William Cook, author of the great "Blood Related" was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about his book, horror, and the writing experience. He had some fascinating answers. Enjoy!
1. Well I guess I have to ask the question at the top of my mind first. I loved "Blood Related", I thought it was a fascinating read. It is very graphic and very violent so I must ask about where all that came from. I'm assuming you aren't a serial killer so you must have done a great deal of research. Wondering about where you went for that research.
I don’t know why but I’ve had a fascination with the darker side of humanity ever since I was a teenager. I am a huge Horror fan; movies, books, art, theory. I’d say that this obsession comes from the same source. In fact if I hadn’t channeled my predilection for darkness into the writing of Horror I would hate to think where it would’ve taken me otherwise! ‘Blood Related’ is a story about a family of serial killers, each with varying degrees of psychopathology. The two central characters are twin brothers, one who is of the psychotic variety and the other a more organized and cunning psychopath, and yes there is a difference. I researched as much about abnormal psychology as I did about serial killers and their methods and characteristics. Most serial killers are basically psychopathic, of reasonable intelligence, appear normal when occasion calls, and so on. And of course this is one of many aspects to a complex and evolving criminal psychology. I read both fiction and non-fictional accounts of these fiendish characters in order to get inside the mind of these killers. I’m not sure if I’d write another first-person narrative from a serial killer’s perspective; at times it was quite harrowing and disturbing to envisage the kind of thought processes these people operate with.
2. Now I don't condone the actions of serial killers in any way but one thing I liked about "Blood Related" is that we got in the head of the killer. We learned about his childhood and the horrors he witnessed that played a part in him becoming the monster he became. He actually seemed to care about a couple of people. I actually felt bad for him sometimes because in a sense he was a victim too. As with the plot, I wondered where this came from. Was this from research or was it you considering what may go into the creation of a serial killer?
What a lot of people don’t realize is that these freaks of nature are capable of portraying human emotion and on the surface probably appear more normal than Joe-average. One of the basic tenets of writing good characters is that the reader must be sympathetic to at least some aspect of the protagonist as a fellow human being. It is because of these two factors that Caleb the main character does have a
sensitive side and has had a crummy upbringing. Nature vs nurture is an old debate when it comes to the development of criminal behavior and I would have to say from my research I believe that given the right circumstance everyone is capable of murder. Sounds shocking but when you really think about it, there are certain things that would drive the most placid of us to react with violence, e.g. the murder/assault of a loved one, perceived injustice, road rage, protection of children/family members, self defense and so on. So just because Caleb has had a crappy abusive childhood and is also genetically predisposed to mental illness because of his lineage (coming from three generations of murderous kin), does not necessarily make him a serial killer. There are plenty of people with the same experience and familial history who don’t turn into killers. But with Caleb I wanted to show how his thinking is twisted and trace the source of his urge to kill. Hopefully by the end of the book the reader will be asking the same questions and have a more in-depth understanding of the motives behind this kind of criminal behavior. If we can have some understanding about how these people operate, hopefully it in turns gives us a greater sense of our own nature. But essentially, I am trying to scare the hell out of my readers while stimulating the morbid curiosity inside most of us by presenting a complex fictional character, slightly distanced from reality (because he is fictional), that people feel safe enough to analyze in the comfort of their own homes.
3. Am I crazy to enjoy a book so graphic and violent? If I am then many people are. I think there are a lot of reasons people enjoy this kind of story. What are your thoughts?
Have you ever slowed down to rubber-neck at a car accident? I think most of us have. There is a reason why the news on television streams hours of violent imagery from across the world. 80-90% of most news broadcasts focus on negative events; war, murder, serial killers, accidents, death, etc. It is seldom that we see positive stories on the news and this is because the general audience laps up this kind of media side-show. I think it was Thomas Hobbes who said something like “war [violence] is the essential nature of [hu]mankind,” and as I said earlier I tend to agree – especially in the male of our species. I won’t get into the gender difference/similarities on this topic as it is a whole discussion in itself filled with interesting facts and potentialities. But in answer to your question, no you are not crazy. People enjoyed being scared and confronting death from a safe perspective. Someone said that we spend our whole lives preparing for death and this may well be why we pursue horror in literature (in all genres). If we can confront death from a distance and survive, in a way this affirms life, but for some of us (like the characters in Blood Related) it also serves to hasten that realization to its ultimate conclusion.
4. Did you enjoy writing this book or was it difficult? What did you like the most and what was the most difficult part?
I enjoyed parts of it but found it difficult to write due to the subject matter. I love creating worlds as I did with this story in the form of ‘Portvale’, a fictitious industrial city within a larger metropolis. I also created the small rural town of ‘Repose’ which was fun to populate and landscape. So I guess that the most difficult part was placing myself in the mind of a seriously disturbed serial killer. The most enjoyable aspect was the sense of completion I felt when I had achieved one of my life goals – writing a novel.
5. How long did it take you to write "Blood Related"?
Blood Related took nearly six years to write. I really did do a lot of research and possibly got bogged down in that side of things, hence the extended period of writing. The novel evolved from a shorter work titled ‘The Eternal Now’ and took on a life of its own. I wrote a lot of it as I sat on the train on my way to and from work, scribbling frantically in my notebook. In the end one notebook grew to ten and the outline turned into a solid novel-length manuscript. After
many edits and changes it finally reached a presentable level and I started subbing it around to traditional publishers in New Zealand with no success. I write in an American style/vernacular so the obvious choice was to look to the US for a publisher. I subbed the manuscript to three different publishers including my current publisher and received three offers to publish. I originally chose Angelic Knight Press as they were the first to come to the party, and in retrospect my decision was probably a bit of a hasty one, because the day I signed the contract I received two others one of which was my preferred choice, Black Bed Sheet Books. Things were amicable enough with AKP and I was one of their ‘flagship’ writers as they were just starting off and thank them for taking a chance on a previously unpublished novelist. Nick Grabowsky from BBSB left his offer open and when my contract term had finished with AKP and no new contract was forthcoming I happily accepted Nick’s offer to publish and here we are. The new edition is a lot tighter and the formatting is professionally done and I’m really happy to be with BBSB who are also publishing the sequel ‘Blood Trail.’
6. I have seen on a couple of places on the internet that there will be a sequel! Got a title yet? Any idea when it will be available?
As mentioned above, the sequel is titled ‘Blood Trail’ and should be available sometime later on this year from BBSB. I am halfway complete and am aiming for a June wrap for the completion of the sequel. It will be quite different from the first book, in that the perspective has shifted from a first-
I looked and I observed. When I turned away, I looked some more. And I continued looking, into the night, into my dreams, into my waking hours. The vision of Jean-Marie Palliser, lying there, and there also, and there, and up on the shelf there, and
slowly charring on the glowing element. Pieces of Jean-Marie scattered like roadkill across the kitchenette, in the room at the lodging house. I put her back together in my mind with one exception. Her head to the lower portion of her neck was gone; a conspicuous absence if ever there was one. I coughed and lit a cigarette to rid me of the stench of warm blood and other bodily fluids.
He had killed her right there in the kitchenette. She was nude with no sign of restraint visible, on the clear parts of her pale flesh. Blood still dripped from the bench, a shiny black pool of blood looking like an expanding hole in the linoleum.
I guessed that’s where the fucker had rested the head, on the bench, while he finished playing with the rest of the dead broad’s young body. I had to push the image of her away and it wouldn’t budge. I felt a nauseous growing horror creep up my body like a bad trip. I was shit-scared for the first time in my professional career as a cop.
I heard movement in the hallway outside the kitchen area. I ducked to the ground, scanning the room as I snapped the snubnose from my ankle holster.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! My chest heaved, as the backdoor slammed shut, I had just missed him.
I sprang from the bloodied floor, pain exploding up the length of my spine, and burst out the swinging screendoor at the rear of the building. I busted my face pretty good on the side of a head-high clothesline as I ran across the back yard. I went down hard, my face pissing blood like a geyser, and fired from the ground two quick shots at the back of a black-hooded figure bursting through the hedge. I glimpsed a woman’s decapitated head, bobbing by his side, the long bloodied hair gripped in the clenched fist of Caleb Cunningham, as he disappeared away into the black night.
I lay there breathless, the pain in my lower back unbearable so that I couldn’t even feel the gushing wound in my cheek. And then I ended up back in hospital, lying in that damned same bed in a cast from armpit to knee, thinking of Jean-Marie Palliser, as if one might think of a jigsaw puzzle missing a few pieces.Great stuff William! Can't wait to read "Blood Trail"! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Laying there in that stark white hospital room, I started thinking of all the ways I wanted to kill Caleb Cunningham. The blank dead eyes bored into my memory, like two pits of oil, where the fires of hell slowly smoldered. This was the second time I had caught up with Cunningham and I was flat on my back, mortally injured once again. This time I would have to wear a back brace permanently and be consigned to light duties. I was fucked if I was gonna be a desk jockey. The drugs they started giving me did their job and I knew I could get a continuous supply if I needed one. It took time and a lot of thinking and planning and expectation. I firmly believed towards the end of my stay at the hospital, that Cunningham was watching me, plotting against me in a similar fashion. And then Caleb’s ex-shrink, Dr Morrison, walked in and I forget all about Jean-Marie Palliser and Caleb Cunningham, for a few minutes.
If the excerpt above has you eager to read more of William's work, make sure you click HERE to enter to win a free ebook copy of his first book "Blood Related"! The giveaway is at the bottom of my review of that book - a book I highly recommend.
Twitter - @williamcook666