By Ian Walkley
Following the success of BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, author April Genevieve Tucholke has penned the concluding episode of the YA gothic thriller romance between “semi-orphan” Violet, and the morally ambiguous River Redding, in BETWEEN THE SPARK AND THE BURN (from Penguin/Putnam).
With its shades of Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier, Tucholke’s writing has been described by Kirkus Reviews in these terms: “The faded opulence of the setting is an ideal backdrop for this lushly atmospheric gothic thriller, which, happily, comes with a satisfying conclusion. Darkly romantic and evocative.”
This story follows the search for River Redding and his brother Brodie, who disappeared after bringing chaos to the small seaside town of Echo last summer. When a late-night radio show whispers of eerie events in a distant mountain village, Violet seizes on it—this could be River or Brodie. She and the other Redding brother, Neely, hunt for River in frenzied mountain towns, cursed islands, and an empty, snow-muffled hotel. They discover a girl who’s seen the devil, a sea captain’s daughter, and a sweet, red-haired forest boy who meets death halfway. All the while, Violet’s feelings for Neely grow sharper, the stakes higher, and the truth harder to pin down. If only Violet knew that while she’s been hunting the Redding boys someone’s been hunting her.
April Tucholke has lived in many places, including Scotland, and currently lives in Oregon at the edge of a forest, in a house with an attic, wine cellar, and “secret passageway,” where she can hear coyotes howl at night while she’s writing. She loves classic horror movies and coffee.
April, tell us about the inspiration for Violet’s story?
The idea for my first book came to me when I read this crazy article while living in Scotland: “Child vampire hunters sparked comic crackdown.” On September 23, 1954, in Glasgow, hundreds of kids, age 4 to 14, started patrolling the city’s necropolis, armed with sharpened sticks and knives. The kids claim they are hunting a seven-foot tall vampire with iron teeth who has already kidnapped and eaten two boys. Parents become concerned and eventually the police have to be called in to break up the hunt.
This really happened. The kids hunted the vampire for three nights. What inspired me about this article was the idea that it probably came down to one kid. One magnetic kid who told a lie about a vampire in the cemetery and made all the other kids believe him (and this kid became the foundation of River).
Who is River, and what’s motivating his troublesome behaviour?
River is a self-exiled wanderer from a wealthy East Coast family. He’s a liar. A liar with a secret.
Is this a story of good girl chases after bad boy regardless of the consequences?
Well, I flinch at the terms “good girl” and “bad boy.” I endeavour to write complex, fully fleshed main characters, ones that are both good, and bad, and everything in between. The only truly good character that I like, off the top of my head, is Atticus Finch in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Otherwise I prefer gray.
What made the gothic element so appealing to you?
I read JANE EYRE and REBECCA at an impressionable age.
Setting is clearly an important character in your novels. How have you gone about researching setting and what impact do you intend setting to have on the story?
I use small towns for my settings, like King and Lovecraft. It’s human nature to fear the unknown, and the wild. This is why I prefer to set my stories in semi-fictional places surrounded by the sea, or the woods. Cities are modern and fast paced and have many realistic horrors, but for mystery, for the otherworldly, I will always turn to the boring-on-the-outside-foreboding-on-the-inside Lovecraftian small town.
You are highly regarded in terms of your ability to write horror. What is it that fascinates you about horror, and how do you get it down on the page?
I love that horror can work as a metaphor for the fears held by a society. I love that its roots often lie in religion, or legend, or folklore. I love that horror often celebrates victory over evil by an average individual. How do I get it down on the page? I actually wrote a previous post on this for Writers Digest.
You are a big fan of Stephen King. In what ways has he influenced your writing?
Stephen King regularly uses kids as main characters in books like THE BODY, IT, THE SHINING, APT PUPIL, and CHILDREN OF THE CORN. I love writing about kids in danger who have to rely on their wits to survive. And King, like Lovecraft before him, has a love of small towns with eerie, ominous undercurrents. My books are all centered around a small town, or series of small towns.
As a judge on this year’s ITW YA award, I was struck by the wide difference in the level of violence that seems to be acceptable in YA novels. Is this something writers need to be conscious of? What age range do you feel you are writing for?
I haven’t been told to tone down the violence in either of my books, and I don’t consider anything I’ve written to be over the top or unnecessarily graphic. My books are dark, sure, but then, I was drawn to the dark as a teenager.I wanted to be genuinely moved, and scared.
I think my publisher lists my books as fourteen and up, but I’ve known ten-year-olds who have read them. And a large portion of my readers are adults. Age range is very subjective. What’s right for one kid is not right for another. I was reading Stephen King at fourteen, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend every fourteen-year-old pick up his books.
I understand you have a passion for art. How does art inspire your work?
I used to paint, though I was terrible at it. I don’t have time now, but I plan to pick it up again someday. I haven’t painted since I started writing, so it would be hard to compare the two. I do turn to my favorite art for inspiration, almost on a daily basis. There’s nothing like a Caspar David Friedrich painting to conjure up a gothic feeling.
The blurb mentions that your novel will appeal to fans of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES and ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD. How important is it for authors to understand where their novel fits into the market place?
I’ve actually never read BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, but I adore ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD (and the wonderful author, Kendare Blake, blurbed BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA). I think it’s important for publishers to know how to market a book—is it a horror story? A mystery? A romance? I refer to my books as gothic horror, but they’ve also been called gothic thrillers, gothic romances, and gothic mysteries, depending on the target audience.
I understand you are working on several other projects at the moment. Care to share?
I have a YA horror anthology coming out with Penguin in fall, 2015 called SLASHER GIRLS AND MONSTER BOYS. I’m in the middle of writing a dark, twisting YA thriller/mystery that will also be published by Penguin in 2016, called WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT. And I have a LORD OF THE FLIES–ish post-apocalyptic novel that I’m working on as well.
April Genevieve Tucholke is the author of BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA and its upcoming sequel, BETWEEN THE SPARK AND THE BURN. She loves classic horror movies and coffee. She currently resides in Oregon.
To learn more about April, please visit her website.