Fans of horror fiction know that not all horror should take place on a global scale with post-apocalyptic consequences. Russell Connor’s Good Neighbors seems to be a shining example of how an isolated apocalypse might play out, especially if the terror comes for a specific set of people.
Be sure to check out the Kindle book that inspired the website below.
When I got a chance to speak with Connor about his novel, he backed up his pretense that good horror makes you care about a specific set of characters, not just the world at large. When you care about the characters, then there is much more at stake for you as the reader.
Check out what else Russell Connor had to say about his novel below.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): In Good Neighbors, it seems as though we have some sort of alien-like invasion, but then some other aspects of the story are revealed. The “squall” and transformer play a major role in bringing the horror out in this story. This is creepy in the sense that technology plays a major role in making these people somewhat inhuman. Is that what you were really trying to drive at in this story, the fear that human made technology could be used to turn people?
Russell Connor: In a way, yes. I made sure that the driving cause behind the Squall is somewhat ambiguous throughout the novel. The characters have moments where they come right to the edge of believing it might be sentient, or even that it might be some kind of government conspiracy, but I really only wanted technology to be the catalyst for the true evil in the story… the evil that hides within us all. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that we can never really know another human being. Even your closest friends, parents, children, spouses – they all have dark, horrible secrets and desires that you will never know. That’s just the nature of humanity. The Squall was just my gateway to showcase these sorts of ideas to the reader.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): There are several points in this story where the action seems to rise at a rather slow pace. That is something that horror fans have seen and read a lot about, in movies like Paranormal Activity, for instance. Would you consider this horror novel to be a “slow burn?”
Russell Connor: Oh, definitely. Part of that comes from the fact that my stories are very character-driven. There’s always been this boring trend in horror that the only thing that matters is the villain. The hero characters are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, basically an afterthought, just there to be slaughtered by the evil. But the best horror, the most effective horror, is the kind that makes its audience truly fall in love with the heroes, so that their defeat or death means so much more. That’s also why I wrote this novel in first person POV, so that the reader feels very close to this character and understands his motivations.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Your main character, Elliot, has his own demons to fight and his life is no day at the park. I remember back to The Shining where Jack Torrance also had his demons before he ever entered the Overlook Hotel. Is that reminiscent of how Elliot progresses in this story, given that he battles alcoholism and is going through a divorce?
Russell Connor: I think characters who are just at rock bottom are much more relatable to the reader. In a way, they’re also easier to write than characters who have everything to lose, because they’re desperate and they don’t have to think rationally. Characters who act rationally can sometimes limit your options as a storyteller. I also very much enjoy stories where a character’s weakness becomes their strength, and that’s what happens here as Elliot begins to learn the truth about the Squall.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): I still can’t help but wonder what sets a few certain characters apart? What I mean is, how are Elliot and the girl unaffected by the squall while so many others are?
Russell Connor: Going with this theme of everyone having their personal demons, most of the heroes in the novel have their own problems to deal with. Elliot has his drinking and Katie has secretly been using drugs. But—and this is a bit of a spoiler for those intending to read the book—those things become their saving grace as they begin to find out that an altered brain chemistry keeps the Squall from taking hold of one’s mind.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): This kind of horror is an isolated incident within the community. But given its potential, could you see it having apocalyptic consequences, possibly in sequels to the novel?
Russell Connor: It’s funny you should ask that. I do have an idea for a sequel to this book that’s on a much bigger scale. I still want it to be from Elliot’s point of view to make it feel as intimate as this novel is, but it would be about the remaining scraps of the Heeder army taking over entire isolated small towns, in preparation to take over the world. I have some other projects in front of me first before I could ever get to that though.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Your readers and I are curious as to just what scares you as a horror writer, whether it be in film, TV or books?
Russell Connor: I’m terrified of just about everything. Disappearances and serial killers. Unknowable monsters. Aliens. But I always tell people that one of my biggest fears is boredom. I’m very scared of being bored. Whenever you see a movie where someone is kidnapped and tied up and thrown in a room or in a car trunk, I’m always thinking, ‘Oh god, no, give them something to read!!’ Stephen King’s short story, “The Jaunt” plays upon this really well. It gave me many nightmares.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about your book, Good Neighbors. Is there anything else you would like your readers to know about your novel?
Russell Connor: Just that it’s available in paperback and ebook now!
Fans can see more of Russell Connor’s novels on his Amazon page.
[Image via Russell Connor]