DC at Night

DC at Night

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cronin, Percy Talk Horror and Writing

In horror stories, it's often a case of women in distress. But, for two of America's new leading horror writers, it's more a case of women to impress.

Both Benjamin Percy, author of the best-selling werewolf novel Red Moon, and Justin Cronin, author of the best-selling vampire novels The Passage and The Twelve, cite a desire to impress women as an inspiration for their writing.

"It's all been an attempt, in many ways, to impress a woman," says Percy.

Cronin posits much the same position. "The most interesting things a man does in his life are to impress a woman," he says.

For Percy, that woman was his English teacher. As a youngster, Percy had fallen under the spell of a book detailing the famous monsters of Universal Studio, especially Lon Chaney and his wolfman character. In school, he wrote about an actual attempt to transform himself into a werewolf. He received a B-. So now that his book Red Moon, a post 9/11 remake of the werewolf with themes of terrorism and zenophobia, became a best-seller, he was able to deliver a simple message to that former teacher. "In your face, Mrs. Zeijenhager," he now says with a deep, hearty laugh.

Percy said he crafted his supernatural thriller to reflect two of America's greatest phobias. "I wanted to create a believable monster. We fear infection. We are terrified of germs. USDA labs are the ground zero of the Apocalypse. And we are gripped and paralyzed by terrorism."

For Cronin, the female behind his modern vampire trilogy was his 8-year-old daughter, who was worried that her father's first books weren't selling well enough. "I'm afraid your books are boring," she told her father.

So Cronin said he engaged his daughter in a joint oral story creation that wouldn't, in her words, be boring. His daughter had a simple order - their creation must involve a young girl who "had to save the world."

"I told her - that's kind of a big task. Couldn't we just have the girl who saved Connecticut?" Cronin explains.

But his daughter was insistent, so for three months, they worked on the story project. "I had no intention of writing this thing at all," Cronin says. But he found that eventually he had "30 pages of very detailed stuff. And I did this with an 8-year-old. When I'm done, I will have a million words and it came from these conversations with my daughter."

So what did his daughter get for her work? "She gets to go to college and I get to go to Dad heaven because I bought her a pony," Cronin says.

But what happens when he finishes the trilogy (and a possible 4th book he is considering to wrap up the loose ends in the saga)? "We also have a son so I'm trying to figure out a way to use him," Cronin says.

The bulk of the information for this article was gathered at the 2013 National Book Festivalsponsored by the Library of Congress.

Justin Cronin 

Benjamin Percy

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