It’s with diabolical enthusiasm that I recommend Forsaken by Andrew Van Wey as the next horror novel you read. Granted, with 60,000 copies downloaded some of you already know what a gem we have in Forsaken and what bloody fun Andrew Van Wey gives readers. For those who haven’t discovered this new voice in horror and dark fantasy, please, read on.
Once in a while a writer sinks his claws into me and refuses to let go.
Andrew Van Wey is one of them. Van Wey carved his debut horror novel, Forsaken, out of thick, looming dread with a lightning bolt of dramatic tension as a pen. At the same time, he pushed the traditional boundaries of acceptable characterization and still pulled off a compelling horror novel. Put bluntly – Andrew Van Wey is a total bad ass. In addition to being a hell of a good writer, he’s also a nice guy and generously shared a little time to answer the questions below:
LL: What sort of nightmarish revelation inspired this story? Did Forsaken come together in one horrific flash or bit by bit?
Andrew Van Wey: I wish I could say that Forsaken was channeled forth into this world through the mad eyes of some psychic conduit, like the painting within, but the truth is it just sort of came together in the way most of my writing does, piece by piece, lump by ugly lump. Forsaken first crawled forth from the canvas not as a novel but a screenplay back in 2007. It was a project I wrote on spec and one that my then-agents and manager really pushed all around Hollywood. It got a fair amount of attention, a few dozen meetings, but this was right before the Writer’s Strike of 2007 so it basically fizzled out as things often do.
Three years later I found myself in the odd situation of having a lot of free time and a long, cold winter ahead of me. As a native Northern Californian I don’t do well when the elements keep me indoors; The Shining is quite close to biographical. Perhaps sensing my inner Jack Torrance my then-girlfriend now-fiancee encouraged me to rewrite it, and so I set about turning Forsaken from a screenplay into a novel to end my winter malaise.
As for inspiration, I’ve always been a huge fan of horror. I devoured books and movies and comics as a kid, everything from Clive Barker to Stephen King to Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Lovecraft, Poe, Bierce, etc. I was one of those junkies who’d go to the store and scan the back of the VHS boxes, the scarier (and sometimes grosser) the better. Forsaken certainly owes itself to my love for movies as much as it does novels.
LL: The screenplay edition must explain the structure. I’ve always admired the tight planning involved in writing for film. I think Forsaken would make a great movie. Now let’s talk about Dan, the protagonist. He has an interesting and unique job. What sort of research did you do to create his imaginary world and make it so realistic?
Andrew Van Wey: Dan does have an interesting job, and as someone who spends a good a good amount of time teaching college students myself, the academic side was fairly close to home. When I’ve taught the same lecture a few dozen times I tend to, like Dan, go into an almost performance mode where I have specific beats I hit, jokes I use to break the tension, or tricks to keep the students engaged and learning.
As for the technical and artistic side, I spent a significant amount of time researching and calling around, asking questions of people who do art restoration for a living. It is a very interesting area because it’s both a science and an art, and those who are truly at the top of their field have to make decisions that aren’t just binary. We can’t just ask an artist how this color looks or what they wanted the viewer to feel if they’ve been dead for few hundred years, so there’s a fair amount of interpretation that goes into it. I find that fascinating, and I thought: what better way to challenge a person than to present them with a mysterious painting of near technical perfection?
LL: Dan is one of the most well rounded characters I’ve spent time with in a while. His childhood was full of trauma and, in the early part of the story, we feel him battling the long term impact of abandonment, isolation and bad luck. I couldn’t help but wonder if the writer had to overcome his own childhood struggles. So I have to ask, is there something in your past, a dark moment or hellish event, that helped flesh out Dan?
Andrew Van Wey: I had such a near-perfect childhood that I often feel guilty about it the older I get. I was the oldest of three siblings and my summers were spent at camp, watching scary movies, playing video games until the early morning, or off exploring the foothills around the San Francisco Bay Area. There really was zero overlap between my childhood and the struggles and abandonment that defined Dan’s childhood.
That said, there were specific moments that inspired parts of the story. Once such incident happened during a game of hide and seek at my friend’s house. I found and excellent hiding spot in a drained hot tub. However, my friend’s older brother closed the lid and latched me inside. Of course, it was really only for a minute or two, but when you’re nine or ten and trapped inside a wooden hot tub, time behaves differently and shadows really do hold monsters.
I’m glad you enjoyed your time with Professor Dan Rineheart. Some readers are quick to point out that he’s not a good guy; he’s having an affair with one of his students, he’s far from honest at times, he has a short temper and snaps at his kids, his wife, even his dog. But to me only cliches are seen through the prism of good or bad. Dan, like so many out there, is living a life of quiet desperation. Sure, he’s got it all, but he’s also miserable. He’s like Lester Burnham at the beginning of American Beauty, sleepwalking through his life, and this bizarre painting serves as his big wake up call.
LL: I’m very glad you escaped the hot tub! Last question – now that Forsaken has been downloaded thousands of times, what’s next on your list? Any works in progress?
Andrew Van Wey: I’ve got a few projects I’m bouncing between. I wish my mind could focus on only one task, my mental muse has some really bad ADHD. This late spring the second part of my fantasy-horror series, A Hollow Dream – Eternal Autumn, was published, so now I’m working on the third part, A Hollow Dream – Winter’s Scream.
I’m also in the middle of a real nasty piece of work that I’ve yet to title; it’s a road trip horror story about a woman who’d been held in captivity for years and has escaped with her child. But now the man who abducted her is coming after her and her child… and he’s not quite human. It’s a high speed blood and octane chase novel, somewhere between Rosemary’s Baby and Deathproof. In the end it’s going to be a story of inner strength and survival, and a mother who will fight a demon to save her daughter.To be honest it’s about the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever written, but I tend to think feelings like that only happen when you’ve tapped a juicy vein of creative energy.
Huge THANKS to Andrew for spending some time with us. Learn more about Andrew Van Wey at his site by clicking here (be sure to check out the Fun Facts About Andrew) and add Forsaken to your library by clicking here. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewVanWey or on Facebook.
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