A HIDDEN ELEMENT, the new novel by Donna Galanti, returns readers to a treacherous sci-fi-tinged world first visited in A HUMAN ELEMENT.
In the first book in the paranormal trilogy, Laura Armstrong and Ben Fieldstone confronted a madman with a terrifying and murderous mission. In the new volume, the couple, now married, face the abduction of their son seven years later.
He’s the target of a madman out to breed an alien community. Their son’s special powers are a key to a world-dominating plan, in fact. That forces Ben and Laura to trust the madman’s son, Caleb Madroc, who has children of his own at stake plus a desire to save oppressed people just like himself.
It’s a new journey for all, and a new nightmare in a world made up of what Bram Stoker award-winning author John Everson called a blend of “all my favorite elements—psi-powers, aliens hiding among us, sex as a weapon, and secret rebellions that could change worlds.”
With A HUMAN ELEMENT available in a new edition from Imajin Books and A HIDDEN ELEMENT rolling out, Galanti answered a few questions about the tale and the world of the Element trilogy.
A HIDDEN ELEMENT picks up action begun in A HUMAN ELEMENT and returns readers to that novel’s universe, which is an interesting blend of science, paranormal, and thriller. Did you discover new things about that world as you wrote the new book?
Book two takes place in a secret cult-like community hidden deep in the Oregon wilderness, but unrest hides within the compound over forced breeding, communal living, and harsh punishments. With the community losing faith in its leadership, many members flee, widening the crack in this insulated compound and opening it to increased dissension—and death. The world in this book throughout the trilogy is a paranormal world and I discovered it’s one that really takes place inside us—it could be a world positioned anywhere. And while book one dealt with paranormal violence in a wild, unrestrained vein, book two also reveals violence through paranormal activity in a planned, methodical manner.
Readers have seen secret societies functioning within the everyday world, and books abound about vampires and others infiltrating day-to-day reality, but ELEMENT presents a secret community with special abilities, though they’re not really magical or supernatural but more realistic extrapolations. Did you feel that allowed you to take your thriller to new places?
Absolutely! Writing in the paranormal allows me to tap into the “what if” that brings the fantastical down to a place of real possibilities. What if we possessed the power to do the unbelievable? Like telepathy, telekinesis. And what if we could use those powers to heal—or to kill? Some people like to imagine that aliens would have such power, as eluded to in A HIDDEN ELEMENT, but what if it was inside us all along and we just had to tap into it? And what if we could get people to follow us with our mind’s power and do whatever we wished? Cults have fascinated me, and how one person can inspire people to do terrible things. My cult fascination began with the horrifying story of Jim Jones played out in the news when I was a child.
Laura Armstrong and Ben Fieldstone return in this tale, set a few years after the first, and they’re now married with a son. How did the time leap and matrimony impact the characters? Did you find it provided a new starting point for them internally?
I love that there is still heat between this couple, but the battles between Ben and his teenage son have put a distance between Ben and Laura that wasn’t there before. But we see hope that in surviving the events they must go through that Ben and his son can heal. At the end of the book, however, a new struggle is presented to them that will play out in book three.
This book also introduces Caleb Madroc, the son of a madman. How does he impact Ben and Laura, and how did you go about shaping a character such as Caleb psychologically?
Caleb began in a secondary role and quickly became the main role because he is such a complex character. He’s the son of Ben and Laura’s enemy, yet may be the only person who can save them and their son—so he is a pivotal player in the events that unfold.Caleb is a tormented hero and I took him to the darkest of depths, where even there he still sacrifices his own desires to help others. He has a full heart brimming with love just waiting to be given away, yet has no one to give it to. Caleb lives an oppressed life. He has sons he can’t be a father to, he can’t choose who he loves, and he must carry out despicable acts just to survive. Yet Caleb finds he is pushed to the wall even further and must risk the very things he desires to save those he loves. Caleb is also a Watcher in a way, and Watchers are some of my favorite characters to write. Read an article I wrote about them.
A third book, A HEALING ELEMENT, is planned. Did that affect the writing of this book? Did you find yourself thinking, “This story has to move on, but we can get back to that idea later?”
I always had an idea for a third book in a general way and that it would wrap up the story, but it never affected the writing of book two. I think of book three as V meets Supernatural. The story of Ben and Laura’s destined coming together is what propels the Element Trilogy from book one and carries it through into book three. Yet, as new characters come into play and they all re-write their own stories, we begin to see that perhaps destiny is not so certain. And maybe they will find a way to rewrite their own place in the world, no matter their genes or upbringing—and whatever world they belong to.
You’ve said you live in an old Pennsylvania farmhouse with lots of nooks for writing. Where does a typical writing day find you at work?
I move around quite a bit to write. Some days it’s at my desk overlooking the woods, other days it’s by the fire, and then a couple times a week I head to Wegman’s Café and write all day with a great group of writer pals for our weekly writing marathon.
You’ve mentioned living in a ghostly castle, but have any ghosts turned up in the farmhouse so far?
No ghosts in this farmhouse (the prior owner actually had it investigated by a paranormal expert who said it was “clean”). But, I did have ghosts in my old house growing up. You can read about my teen paranormal experiences here.
What’s next for you? Are you at work on the next ELEMENT book and what plans do you have for different fictional excursions?
I am now plotting the third and final book in the Element Trilogy and a young adult medieval fantasy series. I also write children’s books, and in 2015 have the first two books coming out in my middle grade adventure fantasy series, JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD, with Month9Books. In book one, Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance, when a bolt strikes his house and whisks him on an adventure to a world where stolen kids are work slaves for the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians. Learn more about it on my website.
Anything else you want to add about the ELEMENT novels or anything else that’s important?
I’m thrilled that I was recently invited to be part of a book bundle new release called the DEADLY DOZEN: 12 Mystery/Thriller Novels by Bestselling Imajin Books Authors. A HUMAN ELEMENT, book one in The Element Trilogy, is featured in the bundle.
Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery with a dash of steam as well as middle grade adventure fiction. Her three books are A HUMAN ELEMENT, A HIDDEN ELEMENT, and a short story collection THE DARK INSIDE. A YA offering, JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD is due in 2015. She lived in England as a child, and was a U.S. Navy photographer in Hawaii. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks, fireplaces, and stink bugs, but she’s still wishing for a castle again—preferably with ghosts.