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Monday, March 23, 2015

Interview with Adrian Lilly (author of The Runes Trilogy)

Joining us in the Ruins today is author, poet, director, and fan of all things Gothic, Adrian Lilly. Currently touring in support of The Wolf at His Door, the first book of The Runes Trilogy, Adrian has stopped for a brief chat about the book. Stick around for an exclusive excerpt, and then be sure to check back this afternoon for my review.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Adrian. For those who haven't yet had a chance to encounter The Runes Trilogy, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect from The Wolf at His Door.

The Wolf at His Door takes place in an everyday setting populated by seemingly ordinary people—people like your friends and neighbors—thrust into a maelstrom of lycanthropic horror. The Runes family is at the center of the novel, with secrets of their own, that threaten to destroy them. As the body count rises, Alec Rune begins to suspect his new boyfriend, Jared, may know more about the werewolves than he’s admitting, only adding to the tension.

As far as what to know about me—I’m that nutty guy who likes to scare the heck out of people, including jumping out of dark corners just to make someone scream. Also, I’m the stupid person who walks through a house in the dark. Oh, and I write horror novels. I’m currently finishing my sixth novel. My short fiction can be found numerous places, like Hello Horror, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and Allegory.

Q: Werewolves have never received the same respect as vampires or zombies, but they represent some of our darkest, most primal passions. What was it about them that drew you in and convinced you to craft a series around them?

I like how primal they are. Vampires are often depicted, at least these days, as having a suave sophistication. Personally, I prefer the vampires from novels like They Thirst or 30 Days of Darkness, but I digress. Werewolves, I think, have received less attention because they are seen as either human or monster. Some writers see less potential in that. I decided to explore that struggle against something wicked within—to deconstruct that binary. Some characters fight the beast within better than others. I also think that werewolves represent our fears of anything untamed. Humans like to conquer, but we can’t always conquer everything.

Q: What would be some of your must-read werewolf novels or must-watch werewolf films for a fan looking to delve deeper into the furry side of horror?

I've only ever read one werewolf novel, and I didn't like it very much. It was movies and folklore that got me interested in werewolves. As a kid, I used to check out all these old books filled with woodprints of werewolves and vampires. The librarian probably thought I was odd. As far as films, I’d point anyone toward The Howling and Dog Soldiers.

Q. There is a strong queer element to the tale, with a gay romance at the core of the story. How did that aspect of the story come about, and what do you hope it accomplishes or communicates to the reader?

I have to make clear, first, that it’s not erotica or is the love story the main plot. I think a few readers hoped for lots of sex. Nope. This is a horror novel. The gay storyline came easily for me, because I was exploring the topic of secrets and secret identities. Anyone who’s ever felt like he’s had to hide a part of his or her identity will understand that element. With werewolves in particular, and the element of having another side, I felt like it fit. Additionally, when I started the first book, I had planned to make being gay a bigger twist—a bigger part of the plot. (I don’t want to give away too much.) As I wrote the book, I decided against that element, but kept the characters gay, because I was thrilled with how they turned out.

Q. Some of the most vivid and powerful horror authors out there – Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, Anne Rice, Steve Berman, Michael Rowe, etc. – are either queer themselves, or weave significant queer themes into their work. What do you think it is about ‘queer’ and ‘fear’ that makes them mesh so well for a mainstream audience?

I think queer and fear is still very much a niche. For readers who enjoy it, I think that the sense of otherness is what makes it work. For instance, Brite has queer killers in the Exquisite Corpse—a brilliant, if not disturbing book. In that regard, I think it was the sense of otherness that added to the fear. It’s also easy to draw parallels to being in the closet and having a double life—as a vampire or werewolf—the “monster” in the closet, so to speak. In that regard, I think that is why fear appeals to queer readers.

Q: We’ve talked a bit about the core elements of the story, but if I can put you on the spot for a moment, what do you think is the biggest hook or twist that would turn a curious reader into a dedicated one?

The characters in the book are walking a fine moral line between preserving their family and helping humanity. Much hinges on their willingness to make sacrifices. It’s also the type of story that dictates that beloved characters must die.

Q: In terms of reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction The Runes Trilogy that you've encountered to -date?

A reader on Goodreads wrote that he was ‘already crying.’ To me, that meant that as well as scaring people, that I had created characters that readers could care about.

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?

I have been on a kick reading classic literature lately. I’m reading Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis right now, and I think everyone should read it. I recently read Another Country by James Baldwin, and that was amazing. Such complex, well defined characters. Growing up, I read Christopher Pike, Mary Higgins Clark, and Robert R. McCammon, so I guess they’re to blame for my love of writing. Oh! And Robin Cook, I used to read all of his books. I almost forgot. Also, Peter Benchley. I read Jaws, The Deep, and Beast by him when I was young. I read Jaws 2, but that was written by someone else, as I recall. I remember liking it, and remembering how different Jaws and Jaws 2 were from the movies.

Q: Assuming you had total creative control over the production, who would you cast as the leading roles, were The Runes Trilogy to either be optioned for the big screen or a TV series?

I’m totally awful at current pop culture. Can I say Tab Hunter (Alec) and Montgomery Clift (Jared)?

Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? I know you’re working on the 3rd book in the series, but is there perhaps something completely different on the way as well?

Yes. I’m the type who works on numerous books at once, and then, as I’m writing, one leaps to the front to finish. I’m putting the finishing touches on a book called Last Will and De-testament, which is the first in a new series called The BlackBird Mysteries. It’s a series dealing with all manner of creatures from folklore.

Best of luck with it all, Adrian, and thanks again for stopping by.

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About the Author

Adrian W. Lilly is the author of the novels The Devil You Know, Red Haze, and The Runes Trilogy: The Wolf at His Door, The Wolf in His Arms, and The Wolf at War. His short fiction and poetry have been published in Hello Horror, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Nervehouse and The Weekly among other publications. He can be found online at www.adrianlilly.com.

He is a fan of Gothic suspense movies and novels, which greatly influence his writing. Adrian's writing focuses on strong character development and the nuances of fear that build toward horror. The mansion in his first novel, The Devil You Know, was inspired by the grand mansions in the Victorian neighborhood where he lives.

Adrian writes novels, short stories, and poetry and has spent many years as a copywriter in the advertising industry. In addition, Adrian has directed two short films and co-directed a feature-length sci-fi comedy.

My website: www.adrianlilly.com

Facebook: facebook.com/adrianwlilly

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AdrianLilly

Twitter: @AdrianLilly1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6545875.Adrian_Lilly

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About the Book

The Wolf at His Door
by Adrian Lilly

Ilene Rune has lived with a secret for 21 years that threatens to destroy her marriage, her life, and all of humanity. But how can she tell her son, Alec, that his new boyfriend, Jared, may be part of that secret?

Investigating a brutal murder, Detective Lance Herald enters a dark world of fairy tales and fantasy—that shakes his belief in what is possible and imagined.

Lucy Rune cannot fathom what happened the night one brother was slaughtered and the other critically wounded—but she does know, her boyfriend, Rene, who was also attacked is changing.
Geraldine Bloom, Alec’s grandmother, has the gift of foresight, and has waited for years for the evil that wants her grandson to come for him.

Alec Rune wakes from a coma to learn his twin brother has been murdered—and that he is the only witness. But he remembers nothing of the night.

Werewolves, genetics, and a thrilling murder mystery intertwine in this “multi-layered and unpredictable” (Christine Coretti) horror novel that builds to “an absolutely epic ending” (thegayUK.com).

ebook, 348 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by One House Hill

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Excerpt

“Sam, did you hear something,” Celeste’s urgent voice echoed to him through his valley of sleep.
He shook his head, his eyes still closed and voice groggy. “Nope.” Outside, something grunted. At least, it seemed like a grunt. Sam leaned up on an elbow. Celeste’s urgency now washing over into him. “Shhh.”He whispered. He lay still in the bed, listening. The lake clawed at the shore, desperate to pull the rocks under the surface. The wind picked up, rattling across the cabin. March could be brutal.
“I think it’s just the wind,” he offered.
“No,” Celeste whispered to him. “Listen.” Again, they fell quiet. The grunting sound returned but with labored breathing. The sound intensified, as if the origin of the sound were much closer now—perhaps just outside the window by which they lay. The motion-sensor security light broke the night, and chalky light seeped under the closed curtains, dripping down the wall. Sam cast his eyes up, aching to see beyond the pulled curtains.
Sam clenched Celeste’s arm and mouthed Don’t Move.
Celeste held her position.
Slowly, through their disbelief, the sound became distinguishable. The heaves were the heavy breathing of a large animal—but there were no large predators in the area. No cougars. No bears. Certainly no lions. Not even alligators. Sam’s mind muddled with thoughts of what it could not be. Maybe it’s a stray dog. A fox? At best a coyote.
A shadow moved outside the window. Sam could not discern the shape of the animal; it appeared to stand on two feet. His first thought was of a mutant creature from the nuclear power plant, but decided that ridiculous. Mostly, anyway.
Celeste clamped her hand around Sam’s forearm. A mammoth shadow fell across the window. She felt fear growing inside her like a strangling vine, unyielding no matter how hard she tried to cut it back.
The shadow passed.
“Shit,” Sam muttered.
Celeste felt the vine wither, releasing her chest, and she breathed. “Fuck.”
Sam tossed the covers off and turned to face the window. If the thing was still around, he wanted to get a good look.
“Careful, Sam,” Celeste whispered.
Sam inched the curtains apart. The security light illuminated the yard. Beyond that the gray sky shed little ambient light. He could see nothing in the yard. At the edge of the yard, he heard the lake crash against the rocks. Sam turned to face Celeste. “I can’t see anything. It’s gone.”
“Good. Want a beer?”
“Sure. I can’t sleep anyway.” Sam watched Celeste as she crossed the bedroom to grab her shirt.
“Sam,” she said then bit off her sentence. Her jaw slacked and her eyes rounded. Sam sensed the presence of the beast behind him even before he felt the window glass pelt his bare back. He felt the claws shred the flesh and muscle of his shoulders as he was lifted off the bed and pulled through the shattered window into the cold night air.
“Sam!” Celeste screamed, looking through the vortex of broken glass, broken wood, and blood. The curtain was torn from the wall, the rod dangling like a broken limb. The darkness swirled as cold air met the damp warm air from the house and steam formed a momentary, translucent window.
“Jesus Christ,” Sam pleaded from outside. Heinous growls followed his shrill screams. “Oh, fuck! Help me.”
Celeste backed toward the kitchen then spun and bolted across the floor. She grabbed the telephone. She tapped out 9-1-
“Oh, no, no, no,” she cried as the beast appeared in front of the large bay window, dangling Sam from one large paw. Fear and pain bled his face of life, making him mannequin-like, though he still moaned and slapped at the beast holding him.
Celeste tapped the final one. She heard a reply, “9-1-1 what is your—”
The voice was drowned out by the sound of crashing glass as the beast hurtled Sam through the large bay window and retreated into the darkness.
“Sam,” Celeste screeched. His body landed in a contorted heap on the kitchen floor. Celeste stepped toward him. She heard a small voice beside her.
“Hello? Do you need help?”
Celeste placed the phone on the counter and stepped toward Sam. “Help me,” he muttered. “God, it hurts.”
“Oh no,” Celeste moaned as her eyes fell on Sam’s torn body. Both of his arms were nearly severed from his torso. Deep claw marks formed chasms across his chest and stomach. Half of his face dangled from the bone. How can I stop the bleeding? She stumbled to him and knelt by his side. A thunderous howl pierced the night. Celeste turned her eyes to the broken bay window. She stood slowly. Celeste backed away from Sam, casting her eyes down to him, pleading forgiveness, as she left him bleeding and tortured on the floor. From a knife rack on the counter, she grabbed a butcher knife.
With her other hand, Celeste grabbed the phone. “Send help...”
“Miss, I have dispatched police. What is the nature of your emergency?”
“Fuckmotherfuck.” Celeste replied and dropped the phone.
For the first time, the beast came into full view as it leaped through the bay window. Amid the spraying glass, Celeste caught glimpses of fur and fang. The creature ducked behind the counter, out of sight.
With Sam.
“Sam?” Celeste choked.
The beast raised into view, dragging Sam by his neck. Blood flowed down the length of his body. His jeans had turned dirty red with blood. He neared unconsciousness. “Drop him, you fuck.” Celeste ordered, pointing the knife toward the beast.
In defiance, the beast lifted Sam, bringing his neck closer to its jaws. Its long snout gaped open, revealing spiked teeth. The teeth clamped around Sam’s neck. A geyser of blood erupted from his neck, spraying the beast’s face. Sam gurgled once, before the skin on his neck split, and his head fell backward, dangling by one sinew.
Celeste whipped the knife across the room and bolted for the bedroom. Slamming the door, Celeste hopped onto the bed and out the broken window. Her first thought was to dart toward the car. After one step she froze. The idea was flawed on two counts: she had no keys and she would have to run past the bay window.
She was left with one option: the lake.
The frosty grass chilled her feet as she bolted across the wet lawn, her eyes and mind focused on the lake. Celeste spun to face the cabin. The silhouette of the beast was illuminated in the bay window. It held Sam’s torn torso between its two great paws. Its head cocked, eyes locking on Celeste. Burning like twin green comets, its eyes glimmered and blurred as it tore toward her, its enormous, muscular body springing through the window. As Celeste turned, she saw the faint outline of a car—a large black sedan—that did not belong. It was parked in the edge of the trees by the lake, nearly hidden. The image just whirred past her eyes as she spun and refocused her attention on the lake.
Falling over the rocks, Celeste flung herself into the cold lake waters. The shock pulled the breath from her lungs and her skin felt—for an instant—as though it burned. She choked in a breath and forced her limbs to move, swimming from shore. The beast lunged into sight, alighting on the rocky shore; it crouched, watching her paddle just beyond its reach. Celeste took shallow, quick breaths in the cold water. She felt the cold seeping into her.
She prayed for the police to arrive. How long could it take? A cramp contorted her feet. Celeste continued her labored paddling. She knew she couldn’t stay in the water for long. Hysteria swirled in her mind like a fog: Sam is dead. I’m facing a monster. She lost the sensation in her fingers. How long had it been?
Splitting the night with a howl, the beast bounded from the rocks, disappearing over the edge of the rocky shore. Waves splashed over her face, and Celeste realized she was slowly sinking. Her lethargic arms beat against the icy waters. The cramp in her foot crawled up her calf; she wouldn’t be able to swim for long. The cold was winning. Celeste wasn’t sure how long she waited, but in the burning cold water, it felt like an eternity.
Like mist settling over the water, Celeste heard the distant cry of sirens. She forced her burning arms to pull her toward the shore. She treaded water for a moment, forcing her mind to forget the terrible cold and focus. Were the sirens really coming?
Certain she heard sirens in the distance, Celeste stroked toward the shore. She could not feel the sharp edges as she clasped her rigid fingers to the rocks. She laid her head against one of the large, gray rocks. Arms stiff, she hoisted herself onto the slippery rocks. Her chest heaved, coloring the night gray. She would wait for the police, she told herself, safely near the water.
In a brown blur, the beast leaped from beyond the rocks, lashing its massive paw at her. Celeste felt its claws snag her arm. Fighting, she pulled away. She heard the ripping, not totally aware what was happening as she fell backward into the icy waters.
Searing pain shot through her shoulder and across her chest. She felt her warm blood flow into the water. It was too dark, but she knew the water was painted red with her blood. The beast looked at her a moment, its lips snarled in what she perceived as a smile. It vanished again, dropping her twitching arm on the rocky shore.
As the police lights came into view, Celeste’s eyes sank beneath the lake surface. She bobbed up, whispering weakly, “Over here,” before her face slide beneath the water a final time.

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