It’s no secret that Robert Dunn is one of my favorite writers. His book, Behind the Darkness, is one of my all time fave alien books. His latest book, A Living Grave, takes a slight left from horror into mystery. Robert takes a moment to explain how he got there. I urge you to pick up A Living Grave. Like me, I’m sure you’ll be wanting more.
THE MYSTERY OF MYSTERY or HOW DID A NICE HORROR-LOVING GUY LIKE ME END UP WRITING A MYSTERY NOVEL
by Robert Dunn, Author of A Living Grave
How did it happen? There is no easy answer. I suppose it started in elementary school. There were a few of us who fell into the Hardy Boys. It was innocent fun I tell you. Just school kid curiosity.
I blame my friend David for taking things further. He was an out and open Sherlock Holmes reader. He handed me the League of Red Headed Gentlemen like it was a normal thing. He dabbled in Ellery Queen and dared me with it. It wasn’t enough. He started mainlining Agatha Christie. David said it was what all the cool kids were doing. It was probably too late for me to help him, but not too late for him to drag me down too.
Sure, by then I had found Heinlein and Asimov. Bradbury was my shield. I even had Lovecraft, Poe, and Robert Howard at my back. Clarke and Dick led me to James Herbert to Blatty to Benchley to King. Even before the novels, had a bulwark of Vampirella, The Witching Hour, Tomb of Dracula, Weird War Tales, Eerie and Creepy. I say all that to make the point I was protected. I had options.
Still I got dragged into mysteries.
I don’t know how. When I started writing the stories were always about weird, gruesome things happening to mostly unprepared and innocent people. I loved seeing what the normal folk did in the face of the terrible. I liked monsters.
Every once in a while, though… Just occasionally, an idea would creep in that had no monster and no supernatural thing driving it. Yeah, it was an itch. It was a call. Because you never really get free.
I will admit that I kept reading mysteries, but the books changed. The mystery was no longer the thing. It became all about character. Writers like James Lee Burke created people with flaws and motivations beyond the puzzle and set them loose in extraordinary circumstance. I could get my teeth into that. Or maybe I was rationalizing. It didn’t matter.
One day I had an idea. As it happens so often with me the thought was of the ending of a book. The climactic scene played out in my head with visions of the people involved and their roles. Something about it kept niggling. I was thinking, working something out, like people do when they have a word on the tip of their tongue.
It came to me not suddenly but as an almost missed understanding. I was thinking of characters with reversed roles. My hero was female and the injured person in need of rescue was male. No wonder it was so hard to come to. It was a minor, almost irrelevant difference. Or so an astoundingly enlightened, 21st century man like me thought. Did I mention handsome? Because I’m a terribly attractive older man with silver in his hair.
Well—all of that aside—I discovered when I looked around at the characters and the books, a strong female lead character was not exactly the norm. I did a little digging and found that women in mysteries, when they were the main character, usually made the book less gritty. It was like the books didn’t want to get their hands dirty. The biggest and most successful example were the Kay Scarpetta books written by Patricial Cornwell. They are amazing, filled with detail, science, and mystery. The character is smart, brave, and so well put together it makes me wish I dressed in less flannel. She cooks too. The thing is, she is a forensic pathologist and solves mystery with gloves on. I had been reading books about men with war injuries and horror stories who struggled through to face down violence and save the day. The day was always almost always a woman. I wanted to see what would happen when a woman had those experiences and problems with drinking and violence.
AND—And I wanted to write a mystery. That was a punch in the gut. But you know what? It worked. And I found out I was not just a horror writer. I was a writer of books with mystery, romance, horror, science, and great people. I stopped worrying about what kind of writer I was and gave in to my addictions. I embraced my influences, all of them, not just the ones I wanted to think were important.
Is there a lesson? I don’t know. There are always events and we make our own lessons I guess. I wrote a mystery and I’ll write more. A Living Grave is the first novel in the Katrina Williams series. Book two is about to turn in to the publisher and I will begin the third. When it is all done I hope I will have a following, fans who know me as a mystery writer. That will be a nice cap to the story don’t you think? And I know you’re wondering—what ever happened to David? He didn’t fare as well as I did. Mystery got into my system and I was able to live with it, growing into the vibrant, handsome – if poverty stricken – and struggling writer you know and love. David went to medical school. He has a job and a beautiful wife. I still wish I could help him.
Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #ALivingGrave
A Living Grave, Synopsis
- Print Length: 266 pages
- Publisher: Lyrical Underground
- Publication Date: September 13, 2016
BODY OF PROOF
Katrina Williams left the Army ten years ago disillusioned and damaged. Now a sheriff’s detective at home in the Missouri Ozarks, Katrina is living her life one case at a time—between mandated therapy sessions—until she learns that she’s a suspect in a military investigation with ties to her painful past.
The disappearance of a local girl is far from the routine distraction, however. Brutally murdered, the girl’s corpse is found by a bottlegger whose information leads Katrina into a tangled web of teenagers, moonshiners, motorcycle clubs, and a fellow veteran battling illness and his own personal demons. Unraveling each thread will take time Katrina might not have, as the Army investigator turns his searchlight on the devastating incident that ended her military career. Now Katrina will need to dig deep for the truth—before she’s found buried…
Robert Dunn was an Army brat born in Alabama and finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.
An award-winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.
A writer of blognovels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novels Behind the Darkness and The Red Highway.
Mr. Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.
Praise for Robert Dunn and A Living Grave
“The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read! It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story. 5+++ stars!”
-2 Book Lovers Reviews
“This is hardboiled fiction at its best. We’re talking Elmore Leonard territory. A fantastic read and I hope there’s more to come.”
–Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon on A Living Grave
“Dunn’s lyrical descriptions of Katrina’s inner struggles and demons read almost like poetry as he weaves an intricate and deadly plot of motorcycle gangs, the MOB, cancer survival, and child abuse into a novel so rife with complex feelings and life-situations, you are compelled to read it slowly, so you don’t miss a nuance of the gut-wrenching emotions he elicits from his characters.”
– Peggy Jaeger, Author of The Voices of Angels
“Parts of this book moved me to tears while others made me want to cheer out loud at Katrina’s kick-ass-atude. The twists and turns in the story kept me on the edge of my seat until the entirely satisfying ending. I’m so happy that this is just the start of what promises to be a totally addictive series! I highly recommend this phenomenal 5 star read.”
-Horror Maiden’s Book Reviews
I’m a pretty lucky guy. Kristopher Rufty is not only my friend, he’s also one of my favorite authors. We share a publisher and an agent, so he can’t shake me even if he wants to. Last year, he floored me with Jagger and Bigfoot Beach. He’s already kicking off 2016 with a new book from Samhain, Desolation. The cover it flipping awesome, and I know the contents will be even better.
Today I hand the wheel over to Krist as he takes you on Desolation’s journey. Ever wondered where writers get their ideas? Well, Hellions, read on. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post. He’s giving away the store. Man, I gotta up my giveaway game.
Highway to Desolation
Desolation has been around for ten years. That’s a long time for an idea to be brewing. But when it was first conceived, it was meant to be my first attempt at writing a novel, but then it was changed into a script that I thought could be shot for a very low budget during a very short shooting schedule. I still think so, actually.
The original idea came to me in a dream. Is that laughter I hear? I’m being serious! In this dream I had way back in 2006, I was watching a movie. The scene that was transpiring on my dream screen was the opening: a man trapped in a car, his injured wife bleeding profusely beside him. He kicks his way out of the car, wanting to find his son. A strange man appears, seemingly out of nowhere, to help him search. As they look, the DVD begins skipping. I didn’t get to see what happened, for the movie jumped ahead several scenes to show me an intruder invading somebody’s home, armed with a crowbar, and using the tool to bash heads. I tried to figure out who was in the home, who the intruder was, and was becoming increasingly frustrated because I had no idea what was going on.
Then I woke up.
It was just after three in the morning, and I was now wide awake. I smoked cigarettes back then and snuck outside to have one. It was the middle of winter, and I was standing on our porch, shivering as I replayed those scenes over and over in my head. I wondered what had caused the accident at the beginning, and why, obviously later in the dream movie, was somebody invading someone’s home.
Before I had finished smoking the cigarette, the entire premise had come together: A man, horribly wronged by another man. This man who caused so much harm is not a bad man. He’s a good person at heart, though he’s made many mistakes and this wrong is something that is felt not only by him, or the other man, but by their families. I wanted it clear that Grant is not evil; he’s not vindictive, though he’s used to getting his way. He’s just a guy, somebody that messed up. But I also wanted it be clear that Dennis is also a good person, driven to deplorable actions by Grant’s mistake.
That premise has stuck with me for a long time. In the original script, I wrote it as a straightforward exploitation-style horror movie. At one point, David Hess (of Last House on the Left fame) had agreed to play Grant and possibly write the music, with Trent Haaga set to play Dennis. The script floated around for years, with many people being attached on as actors, producers, composers, and FX artists.
It came back to me in 2013 for the last time. I decided to just put it in the drawer and leave it be.
A year or so later, I told my agent about the idea. She liked it a lot and told me not to forget about it. I didn’t. With the idea fresh in my brain again, I reread the script, cringing a bit. I still really liked the premise, but not the execution. I thought, If I were to rewrite this, I think this needs to be changed, and this, and this…”
Then another idea hit. I remembered after my father passed away, somebody suggested I write him letters. Just take a blank notebook and write him a letter every day until I felt I didn’t need to do that anymore. They said it would help me in my grieving. I tried. I hated it. It seemed to make me hurt worse, knowing he’d never read them.
And I stopped writing them.
But the idea I had was this: What if Dennis is writing letters to his deceased wife and as we read them, we see his mental wall chipping away a piece at a time. While this is happening, Grant is off trying to take his already crumbled existence, and plaster it all back together. Then the two worlds collide and complete chaos happens.
I had to write the book.
Took ten years, but I finally wrote the novel that I had originally hoped would have been my debut. I’m glad I did not try to write this book all those years ago. And even with the years of disappointment from the movie not being made, I’m very relieved it wasn’t. Had it been, this book would have never been written.
ISBN: 978-1-619233-09-6 Trade Paperback (List: $15.95)
There’s no escaping your past. Especially when it wants revenge.
Grant Marlowe hoped taking his family to their mountain cabin for Christmas would reunite them after his alcoholic past had torn them apart, but it only puts them into a life and death struggle. On Christmas Eve, a stranger from Grant’s past invades the vacation home and takes his wife and children hostage. His agenda is simple—make Grant suffer the same torment that Grant’s drunken antics have caused him. Now Grant must confront his demons head on and fight for his family’s lives. Because this man has nothing left to lose. The only thing keeping him alive is misery—Grant’s misery.
Biography, Kristopher Rufty
Kristopher Rufty lives in North Carolina with his wife, three children, and the zoo they call their pets. He’s written various books, including The Vampire of Plainfield, Jagger, The Lurkers, The Lurking Season, The Skin Show, Pillowface, Proud Parents, and more, plus a slew of horror screenplays. He has also written and directed the independent horror films Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood. If he goes more than two days without writing, he becomes very irritable and hard to be around, which is why he’s sent to his desk without supper often.
Praise for Kristopher Rufty
“Kristopher Rufty is the demented reincarnation of Richard Laymon!” –Jeff Strand
“A Dark Autumn is a wild gender role reversal of ‘I Spit On Your Grave,’ with gonzo nods to Norman Bates and ‘Friday The 13th’ thrown in for good measure. Kristopher Rufty delivers the goods yet again.” –Bryan Smith, author of Kayla Undead and The Late Night Horror Show
“A creepy, gripping tale of horror. And it’s got one of the best death scenes I’ve read in a long time!” –Jeff Strand, author of Pressure and Dweller
“A powerhouse debut novel. Rufty’s prose will suck you in and hold you prisoner!” –Ronald Malfi, author of Floating Staircase and Snow
“An occult thriller with a new twist. Rufty juggles captivating characters, breakneck suspense, and insidious horror in a macabre story that will leave you feeling possessed by the end of it. Next time you think about taking that old Ouija board out…forget it!” –Edward Lee, author of Lucifer’s Lottery and City Infernal
Barnes & Noble
We have a lot of books to giveaway from Krist! We have two audio books, Oak Hollow and Pillowface in one link. In the second link we have a signed print copy of The Lurking Season and two e-books, Vampire of Plainfield and Bigfoot Beach. Winners are chosen random via rafflecopter and are given choice of prize of order pulled. Any questions on raffle, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at email@example.com
Link for audio book giveaway:
Link for print/e-book giveaway: