This is a very cool thing. I recently reviewed Kristin Dearborn’s ridiculously captivating and entertaining novel, Stolen Away over at This Is Horror. You should read that review and damn sure read Kristin’s book. It’s pretty amazing. In the meantime, Kristen wrote this guest post that I really love in which she tells us about some of her influences for the book. It’s always exciting and intriguing to me to hear what sets an author on the path to a certain story and I find this one particularly interesting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Ten Demon/Devil Stories that Influenced Stolen Away
By Kristin Dearborn
A book about a demon (or DEMON, as the case may be, can’t exist in a vacuum. Characters Trisha and Joel were heavily influenced by the TV series Breaking Bad and the movie True Romance, but I cobbled together the mythology of the world they inhabit from a number of other sources, including Supernatural, which I won’t discuss here because I’m gonna stick to books. Presented below are ten demon/devil stories, which either influenced Stolen Away, or would have if I’d read them before the book was finished:
- The Exorcist / Legion – William Peter Blatty
I know, I know, I know. Not only am I sticking The Exorcist in 10th place on a list of 10 books, but I’m also lumping it in with its lesser known brother Legion. I didn’t love The Exorcist, book or movie, nearly as much as every other horror fan ever. Truth be told…I liked Legion better. The killer is based on the real life Zodiac killer, which is awesome, but with a little bit of demonic possession mixed in just for fun. I love the idea that the Big Bang was Lucifer falling from heaven and starting all life on earth moving again. It’s really a great read, and for me, a better one than The Exorcist. I like the procedural nature, and the bigger scope than Exorcist. Any fan of the first book should check it out. (Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure my problem with The Exorcist is that it was SO built up by the time I saw it that it just wasn’t scary.)
- Needful Things – Stephen King
What happens when the Devil himself comes to Castle Rock? Nothing good. In the final Castle Rock story, Leland Gaunt opens up a curious shop downtown which just happens to have the right item for the right price for every customer. However despite the low cost, there’s something more at play, and before long our fictional Maine town is tearing itself apart. King has made a career of fleshing out some characters, trapping them, instigating them, and watching them fight. This time the arena is Castle Rock, and thanks to Buster Keaton and Ace Merrill, the town won’t survive. The book exudes acertain inevitability. This is what the Devil does. He creeps in and convinces good people to give up everything for him, especially their soul. He leaves madness and sorrow in his wake, and slinks on to the next town.
- 8. Horns – Joe Hill
Ig Parrish wakes up one day with a pair of horns no one else can see, and suddenly people are telling him things. Really personal things. It’s a neat premise, and it weaves nicely with the whodunit mystery of Ig’s murdered girlfriend. Already a pariah because everyone thinks he killed her, it’s fun to watch Ig navigate small town New England as his horns grow and grow. Hill works with some neat motifs in the book, images of cherries and hell. What I like best about the book is the seamless blend of real life with this one single fantastic element plopped right down in the middle.
- Witches of Eastwick – John Updike
It’s hard to think about this 1984 novel without thinking of the film, and Jack Nicholson’s grinning face. Here’s another New England story (hmmm…notice a trend here?) centered around town scandal and how women are perceived. Needful Things touches on this small town mentality a bit, but not as much as Witches of Eastwick. It’s a curious blend of feminism and misogyny, and one can read the text either or both ways. It’s another case of the Devil waltzing in, taking what he wants, and leaving real people to suffer his consequences.
6.Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The next is a bit of a fluffier departure, as the story is a comedy about the end of the world rather than a horror novel. Angel and demon are rather comfortable in their late 1980’s English existence, and aren’t entirely sure they want the end of days to come. Good Omens doesn’t get into a lot of the psychological stuff behind demon possession, it does bring in the four horsepeople of the apocalypse, and plays with the idea of an antichrist. In some ways it’s a nature v. nurture analysis set to comedy, with a hospital misstep resulting in the antichrist being placed with a normal English family, swapped at birth with the boy who’s being groomed to bring about the apocalypse. Gaimen and Pratchett’s powers combined make this a witty tour de force, and a must read for, well, anyone.
- Head Full of Ghosts – Paul Tremblay
This Bram Stoker Award Winning novel came out after Stolen Away was finished, so it didn’t play a huge role in the writing, but it’s too good a book not to include here. Another New England story, this is the tale of a possessed teenage girl. By itself, this seems pretty common, not treading much new ground here. Throw in a TV reality show and an extremely unreliable narrator, and you’ve got a literary masterpiece. The narrative’s structure builds tension in the book, and the characters start coming apart before our eyes. Pop culture is taken under the gun in the story and picked to pieces under Tremblay’s careful commentary. I don’t want to say too much about it because I don’t want to give anything away. Great book, great read.
- Fallen Angel – William Hjortsberg
I can’t make a list about demons and the devil without including this noir classic. Set in late 50’s NYC, private eye Harry Angel is hired to find a Sinatra-esque crooner by a mysterious figure known only as Mr. Cyphre. This one is a different take on possession, and a close look at selling one’s soul and voodoo cults. The climactic scene is breathtaking in its scope and horror. The way the book toes the line between noir detective tale and horror story is brilliant, and the supporting cast of characters (don’t get attached to many of them, if you know what I mean) are more than just straw men.
- Hellblazer – Various, inc. Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Mike Carey…
Forget Keanu Reeves’ John Constantine, forget the short lived Constantine TV program, I’m talking the original comics, centered around the character Alan Moore first introduced in Swamp Thing. John Constantine (who would best have been played by Tim Roth—you know I’m right about that) is a chain smoking occult detective who is an interesting character because he’s almost more toxic than the evils he’s fighting. This series is all over the map in terms of the occult, and our anti-hero has dealt with all matter of devils and demons in the UK, America, in prison, and in the pub. It’s hard to pin down a single point in the character’s almost 20 year history, but it certainly was on my mind as I built the mythology and universe for Stolen Away.
- Preacher – Garth Ennis
Preacher is the home of one of the most iconic demons of all time: The Saint of Killers. No horns, no red skin, none of that mumbo jumbo. The patron saint of murderers and assassins, this western Clint-Eastwood inspired entity collects the souls of all who have died by violence. He carries two Walker Colt revolvers forged from an angel’s steel sword in the last fire that burned in Hell, and his aim is always true. The guns never jam, and he never runs out of ammo. The Saint’s hatred extinguished all of hell’s fires and caused it to freeze over. The Saint of Killers, to me, is an ultra-Americanized demon (which is no surprise since he comes from the love letter to America, Preacher). A different twist on angels and demons, but one that inspired Stolen Away just the same.
- Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
In my mind, Stolen Away picks up at the end of Rosemary’s Baby where (spoilers) Rosemary sees her son is indeed the spawn of the devil, but decides to love him anyway. (I never read the 1997 novel Son of Rosemary. Should I?) Levin’s 1967 novel is an ahead of its time dissection of modern motherhood, where everyone has something to say to an expecting mother, and a woman can’t win for losing. A flawless thriller, the deeper themes of the body not being one’s own ring through here. Particularly applicable with today’s abortion debate, Rosemary is treated as an incubator by people who claim to love her. I think her experience echoes the pregnancy experience of a lot of women (of course, without literal demons), particularly low income women in America, like Trisha.