I’m so excited to have mega-star author Daryl Gregory visiting the blog today! What? You’ve never heard of mega-star Daryl Gregory? Well, you will after you read this post! (And certainly if you are a regular Books, Bones & Buffy reader, you know that I’ve loved his last two books.) Welcome to the strange, tentacle-filled Lovecraftian world of Harrison Squared, which hits stores today.
Welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy, Daryl!
I’m so happy you’re letting me crash your blog. Thanks!
BB&B: Harrison Squared is a prequel to We Are All Completely Fine, describing Harrison’s teenage years and his misadventures in Dunnsmouth. Have you considered writing prequels for any of the any characters in We Are All Completely Fine?
DG: This is the first time prequels and sequels have been on the menu for me. Before these two books, none of my novels shared a universe. Hardly any of them even share a genre. I’ve written near-future hard SF, a literary zombie novel that talks more about how brains work than how they taste, a Southern Gothic murder mystery about Tennessee mutants… really, it’s no way to run a career. Thank goodness for the readers who are willing to follow me from book to book.
I never seriously considered sequels for those other novels, because when I finished I felt like I’d told the story I wanted to tell. The world of the story was bound up with the characters who lived there. When the characters’ stories were complete, that world closed down for me. (And often, the main characters were so changed by the end that they were unfit to tell the same kind of story again.)
But with these two books, the characters’ stories aren’t finished. I’ve got plenty more ideas. For example (here comes the plug) the free interactive story online, Harrison Squared Dies Early (http://darylgregory.com/harrison-squared/game), where you take on the role of Harrison on a monster hunt through Dunnsmouth Secondary. Think of those old choose-your-own-adventure books, but running in your browser. It has art by David Hinnergardt, and text and puzzles by me.
So what was your question? Oh, right! I haven’t mapped out prequels for the other characters in We Are All Completely Fine, but I have thought of sequels for them. Let’s see if I get around to writing them!
That’s great news! I thought some of your best characters in Harrison Squared were the side characters, and my personal favorites were Lub and Aunt Sel. What inspired you write such funny and well-developed characters?
Desperation. When I’m writing, I’m madly tap dancing to keep both the reader and myself entertained. Mostly me. I’m the guy who has to type out all those words.
But also, the book seemed to call for these characters. Aunt Sel brings some light into the book, and it was a pleasure to have a hard-drinking Dorothy Parker or Auntie Mame stroll into the middle of a horror novel and demand a margarita.
With Lub the fish-boy, I wanted him to be a real person, as opposed to a “monster.” In true Lovecraft, anything foreign or alien is by definition evil. (Lovecraft, for all he brought to the field, is perhaps our genre’s most famous racist.) I wanted to subvert that mindset. Besides, I’ve always been on the side of the monsters. It’s the humans who scare me.
I have to agree with you:-D I loved all your references to both Lovecraft and Melville, not to mention the famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. How did you decide to combine all these bits of famous literature together?
It was all just there, begging to be used. Melville created the prototypical Lovecraftian monster. Moby Dick is unkillable, inscrutable, and cares not a whit for puny humans. All I did was add tentacles. Harrison’s obsessed mother Rosa is our Ahab, though it’s her son’s leg that was lost to the beast. As for Coleridge, his epic poem is at heart a nautical ghost story. It even has zombies in it! One of my goals was to sneak all these references to these authors into the head of some young reader, so that when she got around to reading Lovecraft or Melville or Coleridge she’d think, These guys are ripping off Gregory.
After the dark tone of We Are All Completely Fine, Harrison Squared is almost the complete opposite. Did you deliberately set out to write a book that would appeal to younger readers?
Can I tell you a secret? Harrison Squared was written first. I wanted to write a fun yet creepy Lovecraft novel that would have been something my son was looking for when he was twelve but couldn’t find. He’s a huge Lovecraft fan, and knows much more about the stories and the man himself than I do. The final draft turned into more of an all-ages thing—I kept putting in jokes and references that no twelve-year-old, except possibly my son, was going to get—but the goal was always to keep it light and fast-moving.
Anyway, before I’d started that final draft, I kept wondering about what effects this “light” adventure would have on Harrison, and that led me to think about all those “final girls” and lone survivors of horror stories and movies—surely they needed a lot of intense therapy! I thought it would be interesting if survivors from various subgenres of horror—the last man in a 70’s cannibal family movie, the 80s slasher-flick survivor, etc—all found themselves in small group therapy together.
These people are adults, and they’re traumatized. The tone had to be darker (though I couldn’t help keeping Harrison’s deep sense of irony). One of the things the grown-up Harrison complains about in therapy is that his horrific past was turned into a series of light adventure novels.
Ha ha, I love that! If you could be any of the characters in Harrison Squared, who would you choose and why?
You never want to be one of the heroes of a horror novel–and you really don’t want to be one of the people standing too close the hero. Those guys have the life expectancy of a hamster. If I had to choose, I think I’d like to be Aunt Sel. She appreciates a good gin and tonic, and she’s witty even when snockered.
I know we’re here to celebrate the release of Harrison Squared, but I have a burning question about We Are All Completely Fine. The point of view you used was a bit unusual. My guess is “first person omniscient,” but even then I feel like you gave that a twist. What made you decide to use this POV?
I’m happy to answer burning questions—and this one has heated up more than a few people. In We Are All Completely Fine, each chapter begins in first person plural: “We did this,” “We thought that.” Then the chapter focuses on the point of view of one member of the group.
So what’s this all about? In my mind, the protagonist of the book is not Harrison, or any one member of the group—the hero is the group itself. The story is about how a handful of individuals, including the therapist, become something larger and stronger than themselves. And as you may have picked up on, that “we” is not quite omniscient—it knows only what the group knows. One chapter even leads off with a question about that pronoun: who’s in this we, and who’s out? Is the group that started the book the same group at the end?
And near the end, the point of view starts shifting among multiple group members in one chapter, to show how the group is cohering, even though some members are no longer with the group. (It would be spoilers to tell your readers which ones, and how they leave.)
So, what’s next for Daryl Gregory? Are you working on a sequel to Harrison Squared? Because, that would be ok with me! (I really want to find out what happens to Rosa!)
I’ve got two more books planned for young Harrison, and if the audience wants them, I’d love to write them. In the meantime, I’m working on a multigenerational novel about a family of not-so-powerful psychics who were famous for about ten minutes in the 70s before being “debunked” on the Mike Douglas show.
That is definitely going on my TBR list:-D Please tell us three things about you that can’t be found on your website.
You’d think that because I have so much trouble keeping my website updated that there would be plenty to tell you, but most of what’s left is either too embarrassing or too personal to share in public. So here are three things that are either too embarrassing or too personal to share in public:
- I recently tried to grow a beard. It wasn’t pretty. Weird patches of gray appeared, as if I’d been bitten by a were-Dalmatian.
- Despite being a grown man who can extrude a bleach-stained beard from his face, my underwear consisted entirely of tighty-whities, the style I’d been wearing since potty training finally took hold. Then a couple weeks ago, I went to Target and bought several packs of black and gray briefs. I felt like James Bond. And now when I travel, I don’t have to wash a load of separate whites! This has changed my life.
- This is not something a writer should admit to, but history has shown that I would rather watch a mediocre TV show than read a mediocre book. I just can’t argue with the data. I’ve spent so many hours watching Chopped and Restaurant Impossible that I could have at least have made a dent in my TBR pile. But a good book still trumps a good TV show. Except Justified. And Better Call Saul. And The Flash.
Well, when you ask that question, you never know what you’ll get;-) What a fun interview, thank you so much for letting us peek behind the curtain:-D
About the author:
DARYL GREGORY was the 2009 winner of IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award for his first novel Pandemonium. His second novel, The Devil’s Alphabet, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and was named one of the best books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and The Year’s Best SF. He has also written comics for BOOM! Studios and IDW.
About Harrison Squared:
Harrison Harrison—H2 to his mom—is a lonely teenager who’s been terrified of the water ever since he was a toddler, when a huge sea creature capsized their boat, and his father vanished. One of the “sensitives” who are attuned to the supernatural world, Harrison and his mother have just moved to the worst possible place for a boy like him: Dunnsmouth, a Lovecraftian town perched on rocks above the Atlantic, where strange things go on by night, monsters lurk under the waves, and creepy teachers run the local high school.
Almost as soon as they arrive, his marine biologist mother disappears at sea. Harrison must attempt to solve the mystery of her accident, which puts him in conflict with a strange church, a knife-wielding killer, and the Dwellers, fish-human hybrids that live in the bay. It will take all his resources—and an unusual host of allies—to defeat the danger and find his mother.
And if that isn’t enough entertainment for one post, how about this? Harrison Squared Dies Early is an awesome interactive “choose your own adventure game” that you can play online for FREE right now! (Seriously, it’s fun. I tried it:-D)