Author, Samuel Sattin graciously took time to answer questions about the characters, and inspiration behind his latest Young Adult novel The Silent End.
The Silent End Blurb:
In a small mist-covered town in the Pacific Northwest three teenagers find themselves pitted against an unearthly menace that dwells beneath the foundations of their high school…
High school is a challenge for senior Nathaniel Eberstark. His mother disappeared almost a year ago after a long battle with depression. And his father? He’s begun conducting experiments in a bunker out back, furtively running around town in army fatigues, accompanied by a mysterious man in Ray Bans known as The Hat, hunting beasts no one else can see. After an explosion rocks the town on Halloween, Eberstark, along with his only friends Lexi and Gus, discover in the woods something beyond comprehension, something that Eberstark in particular doesn’t want to believe since it may mean his father isn’t as mad as he appears: a wounded monster. Afraid of making a stir in a town that spurns controversy, they make a decision to hide the creature. By doing so they are dragged into a frightening web of conspiracy, dream-logic, and death. From living trucks and mirror-dwelling psychopaths to hellish entities who lurk behind friendly faces, Eberstark, Lexi, and Gus find themselves battling to save not just themselves but the soul of their backwater town.
The Silent End is available NOW from Ragnarok Publications, Amazon and major online booksellers.
Author Bio: Samuel Sattin (HWA Member) is a novelist and essayist. He is the author of the new novel THE SILENT END and LEAGUE OF SOMEBODIES, which was described by Pop Matters as “One of the most important novels of 2013.” His work has appeared in the Atlantic, Salon Magazine, Black Gate, io9, Kotaku, Publishing Perspectives, The Weeklings, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, Litreactor, San Francisco Magazine, SF Signal, Buffalo Almanack, and elsewhere. Also an illustrator, he holds an MFA in Comics from California College of the Arts and has a creative writing MFA from Mills College. He’s the recipient of NYS and SLS Fellowships. He lives in Oakland, California.
Francis Xavier: What is the first line from The Silent End?
Samuel Sattin: Have you ever heard of an airplane vanishing?
FX: What inspired The Silent End?
SS: The story itself began with a map. I drew it on a post-it note, some scribbly little mess of trees, town, and landmarks I ended up calling Mossglow. (As an aside, this map would be reinterpreted eventually by a talented artist named Jacob Magraw, and is now featured at the beginning of the book.) I’d been drawing maps since I was a kid, aping the ones I saw in fantasy novels. My more mature self, however, was able to channel that post-it note scribble into something more serious. Also, I’d wanted to write a novel about monsters. Since my mother passed away in 2009, I’d become more interested in horror than ever. I’d always had a thing for the genre, but around 2013 it turned pathological. The story itself took form very slowly. I’d go off on a few taxing side quests before landing on the right path. But once I did, things started to come together, and I began this wild sprint towards the finish line.
FX: Three words to describe your writing?
SS: Moody. Visceral. Electric.
FX: Which part of The Silent End challenged you the most?
SS: Probably the fact that I wrote it in four months. Well, that’s not entirely true. I wrote iterations of the book a good few times…or tried to. I underwent a dozen false starts over a period of two years. But when I found the pulse of the story (I remember the day it happened), I launched into a frenzied spree. I don’t think I’ll ever do something like that again. I know there are some people who can pump out big books in a series of weeks, but I don’t think I’m one of them. I love how The Silent End turned out, and I think the manic pace in which I wrote it was necessary. But there has to be a healthier way to do things.
FX: Which of the characters in The Silent End do you most identify with?
SS: The characters themselves (Eberstark, Gus, and Lexi) have existed in some way or another for quite some time…I just didn’t know how to use them until The Silent End. An amalgam of people I know or once knew, they all feel close to me. It’d be dishonest of me to ignore the fact that Eberstark bears the most resemblance to who I was as a young adult. That said, I don’t know if I identify with him most. I often wonder whether or not you’d recognize your childhood/teenage self if he/she passed you by on the street. I’m not sure I would, personally speaking. The character I truly identify with in The Silent End is Gus; mostly because he cares about real things, unlike the narrator. My favorite character is Lexi, though I’m not sure if I’d be able to identify with her, even if I wanted to.
FX: What did you learn about yourself as a writer while working on The Silent End?
SS: I think I learned a lot more about how to construct a story. My first novel, League of Somebodies, is a far more experimental in terms of prose, character, and structure. I wanted to be ambitious. I wanted to stuff every ounce of who I was into a few hundred pages, and with the cockiness and stridency that Fiction MFA programs like the one I attended impart unto students. Essentially, my eyes were way too big for my stomach, but that didn’t stop me from ordering everything on the menu. I still look back upon the book with fondness, but I know its faults. With The Silent End, however, I learned a huge lesson in economy. And not just economy, but in construction. I realized that not everything I write has to contain multitudes. If anything, focus and precision produces more meaningful work.
FX: What elements make for good horror fiction?
SS: There are so many, and I don’t think I can speak for what works for everyone. But for me, I find that character matters above all. To me, the most brutal horror is the kind that takes people you care about and subjects them to the uncanny. Not necessarily people that you like, but people that you understand, that you know exist. One of the staples of bad horror is empty character, and I try to steer away from that pitfall.
FX: What are your thoughts on genre blending in works of fiction?
SS: It’s certainly what I strive for in my fiction. But I also try to tread lightly. I think that genre in general is a fabrication. Not just as a way for bookstores to sell books, but as a way for critical establishments to ascribe cultural worth to the kinds of books (and people) they find it fitting to honor. I have to admit that for this reason I do feel a certain amount of skepticism towards literary writers who dabble in genre. This is not to say that a lot of what such writers produce isn’t brilliant (it often really is; I read a lot of literary fiction myself). But it does seem a lot harder for genre writers to receive the same sort of appreciation on the inverse. In some ways, the whole game is rigged. So yes, on one hand I find genre divides obtuse and inane, but I’m also defensive of those who are jilted out of the credit they deserve by those who repurpose their ideas.
FX: Where can my readers find more about you and your work online?
SS: For starters you can visit my website and send me a message in the contact form if you’d like to get in touch.
You can also follow me on Twitter I’m on Goodreads and Facebook as well.
FX: Favorite horror writer?
SS: This changes often.
FX: Favorite movie?
SS: This also changes often.
FX: What scares you?
SS: Madness, quite possibly. And the ocean. Especially the Atlantic.
FX: What’s one word you overuse?
FX: Favorite place to write?
SS: I have a few cafes I tend to get a lot of work done at; my favorite is Underwood—they have great coffee, and the owners are good people.
FX: Title of your first published work?
SS: League of Somebodies
FX: What book do you wish you wrote?
SS: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
FX: What are you currently reading?
SS: Wake Up Percy Gloom, by Cathy Malkasian
FX: Coffee or tea?
SS: Coffee. Always.
FX: Favorite color?
FX: Beer or wine?
SS: Tough one, since I drink and enjoy both. But probably beer…as long as it’s stout.