Monday, August 1, 2016

Interview with debut YA thriller novelist Ryan Hill

Welcome, readers. I’m kicking off a new month and new week with an interview with a debut novelist.

Ryan Hill is here hatting with me about his YA psychological thriller, Barking Madness.

Welcome, Ryan. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Ryan Hill, and I am a fiction writer. My debut novel, Barking Madness, is a dark and witty YA psychological thriller with lots of paranormal twists and turns. It is also a coming of age story that provides an inside peek at the mind of teens, in the complicated and awkward high school years. The book features two protagonists with alternating POV’s and a psychotic killer. I really enjoyed creating the different layers of characters and relationships in the story and felt I was successful in building believable and distinctive personalities. The supporting characters have strong voices, as well, and will grab the reader’s attention. I first started writing down ideas for my story in middle school and in July 2013 before my senior year, I decided to take the plunge and start writing my novel. After a lifetime of playing soccer, I quit the high school team and unbeknownst to anyone, began writing. I was completely dedicated and had a complete manuscript in 8 months. Barking Madness was published by Pulse Publishing in August 2015.

I was born in Greenwich, Connecticut but have been living in West Newbury, Massachusetts with my family since the 3rd grade. Currently, I am a sophomore at UMass Amherst and pursuing a degree in English. When I’m not doing homework or writing, I can be found on my Xbox, at the gym, or watching a movie, as I am a huge fan of film. With survival horror being my favorite genre, some of my favorite movies are Evil Dead 2, Jurassic Park, Jaws, Alien, The Shining, The Thing, Grindhouse, and Scream. But my all time favorite horror movie is An American Werewolf in London. I have a soft spot for werewolves, which is the main reason I included one in my novel Barking Madness. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just find them interesting.

Please tell us about your current release.
Barking Madness is a twisted coming of age story that focuses more on the teenage mindset than anything else. There are strange paranormal happenings that occur frequently in my book, but I find the heart of the story to lie within the characters’ deranged life issues. The tone is mostly serious, but I throw in humor to keep the story rolling. If you’re a fan of teenage angst and the paranormal, then there is plenty for you in my book.

The story is told from Rosetta and Michael’s POV. Rosetta Harper and her family have just moved from Florida to a small, rural New England town. Her beauty and manipulative ways have quickly made her the center of attention and part of the ‘it’ group. But all is not as it seems. She inadvertently becomes the target of a twisted series of events involving supernatural creatures, scary visions and horrific nightmares that test her loyalties to her friends and family.

Shortly after moving into Ashwood, Rose gets the attention of Tommy, a ‘popular’ boy. After going to a party and heading home through the woods, the pair comes face to face with a massive wolf. They are attacked leaving Rose severely injured and Tommy dead. This physical attack results in Rose believing she is afflicted with something monstrous. Rose soon finds herself living in a world of ghosts and monsters.

Hearing screams from the road, Michael runs through the woods to find the source. What he finds will forever change his life. Rosetta Harper, the new girl who he has admired from afar is on the ground before him fighting for her life. Her rescue will be the start of a slow-building, back and forth friendship that develops into a loving relationship. At first, Rose wants nothing to do with Michael. He isn't popular, a jock, or outgoing at all. He is completely out of her social circle, but as the story develops and Rose seeks to discover the truth about her past and her future, so does their connection.

What inspired you to write this book?
I first got involved with writing in 6th grade. My teacher assigned the class a four-page mystery story to write, but when it came time to hand in my work, I had a 25 page sci-fi story instead. That's when I knew I loved to write. Of course, I didn’t think I’d ever write a book. It wasn’t until I looked at other accomplished authors that I really decided I should write a full length novel.

Werewolves are my favorite movie monster, and I wanted to write something involving them. A large combination of things inspired me to write Barking Madness. I had the idea for the story years ago, and it was eating at me, so I really wanted to put it down on paper to finally get it off my mind. My teachers in high school inspired me the most, though. If it wasn’t for their support, I don’t think I would have started writing. I also drew a lot of inspiration from young adult authors like Stephenie Meyer and Christopher Paolini. Their novels really sent my imagination for a ride.

Excerpt from Barking Madness:

First Prowl
The smell hit me first. Wet and reeking of dirt, my body twitched from the pointed grass blades stabbing at my skin. Hesitantly, my eyes opened with several tiny blinks to assure myself that I was where I appeared to be. Placing my cut palms on either side of me, I began lifting myself off the ground to get a better look at my surroundings.
Birds chirped their merry jingle overhead while trees danced in the swift breeze. Turning every which way before coming to the conclusion that I was lost or in the middle of nowhere, I slowly got to my shaky feet. The forest surrounded me and had no end in any direction.
“Hello. Hello!” Nobody answered, so I was totally lost… and suddenly cold. I wrapped my arms around my chest to keep warm and found, to my surprise, that I was still naked. Covering my privates, I became worried about the situation. Where was I, and how did I get here?
I tried to swallow my fear but only tasted blood in return. And In reaction to the metallic taste, I spat any and all saliva I currently had in my mouth onto the ground. It was red. So, I wiped at my face with the backside of my hand and pulled it away to see that it was covered in blood. Whimpering, I used my other hand – blood, so I used the palms of my hands – more blood.
As I stared in horror at my painted appendages, I realized something terrible must have occurred at the party last night, so I tried to remember what had happened. I took those stupid drugs from Chloe, swam a bit, and was nearly raped by Tommy and almost shot by Zach (which had to have been the drugs). There’s no way Tommy was there, and I doubt Zach would ever shoot me. But then I remembered the bathroom. What was that all about?
“Rose! You’re alright, thank God,” somebody said behind me. I made sure my privates were covered before turning around. Who was it? Tommy! I screamed, removing my hands from their coverage. Quickly, he looked away. “Shit! Sorry, I didn’t mean to see you there.” I screamed again at the mutilated corpse and ran in the opposite direction. “Rose, wait! Come back!”
It’s the drugs! They haven’t worn off yet, that’s all! Just keep running, and he won’t catch up. Just keep running… I screeched to a halt and shrieked. Zach was blocking my path, and he was covered in blood. His neck was also torn out to the spine, and flesh was dangling from where his left arm used to be. “Missed me, you fucking bitch?”
He sprinted at me with eyes on fire, so I turned and ran back in the direction I had come. “Where you going, Rose? I thought you wanted to screw me?” I cut myself on a few sticks, and the occasional rock hurt my foot, but nothing would stop me from avoiding the furious zombie behind me. Unless Tommy showed up again!
Appearing right in front of me, my dead ex emerged from thin air, so I quickly tried coming to a stop but instead fell forward. He tried to catch me, but his eyes were closed, and I fell through him anyway.
Sliding into the dirt and leaves below stung the entire front side of my body. “Sorry Rose. I tried to catch you, but being a ghost and all doesn’t really allow me to interact with the real world.”
I scrambled up to my feet, faced him, and backed up into a tree. “Just stay back, okay?”
His eyes were still shut and his hands were raised in defense. “Okay, whatever you want. Listen, I don’t mean to scare you or cause any harm. I’m here to help.”
I was staring at his dangling intestines when Zach came running out of the brush behind him. Tommy reacted quickly by tripping him, and we watched him fall into the dirt same as me. Zach grumbled on the ground before struggling to get up with his one arm. “What the hell, man?”
“What do you mean, ‘what the hell?’ Stop freaking her out!”
“Oh yeah, like you haven’t done that already. Just look at her.” Zach gestured towards me and observed my horrified expression.
“No, dick; I’m not looking. She hasn’t got any clothes on.”
“So, that’s not stopping me.”
“Well, you’re a pervert.”
“But I’m dead, so let me do whatever the fuck I want to do without lecture, please.” I stared Zach down head to toe. He was wearing a pair of blood stained jeans, nothing else. Soon, he noticed what I was doing and got real pissed. “What are you looking at?”
I pressed as tightly against the tree as possible. “Nothing, nothing.”
Tommy slapped the back of his head. “Cut it out.”
“No, this is her fault. I’ll do whatever I want.”
Tommy opened his eyes and peered into Zach’s. “No, you won’t. Because if you keep freaking her out, I’m going to beat the shit out of you.”
Zach scoffed. “Go ahead and try. My body already expelled all my excrement hours ago.”
Tommy giggled. “That’s actually kind of funny. A little morbid, but funny.”
“Fuck you, man, and stop laughing.”
“Or what, you going to beat me up with one arm tied behind your back?” He laughed again, and Zach dove for him. I watched them rough around on the ground for a while until Tommy pulled Zach’s head back far enough for it to get stuck upside down. At that point, Tommy got up from the fight and turned to make sure I was still there. When he caught the slightest glimpse of me, he looked away and said sorry again.
Zach squirmed around in the leaves until, finally, he gave up with trying to fix his head and resorted to begging Tommy for help.
“Not until you promise that you’ll leave Rose alone.”
He moaned. “That’s unfair. I have every right to haunt her, and torment her, and make her life a living hell.” Tommy kicked him in his arm nub, and Zach screamed in pain. “Fine,” he was sobbing, “fine but this isn’t fair to me. It isn’t fair!”
“Death’s not fair, so get over it. Do you promise to leave Rose alone?”
“Sure, but why? Why should I?”
“Because I need her.”
“Oh, so your needs overpower mine. I see what’s going on.”
“No, I just overpower you in general, so you have to listen to me or else your head stays on backwards, got it?”
“Yes… I got it.”
“Good.” Tommy picked Zach up off the ground and helped him stabilize his footing before pulling his head back up and into the right position. “Better?”
Zach cracked his neck twice. “Whatever.” He glanced at me and soaked in the image of me naked. “For someone so beautiful, you are so evil. Do you know that?”
I was breathless. What did he mean? Tommy pitched in. “Hey, it isn’t exactly her fault.”
“The hell it isn’t! She tore out my neck! She swallowed my arm! She killed me! It is completely her fault!”
“Fine, I agree with you, but can you really blame her? You were pointing a gun at her earlier.”
“That’s because she hit me and kicked me in the nuts. Plus, I was insanely wasted and on a little bit of coke. You can’t really blame me either.”
“Yes, you can. You were in control of your actions; she wasn’t.” Tommy pointed at me.
“How do you know that? Maybe she was and just wanted to kill me. Did you ever ask her that?”
“No, but…”
“Exactly, you couldn’t possibly know.”
“Then ask her yourself if she meant to kill you if you really want to know.”
“Fine, I will.” Zach faced me again, but I still was in no condition to speak or even comprehend what was going on. He sucked in a deep breath before speaking. “Did you mean to kill me?”
I was dead silent staring between the two ghouls. And It took me all of about twenty seconds of Zach waiting patiently and Tommy looking away to actually say something. “What?”
Zach seemed about to cry and kicked at the ground a little bit before coming closer. “Did you mean to kill me, Rose?” His eyes were watering, and he was shaking his head. “I have to know. Did you intend on killing me?”
I was dumbfounded, so I looked to Tommy for help, but he didn’t want in on the conversation at all. “Zach I… I have no idea…”
“Please, Rose, please you can tell me. I’m already dead for Christ’s sake. Did you mean to eat me?”
I was heartbroken standing in front of the weeping ghost. “No, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I don’t even know why you’re here, or why I’m here. I just woke up in the woods, and now this is happening.”
Tommy pitched in. “Wait, Rose, what do you mean you don’t know what happened? Are you just saying that because it happened so fast or…?”
“No, I have no idea what you two freaks are even talking about?”
Zach, with red eyes, lifted his arm and pointed at me. “Don’t you dare call me a freak! The only reason I’m even here is because you’re a fucking monster!” Tommy shouted at him to shut up, but he didn’t. “No, listen, Tommy! She knew about her condition and refused to accept it! Now, because of that, I’m here rotting away with wonder boy and hell spawn!” Zach was crying his eyes out now. “I just want to be home with my family. I just want to be home.” He sat down onto the dying leaves. “Is that so much to ask? But apparently it is for you, Tommy.”
Tommy was rubbing his eyelids. “I’m sorry Zach, I am, but you being dead is not Rosetta’s fault. You were at that party, you got drunk, and you lost your cool. Now you’re dead, and it is only your fault, so stop getting mad at Rose.”
“Now you’re on her side again? Great.” He wiped away his snot with his only arm.
I was trying to absorb what they were saying. “Wait, Zach, what do you mean by my ‘condition’? And why are you even here?”
Zach laughed bitterly. “What do you mean ‘condition’? It’s such garbage.” He looked up at me and saw that I was unquestionably confused, with everything. “Rose, you know what we’re talking about right?” I looked back and forth between the two of them and shook my head. “My God, I’m dealing with a complete idiot.”
Tommy turned around with his eyes still shut and directed his talk more towards Zach than he did me. “I tried telling her over and over again, but she would never hear me. Every day I bugged her, but she never noticed. Not until you two were in bed that is.”
I was starting to get annoyed. “You tried to tell me what? What was it?”
Zach raised his arm and got up. “Ohh, it all makes sense now.” He faced Tommy angrily. “When I was getting in bed with her, she saw you, so she hit me, and I hit her, and now I’m dead.”
Tommy rolled his eyes under their lids. “You’d be dead anyway for being stupid.”
“Thanks. Thanks a bunch. You know, you are such a piss poor friend Tommy. Here I am dead just trying to get a little angry with the woman who murdered me, and you’re defending her and insulting me at the same time. Real nice.”
I intervened before Tommy could argue back. “What do you mean I murdered you? And what do you mean I ate your arm? You said that earlier, and that’s impossible. I don’t remember doing it, and I sure as hell have no idea why I would. And this condition you mentioned, what’s that? Plus, Tommy, what do you mean you tried to tell me? Tell me now! I’m listening!”
The two ghouls exchanged looks. “Zach, you want to tell her because you’d be better at breaking the bad news?”
Zach scoffed. “News, what news? She should have known about this when she was bit. Doesn’t anybody watch movies anymore?”
I yelled. “No, I do not watch movies, are you happy? Please tell me what the fuck is going on and why I’m talking to two dead people!”
“Well, my description of you would be Satan. Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.”
I turned to Tommy, he would answer my questions. “Tommy? Please, Zach is no help.”
Tommy inhaled and swallowed. I could literally see his exposed Adam’s apple move up and down. “Well, Rose, it all started when you and I were attacked in the woods after Brad’s party a month ago. You see, I died, so I’m cursed to walk the Earth in limbo until your curse is broken. It’s kind of stupid and doesn’t really make much sense, but we have to roll with it because we actually don’t have another option other than to roll with it so...”
“Tommy, please, I’m begging you, get to the point. Why did I murder Zach?”
“I’m getting there; it’s just hard to say and sounds pretty dumb, so give me a second, alright?”
Zach pitched in. “Dumb? I’m dead because of this so called dumb curse.”
I was really annoyed. “What curse? What are you talking about?”
“Er,” Tommy started, “You see, there really isn’t any way to put this logically, so I guess I’ll just tell you.” He inhaled. “You’re a lycanthrope, Rosetta.”
“What the heck is lionthrope?”
Zach slapped his hand against his forehead. “You’re such a moron; it’s unbelievable.”
Tommy shushed Zach. “Rose, it’s an, um, it’s a werewolf.” He gave me a crooked smile.
I stared at his closed eyes in disbelief for a second and chuckled. “I really am going insane.” I began walking off into the woods. What I needed was a therapist. There must be some repressed memories up in my head causing me to be delusional; otherwise, I wouldn’t be seeing my dead lovers.
“Rose,” he called after me, “I know what it sounds like, but you have to believe me. I’m dead for crying out loud, and so is Zach. Please just listen to me.”
I stopped walking and turned around. “Listen to you, Tommy, the dead ex boyfriend slash football player. And who else? Oh yeah, the guy who tried to rape me while I was on drugs. No thanks, but I’ll pass on this one. You’re just in my head, so leave me alone!”
I turned back forward to run off, but Zach was blocking my path. “I am dead! I am fucking dead because of you! And you want to blow it off? No way am I letting that happen.”
“A werewolf, though, really?” I crossed my arms. “If you wanted me to believe that I killed you, you should have just said that I reacted crazily due to the drugs in my system or something. That’s the condition I thought you were talking about. Not turning into a fucking monster that howls at the moon once a month.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
It’s under wraps at the moment. I’d like to complete more of it before I share what it’s about.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer once my manuscript for Barking Madness was complete.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t write full-time. I’m a full time college student at UMass Amherst. I write at night. For some reason it’s easier for me to be creative when it’s late.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I talk aloud a lot when I write. Chances are if you hang outside my door, you’ll hear everything I’m writing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a storyteller of some kind. A writer fulfills that wish.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope you read my book and like it. I wrote Barking Madness as a senior in high school. I did my best in recreating the dialogue high school age kids use. I wanted it to be really authentic.


Thanks for being here today, Ryan. All the best with your writing!

No comments: