Posted by Literary Titan
Birth to the Stilldead tells the story of a young doctor, Tel, and a necromancer, Aarne, who fight off increasingly disturbing supernatural occurrences while working in a cancer ward at a hospital. Why did you choose a hospital for the setting of the story?
I spend lots of time wandering around a particular hospital as a Literacy Program volunteer, so this cavernous and labyrinthine layout is something I’m familiar with. Also, there’s lots of strange rooms and hallways that I’m not allowed access to, which sets my mind wandering with story possibilities.
Aarne is both a mysterious and perplexing character. He listens to the dead and knows what they want. What was your inspiration for building his character?
The idea of being a modern day wizard is very appealing. Having access to forces that aren’t recognized by science and using them to run gung-ho over the world. However, it would be tough to remain a good person with that kind of power. Aarne makes no moral calculations whatsoever and pursues the work for the sake of knowledge and power. In reality, people like that cause tremendous damage, but in fiction they’re endlessly fascinating.
Many of the children that Tel is treating have cancer. I thought you did a great job capturing the emotional turmoil and pain that families go through in these situations. What kind of research did you do for this novel to ensure you captured the essence of what it meant to be diagnosed with cancer?
Thanks. The atmosphere of an Inpatient Pediatrics unit is one I’ve spent some time in. However, not being privy to personal conversations between doctors and patients/parents, I sought out personal stories and training information.
Are you a fan of the supernatural horror genre? What books do you think most influenced your work?
Supernatural horror is my favorite genre. I love the worldview it espouses. Not only is the universe amoral and indifferent at best, but also, laws of physics are merely accidental conveniences and in reality, anything can happen. Thomas Ligotti is a huge influence along these ideological lines, although I don’t try to write like him. His stories are more philosophical fables on the nature of horror rather than plot-driven. Clive Barker’s supernatural horror is one of my earliest and all encompassing influences. He marrys a cinematic scene-style of writing along with deep ideas and poetic descriptions which is exactly how novels are supposed to work.
What is the next book you are working on?
It’s called BirdTorn Tapestry and is about a man adjusting to his new office job, which starts to resemble a mystical initiation into a group he cannot escape from. Another novella, a bit surreal but still a horror story. My goal is to publish a new work every six weeks or so, and I’ve got quite a few lined up, so keep your eyes peeled.
Struggling young doctor Tel Hunniset becomes the interest of rogue necromancer Aarne Soars, who is able to blend seemlessly in with hospital personnel. Together, they save the lives of many children dying of an epidemic, with Tel getting all the credit. As supernatural events increasingly intrude upon Tel’s life, he is forced to confront the terrible cost of his actions upon the dead.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: amazon books, author, author interview, birth to the stilldead, book, book review, books, cancer, children, clive barker, doctor, ebooks, epidemic, eric johnsen, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, horror, hospital, interview, magic, mystery, necromancer, novela, pediatrics, publish, publishing, reading, review, reviews, science, stories, supernatural, thomas ligotti, thriller, urban fantasy, wizard, writing
Posted by Literary Titan
Eric Johnsen offers a striking, mind-bending novella in Birth to the Stilldead. If the title and cover aren’t clear enough, this is a horror novel with disturbing imagery, and may not be suitable for all readers. It certainly delivers on the promise of supernatural horrors lurking just beyond the veil of life and death.
Doctor Tel Hunniset is tired. He works in the pediatric unit of a hospital, treating children with cancer. It’s grueling, emotional work. His boss, Doctor Klemens, knows from experience that Tel is both exhausted and uninspired by his job, and questions his motivations for becoming a doctor in the first place. After the children in his ward become infected with a pathogen that causes convulsions and death, Tel races to save lives, but narrowly misses disaster. When a hospital volunteer offers his assistance—a decidedly non-medical cure—the children begin to stabilize just as the “volunteer” is discovered to be an imposter and escapes.
The mysterious man introduces himself as Aarne Soars, and with his help, Dr. Hunniset can save the lives of the remaining patients. In the aftermath of the outbreak, Tel is called a hero but the stress he’s under is also affecting his wife, Millary. Someone has vandalized her graveyard-like memorial garden, her mother has cancer, and her husband is either asleep or at work. They both experience events that could only be described as supernatural, accompanied by eerie visions of a bloody-wraith-like woman, lead him back to Aarne. What he learns from the mysterious man forces him to rethink everything, even the nature of reality.
Birth to the Stilldead had me hooked early. Working with children suffering from cancer and other serious medical issues can be heartbreaking. It’s a high-stress place, not only for the kids and their families but also the staff who care for them. Johnsen showed this through the eyes of Tel Hunniset as he watches his colleagues work in the chaos around him while he internalizes his fears. The pediatric ward is beset by worried parents and lawyers. Dr. Klemens seems to be intent on criticizing Dr. Hunniset at every opportunity. It’s easy to keep turning pages because even the moments of normalcy are tinged with building tension.
Aarne is both mysterious and perplexing. He listens to the dead, knows what they want and need; knows their secrets. For the living, there’s a price to pay for taking a life, but what happens in the world of spirits when you save one? Aarne is one of the rare few who can bridge the gap between the living and the dead. His pockets are full of tricks, but without them, Tel wouldn’t have been able to save the lives of so many.
The last few chapters of the book kept me riveted. It’s a fast-paced read, and since it’s a novella, there’s no point in putting it down. I recommend this for fans of supernatural horror. The secrets that Aarne reveals are thought-provoking. They may follow you around for a while, tugging at your subconscious, asking you to listen.
Pages: 58 | ASIN: B01HFS9YJ2
Tags: amazon books, author, birth to the stilldead, book, book review, books, cancer, death, disturbing, doctor, ebook, ebooks, eric johnsen, fantasy, fantasy book review, fiction, horror, mystery, pediatric, publishing, reading, review, reviews, stories, supernatural, thriller, writing