John McIlveen, Bram Stoker nominee for his first novel, HANNAHWHERE, is Cat After Dark’s April guest. No foolin’!
You currently work for MIT. Would you talk about your position there?
I am an Electrical and Mechanical Designer and coordinator for the qualification and of certification cleanrooms, and for the toxic gas monitoring systems at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington MA. I work in FSD Engineering. We are a part of the US-DOD so I will mysteriously disappear if I say anything else.
Please tell us about your upcoming books and their production schedule.
I have recently finished a big fat mainstream novel titled GONE NORTH, which (from fly leaf) is the story of Thalia and Emma Holden, two sisters from the Lower Ninth Ward in 1961. Raised in a home of limited means but abundant love and happiness, life is as good as it’s ever been, despite the vicious battles for and against racial segregation across America, and right there in New Orleans. When nineteen-year-old Emma Holden accepts a job with a prominent white family outside of Boston, a job that would enable her to attend college, it seems a dream opportunity. And then tragedy strikes, claiming the life of her parents.
With her parents gone, her sister in Boston, and her brother in California awaiting deployment to Vietnam, Sixteen-year-old Thalia Holden suddenly finds her life in shambles, now living with her grandfather and her hard-drinking, lecherous Uncle Carl. She tolerates her new life until a late night encounter makes her realize New Orleans is no longer home. Home is with her sister Emma, and that was where she needed to be.
Carrying only a duffle bag packed with minimal necessities, forty-two dollars, two Steinbeck novels, and accompanied by her three-legged German Shepard, Thalia embarks on an extraordinary Journey from New Orleans to Boston. In her travels, Thalia encounters her greatest fears, going face to face with extreme prejudice, perversity, but also compassion, offered by a diversity of characters ranging from despicable to eccentric, to delightful. Each day Thalia fears for her survival yet hungers for life.
Meanwhile in Boston, Emma struggles with grieving her parents’ deaths and worrying for her missing sister, while caring for the Merrick family, a wealthy but sympathetic family of five, the youngest of which is a fifteen-year-old son with Down Syndrome. To top it off, Emma discovers she has unwisely but helplessly fallen for the boss’s oldest son, who only complicates things by sharing the infatuation.
GONE NORTH is a tale of family, love, humor, conflict, and ultimately hope, involving humanity at its best, and at its worst. A firm publication date isn’t set yet, but it’s in the not too distant future.
I am almost finished a thriller titled CORRUPTION, which is about a Boston drug cartel, babies falling from windows, and a “common day Joe” who is pulled unwillingly into the midst of it all to help the mother of one of the children.
I am ¼ of the way into another horror novel titled ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?, which deals with a new type of “Super Ecstasy” which has some very unnerving after-effects for one poor son of a gun.
I understand that you’re friends with Christopher Golden. How did the two of you meet? Are there any plans for a collaboration?
Chris is a mensch in every way. He has been a mentor and very instrumental in my (and many others) writing career. We met in 1987 at a convention called NECON (www.campnecon.com) which is the best convention – bar none. He was living in New York and working at Billboard at the time, and I was in Hudson, NH working in the semiconductor industry. Ironically, we both ended up in Haverhill, MA. As for collaboration…I’d like to preserve our friendship. Joking aside, I’m not opposed to the idea, but it’d be like the tortoise and the hare; Chris writes full time at high speed with an astronomical output…I’m rather sluggish, seeing as writing is my second career.
Who are the authors that have influenced your writing the most?
This list could take pages, but in my opinion, John Steinbeck was a master in every way. Stephen King of course, for story lines. Who hasn’t he influenced in one way or another? Margaret Atwood, because she’s a phenomenal stylist and so amazingly diverse. Harry Crews, who was the king of flawed characters and mastered black humor. John Irving, or more-so his earlier writing. Read A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY and you’ll understand. Rick Hautala, who passed away March 17, four years ago. I befriended Rick in 1984 and he introduced me to the writer’s side of books, and to NECON, and he kept at me to start writing. Finally, Chris Golden, who has been a coach, a teacher, a cheerleader, and most importantly, a fun and goofy friend.
If you had the ability to bring one author back from the dead to write one more book, who would it be and why?
William Shakespeare, especially to see his reaction to this modern world (400 years after his death in 1616), and how he would translate it into his writing.
If you were able to trade bodies with one person for one day who would it be and why?
My first thought was Kate Winslet, so I could stand naked in front of the mirror all day. Seriously, maybe Stephen Hawking (stressing the “one day”), so I could experience existence from his perspective. To understand what drives him, what keeps him positive, and to see the correlation between his genius and his handicap, if one exists.
What are the next three books you’re planning to read?
I am currently reading and enjoying HAVEN by Tom Deady, which is due out later this year from Cemetery Dance.
Next in line are THE FIREMAN by Joe Hill, DEAD WAKE, non-fiction by Erik Larson, and THE GIRL YOU LOST by Kathryn Croft.
If you were to give just one piece of advice aspiring writers, what would it be?
Always believe in your art and always strive to improve it. (Okay, that was two, but it was one sentence.)
What five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?
(Outside of family and friends)
Jon Anderson – (From the band YES)
Harry Crews – (author – deceased)
Martin Luther King
Would make for an interesting evening.
How do you want the world to remember you?
You can find John on his website, on Facebook, on Goodreads, on his Amazon.com author page and on Google+. You can follow him on Twitter also – @jmcilveen. Stop by any or all of those and say hello! I think he’d be delighted that you came by.
Thank you for reading and reviewing my books, and thank you for inviting me to participate in your blog and this interview.
Thank you to everyone who pimped HANNAHWHERE, which helped get it nominated for both The Bram Stoker and The Drunken Druid Awards.
Buy HANNAHWHERE at Amazon.com!
HANNAHWHERE is the story of twin sisters Hannah and Anna whose mother is in an abusive relationship. What she teaches the girls will amaze you and give you hope. If you read only one book this year, make it HANNAHWHERE.