“Treading Familiar Ground: The Art of Making Themes Your Own”
By Glenn Rolfe, Author of Chasing Ghosts
Vampires, zombies, werewolves, serial killers…oh my! Yeah, you’ve read the stories about a billion times already, right? So why do we keep coming back? Well, for the most part, even though you may love these monsters, it’s really the author’s voice you’re craving. It’s what the author brings to the table, such as their pains, their lessons, their life in general, that makes their stamp what it is.
Look at Brian Keene. There were plenty of zombie books being written before his debut, THE RISING, but none of them read like his zombie book. Brian has a knack for straight-up, no bullshit, street-wise punk style prose and drives it home with his ability to mix the blood and the action with heart and soul. It certainly didn’t hurt that he added his own unique mythos to the classic monster. Inter-dimensional beings/demons taking over the bodies of the recently deceased? Yeah, that’s pretty fucking great. Keene just kept the stories coming, and because of his voice, we followed. At this point, he could write about a demonically possessed kitten ravaging a small Pennsylvania town and we’d gladly go along for the ride. We trust him, and he has earned that trust.
My blog host, Mr. Jonathan Janz, has also given some fine examples. His novel, DUST DEVILS, brought vampires into the Old West. I haven’t read vampires in the Old West before, but I guarantee it’s been done (and probably a lot). What we get with Janz is his passion for literature and his honesty, even when writing about vampires. He can’t help himself. We love and root for the good guys and despise the evil, bloodsucking bastards on the other side. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Anyone can throw good vs. evil out there, but it takes talent to make it work to perfection. Janz’s characters are often those “regular Joe’s,” and that makes them so damn easy to empathize with and to follow. In DUST DEVILS, he gives us Cody Wilson, a regular Joe who loses his wife to a band of actors who just so happened to be vampires. The set-up is awesome, and the delivery is just as good.
For my latest book, CHASING GHOSTS (Sinister Grin Press), I venture into the woods of Naples, Maine, and introduce a family of inbred killers, the Cobbs. Early reviews have likened the story to something from Richard Laymon, and to the movie Wrong Turn. I accept both of these with a badge of pride. It’s part of the reason I dedicated the book to Laymon, along with Janz, Keene, and Jack Ketchum. I wanted to honor these guys. While comparisons are great, as a writer, you can’t settle for being a clone. You want to stand out. You want to earn that trust. You want to create a relationship with your readers that will have them coming back time and time again. In CHASING GHOSTS, I think the constant that keeps people engaged is the realness of the characters, from their flaws and their actions, to their language and their fear. I also had a lot of fun adding my punk rock background into the mix. The New 45 is a band I played in with guys named Ian, Connor, Mark, and Dan. I used the band name, and brought Ian and Connor along for the ride. It can be a blast killing your friends. I hope that personal touch adds to the mix, as well. The band plays a gig at a rented cabin on the outskirts of town. The scenes within and around the cabin are colored with all the different types of people we got to meet out on the road.
In the end, I hope I’ve managed to make my writing voice unique or enjoyable enough for you to dig CHASING GHOSTS, but even more so, I hope I’ve succeeded in making the kind of connection that will keep you coming back for more (even if I bring a mummy to rave).