My novel The Almond People will be out in early 2017. It’s my fifth novel, and my first horror novel. When my first novel was published, people would sometimes call me a writer, and I’d always say, “Pounding one nail doesn’t make you a carpenter.” Now after five novels, I’m at the point where I sometimes think I could call myself a writer. But I learn something knew from every book I write. I’ll finish a book and think, I finally know what I’m doing, then I’ll finish my next book and think, Boy was I stupid when I wrote that last book. It’s like Bud Grant, the long ago coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He never allowed side line heaters for his team, even playing in Minneapolis in an outside stadium in the winter. Once after they’d made the playoffs, he told the team if they won the Super Bowl he would buy sideline heaters, and if they won it again the following year, he’d turn them on. So maybe after the next book I’ll call myself a writer … or maybe the one after that.
Occasionally different groups will ask me to give a talk about writing. (I call them talks because lectures or even presentations would infer I’m a writer, and I know what I’m talking about.) The most common question I get from these groups is: “How much money do you make?” My answer is always the same: “For me writing isn’t about the money”—which is what people who write say when they’re not making a butt-load of money. I like to compare writing to acting. For every Tom Cruise who makes seventeen gazillion dollars per movie, there are a thousand actors playing waiters in movies who have to work as real waiters to make ends meet while they wait for the break that will put them into the Tom Cruise category. That’s me: the guy waiting for the Tom Cruise break—or in my case the James Patterson or Stephen King break. (By the way, people have said I look like Tom Cruise, just a lot older, lighter-colored hair, much bigger nose and not nearly as good-looking, but I’m four inches taller. Eat your heart out Tommie Boy!) Will The Almond People be my Tom Cruise break where I get to fly jets with Goose and yell at Jack Nicholson? ( “I want the truth!!”) I hope so.
The second most common question I get from the groups is: “Where do you get your ideas?” That one is easy. The ideas are all around if you look between the cushions. It comes down to simply asking what if. For instance, I live in northwest Iowa, and I would guess most people living here don’t know the area is … possessed by an evil, supernatural force! I can see you doubt me. So here we go with the proof and links to prove I’m not just making stuff up:
1. There is a lake twenty miles from where I am sitting right now that the Native Americans would not take fish from or put a canoe in because they believed it was … haunted by an evil spirit! (link)
2. In 1857 a band of Santee Sioux attacked settlers’ cabins in this area killing many men and women. A young girl, Abbie Gardner, was taken captive along with three other women. Abbie said the leader of the band was so cruel and evil it was as if he was … possessed by the Devil himself! (link)
3. In the town where I live, there is a cemetery where you can put your car in neutral and a supernatural force … pushes the car uphill! (link)
4. A few miles north of here, just across the border in Minnesota, there is a cemetery where it is said three witches are buried, and the cemetery is … cursed and haunted by the ghosts of the witches! (link)
What if all these things are connected? What if there is an otherworldly reason for them? The reason is the premise for The Almond People. It is set in 1965—quite frankly, because many of the characters are high school students, and I don’t have a clue how high school students think in today’s world. (What is the deal with hair the color of blue raspberry Kool-Aid? I’m not saying it’s wrong, I just don’t understand the thinking enough to write from inside a head covered with Smurf hair.) As with most of my books, The Almond People is set in fictional Cossack County, Iowa where I am the supreme ruler and things exist at my whim and my subjects do whatever I command. I like this book. I liked writing it. I liked weaving in local lore, and I liked the characters. There’s some humor, some mystery, some scary parts, and my wife said one part brought her to tears. What more could you want from someone who might be a writer after another book or two?
Wings epress is publishing the book. They did my first book and the sequel. At that time they were a fledgling company, and I was a fledgling guy who had written a book. Most of what they published back then was chick-lit. I remember the cover artist was excited because he was finally going to get to do the cover for a murder/mystery. Wings has evolved mightily since those early years. They have updated. They do more marketing, and if you look at their recent releases, they do much more than just chick-lit. (link) They’ve always done a magnificent job of editing. They’re easy to work with and the cover work is outstanding. I’m very much looking forward to working with them again.
I’ll update you more on The Almond People as the release date gets closer.