So often we hear about a book as it is published, but I want to find out about the process, and of the people who helped along the way.
Why are we featuring this book?
This book was one of the runners-up in the Electric Eclectic Novella competition in 2020.
Hi, author, welcome to Norns Triad Publications, please tell me the name of your book and a little about the story?
Hi Karen! Thanks so much for featuring me and allowing me to speak on my new book. It’s titled Below Torrential Hill, about a supernatural Christmas in a quiet suburban town called Torrential Hill. We follow a wistful fatherless sixteen-year-old named Tristen, whose alcoholic mother, Lucy, hears voices coming from under the kitchen sink. After Lucy and Tristen’s stepfather separate and he moves away, Tristen is faced with the enormous responsibility of caring for his spiraling mother. He contemplates a plan—one that frees him from everything he’s ever known, beckoned by a voice too, but calling for him from beyond the limits of his neighbourhood. Tristen’s tale is a story of nostalgia, of learned empathy, of forgiveness, of the binding strength of a loving family and what it means for this bond to sever, and the sacrifices one makes in healing this bond.
When did this story first make itself known to you?
It was almost ten years ago, I think, as I was preparing to enter college, when it was revealed to me that my dad—now, thankfully happy and healthy—was depressed, addicted, and abusing prescription medication, and beyond that realization led to several other realizations about him and my mom, who reasonably chose to protect my brother and me from this information all our lives, until it was no longer possible to hide, as my dad’s addiction devastated my family. Fortunately, as I said before, he’s since become sober and everything reconciled. I love my dad for how strong and how true he’s been to his values since then.
Anyway, fast-forward a bit to first writing Below Torrential Hill—a short story at the time, which eventually developed into a novella. I hadn’t yet fully processed everything that had occurred within my own family. And yet, the story made itself known to me, like a catharsis or agenesis of its own; in my most meditative moments, Tristen’s family mythos seemingly built itself. I knew Tristen as a lovesick teenage boy with a cosmic nostalgia in his heart—for himself, for his family, and a spiritual yearning to return to his youth’s mystery; a lonely teenage boy who attempts an escape into fantasy, a memory, only to confront his family’s ancestral truth. Still, I hadn’t recognized this story of acceptance and forgiveness as a reflection of my own.
It was while I was completing the final versions of the manuscript when I finally made the connection. I realized, yes, creating this universe was part of my own healing journey; in reckoning that we only grow older and, as we age, we begin to see and feel things . . . people, places, ourselves and our memories . . . as they truly are, and not as we’ve come to believe; that parents are people before caretakers, that even they inherit their histories, and in that knowledge, we are granted an opportunity to forgive and accept these inherited histories, and finally feel gratitude.
Roughly, how long did it take to write it, and what was your process after your first draft?
It took me roughly eight years to complete Below Torrential Hill as it exists today. I probably finished that “first draft” in year five(?) of the process. Then, an obscene amount of editing. It has changed a lot since the first draft. I wanted to take my time with this story to make sure every word matters.
Did you have to do any research? Tell us a little about that.
All books require plenty of research, even fiction. The content of my research ranged from meteorite behaviour to psychology and from surrealism to indigenous folklore—one text specifically about Kaggen, a trickster god who takes the shape of a mantis (in an attempt to ensure the end of this novella supports multiple interpretations, one of which relating to mythology) … Also, the chapter epigraphs. Over the years in reading and research, I developed a long list of quotes I felt contextualized Below Torrential Hill. Most of the epigraphs came from this list and those readings, and a lot of stuff didn’t make the cut. It’s fascinating how much adjacent learning is involved in writing a novel, which ends as subtext or not even utilized in the final product.
Who are your main characters? Tell about them.
Tristen, a sixteen-year-old boy. Lucy, his mother. Lave, his stepfather.
Once your story is complete, you sent it to your editor. Tell me about them and how they enhanced your story?
I edited many times, had several readers and editors, paid and unpaid, that helped me on this project. All their names are featured on the acknowledgments page in my novel.
Now tell me about the formatting, who does that, and how did you decide on your book cover?
Tan Nguyen did a stellar job on the cover design and the paperback’s interior layout. She also worked on Palm Lines’ cover (my debut poetry collection). Also, big thanks to Don Kimes (donkimes.com) for enabling my use of his gorgeous, dreamy artwork for the cover and promo material—a perfect pairing, in my honest and humble opinion.
From the time of conception until Below Torrential Hill was published, how long did that take?
Eight years. A long, long season of my life. I admit it hurt at times. But it feels like that pain was valuable. These characters—this family’s wayward path toward gentleness is dear to my heart. This book is dear to my heart and probably always will be.
Why do you think readers will like this book?
I think coming-of-ages may be my favourite genre. Can’t you remember that feeling? Of being on the precipice—of your youth, of your hometown, of your conception of the world as it was when you were a child? Below Torrential Hill is bristling with that confusion, that momentum—the passion, the hunger—in seeing beauty in what’s beyond, the trepidation… Anyway, I hope my novella reaches a reader who finds meaning in it. I hope it touches them as it has touched me in writing it.
Thank you for allowing us to learn more about your book and about you. Lastly, please tell us about your hometown or city. Apart from being famous for having such a talented author living there, what else is it famous for?
Long Island, NY. There are some beautiful beaches and forestry areas. There’s its history with Walt Whitman and Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. Most of my family live there. Plenty of my friends live in the city. I mostly want to say that I love and miss them all and am excited to get together for the holidays.
It’s Christmas, and strange occurrences are plaguing the small town of Torrential Hill: a supernatural comet, undead insects, exploding streetlights, and a presence luring people into the woods. But when the mother of Tristen—a wistful, fatherless sixteen-year-old boy—hears voices from the kitchen sink, all he can think of is running away.
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