Book Name and Description: The Boneyard Chronicles, by Cyprian Wyrmwood
The Boneyard Chronicles is a long extreme horror novel featuring a mysterious evil cult, kidnappings, human trafficking, monsters with bad intentions from another dimension, women in peril, sex and violence, cruelty, and finally, sweet revenge. It resides on the EXTREME end of extreme horror and is definitely not for the squeamish.
I have published two novels under a different name (it’s so refreshing to be able to use my real God-given name, Cyprian Wyrmwood, in this one). The Queen of Bones is an apocalyptic horror story about a remarkable young woman who uses her courage, fortitude, and genius for problem solving to rise from obscurity to lead society’s remnants toward a hopeful future. Verdure is a supernatural nature fantasy in which a narcissistic genius teaches himself to take over peoples’ minds (metempsychosis), whose plans to take control of society are opposed by a man who has metaphysical connections with the pantheistic forces of nature.
- What gave you the idea for The Boneyard Chronicles? Like many writers, I struggle for story ideas that interest me, sifting through them like a whale screens plankton out of the ocean. In this process, one idea links to another like the plastic monkeys in that old childhood game Barrel of Monkeys. Most of the idea strings that form break and fall apart, but occasionally a story string becomes long and promising. With respect to The Boneyard Chronicles I was trolling for ideas for a novel that would form a bookend bracket at the extreme end of the extreme horror subgenre. One idea linked with another in the figurative Barrel of Monkeys, and I eventually pulled the plot line of The Boneyard Chronicles out of the barrel. I refined the story line and populated it with intriguing characters. As the creative process proceeded, I became ever more enthusiastic to write the novel. I reached a point where nothing was going to stop me, even ethics, good taste, morality, and common sense. I think you have to have that fire in the gut, that motivation, to bring a work of fiction alive. I never start a book unless I feel the burning of that fire.
- What caused you to write in that genre? I am a voracious reader, and have always loved dark fantasy, horror, the supernatural, and science fiction. All of my work spread out over a 50-year span of writing has been in those genres. I’d been reading and enjoying some of the modern masters of extreme horror: Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, and I felt that the time had come to try my hand at that sort of work. It didn’t hurt that my wonderful publisher, JEA, specializes in horror, much of it of the extreme variety. While I regularly go out of my way to avoid stepping on bugs in my real life, this alter ego of mine who writes books has a deviantly sexual nature, and an affinity for cruelty, even sadism. In other words, my perverted alter ego has the right stuff to churn out some repellently aberrant extreme horror. I take no blame for this. My writing alter ego formed within my mind over the years like a psychic cancer that I can neither reason with nor control. All the evil stars were aligned. I had a plot that I (or rather my vicious alter ego) liked, and a compound full of characters that this monster in my mind would have fun tormenting. So, into the pool of fire I plunged.
- Tell us about your past books and stories. I’ve published two novels, The Queen of Bones and Verdure, as I mentioned earlier. I also have about a dozen short stories and novellas, some published, some unpublished. Five of these stories have been published in various JEA anthologies, including the justly celebrated Rejected for Content series, Volumes 3, 4 and 5. Several stories have either appeared or are pending in other anthologies. The rest, all horror stories, are awaiting their proper niche.
- What is the writing process like for you? I establish the plot and characters before I begin writing. I never start from scratch, letting the story meander where it wants to go. Even imposing this early structure, my characters are continually trying to wander in inconvenient directions as it is. I honor writers who use the free association approach, but it would never work for me. I don’t use an outline. Instead I write down the chapter titles in a table of contents. That serves the purpose of an outline for me. By the time I set pen to paper (I write first and second drafts long hand – pen on paper) I’ve usually worked myself up to the point that I’m on fire with enthusiasm. So the writing generally just bursts out of me. I don’t break the flow by editing while I go. Editing is for the later drafts. Writing is typically easy, fun and cathartic for me. I have no trouble punching out 3,000 words or more in a sitting. My record is 15,000 words. I only stopped because I felt my ass ossifying. Something interesting happens to me in the process of writing – total immersion. Stream of consciousness. The characters take on a life of their own and start dictating the dialog, the action, even the plot. The book evolves in directions I never intended. The only thing I do is steer it so that it doesn’t go to far off the tracks. I work hard to coral the rebellious characters and keep them within the plot line established by the chapter titles in the Table of Contents. I do my best work when the characters kind of take over. Robert E. Howard said of his Conan stories that he felt like he was huddling around a camp fire with Conan himself dictating the words while Howard was merely acting as the stenographer. Autonomous writing, I think it’s called. The same phenomenon happened to me when I was writing The Queen of Bones. Narrator Sara Hill took over my mind and dictated the entire story, which certainly helped me convey the feminine perspective. I have often said that The Queen of Bones was the easiest writing I’ve ever done, easier than composing a shopping list. Writing The Boneyard Chronicles was similar. This time a number of characters took over elements of the story and dictated their pieces of the action. The characters made the book much more sexually deviant, violent, and sadistic than I had planned – the characters in collusion with my perverted writing alter ego. It was them, I swear, not me! Certain scenes horrify me to this day. But they grew organically, and to revise them would be to diminish the story. At any rate, it’s too late now. What you see is what you get.
- What is your favorite book and why? I have many favorite books, some of them hundreds of years old, and some of them not horror. So, I’ll confine my response to my favorite horror novelists of the last 25 years. My favorite overall is probably Jack Ketchum. He was a true artist, using a concise, understated prose style to convey gripping, gritty, convoluted stories dripping with suspense, in which human truths nestle like gems among the monstrosities he evokes. No one wrote a more feverish page-turner and brought a more fertile imagination to the word processor than Richard Laymon. I’m also a huge fan of Dean Koontz, who is more literary and restrained than Laymon, equally imaginative, but maybe a smidgen behind his personal friend in building suspense and establishing sheer narrative drive. I also love the outrageous excesses of the master of extreme horror, Edward Lee. The unparalleled atrocities he summons up are leavened by the gallows humor provided by the inbred hick bumpkins who wander through his pages committing sadistic outrages with blasé indifference to the suffering of their victims. The Bighead may still provide the gold standard for exploring the most extreme frontiers of extreme horror. There are also many wonderful mid-listers and indies. My favorites – and I’m continuing to discover more all the time, include Sarah Pinborough, Nick Cutter, Tim Lebbon, Mark Morris, Simon Clark, Greg Gifune, Catt Dahman, John Shirley, Whitley Strieber, Shaun Hutson, Bernard Taylor, Jim Goforth, Deborah Le Blanc, Jasper Bark, John McIlven, Mary San Giovanni, Scott Nicholson, Chet Williamson, and the list goes on . . .
- How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? The most important thing I’ve learned over a 50-year span of writing is that characters are the most important thing. More important even than plot and story line. In fact, it isn’t even close. A well-realized character lying in a clover field contemplating the meaning of life can make more compelling reading than, say, a fast-paced story about a bloody war between humans and aliens where the protagonists are cardboard characters that you never are able to relate to, and therefore don’t really care about. The other thing is style. I love the complex, ornate, poetical prose style used by writers of the Victorian era. In my early years I tried to emulate them. I’ve learned that short sentences, simple words, pared-down diction, and minimal description are more favored by modern readers. This bothered me for many years. The style in favor seemed more like journalism than literature to me. Then I discovered writers like Jack Ketchum who make an art form of expressing complex concepts simply, and making dialog match the way people speak. I feel that my personal style is a merging of the two extremes. A reader who dips into my first novel Verdure and then The Queen of Bones will notice my progression from the Victorian style model to the modern one. I still can’t bring myself to read Hemingway, though. A man has to draw the line somewhere.
- What tools do you feel are must–haves for writers? A spouse with a day job to support you, for starters. If your books aren’t lining the shelves of the brick and mortar stores, you probably aren’t making a good living as a writer. Kidding aside, first and foremost, they must have a proclivity for writing. I believe in both nature and nurture. Anyone can improve at whatever they do with time, commitment and effort. However, I believe that for fiction writing, if you don’t have a knack for it in the beginning, what might be called potential, writing is probably the wrong career to pursue. Over my entire childhood I wanted to grow up to be a professional baseball player. I’m a lousy athlete – wasn’t gonna happen. I think the same thing applies, in a less pronounced way, to writing. Second, a sound understanding of human nature, and an ability to perceive and understand the characters and personalities of men and women. If you are not observant and lack psychological insight, you will be hard pressed to create plausible, nuanced, interesting, likeable characters. I believe good characterization is a must, and fiction falls flat without it. With the exception of Lovecraft. Third, have a fire in your belly for writing. You have to REALLY want to do this to be any good. Fourth, be tenacious and not easily discouraged. Overnight successes are mostly a myth. I remember an interview with a 22 year- old man who had become wealthy playing soccer. The reporter asked whether he felt bad being a rich, over-night success when so many other people his age were struggling to make ends meet. His response was a ‘what in the hell are you talking about’ scowl, and he said something to the effect that he had worked his ass off day in and day out since the age of five. Writing is like that. If you want to get anywhere, be prepared to work your ass off. Fifth, be productive. The more stuff you put out, the more exposure you get and the larger your chance of reaching that critical mass of fans that will make you successful. Sixth, be prepared to do your own promoting and marketing, and try to get good at it. At the Indie level, it’s you, baby! Seventh, I think a fiction writer should be smart, but not genius-smart. If you’re Mensa-level, there are many other applications you can put your mind to that will benefit humanity more than writing fiction will. Plus, a Mensa starving artist is even sadder than the rest of us are.
- What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another writer? I recall one successful writer with Indie roots observed that he was pumping out works in obscurity for years until he woke up one morning and his sales numbers had gone up across the board. He seemed to have reached a critical mass, or penetration, in which a large enough fan base started to significantly increase his sales. The moral of the story: keep putting stuff out there and don’t get discouraged.
- What piece of your own work are you most proud of? I’ve written three novels and a dozen or so short stories. The novels are deeper and more complex than the short stories, so I value them more. I have a hard time selecting a favorite among them. They are each better than the others in different ways. The deepest and most profound is my first novel, Verdure. But Verdure also has the most youthful errors – overblown language, inconsistencies, implausibility at times. The Queen of Bones features my best-ever character, Sara Hill. Plus, I think it is an upbeat rags to riches story with important messages about courage, fortitude, perseverance, and overcoming life’s obstacles and physical abuse. It also is interwoven with humor which I think is a nice touch. And I like the execution. There is nothing larger than a word choice edit here and there that I would change about The Queen of Bones. I’m disappointed that it didn’t gain more traction with the public than it did. My new one, The Boneyard Chronicles is a beast of an extreme horror novel. I’m proud of it for its large number of interesting and nuanced characters, its complex and well-woven plot, its steadily building suspense, and its fast pace. This book is the closest thing I’ve had to a page-turner. At the same time, I have reservations about the scenes of sadism, sexual depravity and eroticism that may cross the line to pornography at times. I’m worried also about what might seem to some to be a misogynistic slant to the book. Not because the women captives are depicted in a disparaging fashion, but rather because of the bad things that happen to them. This story went where the characters took it, and it is unique and original. Since it has just been released, it will be interesting to learn how it will be received. Overall, I think the best of my books is possibly The Queen of Bones. No work of fiction is ever perfect, but The Queen of Bones is the closest to accomplishing what I wanted it to accomplish of any of my works.
Roma, thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed by you about The Boneyard Chronicles and my other books. It’s been a pleasure!