By Thomas Pluck
Every summer three families take a trip together—this year it’s to a remote resort in the mountains of upstate New York. Scotty, a teenager who’s just come out, is nervous about how his friends will react to him. A late night visit to an old nearby cemetery seems like a great idea to the bored teens, but the old cemetery holds dark secrets hidden for almost a century—secrets that might have been better left undisturbed.
And what originally seemed like a boring week in the mountains gradually becomes a nightmare of terror for the teens and their families…
So begins LAKE THIRTEEN by Greg Herren, author of the Chanse MacLeod mysteries and the Scotty Bradley P.I. series.
Hi Greg. It sure sounds like thirteen will be an unlucky number for Scotty. Tell us a bit more about him and the dangers he’s about to uncover.
Scotty’s a good kid, an only child with parents who are slightly over-protective. He’s an athlete—plays tennis and runs track at his high school—and is dating another boy who lives down the street from him who has a really homophobic and abusive father. When Scotty and his friends go ghost-hunting at the cemetery near the lodge where they’re staying, Scotty has an experience there…well, he connects with the spirit of another boy who died over a hundred years earlier…and that’s when all the creepiness really starts.
Your mysteries are set in New Orleans, and they’ve been described as the best portraits of the city after Katrina. Since you were there for the big storm, tell us how you think the city was changed by it.
New Orleans is very different now than what it was before. Some of the changes are improvements, some of them not so much. The changes are really only noticeable to people who live here—tourists (even those who come here regularly) probably wouldn’t notice. The demographics of the city have changed, as well—the city seems to skew younger than it was before. The Central Business District used to be a ghost town after 5 pm; now it’s alive and vibrant at night because a lot of warehouses and buildings that had been vacant for decades have been converted into luxury condos. Tourism is also booming again; the Super Bowl this year gave the city a lot of world-wide exposure and attention. But no matter what, it’s still New Orleans; that same fatalistic sense of realism and ‘live for today because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring’ is still here.
It’s such a rich city. One of the first crime writers I read is James Lee Burke, and I took a pilgrimage to New Orleans after college to experience it. But this novel takes you to upstate New York. What brought the story there?
I went to an author’s retreat in the summer of 2011 hosted by my publisher in upstate New York at a place called Garnet Hill Lodge, and the road up the side of the mountain to the lodge was Thirteenth Lake Road. When I saw the sign, I kind of laughed and said to myself, “And isn’t this how all those slasher movies start? And wouldn’t THIRTEENTH LAKE be a great title?” The next evening, some of us went ghost hunting in a cemetery further down on the mountain, and I had an experience rather similar to the one Scotty has in the book. The next morning, I wrote an outline for LAKE THIRTEEN. I’d never been to upstate New York before, and I was really taken with how beautiful it is.
I’ve heard other authors say that writing YA can be freeing, that you can explore topics that are more difficult elsewhere. Do you agree, and have you been taking advantage of it, if so?
In some ways, yes, that’s true, but in other ways it’s not, if that makes any sense. Certain themes and issues teenagers face today—coming out, bullying—can’t really be explored in a series for adults. So, it’s freeing in the sense that I can write about things in the YA titles that I can’t in either the Chanse or Scotty series. SLEEPING ANGEL and SARA, two of my previous YA’s, dealt with bullying and homophobia in high schools. LAKE THIRTEEN is more about familial homophobia—but I don’t want to give away too much! I find writing for teens to be a little limiting sometimes—but it’s more along the lines of questioning myself: should I have this kid swear in this scene? What about sex? Can I have them be sexually active? Will that be considered too adult for teens? What is the line between books for teens and books for adults?
You’re also an editorial consultant for Bold Strokes Books, tell us a bit about what Bold Strokes publishes.
Bold Strokes started out a lesbian press primarily focused on romance, and eventually expanded to include erotica, romantic suspense/intrigue, and mysteries. They brought me on to develop a line of books for men, which has been a lot of fun. We do mysteries, romance, and some horror for men, and of course erotica. We’ve also branched out into YA and this new thing they call “new adult,” which is what my novel TIMOTHY was considered. I enjoy editing and I enjoy working with authors—I worked as an editor for about seven years before the press I was working for was sold, and I basically retired from editing. Bold Strokes gave me the opportunity to get back into editing, and I really enjoy it.
Thanks for coming by, Greg! LAKE THIRTEEN sounds thrilling and chilling, just my kind of read. I look forward to it!
Greg Herren is a New Orleans-based author and editor. He is the author of twenty novels, including the Lambda Literary Award winning MURDER IN THE RUE CHARTRES, called by the NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE “the most honest depiction of life in post-Katrina New Orleans published thus far.” His young adult novel SLEEPING ANGEL won the Moonbeam Gold Medal for Excellence in Young Adult Mystery/Horror. He has published over fifty short stories in markets as varied as ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE to the critically acclaimed anthology NEW ORLEANS NOIR to various websites, literary magazines, and anthologies.
To learn more about Greg, please visit his website.