Where the Horror Comes From
Posted by Literary Titan
The Children of Red Peak follows the lives of four childhood friends who spent their formative years being raised by a religious cult. What was the inspiration for the setup to this riveting novel?
When I write horror, I tend to look to turn tropes on their head and examine their consequences in a story that isn’t so much straight-up horror but instead a psychological thriller with horror elements. The Children of Red Peak does both.
The novel is about a cult, but it’s not a Manson Family-style cult with mesmerized people looking for mass murder, it’s a relatively happy, isolated religious community that transforms into a horrific cult after they become convinced God is waiting for them on a remote desert mountain. It’s this transformation and how logical it is—how religion has given the world so many of its greatest moral achievements but also some of its greatest acts of evil—that is where the horror comes from, not just what they do when they get to Red Peak, though that is horrific enough.
As for examining the consequences of the trope, I decided to tell the story in two timelines, one in the past where we see them growing up in a religious group that transforms into a cult, and the other in the present where we see the few survivors struggling to keep the past at bay. This provided many tools for me as a writer—showing how the children accepted their belief system without minimal question even when things started to get bad, showing how as adults they question everything and struggle to cope with their memories, the ability to tease out what happened at Red Peak all those years ago, and more.
Overall, though, the biggest thematic inspiration for the story was a reading of the Book of Genesis. At one point, God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac to a mountain, tie him up, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Abraham does it but is stopped at the last moment by God.
I thought, what would that story be like if told from Isaac’s point of view? The result is a modern story about trauma and cosmic horror.
Your characters are all intriguing and well developed. What were some sources that informed their character development?
Thanks for that! It’s good to hear, as this is a character-driven novel. While The Children of Red Peak is strongly flavored with cosmic horror, it’s primarily a psychological thriller, looking deep into the souls of people who were touched by what may be either a mass break from reality or an actual cosmic event—or perhaps both. As a psychological thriller, it was absolutely essential to offer deep character development so we really understand these people and their flaws, particularly where the flaws come from.
So in the novel’s two storylines, we see that as adults the characters are grown-up versions of the children they were, and how their flaw is certain aspects of their personalities are now either twisted or put into hyperdrive as coping mechanisms due to the deep trauma they suffered. These coping mechanisms are reinforced by their professional choices. As an example, David was easily scared as a child and so he’d often hide from what scared him; as an adult, he’s now a cult exit counselor—he helps people escape—and he emotionally shuts down when confronted by stress, which costs him meaningful relationships and may cost him his marriage.
Once I had these elements in place for each character—their basic personality as children, the individual source of their childhood trauma, their profession and coping mechanism as adults, and what they wanted and needed as adults, I had everything I needed to create living, breathing characters. I fell in love with them—a hazard for horror writers, as we must hurt our darlings—and they often surprised me during the writing process as they’d taken on a life of their own and told me in a sense what they wanted to do and say without my conscious direction—including their choices in the story’s climax.
This novel does a great job of exploring trauma and how it affects different people. Was this intentional or did it come about organically while writing?
It was both. The trauma is what breaks them at Red Peak and what brings them back years later to find some sort of closure, which brings them face to face with the force that destroyed their parents. While the past timeline is about family, belief, and madness, the present timeline is about memory, trauma, and survival. To truly survive Red Peak, the survivors must go back to confront their past and the entity that appeared the final night, but escaping a second time may demand the ultimate sacrifice.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
When I’m not writing big-idea standalone novels, I self-publish “dime novel” series set in World War 2, which are very popular. Right now, I’m working on one about a carrier dive-bomber pilot fighting in the Pacific. They’re just simple, pulpy fun, and the history is wonderful if frequently tragic. My first love is horror, however, so I’m hoping to start working on another novel soon, and my big hope is to be able to work with Hachette as a publisher again. The company and its team, particularly my editor Bradley Englert, have been fantastic to work with. They really are the best at what they do.
About Literary TitanThe Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.
Posted on December 15, 2020, in Interviews and tagged author, author interview, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, Craig DiLouie, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, psychological thriller, read, reader, reading, story, suspense, The Children of Red Peak, thriller, writer, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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