Chad Ryan is an author and part of Lost Boys Press - and he recently launched his ghost story with sharp edges, Ghost River. He stops by the blog to chat about the book.
Hi there, and welcome to Altered Instinct! Tell us a little about your most recent book – what is it called, and what is it about? Give us your elevator pitch to make us fall in love with it!
Ghost River is a heapin’ helpin’ of magical realism with a rusty iron spine of horror. It’s a visceral portrait of loss, love in a jail cell, and a book full of monsters. It focuses on a cursed ghost town in the Arizona desert at the edge of the Ghost River Nation. Locals call it haunted. Wiser folk call it cursed. Whatever the case may be, something evil stirs under the dirt. Ghost River is the story about the folks who still live out there. And the dead ones too.
What inspired the story?
2020, actually. I intended to write a different book entirely and Ghost River came out attached to it. A siamese twin. After separating it, I put the pieces together like broken glass. It’s a desolate, desperate, and anxious book about living and loving in a terrible environment that never changes. Ghost River became the refuge for my own anxiety during a pandemic and social/political unrest in America.
As a writer, have you ever had a character grow to be a much bigger part of the story than you expected? Who was the character and what was it about them that made them emerge from the sidelights?
Esther! Ghost River follows several key characters over 30 years of time as the book unfolds. At its damaged and violent core, Ghost River is a story about oppression, breaking free, and finding yourself in a shrinking and obsolete world, and Esther Northamm emerged as having one of the more tragic yet beautiful journeys in the book.
What were some of your favourite books to read as a child? Which were the first books you remember falling in love with?
I was obsessed with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Not only did the tales keep me awake at night, the creepy illustrations haunted my young mind more than anything! Other notables: The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Choose Your Own Adventure series.
Who are your favourite authors to read? And whose writing do you feel has inspired your own work most?
Ghost River is an homage to the horror genre: past, present, and I hope, future. It’s my love letter to Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft and others whose important work inspired my growth as a writer.
Are there any particular themes you address in your story? What issues do you explore, overtly or otherwise?
Man, that’s a challenging question! Ghosts for sure, but Ghost River isn’t your traditional ‘haunting’ tale. In this book ghosts are supernatural, scars from the past, and/or living people we’re haunted by. I should also note, this story dives headfirst into some very difficult themes to explore. Abuse, slavery, villainous misogeny to name a few. It’s a VERY mature read, and I recommend readers heed the advisory before jumping in.
What has been your favourite reaction from readers?
Ghost River is a risky book. I pulled no punches diving into this dark and dirty tale. My goal was to weave a horrific narrative with engaging and thoughtful storytelling to keep the reader going. My favorite response thus far has been from non-horror readers embracing the terror while enjoying the immersive experience in the world of Ghost River.
Marketing is always a challenge for writers – to share the love, what have you found the most useful tip for spreading the word about books?
I spend most of my time on Twitter, which I think, is the best tool for writers. You know, words. Sure I tweet about my book, but mostly build relationships and share pieces of my life with followers. Over time, it’s cultivated a network of friends and folks interested in what I do. A common mistake authors make is ONLY spamming ads for their books all day long. That’s not very engaging and easily ignored by potential readers.
I have to ask for readers who might want to know: Is this a kissing book?
Only if you like tentacles. I’ll leave it there.
Where can readers follow you to find out more about your work?
Check me out on Twitter (@writingiswar). I am managing partner of Lost Boys Press (lostboypress.com). And you can read more of my work on Broken Window (brokenwindow.substack.com) or my blog: writingiswar.com.
A traditional question here at Altered Instinct – what are you reading at present, and what is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Presently I am reading Cur Dogs by indie-author M.N. Seeley. On deck: The Ancient Ones by Cassandra Thompson, The Confession by William Aicher, and HumanAlien by Vika Coppens. I read a lot of indie-authors, like me, because I want to support the work they do to change the publishing landscape with compelling works.
Thanks for calling by! Ever a pleasure to chat to a fellow horror fan! Good luck with the book!
Ghost River is available on Amazon: amzn.to/2G6K6T3