The skies are graying, the leaves are dying, and the wind is howling at the cracks in the door. Autumn – the season of decay – is upon us, causing me to reflect on the darker influences on my writing.
I write science fantasy, not horror, and the “lighter” influences on my current work, “The Rothston Series,” are often pointed. Several reviews express that it has “the natural authenticity of the Harry Potter series without possessing any semblances of imitation” (Goodreads reviewer), and The Kirkus Review calls Foreseen, the first book in the series, “A worthy sci-fi thriller á la Dean Koontz.” Needless to say, I am thrilled by those comparisons, but there is a darker side – much darker.
The stories of Edgar Alan Poe were my first literary love. While other girls were excited about the one hundred and eighty-seventh book in the Little House on the Prairie series, I was studying The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Purloined Letter. In sixth grade, I memorized and recited all 108 lines of The Raven. I read my favorite Poe work, The Tell-Tale Heart, over and over, fascinated by Poe’s ability to build tension using nothing but the main character’s guilty conscience – manifested in the beating of the heart beneath the floor boards – and his masterful blurring of the line between objective and subjective realities.
Some of Poe’s effects on my writing are obvious, such as the human heart found hidden inside a Bible in Choices, the second book in the series. Other influences aren’t usually noted. I write in the first person. Kinzie, the main character, starts off as an intelligent but extremely naïve eighteen-year old, away from home for the first time. My use of first person with her causes some to categorize The Rothston Series as “young adult” because the reader experiences the world through her brain which doesn’t always provide accurate descriptions of objective reality. The tension in the novels comes not only from the external events, but from the internal reactions to them – the subjective reality in which we all, uniquely live. Unlike, Poe, however, I provide a second, first person point of view in the novels to provide an alternate perspective on the unfolding events. Between the two, the reader has the information to know what’s actually going on, even when the characters don’t.
Although the Rothston Series aren’t mysteries, Poe’s The Purloined Letter – a forerunner of modern detective mysteries – also heavily influences my writings, but that would be the subject for a different conversation. For now, I thank Alexx for inviting me here today, and leave you with a Halloween suggestion: If you haven’t read Poe’s work, or if it’s been awhile, pick up The Tell-Tale Heart and prepare to be unnerved.
Book 1: Foreseen available now; Book 2: Choices available now; Book 3: Origins available Thanksgiving, 2014; Common Ground available 2015.