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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Horror Interview with Nick Cutter (author of The Troop)

Joining us today is the man behind the Nick Cutter pseudonym, here to talk about his highly-anticipated thriller, The Troop. Described as part Lord of the Flies and part 28 Days Later, it's already caught the attention of contemporaries like Stephen King ("scared the hell out of me"), Scott Smith ("Lean and crisp and over-the-top"), and Jonathan Maberry ("brilliant and deeply disturbing").

Be sure to stop back later this afternoon for my review!

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Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today. For those who haven't yet had a chance to read up on your upcoming release, The Troop, please tell us a little about the man behind 'Nick Cutter.'

A: Hmmm, well there’s a contractual obligation not to really tell you much, but I’m thinking, the way things are going, it’ll be pretty obvious who I am by the time this book is published. At that point you can find my website and read all about me, if there’s any interest. Other than that, I like candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach, as any man does.

Q: Well, despite having an ARC with your 'real' copyright, I won't spoil the mystery ! The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' novelist can be a long one, but to land a cover blurb your first time from the like is Stephen King is something spectacular. When did you begin writing The Troop, and what has the journey to publication been like?

A: It was very fortunate, absolutely. A shot out of the blue. Mr. King is really generous with other writers, be they newbies or well set in their careers, so it was a pleasant surprise to be the beneficiary of his good tidings. I began writing The Troop shortly after finishing my last novel, the early sections of which dealt with two boys in boyhood. I liked writing about characters at that time in their lives, so I went back to that well. And got a whole lot more disturbing with it.

Q: In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

A: I think cover copy is actually that hardest—the stuff that appears on the flaps, distilling the book and where an author’s tires get pumped, as they say, extolling their virtues. Thankfully I've got a great editor who did that for me! Otherwise, the primary struggle might be with the “how far to go” issue. With horror, there’s subtle and there’s … uh, not subtle. I like either option, if it’s done well. But you can’t really (to my mind) split that particular atom. So it’s a matter of being scary or disturbing or atmospheric and moody. Showing baldly rather than invoking those horrors. And I think some readers won’t be scared, per se, by The Troop, but I think, in a Cronenbergian/Alien body horror type way, they should be creeped out. That was the goal. So, in pursuing that goal you may alienate some readers by just taking it too far over the line. But that was a conscious choice, and what I felt needed to be done to tell the story the way I wanted to.

Q: Great example - Cronenberg has certainly danced both sides of that line. Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when indulging your imagination. Were there any twists or turns in The Troop that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?

A: I think trying to come up with a background to the main “villain,” if you will. How did it come to be? What could be the possible uses for something like that? What was the thinking behind its creation, and was thinking in fact more evil than the creature itself? Those were some interesting ideas to tackle, and I didn't have a real sense of how it would be tackled at the outset.

Q: Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?

A:  I have a bad habit of listening to 1 song over and over (and over!) when working on a particular scene. So a book might have a 15-17 song soundtrack, based on the songs I obsessively listened to while writing one scene or another. New scene, new song.

Q: I know the book doesn't hit shelves for another 2 weeks, and I'm sure the advance buzz must be encouraging, but what is the strangest or most surprising reaction you've encountered from friends, family, or advance readers to -date?

A: I think I've been happy, from some readers, with what they called the “I couldn't put it down”-ness of the book. I've always thought that the talent to keep readers flipping the pages is, amongst literary writers and readers, less admired than other talents. But it’s a skill, a hard one to develop, and I’d like to hope that this book has a little of that page-turner quality in its DNA

Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?

A: Well, certainly Stephen King. I've never read an author as much, or have been influenced by a writer as deeply as I have been by King. I’d imagine many writers of my generation, and those before and after, would say the same. I admire a writer like Chuck Palahniuk for his dedication to doing all the things outside of writing the book, too: interacting with readers, having a real open policy regarding the reader and the writer, doing all the little things away from the writing desk that encourage readers to keep reading. I love Chuck’s writing, too—it’s just that, as a working writer, you come to admire what writers do off the page as well as on it.

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

A: There’s a followup to The Troop. Not the same subject matter, but another horror book. It takes place in Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the oceans, 8 miles underwater.

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The Troop by Nick Cutter
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: February 25th 2014 by Gallery Books

Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfre. Te boys are a tight-knit crew. Tere’s Kent, one of the most popular kids in school; Ephraim and Max, also well-liked and easygoing; then there’s Newt the nerd and Shelley the odd duck. For the most part, they all get along and are happy to be there—which makes Scoutmaster Tim’s job a little easier. But for some reason, he can’t shake the feeling that something strange is in the air this year. Something waiting in the darkness. Something wicked . . .

It comes to them in the night. An unexpected intruder, stumbling upon their campsite like a wild animal. He is shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—a man in unspeakable torment who exposes Tim and the boys to something far more frightening than any ghost story. Within his body is a bioengineered nightmare, a horror that spreads faster than fear. One by one, the boys will do things no person could ever imagine.

And so it begins. An agonizing weekend in the wilderness. A harrowing struggle for survival. No possible escape from the elements, the infected . . . or one another.

Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity . . . and terror hungers for more.

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I've been asked to set this up by The Powers That Be, and I'm more than happy to, although I can't really say much about myself seeing as Nick Cutter doesn't exactly exist—he's a pen name. A cool, tough pen name! Your mileage will vary on whether you agree, but that was the thinking. Horror writers should have crisp, punchy names. Stephen King. Clive Barker. Nick Cutter. Not that I'm putting myself in their league, no way no how, but I'm just saying that was the idea behind the name.

Personally, I wanted to be known as Lemondrop Pennyfeather, but that suggested nom de plume was cruelly stricken down.

Aaaanywhoo, I've written this book, The Troop. Do you like horror books? Do you like Boy Scouts (not in a weird, Canteen-Boyish way, but in a nostalgic way)? Do you like seeing said Boy Scouts confront a vicious enemy on an isolated Island off the coast of Prince Edward Island? If you said yes to one or more of these questions, you may enjoy this book.

As for me: I've written a few other books under another name (the one my parents gave me). A few story collections, a few novels. One of them even got turned into a movie. I've written for magazines and newspapers, too. I cobble together a living with my pen, is what I'm trying to say—by hook or by crook. It's a lean living sometimes, but it's by and large an enjoyable one.

I live in Toronto with my fiancee and our baby boy, Nick ... so, yeah, the pen name is a little bit of an honorific for my son, too; we'll see, in time, if he thinks that was such a hot idea!

If you have any questions or want to know more, please shoot me a question. I'm pretty good about responding.

Yrs,
Nick Cutter
(but not really)

2 comments:

  1. You asked some really nice questions, Bob! Congrats to Nick on his book!

    ReplyDelete