I loved Dead Ringers (my review is coming up), and I’m thrilled to have Christopher Golden on the blog! He kindly answered a few of my questions about the new book, and more!
What inspired you to write Dead Ringers? Will you tell us a little about it?
When I write horror novels, they tend to revolve around deeper, more personal fears. Not just my own fear, but fears I think work on us all at a certain level. I’ve always liked creepy doppelganger stories, though it’s not a trope you see too often. What I like about it, going back to the Poe story “William Wilson,” is the idea that you might meet someone who is identical to you in every way, except better. If you did meet some doppelganger, a creature who meant you harm, who wanted your life…what if they were a better version of you? What if they were neater, more organized, more ambitious, more in control…what if you were forced to wonder if they deserved to live your life more than you did? The plot revolves around a group of friends and associates in Boston who begin to encounter their doppelgangers in the city, some casually and some violently. When they start to investigate, they quickly realize the one thing they have in common is that they all worked together at an archaeological dig that uncovered an occult mystery, some years before…and now that mystery has deepened, and is dragging them all in.
Did you do any specific research for the book?
Some books are research heavy, but DEAD RINGERS is set in Boston, and I’ve lived in the area most of my life. I did do some research into the particular house on which I’ve based the house in the novel, and into certain occult elements, including something called a psychomanteum, which is a large box—almost like some kind of magician’s apparatus—that is lined entirely with mirrors. Some occultists believed that certain rituals could be performed safely only inside a psychomanteum. Thanks to author Joe Hill, who had run across the word while I was working on the novel and suggested it when I asked for potential titles. We stood on the sidewalk and he looked up the meaning and read it to me, and I knew that the existence of a psychomanteum would become a core part of the novel.
Why do you think readers will root for Tess and Frank?
They’re ordinary people with ordinary, if painful, problems. All of the core characters in the novel are dealing with the trials of everyday life. Divorce, addiction, unemployment, pregnancy, marital squabbling, recovery from trauma. For me, as much as I like Frank’s arc as a character, the core relationship in the book is between Tess and her best friend Lili.
You’re no stranger to writing scary novels, but what is something that truly terrifies you?
I’m a parent, and there are so many terrors that come along with that. You want your children to be safe and happy and to love you and love each other. You want them to have a future in a world that isn’t out to destroy them. For me, more personally, if you look at DEAD RINGERS and WILDWOOD ROAD and THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN, it’s easy to see other things that scare me. Loss of control. Loss of self. Loss of memory and identity.
What do you like to see in a good story? Is there anything that will make you put down a book, unfinished?
If the voice or the story doesn’t catch me right away, sometimes I’ll put it down right then. Sometimes I’ll read a chunk—fifty pages, sometimes hundreds—and just get bored and then I’m done. There are books I’ve tried reading at one point but wasn’t in the right frame of mind at the time, then picked it up later and enjoyed it. As for a good story…it isn’t just about the story, it’s voice and character, too. A good novel is a river. Once you step in, you’re swept away. If the current isn’t strong, you can climb out at any time.
You’ve undoubtedly influenced many authors with your work, but what authors have made an impression on you?
I could list hundreds, of course, but here are just a few. Stephen King, John Irving, Shirley Jackson, Joe R. Lansdale, S.E. Hinton, Charles de Lint, Peter Straub, J.K. Rowling, Clive Barker, Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley, James Lee Burke, Don Winslow, Michael Koryta, Graham Joyce, Larry McMurtry, Jack London, my buddy Tim Lebbon, Mo Hayder, Erin Morgenstern…and it could go on forever.
Have you read any good books lately? Is there anything you’d recommend?
Of course! Tim Lebbon’s recent novels THE SILENCE and COLDBROOK are both brilliant. Paul Tremblay’s A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS, Joe Lansdale’s PARADISE SKY, Lehane’s LIVE BY NIGHT, Hilary St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN, Paula Hawkins’ GIRL ON A TRAIN, Josh Malerman’s BIRD BOX, Michael Koryta’s THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD, for starters.
You’re a busy guy. How do you balance all of your projects?
2015 has been a tough year. My editors would tell you that I haven’t balanced them very well this year. But I’m getting back on track.
Is there any advice that you’d give to an aspiring author?
Accept constructive criticism, but evaluate it thoroughly. Beyond that, the advice is always the same. If you can sit your butt in the chair and get something done, finished and revised, and put it in front of people and then go back and do it again, and if you have a modicum of talent, maybe you can be a writer. If you can’t do that, then you can’t. What you should stop doing immediately is saying “I’ve always wanted to write, but…” Go. Sit. Write. Or move on. Harsh words, perhaps, but true nevertheless.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My new comics series with Mike Mignola, JOE GOLEM: OCCULT DETECTIVE, just debuted. Beyond that, I’ve got a bunch of projects under way, including a new novel for St. Martin’s, but for the first time in a very long time, my next book is a long way off. The work won’t slow down on my end, but it will seem that way. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I sure hope so!
About Dead Ringers:
When Tess Devlin runs into her ex-husband Nick on a Boston sidewalk, she’s furious at him for pretending he doesn’t know her. She calls his cell to have it out with him, only to discover that he’s in New Hampshire with his current girlfriend. But if Nick’s in New Hampshire…who did she encounter on the street?
Frank Lindbergh’s dreams have fallen apart. He wanted to get out of the grim neighborhood where he’d grown up and out of the shadow of his alcoholic father. Now both his parents are dead and he’s back in his childhood home, drinking too much himself. As he sets in motion his plans for the future, he’s assaulted by an intruder in his living room…an intruder who could be his twin.
In an elegant hotel, Tess will find mystery and terror in her own reflection. Outside a famed mansion on Beacon Hill, people are infected with a diabolical malice…while on the streets, an eyeless man, dressed in rags, searches for a woman who wears Tess’s face.