Interview: Lea Ryan Author of Pestilence Rising
The Hungry Monster got the opportunity to interview Lea Ryan, author of Pestilence Rising, to discuss the ideas behind her novel.
Hunter is a ravager and his brother Michael is a healer. Where did you get the idea for these powers and the yin and yang dynamic?
I had the idea for the two brothers a few years back, a healer and a bringer of sickness. I wanted them to be opposites in ways other than their abilities. At first, it was the obvious option with the healer being the good one. Then I decided the story would much more interesting if the healer was the bad guy. Of course people who didn’t really know him would assume he was a good guy because the ability to heal is generally seen as good. The initial plan for the book involved him being the primary bad guy, but that changed. He still isn’t the greatest brother. Shades of the bad healer made it into the story.
Your characters in the book have special powers or abilities and the way these manifest is pretty interesting, how does this differ (or fall in line) with what has already been portrayed in other novels as far as super powers go?
The only way to set a story like this apart from the rest is to focus on the characters and the connections and the conflicts between them. It’s more about the people than anything. In the case of the healers and ravagers, I incorporated the idea of a group soul. The healers are part of one soul and the ravagers are part of a second. They’re individuals, but they have this link that connects them. I also threw Celeste into the mix. She’s the guardian angel sent by God to help Hunter find his brother. I tried to keep the religion factor to a minimum because her character could’ve easily become annoying and preachy. So, that mix of the super-powered humans and the angel might set it apart from similar stories.
The novel starts in the city, but mostly takes place in the backwoods, or at least, the less populated areas of the US. What went into your choice for the story backdrop?
Pestilence Rising does start in a variation of downtown Chicago, a place that I like very much and occasionally visit. When Hunter and Celeste go on the run, they end up in more rural areas, one of the last being Llewyn’s cult compound, which is situated at the edge of a nature preserve. She and her people have plenty of room and privacy there that they couldn’t get in the city. The weather portion of the backdrop plays an important part in the story as well. Rain and flooding in various degrees starts in the city and has a persistent presence throughout the journey across the countryside. Hunter had a bad experience with water, so his fear of it and the way it constricts around him is another force he has to deal with aside from his human enemies.
What was your favorite scene in Pestilence Rising?
The cemetery shootout was probably my favorite. The scene has a lot of action occurring in kind of an odd setting. The cemetery itself isn’t just a run-of-the-mill fence with rows of headstones. I think I actually called it a memorial garden in the book. There are monuments everywhere, at the top of two hills and a valley between. In this almost otherworldly place that’s supposed to be peaceful, you have fighting going on, people shooting at each other. The scene is the climax of two conflicts. It’s pivotal in terms of story direction.
In the book the characters derive their powers from deities, a government agency is trying to control them, a cult is also trying to control them, there’s an angel. That’s a lot of stuff. How much research did you do on these subjects for the book?
I had to check some things on the guns and the equipment the bad guys use. I play a lot of shooter video games (many resident evils and uncharted, etc), so I had some knowledge on weaponry. I know that sounds like a weird way to learn, but I had an idea of what I wanted to include in that respect.The whole ravager/healer back story didn’t require much research. When I make notes, things just kind of build themselves up as I write. The two deities started out as normal, human brothers. They evolved into a healer and a ravager because they believed they could, not because they had any kind of magic or mutation. It was a power of the mind thing. The same was true of the other kinds of anomalies in the story like the psychics and the pushers. And there are people who believe they can do stuff like that now. Reiki healers. Psychics. I can’t say if they can actually do those things, but the mind can be very powerful. I like to read about odd subjects like that, so I’m sure at least some of the reading filtered into the story.
Lea also was kind enough to send the Monster some concept art for Pestilence Rising to help the Monster visualize the taste of the book.
This first drawing is of Celeste. At the beginning of the book, her wings are a mess, all bloody and broken, a punishment for her contempt for the human race. They’re starting to grow back a bit in this picture. The next drawing is of Llewyn and some of the sidera, which are the fragments of the healer and ravager group souls. – L. Ryan