Today Aaron Dries was kind enough to answer my questions about his latest novel “The Fallen Boys”.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Aaron Dries: My name is Aaron Dries and I’m still in shock. Five years ago I only ever dreamed of writing and now here I am celebrating the release of my second horror novel, The Fallen Boys. It’s a weird and wonderful world.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us something about your book “The Fallen Boys”
Aaron Dries: The Fallen Boys is an intense, psychological horror novel about a man named Marshall Deakins, who after four years, is still struggling to come to terms with the tragic suicide of his young son. It tortures him. He embarks on a search for answers that leads him down a macabre and labyrinthine path paved with secrets and lies. Instead of peace of mind he finds madness, held captive as part of a deranged plan filled with suffering. As the nature of his captors’ insanity is revealed, Marshall will need to confront the truth about his son and his own past if he hopes to have a future.
It’s a twisted cautionary tale. And it’s most definitely not for the faint of heart.
Books & Writing: “The Fallen Boys” deals with the theme of Internet bullying? What was the inspiration for this?
Aaron Dries: It wasn’t like there was a particular case that inspired this story. To say so would be completely untrue. But the issue was in the atmosphere; I’m not immune to it. I started writing the novel over two-and-a-half years ago, when there were all of these tragic stories slithering out of the media. And all of those stories disturbed and upset me, as they did everyone. It sickens me that there are those out there who play on the vulnerability of others —especially children— with this faux sense of power that the Internet provides. “They can’t see me and they don’t know who I am … therefore I’m not doing anything wrong by hurting them.” It’s about power. It’s about manipulation; both of one’s own self, and strangers. That frightens me.
Books & Writing: How did you find a way to tell a horror story about Internet bullying without it becoming exploitative?
Aaron Dries: Honesty was my barometer from page one. If something didn’t feel real then it was doing the book harm. If it felt contrived … I cut it. At the end of the day, it isn’t a novel about Internet bullying; it’s about manipulation. But I cannot deny the power of the catalyst theme, which is needed in any work of fiction. And that wound is still fresh. Internet bullying hasn’t gone away. So it’s about honesty, which is perhaps why it ends up going down such grisly paths. These are themes almost predestined for tragedy. And at the end of the day, horror and exploitation have gone hand-in-hand throughout history. That’s the curse of it, I guess. It happened when Robert Bloch wrote Psycho, when Wes Craven made Last House on the Left, when Jack Ketchum wrote The Girl Next Door. I’m sure I won’t be immune from it; which isn’t to say I won’t defend myself.
Books & Writing: You write very cinematically. Do you think your work would translate well to film?
Aaron Dries: Growing up, all I ever wanted to do was direct films. For me, writing is very much the same, only I’m not just the director— I’m the writer, casting agent, actor, editor and audience as well. People find my writing style cinematic and I’m very okay with that. Personally, I think my novels would translate into film well, because (so far) they have all been visceral horrors within real-world contexts. That makes adaptation a hell of a lot easier. And cheaper. I think House of Sighs would be a super-effective horror film; it’s streamlined narrative with real drive. The Fallen Boys treads a far more precarious line. If done wrong, it could end up as exploitation, or worse, torture porn. I worked very hard to not allow the novel to become either of these two things on the page. But if done right … man, what an experience it would be.
Books & Writing: Continuing on from this, both “The Fallen Boys” and “House of Sighs” have very effective book trailers. How did you go about getting them made?
Aaron Dries: I made them myself! I shot, edited and sometimes acted in both. The feedback has been fantastic and I’ve even got some work offers out of them. I used to be a video editor before I was a writer and I’ve still got that passion. I love that people enjoy the trailers so much, especially the one I released for The Fallen Boys, which I’m particularly proud of. I guess it’s that cinematic vibe that comes from the stories themselves. It just flows onto the screen. I’ve been getting all of these emails from strangers saying how frightened they were watching the trailer, which brought an evil little smile to my face.
Books & Writing: “The Fallen Boys”, as you mentioned, is grisly. How did you approach the ‘horror’ element of this real world terror?
Aaron Dries: The key was to underplay it, whilst overplaying it simultaneously. There are very few scenes of violence in The Fallen Boys… but we witness a lot of the aftermath, sometimes in great detail. As a result, readers feel as though they’re experiencing more gore than they really are. I’m very happy with that. This book, more so than House of Sighs, works because of what isn’t on the page. It seethes with implication. Early reviews have picked up on this, with some comparing it to Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in which viewers remembered seeing more violence than was actually shown. Big thumbs up from me. It was very, very deliberate. The book is largely about the Internet, which is a place where terrible things happen every day, but with a surreal lack of tangibility… yet there are very real consequences left behind. This is why the violence happens off-page. Well, most of it, anyway.
Books & Writing: There are a lot of twists and turns in “The Fallen Boys”. You think it’s going in one direction and then takes you in another… Do you plot your novels out in advance?
Aaron Dries: I don’t set out with a plan, but I always seem to find myself falling in to one. The Fallen Boys probably wouldn’t have ended the way it does if I’d sat down with a pen and mapped it all out on day one. It helps me discover what “feels right” as opposed to what’s fair, or perhaps, what a reader really wants. This book isn’t about what you want to happen. It’s about what does happen, whether you want it to or not. In a nutshell, it was planned to be devoid of mercy, unless circumstance dictated otherwise. And weirdly, the words just flowed out of me.
Books & Writing: These are really dark subject matters — Internet bullying, suicide, murder and manipulation … do these themes trouble you when you’re writing them?
Aaron Dries: That’s interesting. After House of Sighs came out, everyone asked me if I was disturbed by the content I’d written. Had I scared myself at any point? With that novel, the answer is no. Hell, it was fun. It was written by someone who was mad; someone with something to say about small-towns and some of the small minds that reside there. The Fallen Boys started out that way … but literally fell into something very different. It was a book that was getting out of control, spinning further and further into deeper hell. That unsettled me. And yes, in the end, it shook me up. I’m not immune to these subjects and as a result, The Fallen Boys screwed with my brain. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I lost sleep over it.
Books & Writing: “The Fallen Boys” syncs up with your debut novel, “House of Sighs.” Can you comment on that?
Aaron Dries: Setting is very important to me. Without a real setting, the characters feel less real. Horror, when it works, can be read by anyone anywhere. So many base elements are the same, and transcend location or ethnicity. That’s why I love the genre so much. But in order for it to resonate, it has got to feel real. Otherwise, there’s no point … With this in mind, I expanded on a world I’d already created, and in a way, ended up writing a “thematic sequel” to my debut. As a result, there are cross-overs. Those were fun to write. The villain from House of Sighs even has a cameo here. And the main character of The Fallen Boys is Marshall Deakins, whose father was the James Bridge postman in Sighs. Keen eyes will pick up on lots of these intersections. It’s fun.
Books & Writing: “The Fallen Boys” is very cine-literate. There are lots of references to movies and television shows, such as Twin Peaks. Are you a fan-boy at heart?
Aaron Dries: Absolutely! I wear my Twin Peaks fan badge with pride. My decision to set part of The Fallen Boys in North Bend, WA was because I went there for the Twin Peaks annual fan festival. I had an incredible time and made life-long friends there. And I was charmed by the locale. It was so surreal, stepping into a world that is, by definition, unreal. And yet, having said this, there are those in that town who just don’t care about the show anymore — many of whom perhaps never did. As a result, there exists this weird subtext in the streets… what is a tranquil backyard for some was a cinematic murder site for a world of other people. That stuck with me. And when the time came to writing The Fallen Boys, North Bend was still very much in my heart. It came naturally.
Books & Writing: Do you think Twin Peaks fans would get a kick out of “The Fallen Boys”?
Aaron Dries: Ha! I’d love to think so. There’s a lot in there for Twin Peaks fans, especially those who have gone to the effort of travelling to North Bend. They definitely stand to get a kick out of some of my more obscure references.
Books & Writing: There’s a song in “The Fallen Boys” called “Endsville” by Dom King Come. How’d you find this song?
Aaron Dries: I’ll let you in on a secret. There is no Dom King Come. I made it up and I had an absolute ball working on those lyrics. So if anyone feels like putting it to music, go right ahead. It’s meant to be super chilled, old school country folk. Kind of Randy Newman-esque. You all have my blessing!
Books & Writing: Finally, where can we get a copy of “The Fallen Boys”?
Aaron Dries: It’s out now! Head over to www.samhainhorror.com, Amazon.com or snap up a copy at your local bookstore.
Books & Writing: Thanks so much for joining us, Aaron!
Aaron Dries: It’s been a pleasure. Happy Halloween!
Below is the Frightening trailer for the book, what people are saying , and an excerpt!
What people are saying!
“The Fallen Boys is a relentless, sick and twisted journey into real world horror and madness, and a novel every fan of the genre MUST read!”
-- David Bernstein, author of Amongst the Dead (http://www.amazon.com/The-Fallen-Boys-Aaron-Dries/dp/1619210681/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348113981&sr=8-1&keywords=aaron+dries+the+fallen+boys)
“…Every real fear I've ever had as a living, breathing, feeling human being was brought to life within the pages of this book. Yet I could. not. stop. reading. Even with my stomach in knots, muscles tense, and anxiety level steadily climbing… Dries is indeed a master storyteller. All five of my senses were engaged with his vivid descriptions and use of imagery… A true psychological horror, this story did more than just disturb me - It got under my skin.
… The Fallen Boys not only reminded me of why I fell in love with the horror genre, it also reminded me that there is horror and then there is horror. There is the kind of horror that speaks of monsters lurking in the closet and boogeymen residing under the bed. Then there's the horror of realizing that the most disturbing of monsters are the ones found behind the smile of a trusted friend, the seemingly innocent greeting of a stranger, or the face that looks back at us from a mirror. From engaging characters to an awesome story line with villains you pray you never meet in person - all of these elements combined make this novel deserving of nothing less than my highest rating. 5/5 stars.”
-- Not Now Mommy’s Reading.com (http://www.mommysreading.com/2012/09/blu-reviews-fallen-boys-by-aaron-dries.html?zx=68190bc9b8f90eb0)
Prologue: An Evening in Washington State
July Twenty-Eight, 2007
The house was a moonlit carving in the dark. There were no chirping crickets, no birdsong—just winter silence. The sigh of trees. Stacy Norman slept inside, unaware of her role in The Forgiveness. She’d been chosen because she appeared innocent, but she would suffer because she’d committed the unpardonable crime of kindness.
Her murderer had appeared at her doorstep two months earlier, asking if a particular family lived there. Stacy had smiled at him and told the tall, deep-voiced man no. “Not much help to you, am I? Good luck, though,” she said, and closed the door, catching a quick glimpse of his smile.
This was the first of three visits he would pay to her house. The second was to scout for hiding places, surveying turns and locating the stairs, accumulating all the information he would need to make the third visit a simple, problem-free affair.
A breath of air through the house, coming from an open window somewhere—it had nothing to do with their entry. Stacy’s murderers had used the key under the doormat, which they had discovered on visit number two. Stacy would suffer because she was kind, but she would die because she was trusting.
The tinkle of ladles, suspended from the kitchen range.
It was a small, rented house on the outskirts of Preston—redbrick exterior and shingled roof that trembled when the winds blew hard. It was a long commute to work at the architecture firm in Seattle, but Stacy knew it was worth it. There in Preston she had privacy and silence, which was enough for her.
She used to be afraid of living alone but not anymore. The solitary life grew more and more inviting with each passing year, loneliness wearing thin. She didn’t own the little redbrick house, but that was okay. Renting taught her the value of patience, of working towards what you want. One day she would live in a home that she herself had designed, paid for and was proud of. It, too, would be on the fringe of a city surrounded by trees. And silence. Just the way she liked it.
Clocks ticked in the living room. Photographs of Stacy’s family back in Maine lined the walls, faces trapped under glass. A dog-eared copy of Even Cowgirls Get The Blues was bent over the arm of a chair. She was fifty pages from finishing.
Her diary sat on the desk in the study, an eagle feather marking her place. Her father had slipped it into her suitcase the day she had left home to study in Seattle. That had been six years ago.
Danny stayed over last night, read one entry. At first I didn’t want him to, but I gave in. Not to him, but to my damn hunger. I know that sounds stupid. Hunger. But I don’t know any other word for it. I’m not making excuses—it was nice. He was rougher than I like but what the hell, right? He made me coffee in the morning. I think I’m falling hard. I don’t know if I want that.