Brought to you by OBS reviewer Angie.
- Don’t forget to read our review for “Dead Harvest ” here at OBS!
Angie: First of all, I have to say that this really is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It literally had everything I would want in a story. Just enough of each ingredient to make it a fabulous concoction. So I thank you!
Chris F. Holm: Wow! That’s very kind of you to say. Thank you right back.
Angie: My first question is how on earth did you come up with the idea to make a demon so “human” rather than frightening? What is it about Sam that makes him so “unscary”?
Chris F. Holm: Well, technically, Sam’s not a demon, since in his world all demons are fallen angels, and in life Sam was a man. But when we’re talking an undead guy who possesses the living in order to steal human souls condemned to hell, that technicality is splitting hairs a tad from the perspective of the living.
I think what makes Sam unscary is the fact that he’s not too far removed from you or I. He spent his life working hard to do right, and to take care of those he loved. Problem is, those two things ran afoul of one another when his wife, Elizabeth got sick. And who could blame him for having done a teeny, tiny bit of wrong to save the person he loved most in this world? Not me. Not most folks, I’d imagine. And yet that’s what got him damned to this thankless task for all eternity. Heck, the fact that, knowing what he now knows, he’d do it all again makes him a bit of a romantic figure. It’s hard to find a guy who loves that deeply terrifying.
Then again, maybe I’d feel differently if he came knocking on my door.
Angie: Sam sacrificed everything for Elizabeth, both before her illness and to get her treatment. Yet at the first hint of trouble she dismissed him. That really bothered me and made me sad. Why did she force him to leave? What did I miss?
Chris F. Holm: In a sadistic, writerly way, I’m glad that made you sad, because that was my intent. I wanted the dissolution of Sam and Elizabeth’s relationship to be heartwrenching for the reader, because it was painful for me to write. As for whether I earned the moment is for the reader to decide. But I will say this: I don’t think it was the first sign of trouble between them. The flashbacks that tell the story of her illness and recovery cover a period of months, during which he becomes ever more violent, brooding, and withdrawn — the inevitable result of his conscience tormenting him over the choices he’s made, and the violent life he’s chosen to save his wife. And Elizabeth, I think, would rather die herself than watch the man she loves compromise his values, his basic decency. In the end, Sam simply crosses a line over which she cannot follow. Perhaps given time, they might have repaired their relationship. But of course the reader knows all too well that by then, Sam is out of time.
Then again, if there’s one thing that’s true of my series, it’s that death is not the end. So you never know what the future may hold…
Angie: There was such a wide range of demons in the story, from the stuff nightmares are made of to the ordinary man. Why the variation and what makes one demon more beastly than another?
Chris F. Holm: What I find fascinating about the origin of demons is that they began their lives as angels. Angels, unlike humankind, were created without free will; they were intended to be perfect, unwavering servants of God. Lucifer and his acolytes were not banished from heaven for their wickedness — they were banished for daring to exercise free will. Which, in a way, makes them perhaps more human than their angelic brothers. And, like people, they are nearly infinite in their variations, with one notable caveat: in my mythology, they are to a one embittered by the fact that god so callously cast them aside, so they tend toward the oogly-boogly end of the spectrum. Most of the good in them has been corrupted by the centuries spent outside of God’s good graces. But that doesn’t mean there’s not good left in them — or a kernel of potential evil in all but the most obesiant of angels.
Angie: When you wrote this story did you know where it would end or did the characters take you someplace you weren’t expecting?
Chris F. Holm: I knew the major beats, but I didn’t outline, instead deciding I’d let the words fly and see what happened. So as it turns out, my characters surprised me plenty. Kate proved a good deal steelier than I expected her to be, and a demon by the name of Veloch did something in the subway I never saw coming. Truth be told, those are the moments I live for as a writer.
Angie: Is the story line of Lilith being one of the original creations of God something that you came up with or did that come from biblical theory?
Chris F. Holm: Oh, Lilith as I wrote her — essentially, the archetypical redheaded, acid-tongued femme fatale — is stolen wholesale from religious teachings. She’s first referenced in the Babylonian Talmud, though her legend was burnished a fair bit throughout the Jewish folklore of the Middle Ages. Now, she’s considered a major figure by a whole host of pagan religions, and she’s penetrated popular culture so thoroughly, she’s even got a music festival named after her.
Angie: How much of your story was influenced by biblical writings?
Chris F. Holm: When I sat down to write DEAD HARVEST, I wanted very much to create a mythology that was equally accessible to people of any faith, or of none at all. So though, lapsed Catholic that I am, I borrowed heavily from Christian teachings, I also worked hard to incorporate bits of Islam and Judiasm, as well as assorted eastern religions, snippets of folklore, and Greek, Egyptian, and Mesoamerican mythology. I had this notion of all the world’s religions being essentially a centuries-long game of telephone played by folks all over the globe trying desperately to grapple with the same half-glimpsed cosmology and coming up wanting. I rather like the notion that if we could just stop bashing each others’ heads in over the details and compare notes, maybe we could begin to make some sense of it all. Plus, if there’s one thing I’ve discovered in writing this series, it’s that I couldn’t possibly cook up anything as weird as what our folklore, myths, and religious teachings already contain. So I borrow from them every chance I get.
Angie: In the second book, The Wrong Goodbye, will we see Sam again? Will we see Kate as well or is her story finished?
Chris F. Holm: Oh, you’ll learn a great deal more about Sam in THE WRONG GOODBYE. In many ways, I feel as though DEAD HARVEST’s just the prologue of his story. Kate, on the other hand, does not appear… though I have it on good authority (seeing as I’m the dude writing it) she may pop up in book three.
Angie: I read that you were heavily influenced by punk rock and Star Wars. Where would we see that influence in Dead Harvest?
Chris F. Holm: I think my love of punk is evidenced in Kate’s choice of disguises when she decides to go incognito by dyeing her hair blue and putting in a fake nose ring. Also, I suppose, by the fact that Sam’s got some serious issues with authority.
As for Star Wars, that one’s trickier. Star Wars is very much a hero’s quest — chosen one, prophesy, the whole nine — and that was something I tried consciously to avoid when writing DEAD HARVEST. It seems to me such tropes often tend to sap a story of that insane anything-can-happen spark. But on the other hand, I’d like to think I stole a little Star Wars whiz-bang for my tale. And if I could find a way to work a lightsaber in, you’d best believe I’ll do it.
Angie: In your “About the Author” at the end of the book I read that you wrote your first story at age 6 and that you were sent to the principal’s office for it. I’m going to guess that trip wasn’t to receive a writer’s award, Please elaborate!
Chris F. Holm: Actually, six-year-old me thought that’s exactly what it was! See, I’d written — and gleefully, bloodily illustrated — this story called “The Alien Death From Outer Space,” for which I was summoned to the principal’s office. He was a very nice man, who seemed impressed with my three-page illustrated science fiction epic (which, as I recall, had the aliens nearly wiping out the human race, and the remaining humans fighting back and killing them.) He asked me all sorts of very detailed questions — about the story, about my home life. Now, of course, I realize he was making sure I wasn’t psychotic or abused or whatever. Then, however, I thought I’d won myself a fan. At the end of his subtle interrogation, he gave me a Hershey bar — my first ever literary award! — and told me not to tell anyone where I got it, lest they be jealous. Which set off a cascade of bad when I walked in the front door of my apartment noshing on it. My mom asked where I got the candy bar, and I replied, “He told me I’m not allowed to say.” You can imagine how that went over.
Angie: And this question is just for my curiosity because I’m a cat lover… What do you mean by a “noisy, noisy cat” and what is your cat’s name?
Chris F. Holm: My cat’s name is Binkley, after the Bloom County character. She’s perhaps the sweetest, most affectionate animal I’ve ever met. But she loves loves loves to be the center of attention, to the point where she’s developed some tried-and-true techniques to keep from being ignored (on account of, say, it’s three-thirty in the morning and my wife and I are fast asleep). She’ll sit in the bathtub, or at the top of our back staircase, and howl — because she’s realized those two spots maximize her volume. She’ll hop onto a set of shelves and knock items off one by one until we come stop her. She even does this funny thing where she backs up until she’s very near the baseboard, and then kick it five times in rapid succession: KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK. Consequently, I don’t think I’ve had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in my own home once these past twelve years.
Angie: I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Collector Series!
Chris F. Holm: I’m delighted to hear that! I hope it lives up!
Angie: We like to ask our authors some informal questions. You can answer as many or as few as you’d like.
Angie: Do you listen to music as you write?
Chris F. Holm: I wish I could, because I’m a huge music geek, but I find I can’t tune it out enough to hear the story in my head. So sometimes, in preparation for a scene, I’ll listen to something to inspire me, but once hands hit keyboard, I shut the music off.
Angie: What kind of music do you enjoy?
Chris F. Holm: It’s become a cliche to say I love all kinds, but I mostly do. Anything from punk to folk to rap to jazz, with the occasional bit of dustbowl-style country thrown in for good measure.
If that’s too vague, though, here’s a piece I wrote a while back about my top five artists of all time.
And an interview in which I take a stab at putting together a soundtrack for DEAD HARVEST, complete with links to YouTube performances:
Angie: What are the first three songs on your most often played playlist?
Chris F. Holm: This changes depending on my mood, but here’s my current three:
Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”
The Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'”
Nick Drake’s “Northern Sky”
Angie: Would you prefer a vacation at the beach or in the mountains?
Chris F. Holm: I love the ocean, but I confess, I’m not much of a beach bum. More than a few minutes in direct sunlight and I burn to a crisp. So I’d have to say the mountains. They’re peaceful. Magestic. The perfect place for writing.
Angie: If you hosted a dinner party for any guests living or dead who would you invite? What would you serve?
Chris F. Holm: Oh, wow — that’s a tough one. I could come up with literally hundreds of potential guest lists. So I’ve decided to narrow down by theme: namely, cantankerous literary geniuses. It seems to me a table of six would be ideal, so I’d invite Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, and Kurt Vonnegut. I’d serve nothing but cocktails, and the false promise of a lavish meal that, in fact, would never come. Then I’d sit back and watch the sparks fly.
Angie: Who was your most influential teacher and have you ever told him or her how much they influenced/inspired you?
Chris F. Holm: I’ve had so many, and I’m certain I’ve never told them how influential they were on me. My high school biology teacher, Nick LaPre. Susan Morgan, who taught microbiology with such passion, I wound up very nearly dedicating my life to it instead of writing. Rick Werner, a philosophy professor who taught some of the coolest classes I took in all of college. And I’m no doubt forgetting others every bit as influential.
Thank you to author Chris. F. Holm for an amazing interview!