mind mild spoilers, mosey along to the Dreadful Tales website, and read a brief synopsis and appraisal from (an open-mouthed) Colum who reviews there – he pretty much hits all the nails on the head.
I never read blurb – I prefer to read a book’s opening and keep going if it provides that rare momentum, but you can find the blurb, a sample and purchase details of The Devil Stood Up on Amazon: click HERE – or HERE if you’re in the UK.
Christine has kindly agreed to come over and answer a few questions that (randomly) popped into my head:
I see you have written a total of ten novels and anthologies to date – did any of them write themselves or just pop into your consciousness, or are you a serial plotter?
I hate to say it, but they all more or less write themselves. The basic ideas come from different places (The Boat from a conversation my husband and I had about the safest place to be during a zombie apocalypse; Born Lucky was based on the idea of writing a modern-day ‘Night Stalker’/‘X-Files’) but I’m not sure where the meat of the stories comes from. I’m not sure where the characters come from, either, or why they are all so different from one another.
I think it’s part of the odd chemistry of my mind. I’ve always been the type who knows the answers to questions without knowing where I learned the information. I remember other people’s lives better than my own, too. Although I’m not a believer of anything metaphysical, sometimes it seems I might be something of an open channel. That’s the best way to describe the feeling.
I’m guessing that The Devil Stood Up provoked some kind of reaction from ‘Stepford’ readers who may have expected a ‘cosy’ read – do you ever get flak from scaredy-cat readers or those who prefer stereotyped plots?
I’ve had quite a few readers who ‘skipped over’ the murder in the beginning, but even more than that, I get a lot of pushback on the idea that the Devil can have feelings. It’s an odd objection considering it’s a work of fiction–it’s not an observation about religion. I’ve also had people comment that the evil characters are too evil…but the world is packed with ignorance and selfishness and a distinct lack of empathy. I see these people in real life all the time…doesn’t everyone?
I get your point there: and the world can certainly be a scary place sometimes. How do you keep coming up with fresh ideas – do you have a muse locked up in the basement?
I am lucky that I have a muse who dwells willingly in the basement (from time to time, at least, as his Star Wars collection is down there.) My husband, Steve, is an unlimited source of ideas and also my sounding board for works in progress. It can be difficult to find anyone willing to discuss made up people as seriously as they would discuss real ones and Steve (his nickname is Biggie–you’ll see that in the books) is always ready to discuss.
Indeed, you are lucky, Christine, and I’m sure that makes you the envy of many authors (and partners). And, judging by your devilish novel, the interaction is effective. Do you have any works in progress?
I am currently working on a book that is based on a conversation Steve and I had at a Five Guys. We were laughing our asses off at the idea. The book is not about cheeseburgers but the cheeseburgers sure seemed to help cogitation.
Hmmm, according to The Washington Post, Five Guys are the “Willie Wonkas of Burgercraft” – perhaps someone spiked the journalist’s soda with a mind (and description) enhancing drug!
So, Christine – my final question: what would be your ideal destination for a vacation – and who would you take along with you?
Jesus Christ, it’s so damn BORING to say, but I would take Steve with me and if we could go anywhere, I’d pick Las Vegas. If you are a dedicated observer, this is a great place to do it. Plus all the flashy-flashy, busy-busy, ching-ching keeps me happy. I’m not much on relaxing.
Doesn’t sound boring to me: and you gotta keep your muse’s soul fed – and not just with burgers and fries! Over here in England, an activity holiday involves a few games of bingo and a ride on a reluctant donkey…but that’s another story…