It's not the novel I thought I was going to write. That much I know. That's probably all I know.
It started with a rejection. Yes, the rejection of another novel triggered two things: first, to reevaluate what the publisher publishes and realize in my research that Autumn in the Abyss would be a more appropriate fit--yes, so now you know the publisher in question is Omnium Gatherum--and secondly, how to follow-up with a novel that might work for OG. A comment in the feedback for the rejected novel, something to the effect of, "it's a bit straightforward," made me say out loud, "Oh, yeah? I'll show you straightforward," which, of course, is meant in the opposite here. And, of course, "straightforward" is a perceptual thing as I don't see the novel as straighforward...
Anyway, now for the short version of how Riding the Centipede came into being, because I could go on and on and perhaps with interviews or what-have-you that may or may not follow, I can get into more details. Even later blogs. But for now, short and sweet.
On my yearly-until-my-Italian-girlfriend-and-I-are-permanently-together-summer-visit-to-Rome, I usually want to dig into a big writing project. But I had no idea what it would be. I rarely do, actually, and simply let the ideas flow. I remembered a page and a half of something I had written a few months earlier with a couple guys heading out to hook up with William S. Burroughs, who's not dead, and they do a deal where they inject their blood into him and it incubates in Burroughs for a couple hours, then they draw it out and shoot up and it all turns kinda wild and hallucinatory. Yes, this is the kind of stuff I think about.
Why not take this idea and see where it goes?
But I needed more well-defined characters and the hows and whys of the tale. I started mulling over it all and that's when private investigator, Terrance Blake, and Hollywood runaway, Marlon Teagarden, decided to make themselves known. Blake, a man in Johnny Cash black, including a black hat and a bleak outlook on life shaped by events from his past. But as with any good novel, growth and/or transformation is a part of his deal.
And Marlon? He's a lost boy/man on the run from his past...or simply insane. A junky with subversive literature woven into his gray matter madness. He would be the one on the way to Burroughs.
So, that's it, let's get started, I thought. I figured Marlon's tripping through the dark frontier of drugs would be a kind of road trip where each leg of his journey would include bizarre characters, a David Lynch twist on things.
Then Rudolf Chernobyl showed up.
Originally called Chernobyl Bob and the Ratchet Hounds--dogs made of metal and of a nuclear foundation, which was also to be a part of Chernobyl Bob's make-up (well, the nuclear part IS a part of Rudolf's make-up, ahem...)--I cut the hounds out, perhaps to show up in another tale, while the character decided to let me know his real name: Rudolf Chernobyl.
Something insidious was being born.
Though I was about a week into the first draft of Riding the Centipede--yes, that title came early; it was there and I snatched it from the mist and made it mine--and I was, for the first time, writing a tale with two perspectives--one third person, one first person, making it even more complex--this damned fella, Rudolf, decided (insisted, really) he wanted in on the action. I swear, there was a moment when I knew, I just knew, he needed to be involved the whole way and not just as a stop along the way.
Sometimes I think writers, and perhaps artists and musicians, any individual driven by creativity, are given gifts. Something is shown to us that, if we are willing, we grab onto it and hold on for dear life. Rudolf was my gift here. Me, writing a tale with what might qualify as a Horror Icon kind of character--think Pinhead, Freddy Krueger--was never anything I thought I would do. Yet one must be open to all the possibilities, no matter how they might seem not to fit what we (think we) do. A Horror Icon? Yet he was The Most Fun to write, I swear. He does...bad stuff...haha...
Yet the whole novel was The Most Fun to write, because it was a challenge in every way. Two perspectives, why not three? Two third person, one first person...and one of them 'might' be unreliable? Juggle that, John Claude... (And what about the process? Perhaps more on that, soon. Because every novel shows you how it wants to be written and this one was no different. A specific path was forged.) (What? Yes, there are two other completed novels and another one that only needs the ending written.)
Anyway, that's a bit out the origins of Riding the Centipede. More info and samples soon. I'm just getting started. I've barely touched on Burroughs, and what of Marlon's sister, Jane Teagarden, and the mad writer, Peter Solon, and all the other characters along the way? Well, you'll learn about them soon enough.
While I am here, might I suggest you pre-order a copy or three? The paperback is up for pre-order nowm while the digital will be up in a day or three of this blog post. Release day is June 29, 2015.
Are you ready to ride the centipede?
Here's a photo of me holding the notepad with the first notes and character sketches. Yes, that's Italy behind me.