THE NEXT BIG THING

I was invited by both Erik T. Johnson and P. Gardner Goldsmith to participate in what is becoming a viral blog-eruption of talent. It is an honor to be thought of as “the next big thing” by such magnificent authors. You can find Erik’s blog at eriktjohnson.net/blog.html, and Gardner’s at gardnergoldsmith.com. I likewise consider each of these gentlemen “the next big thing” in speculative fiction, and I urge you to online-stalk each, regularly follow their blogs, and seek out their published works. I have had the opportunity of publishing short stories by both of these fine talents. Gardner’s “Sigil” and Erik’s “The Apologies” appear in my most recent psychological horror anthology, Chiral Mad, and Erik’s “The Inconsolable Key Company ” appeared in my first anthology, Pellucid Lunacy. Read the linked blogs!

Now, on to the questions:

1. What is the working title of your next book?

I am currently working on novel number three, Psychotropic Dragon.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Nearly twelve years ago, I dreamt about a girl with a tribal tattoo inked on her midsection. She was kneeling on the ground, naked, poised with her back arched and her arms held like a dragon unfolding its wings (attached pic). Without seeing the tattoo up close, I knew what it depicted. I awoke with that image burned into my mind. I somehow knew her as a troubled teen named Julie who took a psychotropic/hallucinogenic drug in the form of eye drops (even though none of this transpired in the dream). I rarely remember dreams, but this one stuck. This strange character has haunted me ever since. She wants to live on the page, and I haven’t let her. She showed some skin in my first novel, Palindrome Hannah, and she made an appearance or two in the follow-up, Phoenix Rose, and in a few of my short stories, but until now, I was afraid of giving her story life. Psychotropic Dragon is that story.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Horror. This one is a nonlinear psychological mind trip.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The closest I’ve seen to a Julie lookalike would have to be Keira Knightly. The first time I saw Domino, I thought the main character looked familiar. There’s a drug dealer named Chase who could be played easily by a witty Woody Harrison or Kevin Spacey. Julie’s mother could be Carrie-Anne Moss, and her father by anyone who can pull off sinister. Julie’s friend Frankie could be played by Kandyse McClure.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Enhanced by a psychotropic drug taken through the eyes, a troubled youth unravels her dark fantastic past to shed light on an ameliorate reality.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will soon be looking for representation.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first “written” version of this story made it to paper in late 2009, and I’ve been editing and revising as I go along. I’m hoping to have a completed manuscript by early 2013. It typically takes me four years per novel, so I’m still on track.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

None that I can think of, which is sort of the point. I’ve been called the David Mitchell of horror, but that’s only because his work is extremely nonlinear like mine. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum comes to mind because of the brutality and pacing.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Julie. It’s her story. I’m the vessel.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Readers of my first two novels will recognize some of the characters that weave in and out of this novel, including Aeron Stevenson from Palindrome Hannah, who has a big role in Psychotropic Dragon, as well as Hannah, Julie’s daughter. Horror greats such as Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, Douglas E. Winter and John Skipp have all helped in this novel’s early development.

Who do I consider “the next big thing?”

There are many names to consider. If I had my choice, I’d write a paragraph about all thirty who deserve such recognition, but I can only choose three, so here they are, in no particular order:

Christian A. Larsen. I discovered Chris after he submitted his story “Mirror Moments” to the Chiral Mad anthology not long ago. After falling in love with his story and its delicate prose, I searched his name online and found his exlibrislarsen.com website, where he blogs regularly (side note: a similar thing happened after discovering Erik T. Johnson for the first time, who signed me up for “The Next Best Thing”). I am proud to be in the same table of contents as Chris in the forthcoming Zippered Flesh 2, where his story “The Little Things” will appear alongside Kealan Patrick Burke, W.D. Gagliani, Jezzy Wolfe, and yours truly. I am eager to read his story “The Talent’s in the Bones” in The Ghost is the Machine, where he rightfully belongs with authors such as Joe Hill, Eric J. Guignard and Jonathan Templar, as well as his story “724” in For When the Veil Drops. I look forward to hunting down Mr. Larsen’s other work. He is that good. And I look forward to publishing more of his stories in the future. How good is Christian A. Larsen? Jack Ketchum recently tweeted a line from Mr. Larsen’s “Mirror Moments”:  Kids see things differently; that’s why they make such great victims.” Larsen conveys powerful prose with minimal words.

R.B. Payne. I met Richard a long time ago at one of the Borderlands Press boot camps, where we battled with red pens and bled over pages until we realized we weren’t only fighting on the same side, but sparring, making each other better. And then we kept battling throughout the weekend, and again at another boot camp a few years later. Only recently have I really dug into his work as a fan, seeking out his publications. I must say, I have enjoyed every word. Lovecraft-inspired The Shadow of the Unknown is the first anthology to publish Richard alongside yours truly, and his story “The Laramie Tunnel” is one to remember. I personally invited Mr. Payne to Chiral Mad and was sent a story called “Cubicle Farm,” one of my quickest decisions. A third of the way through the initial read, a voice in my head was saying, “Yes, I like where this one’s going because I don’t know where it’s going. This one is definitely in the anthology.” To date, there are three official reviews of the anthology; two of these have mentioned “Cubicle Farm” as one of the standouts. Look forward to Payne.

Meghan Arcuri. What can I say about Meghan Arcuri? The palindrome ‘wow’ comes to mind. Meghan and I have met twice in person: first at Borderlands, and second at AnthoCon 2012, where she participated in the official release of Chiral Mad. She read part of her story “Inevitable” and held everyone on the edge of their seats. She then shared that “Inevitable” was her first publication, and that it was her first reading. (side note: this is also her first horror story). This floored everyone. Over the conference weekend, many notable authors approached asking, “Where did you find her? She’s incredible!” and publishers asking “Do you think she’d send something to me?” She amazed Gary A. Braunbeck with her reading, as well as Charles Day. Both mentioned to me how much they enjoyed her story. Meghan is an amazing new talent and my final author to consider as “The Next Big Thing”. I am glad to have met her and we’ve shared many hours together discussing the art of writing. R.B. Payne is to blame for our relationship, and I thank him wholeheartedly. He sent an email prior to submitting his story, a warning of sorts, letting me know Meghan would be sending me something: “She’s heading someplace serious as soon as she gets more writing chops. Anyway, just sayin’”

So, those are my three. Follow the links and seek them out. You will not be disappointed.

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