Saturday, 12 December 2015

Author JD Byrne Guest Post

The History of Moore Hollow

Moore Hollow started out as a joke. It was a pretty good one, if I say so myself. What would be the absurd, fantastical extension of the murky history of dead people apparently voting in elections (I explored some of that over at my blog)? Actually raising the dead to do the dirty work. It's one thing to manipulate paper, it's a whole different thing to create a cadre of zombies to actually cast ballots on your behalf.

But a good joke does not a story, much less a novel, make (although many great jokes are, in and of themselves, great stories). So I had the idea, the question was, what to do with it?

Moore Hollow was initially going to a be a short story focusing on King Tommy, the corrupt politician at the heart of things. It would be about his bold plan to raise the dead and how it backfired in the most interesting of ways (no spoilers, such as they are). But that straight forward approach didn't really appeal to me. I went in a different direction and decided to have another character, a modern character, investigate the legends of zombie voters and see what he can find.

Thus, was the protagonist, Benjamin Potter IV, born. I knew from the beginning I wanted Ben to be British and a down on his luck journalist. Then a funny thing happened as I started to play around with the short story - Ben became more interesting than I thought he was. What was his background? Why would he cross an ocean and come to West Virginia and poke around a small mountain town? The more questions I asked, the more answers I got and the more obvious it was becoming that I wasn't dealing with a short story, but something bigger.

So, naturally, I stopped writing. I've always been someone who sits down to write a particular thing and if that thing starts to change in front of me, I need to step back and get some distance from it. I put the aborted short story version of Moore Hollow to one side and started digging deeper into Ben's life. The more I filled in his back story, the more the story started to shift. What had led to me getting this far, the initial joke, settled further and further into the background.

I sat back down to write Moore Hollow the novel during National Novel Writing Month in 2012. What I thought was going to be a funny little story about a scheming politician and zombies was now a tale of a family feud that went back years, of a man whose life had hit the skids and who was trying to make things right, and of a little town with a secret that it might not want the rest of the world to learn about for its own peculiar reasons.

I'm not a huge fan of when writers anthropomorphize their work and talk about how characters won't do what they tell them and whatnot. But I understand how one of the great thrills of writing is heading off into country that isn't just undiscovered, but wasn't even in the neighborhood when you started. Moore Hollow was like that, sprawling from a quick bit with a few characters to a novel filled with people I didn't know I needed to write about. Until I did.

What happens once you solve a mystery? Sometimes that’s the hardest part. Find out in Moore Hollow, available now at Amazon.

JD Byrne

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