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The Big Thrill Discusses ONLY MONSTERS REMAIN with William J. Donahue

Only Monsters Remain by William J. Donahue Book CoverJillian Futch relocates to the peculiar coastal town of Pell, Rhode Island, to pursue her work as a mortician’s apprentice. Having spent most of her life as a misfit, she believes she has finally found a home where she can blend in among her fellow “freaks.” Her peaceful existence turns to chaos when a horde of tentacled monsters descends from the clouds and destroys the civilized world.

As the invaders retreat, Jillian emerges from the rubble intent on rebuilding her life. She helps her fellow survivors heal from unimaginable loss by hosting primitive funerals for loved ones killed in the months-long apocalypse. When a cadaver enters her embalming room bearing an impossible surprise, Jillian realizes the otherworldly horrors have only just begun.

Author photo: William J. Donahue

William J. Donahue

Author William J. Donahue recently spent time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest horror novel, ONLY MONSTERS REMAIN.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

Not necessarily. When I write, I tend to listen to classical music or just open the window and listen to the trees or birdsong, because I find the human voice distracting. If I went back and looked at the timeline of when I started writing the novel and when I finished it, I’m pretty sure it would line up with major current events, like the emergence of the pandemic and the increasing animosity and polarization in the U.S. Naturally, themes of apocalypse came to the foreground.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

My protagonist Jillian Futch is someone other people have always considered “weird” or “off” or “other.” She’s a good person, however off-kilter, and her work as a mortician’s apprentice brought a lot to the story. She seemed like the perfect person to focus on in a de-populated world, where most of the survivors are not necessarily good people.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

This novel began as something much different than what it became. Originally, I saw it as more of a story about the strange characters one might meet in a funeral home, sort of a dark and morbid version of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. I can’t pinpoint exactly how and when it changed, only that the story took a drastic turn when I asked the question, “Well, what if THIS happens?”

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

I had a blast writing it, plain and simple. I can’t finish a story unless I’m deeply invested in it. I write full-time, but fiction represents a small part of my output, meaning most of the stories I write for work are not of my choosing. I find those “assignments” much harder to write because they’re not necessarily stories I would want to tell. I really wanted to tell this one.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

I hope they have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. I wanted it to be a very human story, about the things we crave, the connections we struggle to make or maintain, and the pains of losing the things in our lives that matter most. It’s also a story of becoming, of transformation, so I hope it makes people think about their own transformations, and whether the people we become are better than the versions of ourselves we used to be.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

I have three more novels in development: one that’s ready to be sent out for queries; another that’s in final draft; and a third, which will be my tenth, that’s on the ground floor. The first is a horror story about aging and death, the second is a coming-of-age horror set in the 1980s, and the third blends supernatural goings-on with a form of entertainment that had a profound influence on me as I was growing up.


William J. Donahue is an editor, feature writer, and kitten foster. His novels include Burn Beautiful Soul, Crawl On Your Belly All The Days of Your Life, and ONLY MONSTERS REMAIN. He lives in a small but well-guarded fortress in Pennsylvania, somewhere on the map between Philadelphia and Bethlehem. Although his home lacks a proper moat, it does have plenty of snakes.

ONLY MONSTERS REMAIN with William J. Donahue

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