I have been waiting aaaages for The Cemetery Boys. Auntie Heather likes to tease her minions and oh boy did she ever hook me with every little, new bit of information about her first stand-alone book. And then the cover came out and she talked to Fangirlish exclusively about that cover and the themes happening in the novel and I just could NOT WAIT to meet these boys personally.
Oh wow, does The Cemetery Boys deliver in every possible way that she promised. Eerie, atmospheric, sexy and downright darling with beautiful twins and adorkably loyal boys. All a bit broken and stuck in a small town city that believes in monsters. Greek mythology has nothing on these superstitious townsfolk. Their urban myth fuels a rage and hate and prejudice that leads back to paranoid so deep, death seems like a logical solution.
As Stephen learns the ins and outs of being relationally mature, his suspicions grow to whether his new friends are mentally sound. They’re talking about the monsters as if they have seen them and then violence takes center stage. And events require Stephen to understand the past can be interpreted but no witness is reliable especially in a small town filled with so much pain, anger and genetic predisposition to mental illness.
Very much like a Twilight Zone episode, The Cemetery Boys strings together a narrative where what’s real walks a fine line between supernatural and illusion and where everyone’s convinced that reality is so flimsy. It’s delightfully creepy and yet never sways from showing how heartbreaking real life gets.
Was it weird for you to go from writing book series to writing THE CEMETERY BOYS which is a standalone and did it affect your writing process?
It was extremely weird. Generally, when I see a story in my head, I picture it as this long arc with winding roads all through it. I see the beginning of those roads, where they spit off and cross, and the end – so generally, I know at the very beginning how many books it will take to tell a story. It’s a wonderful thing to live in a world that you take so much time to construct. It’s like traveling with someone. You have a long time to get to know one another, and by the end of your journey, you know one another very well. Writing a stand-alone was more like riding the subway for me. Smiles exchanged between strangers, followed by a conversation that connects you very quickly, and before you know it, your new friend is stepping off the train and you know that the journey is over. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Although, having asked that, you have quite a few characters to track, develop, and give backstories in THE CEMETERY BOYS. How did you keep track of the boys and Cara? They are all very distinct when you describe them too. Can you tell us how each one of them got their look, their personality?
Stephen, the protagonist, is probably the closest to me that I could get when writing about a teen in a small town. He’s an outsider for several reasons – mostly because not only has the town pretty much decided that, but also because he embraces it. Cara is small town punk, with that edge of harmless danger that instantly appeals to Stephen (it doesn’t hurt that he’s a straight, hormonal teen boy and she’s ultra hot with a penchant for wearing mini-skirts). She’s also the one person in town who Stephen really connects with. She’s experienced parental loss like he has, and both of them are just looking for acceptance. Together they scramble through the darkness that are the teen years just looking fir a way out.
As for my boys, The Cemetery Boys, they are a band of small-town rebels that wreak havoc in ways that might seem huge to someone in a small town, but insignificant to someone in a big city. Most of their bad-boyness consists of breaking into the local theater for a free show, and drinking in the cemetery (a place they refer to as “The Playground”). Devon is their fearless leader, with bleach blonde hair and unquestionable authority. Markus is the only one of the group next to Stephen who’s moved to Spencer from elsewhere – he’s also Devon’s right hand man. Thorne is this big football type who tells the WORST jokes ever. Nick is a quiet, skinny, glasses-wearing guy who pretty much follows along with whatever the boys are doing. And then there are Scot and Cam – this is the first time I’ve openly featured a gay couple in one of my books and I adore them, even through the trials that they face. I feel like the boys are my friends, and on some nights, I close my eyes and meet them at The Playground, even though I know our journey is over.
You also include some real-life struggles into this book — the inner workings of a chaotic mind and the stress and abandonment family members can feel when caring for family with mental disorders. Was it tough to write? Cathartic possibly?
It was tough to write, but important, and I’m not one to shy away from something just because it’s difficult. There is quite a bit of mental illness in my family, and has been stretching back for generations. I grew up with a mother who refused to treat her issues – something that lead to quite a bit of tragedy in my life. In the book, Stephen remarks about Cara that it must be hard to be the girl in town with the crazy mother. I felt that way growing up, and I know I’m not alone. Mental illness is something that can be treated and I think we should talk about it openly, to remove that stigma. Because when one person is suffering from mental health issues, it affects the entire family.
THE CEMETERY BOYS fits nicely with Stephen King when he says: The most important things are the hardest things to say and When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction. Stephen — the lead character in THE CEMETERY BOYS — he has to contend, grapple with these concepts a lot. Did you purposely name the lead character after Mr. King and how would you feel if Mr. King did read your book and let the world know about it? Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting him to tell him about his influence on you and if so, details please?
This has to be my favorite question EVER. Because Stephen King is very much my idol and he’s the reason that I’m a writer today. I was extremely poor growing up, and no one supported my dreams of being a writer (until I met my husband in my late 20s). I was told writing was something that only rich people did, something that people with trust funds did in their spare time.
Great catch on the name – I absolutely did name my Stephen after Mr. King, and it would be my absolute honor if he read this book. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, but I do know his lovely niece who lives here in St Louis. I also (thanks to my wonderful husband) have a 1st edition, autographed copy of CARRIE, signed to me. The inscription is incredible, but the end always gets me. It says “P.S. I never had a trust fund either.”
Mr. King, if you see this, the coffee’s on me. Just let me know the time and place. :)
The Cemetery Boys comes out March 31, 2015 and Auntie Heather is throwing a book day release launch party, in St. Louis for all those who can attend!