On July 28, 2016, my debut novel in the Ten Points series, The Incubus and The Others, goes out into the world as a legitimately-published novel from Black Rose Writing (please visit their site and check out their other wonderful books and authors–there is a link on the home page). It has gone through extensive edits and some rewrites since it was self-published on Kindle Direct back in June 0f 2015. I am quite horrified after the latest round of editing that I ever allowed the prior version to be up for sale for nearly a year on Amazon. The first person who edited my manuscript did a marvelous job … I just needed to make more revisions.
Let me discuss how Incubus came to be. In July 2014, two people–one was a co-worker I had befriended and was around a bit; the other a friend I had been estranged from three years–died within a matter of weeks from one another. One, whom I’ll call “C”, took his own life. Several weeks later, the other–to whom I’ll refer as “S”–died of cancer. I hadn’t spoken to her in years. I had no idea she was sick. It later turned out that no one outside her immediate family even knew about it. As far as “C”, I had seen him the day before he shot and killed himself, but it was like any other day, and it never crossed my mind to treat him any differently, or say goodbye to him, etc.
Both deaths were devastating in their own ways. After July ended, I retreated into Netflix and fantasy shows like “Dr. Who”, where there was an easy escape. The hands of time could turn back and change things (as much as The Doctor tries to avoid that kind of thing). I had always been a fan of fantasy/thriller/horror, and I have always dabbled as a writer. I’ve even tried writing novels in the past, but either they petered out before I could develop the story or the characters, OR, I couldn’t dig deep–and be honest–out of fear of what others would say when they read it. I think it was actually fear that paralyzed me most of the time in those cases.
I knew I had a story to tell after the summer of 2014 ended, and with other elements in the political climate of north Louisiana aggravating me, this story began to grow inside my head. A thirtysomething gay man comes home to the conservative environment he grew up in, he’s been away on the West Coast for years, circumstances force him back to Louisiana where he suffers reverse culture shock upon his return. Marcus was born, but I needed something bigger than he was to be the centerpiece of the story. That was how Ten Points came to be. It became my own Tara; my own Southfork; my own Collinwood. Can you imagine Gone with the Wind, “Dallas”, or “Dark Shadows” without Tara, Southfork, or Collinwood? I can’t. Those estates and houses were the backbone for those stories.
I can’t tell stories with normal flesh-and-blood characters. I couldn’t write some story about a young man’s suicide, or an older woman who was diagnosed with lung cancer and kept it a secret. I needed fantastical elements. People who have immortal life; who’ve jumped centuries; who’ve lived through other incarnations — yet live tortured existences. Conrad and Flannery started out as two-dimensional characters in the novel. Conrad was a demon who stole the bodies of other men through the decades, even stealing the name of one of them, to better disguise his true identity as a past mortal. Flannery (no spoilers) returns to Ten Points as another kind of person than she was when she left (her problem differs a bit from that of her brother Marcus’). She bursts back on to the scene in a menacing way, but the inner pain she hides from those around her is revealed. She wears her strong front like a suit of armor to protect herself from those she no longer trusts or feels safe to be near.
Flannery and Marcus were pieces of me, and then the trifecta was complete when I created 17-year-old Travis, the multi-pierced goth kid with a streak of blue in his dyed-black hair who’s also a complete misfit in his own family and with other kids his age in the Deep South. Ironically, it was by no accident young Travis turns out to be the most normal member of the dysfunctional Lanehart clan by the story’s ending. This after contending with a demon, vampires (I purposely NEVER used the “v-word” once in the novel–the second book in the series will be a different story, but that’s another tale to be told), and a 197-year-old mansion of ghosts.
As fantastical and supernatural as this novel is, I did go where the pain was to tell the tale. Something I had never achieved in any of my earlier writing. I let everything be raw, real, and didn’t hold back on language or sexuality with the characters out of fear of what those who read it would think. Whether a novel or story is good or bad, there will always be those who love it and those who think it’s the worst thing they ever read. And if you put something like this out in the world you have to prepare yourself for both reactions, which I think I have.
Nothing as dramatic as what happened to Marcus and Flannery with their family ever happened to me in real life. I obviously had to take dramatic license in order to tell a fascinating tale. But I know what it’s like to be different and feel like an outsider, even with those I’m supposed to be closest to, so I dug deep and within myself to present three people who are misfits in their own family for three varied and very different reasons.
The Incubus and The Others, out July 28, and already available for pre-order at Black Rose Writing. The electronic version will be available for devices two weeks after that. I hope everyone who’s ever felt out of place will read it and take something from it.