Welcome to day 19 of Horror Month! Today I have Stephen Lloyd Jones on my blog with a guest post as part of The Disciple blog tour! And again, defiantly pick up this book this month. It is a perfect read and full of evil - defiantly Halloween material.
Stephen Lloyd Jones and grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire.
He studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books.
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Raising the curtain – the suspension of disbelief in speculative fiction, and the importance of getting it right.
There’s a moment in most works of speculative fiction – especially those that contain a strong element of intrigue – when we reach the big reveal.
Finally, sometimes after hundreds of pages of suspense, the curtain is raised, the lights come up, and we’re rewarded with the explanation for all that’s gone before.
Done well, it offers us a moment of wonder and intense satisfaction, a sense that the world is either far more mysterious than we realised, or entirely as strange as we suspected. All the clues the author has fed us, all the nuanced little scenes we’ve witnessed, come together to show us something startling, terrifying, or beautiful. We find ourselves transported, our imaginations unlocked. We catch ourselves thinking – however briefly – about the universe around us, and our role within it.
Done badly, of course, and none of that happens. Our disbelief, previously suspended, crashes back. We feel betrayed, and a little foolish; how did we allow ourselves to be strung along? What on earth were we thinking? Why did we invest so much time in something that turned out to be such snake oil?
In my own books, I always approach this point with trepidation. From the first page, I’ve asked you to trust me: not just to suspend your disbelief, but to believe. This is where I need to make good on my promises. Will I be able to carry it off?
I find, in these situations, that it’s most effective to start early and reveal information gradually – handfuls of breadcrumbs sown throughout. I liken it to creating the tapestry of a mythos, and revealing at the start a tiny corner. I’m saying to you, ‘Hey, look at this thing. This is kind of interesting; kind of odd.’ Then, once you walk with me a little further along the path, I’ll show you a little more.
In doing so, I might just preserve your belief in a way I couldn’t have done had I revealed the whole tapestry all at once – because showing you that first tiny piece doesn’t just say, ‘Hey, this is interesting,’ but also, ‘Hey this little thing is credible. It could happen.’ Later, instead of taking a final leap together, we’ll simply complete the last of many small steps.
The second ingredient is to create believable, three-dimensional characters who react in believable ways when the curtain is raised. In real life – when faced with something inexplicable – one of the first things we do is seek reassurance from others. In The String Diaries, my 2013 novel, a few scenes take place in Balliol College library, as the protagonists attempt to learn more about the threat they face. They study journals, talk to experts, do everything they can to understand – as well as survive their situation.
In The Disciple, published this month by Headline, the main character, Edward Schwinn, takes a similar approach as he battles to comprehend the events overtaking him. We first meet Edward on the road at night, while he investigates a fatal five-car pile-up. In one of the vehicles he discovers the sole survivor: a woman, heavily pregnant, blindfolded and bound. As Edward learns more about her and the situation in which he’s found himself, we begin to see that he’s playing a small role in a much larger story – one that stretches back many generations. The Disciple’s historical links are fundamental to the plot, but they also help, I hope, to lend it some authority; the sense of a rich and authentic backstory powering current events. Whether I succeed is, of course, for the reader to judge. But the sense of excitement I feel as I gradually reveal the tapestry is one that sustains me through many months of writing.
On a storm-battered road at the edge of the Devil's Kitchen, a woman survives a fatal accident and gives birth to a girl who should never have lived. The child's protection lies in the hands of Edward Schwinn - a loner who must draw himself out of darkness to keep her safe - and her arrival will trigger a chain of terrifying events that no one can explain. She is a child like no other, being hunted by an evil beyond measure. For if the potential within her is realised, nothing will be the same. Not for Edward. Not for any who live to see it.