BLOOD FROM A STONE
An Interview With Nate Kenyon
by Michael McCarty and Mark McLaughlin
Nate Kenyon has been kicking at the door of the small press for the last few years with his creepy and cutting-edge short stories. His fiction has appeared in various magazines and the anthology Terminal Frights. In January 2006 he became a full-fledged author when Five Star Books published his debut novel, Bloodstone. You can visit Nate online at www.natekenyon.com. This is what the Maine native, now Boston writer has to say.
Horror Garage: What was it like, growing up in Maine?
Nate Kenyon: Maine is a strange mix of cultures those native to the state who are often struggling just to get by, and those who have moved in for various reasons, many of them searching for something. These two groups donít always blend particularly well. My parents were the hippie-type, looking for a new frontier and a simpler life. My dad was a D.A. out in Seattle, my mother a school teacher, and one day they just decided to pull up roots and cross the country in a VW bug with two young children, all their belongings stuffed into the back. They rented a house in Richmond, and my father set up shop with a little law office while my mother learned to build houses. And thatís exactly what she did, starting with ours; about a year later, we moved into this passive solar home sheís built with the help of her classmates on 60 acres of land.
So I grew up on what might almost be considered a commune. But my parents were well educated, liberal, and financially fairly well off, which didnít exactly fit the mold of a lot of my friendsí families. My father was killed in a car accident when I was eight years old, and my mother got sick with cancer around that same time. These things all tended to isolate me, made me draw inward and feel like I was different from everyone else. I spent a lot of time during my early years exploring the woods around our home, reading, and writing stories. I got away from that by the time I entered high school and got into sports and girls and cars and all the normal things boys get into--but that tendency to daydream, to tell stories and escape into fiction, never completely left my blood.
I love Maine. It becomes a part of you, I think, and thereís a real sense of loneliness up there, of vast, open space and very, very dark nights. Itís very conducive to horror fiction. I hope to go back someday.
HG: What is an average day in the life of Nate Kenyon like?
Nate Kenyon: Up at about 6:30 with our four year-old climbing over me into our bed, digging her knobby knees and elbows into every single soft part of my anatomy before giving me a big sloppy kiss. Downstairs to make breakfasts and lunches for everyone, then once my wife and kids are out of the house, I have a few minutes to get ready for work. Then itís off to the office for my nine to five job as director of marketing and communications for the BC Law School. Most of my day is spent in meetings, or working on design and print projects. Sometimes Iím able to spend an hour or so at lunch working on new fiction or promotional materials for Bloodstone, but usually Iím busy doing something related to the day job. At five I leave to pick up my daughter at daycare, grab my son at after school and then itís home for dinner, playing with the kids and getting them to bed. After that, my wife and I open up our laptops and pound away at the keys until midnight. Iím either working on new projects, updating my website or surfing message boards like shocklines.com.
Weekends are reserved for house projects, writing and family time. If Iím on deadline for something, or finishing a novel, Iíll pretty much lock myself away in the attic for a couple of days straight. A lot of people would think itís all sort of boring, I suppose, but Iím pretty happy. I hope someday to be able to write full-time, but until then, thatís my routine.
HG: A review of Bloodstone stated that your portrayals of small-town lives and evils are dead-on. Other reviews have compared your work favorably to Stephen King, who often writes about small towns and is also from Maine. How do you feel upon being compared to Stephen King? Also, what is it about small-town New England life that inspired you and King to write horror about it? Is it different from small-town lifestyles elsewhere?
Nate Kenyon: Well, small town life was certainly a part of my experience growing up. Thereís a very interesting thing that happens in small towns--even though your nearest neighbor might be miles away, news travels fast. Itís hard to keep a secret. Things tend to fester, too; old grudges, rumors, bad blood. I donít mean to make it sound terrible--there are a lot of good things about small towns too. But I think thereís a certain type of evil that can fester in towns like White Falls, under the right circumstances.
Being compared to Stephen King is always a big thrill to me. I grew up idolizing his work, as many horror writers my age did, and he really opened my eyes to a new way of writing, fiction with an edge. His stuff was nasty. I loved it, and I wanted to do what he did. I think that it was after reading The Shining that I really thought about being a writer myself.
I do think small-town life in Maine is different than other places--the woods are deeper, the nights are darker, the wind blows cold and hard in the winter. It can feel very isolated, very desolate and lonely. You might live in the middle of town, and you might be able to see a neighborís lights when you look out the window--but you know that on the other side of the house there are deep woods, and if something were to come out of there to get you, youíd never see it until it was too late.
HG: Your novel Bloodstone follows the adventures of Billy Smith, an ex-con, and Angel, a prostitute and junkie. Would you consider these classic outsider characters? Do you consider yourself an outsider in any way?
Nate Kenyon: I would consider them outsider characters, yes. Both of them have always struggled finding a place where they fit in. And that was a very intentional choice I made. It was all related to the story and what I was trying to do.
For me personally, Iíve always felt sort of like two different people sharing one body. On the one hand, Iím a very sociable person--I like talking with people, and I love my family. People often describe me as friendly and outgoing. But thereís another part of me thatís always been shy and more introspective. As I described in an earlier answer, I went through a lot of trauma as a child, and I think that tended to make me more cautious when getting into more serious relationships. So in that way I might identify with Billy and Angel, even if it most people who meet me might not realize it.
HG: Of course, we know you didn't commit any crimes or do any streetwalking to research your book! But did you have to do any special research to learn how to portray the lives of an ex-con and a prostitute?
Nate Kenyon: Donít be so sure--actually, of the five or so manuscripts Iíve written so far, Bloodstone probably required the least amount of hard research. Thatís not to say I didnít do any; I knew about small town life, and I knew people a lot like many of the characters in the book. Billy and Angel came to me pretty easily, although I did have to do a little digging about prison sentences and life behind bars. For the Thomas letters I had to learn what life was like in the 1700s. I also did some research on ancient cultures for some background to flesh out the plot.