Will Overby has been writing horror fiction now for a few decades and with over a dozen books under his belt, readers are about to get a dose of his latest work, The Novelist.
Be sure to check out the Kindle book that inspired the website below.
For several years now, Overby has worked solo on his book projects. That does not mean that he is used to working with other writers, but rather he is used to writing and self-publishing his novels. He established his own publishing imprint, Black Cat Books, and has published his full-length novels in front of his computer ever since.
I got a chance to sit down and speak with Will about his latest work, The Novelist, which is a thriller that has a supernatural tone to it. It takes place in an isolated vacation home in the dead of winter. One thing that is for sure about Overby’s books is that he does not like to waste time with love letters. These novels are chilling to the core.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): With so many horror novels under your belt, tackling a supernatural story seems to be right up your alley. The Novelist seems to have a unique edge to it, given it is about a writer who must conquer the supernatural. Please give us readers a rare glimpse into your mind and tell us, how much of this story has been derived from personal experiences, including the need to overcome writer’s block?
Will Overby: This story actually materialized in my brain back in the late 1980s. I was struggling with what to write next, and I saw an interview with Bono from U2 where he was talking about an author with writer’s block. He said, “Why didn’t he just write about the fact he had nothing to write about?” And something in my head went, ding, ding, ding! So I actually wrote a full novel about that – a trunk novel that never really saw the light of day. A couple of years ago I decided to dig it back out, and now that I was making some progress in the horror scene, I thought I would rewrite it from a horror angle. I always liked those characters, and this time I wanted to give my lead character, Lee Houston, some supernatural elements to battle as well as his inner fears. At the time I had just released Moon Shadow, and it wasn’t doing as well as I expected, and I was wavering back and forth between working on the sequel to my paranormal crime novel The Killing Vision or the next book in my kids’ adventure series. I worked a little on each one, back and forth, until I was completely paralyzed trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And I thought back to that Bono interview, and I was like, why not? I dug out that old typewritten manuscript from 1989 and started reading it, and I decided then and there to turn it into a new project.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): The story takes place in the winter and there is a snowstorm that boxes your writer in. Does that in some way drive the tension of this horror novel by making it a “no escape” story?
Will Overby: I certainly think so. For me, one of the most frightening things ever is isolation. Self-imposed isolation – such as Lee Houston initially seeks – is one thing; but when outside forces cut you off from everyone and everything, that’s a different matter. I don’t have claustrophobia, but that’s the only thing I can compare it to. The walls seem to close in, and the isolation itself – the aloneness – becomes a living thing that envelopes you. What is often referred to as “cabin fever.” And when that happens, you turn inward to your own mind. And if you have any mental issues at all – depression, addiction, anxiety – it can be overwhelming. When your own brain turns against you so that you don’t know what to believe anymore, that’s some seriously scary shit.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Since The Novelist has a writer as the main character of the story, was there a certain creep factor that really hit home with you while you were writing it?
Will Overby: Well, as I said, the idea that you can’t trust that what you’re seeing, hearing, and experiencing is real, and that there’s no one else around that you can depend on to say, “Yes, I saw that, too,” or “I can hear that voice, too” is terrifying. And when you live alone, you have to either choose whether to say your mind is just playing tricks on you or that you’re experiencing something real. And that’s the thing – can you trust your own mind? Luckily there are other people living around me, so I don’t experience the isolation so much, but I have spent a winter alone at a lake house with empty summer homes all around, and I can tell you it can get pretty scary. One of the eeriest damn things I ever heard during that time was a bobcat screaming in the middle of the night from somewhere across the lake. Talk about every hair on your body standing at full attention! And then there’s the whole idea of being trapped, which I think is my biggest fear. Snowed in is trapped. Isolated is trapped. Not having choices is trapped. Imprisoned in your own mind is trapped.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Your writer in the story also has several of his demons to battle with, which are some of the same demons that most people in the world have had to battle at one point or another. Can you give your readers a little insight into that and how he may be trying to overcome them?
Will Overby: One of Lee’s biggest demons is alcoholism, which is hinted at but never fully explored, and that’s intentional. Lee is incredibly delusional, and it makes him an unreliable narrator. We as readers can see what’s happening to him, but it’s something he never acknowledges. There are also marital issues, which we learn about but we’re not sure exactly what happened or when to cause them. Lee is racked with guilt, which I think is his biggest demon of all. But instead of trying to overcome any of them, he ignores them. And as such, all we can do is watch as he is pulled into a downward spiral. Facing your own demons is not an easy task, and it’s certainly not for the fainthearted. I think that’s why so many people choose to stick their heads in the sand rather than confront their issues. Sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time your problems are not going away on their own.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Can your readers expect there to be some sort of tragic angle to this story, or a moral that readers may want to pay attention to?
Will Overby: It would not be a Will Overby novel without some sort of tragedy. [Laughs.] Seriously though, yes, there is tragedy. I have a reputation for tragic storylines and “unhappy happy endings.” I don’t moralize, and unlike some writers I’m not trying to infuse my work with some deeper meaning. I’m a storyteller, an entertainer. My books are for fun. If my readers get a few hours pleasure from what I’ve worked for months on, then I’m satisfied. If they get more, that’s awesome, too. My job is to give you a great story, hopefully one that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page.
Nick Younker (FJ Press): Thanks for taking the time to speak with me about your new book. Can you tell your fans when it releases and where we can find it?
Will Overby: The release date is August 1, and you can find it at all the major book retailers, both in paper and eBook.
For a complete list of Will Overby’s novels, check out his Amazon page.
[Image via Black Cat Books]