Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interview with Nate Kenyon

Nate Kenyon, author of Sparrow Rock, has been kind enough to stop by Reading with Tequila to answer some questions.

Nate Kenyon grew up in a small town in Maine, an avid reader and writer from a very early age. He attended Trinity College in Connecticut, majoring in English and winning awards for playwriting and fiction. After graduation some of his short fiction found publication in literary and genre magazines such as Nude Beach, The Belletrist Review, Nocturnal Ecstasy and Terminal Frights.

Kenyon moved to the Boston area in 1995 and took a position working in the marketing and communications field. In 2005 he sold his first novel, Bloodstone, to Five Star Publishing (Thomson Gale). Bloodstone was published a year later to critical acclaim, named a Bram Stoker Award finalist in hardcover, winning the P&E Horror Novel of the Year, and becoming one of Five Star's all time bestselling speculative fiction titles. In 2007, mass-market paperback publisher Leisure Books signed him to a two-book contract for Bloodstone and his next novel, The Reach. Bloodstone was released from Leisure in May 2008, and The Reach hit shelves in December 2008, receiving a starred review from Publishers Weekly and raves from Booklist, Pop Syndicate, Dark Scribe and many more. The Reach, also a Stoker Award Finalist, was recently optioned for film. His third novel, The Bone Factory, was released in July 2009, and was called "masterful" by Booklist. His fourth novel Sparrow Rock, will be released in May 2010.

Reading with Tequila: As a horror writer, you must spend a lot of time thinking about things that would traumatize other people. Is there anything that really scares you personally?

Nate: Oh, sure. Health problems, for one--I hate hospitals. Mental illness--we all assume our mental state is stable and normal, and the idea of losing control of your own faculties is very scary. It drives at the heart of what makes us who we are--our sense of ourselves. I have a fear of heights too. But probably the most frightening thing I can imagine is something terrible happening to my children. I don't think I could handle that.

RWT: Sparrow Rock includes some rather terrifying insects. People's reactions to bugs can run from interest (like bug collectors) to annoyance to pure terror (you never want to see me run screaming from a bee. It's not a pretty picture.). What's your take on these creepy-crawly creatures?

Nate: You know, it's funny--the only thing I can't handle is spiders which of course aren't really even insects, although I think we all put them in that category. I didn't put any spiders in this novel, probably because I would have freaked myself out. But other insects don't bother me too much, for the most part.

Last summer I had an infestation of tiny ants, the kind you see here and there in many kitchens, but in this case it was pretty bad--they were swarming and they would not die. I would clean everything up, spray chemicals, put out traps, scrub the floors and counters, and they would be gone, only to reappear the next morning in droves. It was gross. I think that probably started me thinking about what would happen if they became more aggressive. I was beginning to write Sparrow at the time, and a little online research led to other, more frightening things. It fit right into the novel.

RWT: Insects aren't the only scary thing in Sparrow Rock. You have your characters trapped in a bomb shelter for much of the book which brings some forcing psychological issues to the forefront. Is mental fear harder to create that fear from a physical attack?

Nate: It's certainly more interesting to me. I think the real monsters in this world are people, and what we humans are capable of doing to each other always amazes and frightens me. I love to write about what makes people tick, their back stories and their own fears and why they are who they are. I'm all for some creepy crawly monsters every once in a while, but the human mind is the most fascinating thing for me to explore.

RWT: Not everything is scary in Sparrow Rock. You focus on the question of how to define real friendship, especially as a teenager. I found this to be surprising and very thought-provoking. Was there any set of charachters in the book that you would consider having a true friendship?

Nate: I'm glad you pointed that out, because it's something I really wanted to work on in this novel. What is friendship? And more importantly, what happens when friends are put under terrible stress? Do they lash out at each other? Does that stress expose their true selves? Does anyone really know anybody?

We all wear masks of some kind or another, hiding things about ourselves from the rest of the world. Friends are supposed to see under those masks--but let's face it, there are things we hide even from the best of friends.

I would consider Jay and Sue to have a true friendship, but of course they were lovers too. So it's complicated. But they confided in each other, trusted each other with some fairly deep secrets, let down their guards. And they tried to protect each other from harm, even if it meant harm to themselves. That, to me, is a real, deep and lasting friendship--when you can see each other's faults and accept them, and when you want to protect that other person even if you get hurt in the process.

RWT: Since horror is your "thing" for lack of a better term, how do you view Halloween? Do you go all out for the holiday trying to scare your neighbors or do you consider it more as a fun holiday for kids?

Nate: I don't make a huge deal out of Halloween, honestly--it's fun and I love going out with the kids are trick or treating, but I'm not one of those people who go crazy decorating their houses or sit out on my lawn in a zombie costume for six hours making people jump. To me, horror is a tool--I use it to lure in readers, to try to get at the real stuff lurking beneath the surface. I want to explore what makes people tick, and evoke emotion--and horror lets me do that better than anything else.

About the Book

Six high school students have survived nuclear war in a high-tech bomb shelter, but they're not alone. Mutated insects are hungry and the human survivors are the only prey.


  1. Great interview. Nate wasn't really on my radar, but he is now!

  2. Brilliant interview! I definitely want to read this...colour me a sucker for horror :)