On a lonely stretch of deserted Texas highway, Will Longmire breaks down. But he's not alone.
In the dead of night, Innis Blake hits someone - or something - with her car. The figure should not be getting up. But it is.
An unstoppable force is after Will and Innis. And before the night is over, both strangers will know the face of Cruelty.
Forgiveness is only a few miles down the road, but safety is nowhere in sight.
Every monster has its origins.
Gef: So Cruelty started out as a serial novel. What prompted you to take that route in presenting the story? Have you been a fan of serial fiction in the past?
Edward: Yeah, you could say I’ve been a fan of serial fiction since I was a kid. Radio plays and the like. I especially enjoy television series with continuing plot lines. Like Breaking Bad and the first season of True Detective. But when I first began writing Cruelty, it wasn’t meant to be a serial novel. It just kind of worked out that way.
Gef: Was there anything particular you had to approach differently when writing this novel compared to your previous work? Like the plotting of each installment as opposed to a more traditional chapter setup?
Edward: You know, it’s funny. I wrote the book as a novel, but when I went back and reread it, it felt more like a television program. Because, honestly, the book doesn’t work well as a novel. Just like most television shows wouldn’t work well as standalone movies. The structure is too choppy. There’s no rhythm to the chapter lengths. You have one long chapter followed by several short chapters, then several longer chapters followed by a short chapter. There are even two chapters in the book that occur back to back that are only one sentence long. Every chapter is from a different POV character, too. There are many varying themes, too. Each episode feels like a television episode in that regard. It has a specific purpose and time frame in which to reach its goal. If Cruelty was on TV, it would likely be on the paid-cable networks with hour-long, commercial-free episodes. What’s funny is, I didn’t mean for it to be that way. It just happened. I find it extremely cool that the story knew all along what it wanted to be, while its author didn’t have a clue.
Gef: With Texas as the backdrop, what was the allure in setting your story there?
Edward: I first came up with the idea for Cruelty while driving through Texas on my way to my grandmother’s funeral in California. Originally the novel was called Endless Texas, and it was going to be about a serial killer dressed as a baby doll chasing the main character from Kerrville to Fort Stockton. There’s a long strip of lonely Interstate 10 that I am particularly fond of, and it was going to be the set piece for that book. Well, as is often the case, the book had other ideas for where it wanted to go. Instead of William Longmire taking off for Fort Stockton, he ends up taking refuge in a gas station. And the serial killer in the baby doll outfit became so much more than your average slasher. I think fans of the series will find it interesting to know that Innis Blake was never going to be a part of the book, but she is. From the second chapter, she’s a major part of the story.
Gef: How have you found your progression as a writer thus far?
Edward: I can say with the utmost honesty that I look back at some of my earlier writing now and cringe. I was a little too simplistic at times, and quite a bit of my language was immature. I’m not only talking about foul language, but some of the descriptions were just… well, so damn basic. Not that I’ve acquired a complete maturity of style now (I don’t think any good author ever truly stops learning) but I’ve gone from describing a room as being bright to there being a golden veil draped over the furniture. Which is kinda like calling janitors Custodial Engineers, but I dig it.
Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?
Edward: Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz (he lost a little something special when he dropped the R. from his name), Richard Laymon, Chuck Palahniuk, Marisha Pessl, and Michael Moorcock, just to name a few. (I read a lot.) Each one of those authors have influenced me in some way. Above all, though, Stephen King is my hero. He’s had his misses, but no one fiction writer has had such a varied and lengthy career. Some have had longer careers, some have written in more genres, but none have been as prolific, as mercurial, or as dependable as King. He’s also one of the only popular novelists who still care enough to take risks. Palahniuk still does it, but he’s been failing more than succeeding as of late and doesn’t publish near as much as King, and Dean Koontz has damn near given up where originality is concerned.
Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of the horror genre?
Edward: Has there been a saving grace? If I’m honest, I don’t think there has been one. I think my beloved genre is still just as bullied and ignored as it always has been. If you’re asking why horror is still around, once again, I gotta ask, is it? Is it really? The only horror novels coming from the major publishers have been Horror Lite or they’ve been other genres with horrific elements. Or they’ve been blatant rip-offs of better, earlier material. The horror genre these days is, for the most part, zombies. The Walking Dead has seen to that. Nick Cutter is the most popular new horror author, but he’s only regurgitating ideas from the eighties. Infectious diseases/worms that devour us from the inside out, or underwater horror in the vein of Sphere. Cutter does what he does very well, but it’s nothing new. Then you have Josh Malerman and his Bird Box novel, a story so devoid of an ounce of humanity that it’s fooled seasoned professionals into thinking it’s art. So, once again, I ask, has horror found its saving grace? Will it ever? Probably not. And I’m okay with that.
You have Darkfuse and Samhain and Thunderstorm Books doing their thing and doing it well, Sinister Grin and Subterranean and Severed Presses rocking the dials, and Cemetery Dance is still going strong, but they’re all doing it on a smaller, more intimate level. Backstage, where shadows belong.
Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?
Edward: Any piece of writing advice that starts out, “Don’t write about…” Seriously, Gef, fuck that noise. A writer’s job is to, first, entertain themselves. Then their job is to challenge themselves. And, hopefully, by entertaining and challenging themselves, they entertain and challenge their readers. There are far too many authors out there worried about upsetting their readers, worried about what not to write. Some of these worried word slingers are actually horror writers. How can that be? It is what we do. We’re here to disturb and disgust. We’re here to fill our readers with dread and trigger emotional responses. Anything else would be to write as if all your readers are timid children, to talk down to them. If you want to play it safe, write romance or comedy. Better yet, write self-help books. Or take up knitting. I hear beanies are popular with the kids.
Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?
Edward: Anybody who follows on social media knows I have a perverse fascination with all things Howard the Duck. Mainly the 1986 movie. I’ve only recently started reading the old comics because my wife, being the amazing person that she is, bought me the omnibus Marvel put out a few years back. Truthfully though, I still prefer that cheesy-ass movie to the comics. I’m also a Minecraft nerd. I play survival mode while listening to audiobooks, because I’m hardcore like that. Who needs to hear a creeper coming? Not this guy.
Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future?
Edward: If I haven’t put your readers off by pissing all over Josh Malerman’s truly terrible debut, then they can find me some of everywhere on social media. My books are available everywhere books are sold, but not everything is on sale everywhere. Many of my works are Amazon exclusive because they give me back rubs when I’m feeling lonely.
As for future projects, I’m always busy. I have a new collection of short stories coming out toward the end of August, 2015, a new novel slated for next year, and some other surprises, including a possible second season of Cruelty. We’ll see.
Thanks for having me, Gef. It’s always an honor when you ask me to drop by.