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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Guest Post: Will Millar

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I began working on my horror novel Infernal Machines in its earliest incarnation sometime in early 2008. I remember that I had finished working on my 1st novel just a few months earlier, and was in the process of receiving enough rejection letters to wallpaper an entire orphanage. Rather than let that bum me out, I went ahead and started another novel-sized project initially as a form of therapy. Hell’s Deliverance was the unfortunate title of my 1st attempt at a book, and in a nutshell it was about vampires. It took me just over 6 years to complete, and it held the distinction of being uniformly rejected by every single literary agent in the AAR registry. I decided that my second book would avoid Vampires entirely, as well as zombies, revenants, bĂȘte-noires or anything else that could possibly bite you to death only to have you rise from said death to go on and bite your friends/family/etc. At the same time, I knew that whatever I worked on had to be Horror. So, without really having any clear-cut idea as to how the story was going to progress, I began the back story on a guy I initially referred to as “Alpha Prime”, who was about as far removed from any character in Infernal Machines as you can get. Alpha Prime was a real estate broker, circa 2008 or so, living somewhere in between California and Arizona. He also did a lot of speaking engagements, sort of like Zig Ziegler/Tony Robbins kind of gigs, and while on the road he had a predilection for slaughtering hitchhikers and prostitutes. I had kind of this long range vision for a story about a couple of thirty-something slacker types named Paulie and Stoner, who at some point in their youth defeated a lumbering Jason Voorhees-esque ogre using only their wits. Then this Alpha Prime guy would build a shopping mall right over the ogre’s grave and then the mall would begin to eat people. Again, long-range, fuzzy planning was really the only sort of planning I did for the story, and I worked at it through the simple process of hammering out no less than 2,000 words a day, every day. There was no outline, no general scope to the work, just the vaguest ideas about the villains, and the heroes. Only, as I worked — a few dozen pages on the modern day stuff, followed by a few dozen pages on Paulie and Stoner’s childhood escapades — I realized that all of my energy and love seemed to be at its peak when I was fleshing out the back story. So I said fuck it, and decided I would dedicate a hundred or so pages to nothing but the earlier stuff; Paulie and Stoner versus the ogre, who by now I had dubbed “The Junkman.” If it went well, I’d keep going with it. If I got through page 100 and was dying to get back to the present day stuff, I’d do some more stuff on Alpha Prime and the shopping mall with a taste for human flesh. If not, I would do another hundred pages. And so, the story about Paulie and Stoner grew. I began to make changes, first and foremost to the era. At the time, I had the two kids pegged at being about 14 to 15 years old in the early nineties. This was more out of convenience than anything — I remembered the early nineties a little better, if only because it wasn’t quite as long ago as say, the early eighties. But as I filled up the 2nd notebook (I guess I should point out that I’m one of those relics who writes every 1st draft out in longhand) I was getting bored again. The Nineties were easy, but to my mind when it comes to Horror, nothing has ever been so cool as the late 70’s & early 80’s. I could do the easy stuff or the stuff that got my imagination all nice and juicy. I took the juicy route. At this point, I was about 6 months into the story, and I realized that it wasn't just therapy anymore. I was seriously going ahead with writing another book, God help me. So, I began reviewing everything I had so far, and it was… Eh. Paulie and Stoner were a lot of fun. But to pit Paulie and Stoner, who operate purely on intellect, brass balls and the brand of complete batshit insanity that only kids can really lay claim to, against this hulking thing… well, there was no real tension. The kids were always going to win out. You knew that, page after page after page. They had to win. So I had to stack the deck somehow. If I could get somebody with Alpha Prime’s cunning to join forces with the Junkman, then I would have something to work with. So I scrapped the Junkman’s original back-story (which was fairly trite from the start anyway) and began researching the story of the Golem of Prague, among other stuff. Enter Markheim, the man who would do anything to avenge the wrongs committed against him. It wasn't enough. Also, setting the story in Arizona was a fucking bummer. There’s nothing but desert out here — where the fuck was a golem supposed to hide, and even more importantly, golems are made out of clay, so wouldn't he just dry out? It was sometime late September when I made a trip to Bainbridge Island, Washington, to visit my oldest son, when I began to sort out some of the problems. I had lived in Washington a little more than a decade earlier, but it wasn’t until that visit that I saw — or rather, saw anew — the primeval forest that blankets that whole region. I knew where my story had to be told. The final piece clicked into place during the last day of my visit. Jake and I had done the usual sightseeing trips up and down both sides of Puget Sound. We visited Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe on the docks of Seattle, where a couple of mummies reside in a pair of glass cases, and we wandered around the Poulsbo Waterfront and knocked around a bunch of nautical museums, arts and crafts shops, and old book stores until he and his mom dropped me off at the airport. I remember standing there, watching the traffic roll by on the I-5, and thinking about how I was going to fix the problems with my book, when all of a sudden a name popped into my head.
Arthur Cardiff
Holy motherfucking shit I’ve never been hit like that with anything in my life before, not ever. I ran, sprinted, I fucking flat-out peeled through the airport like a fucking lunatic to the nearest newsstand and bought a half dozen blank notebooks. To this day, I’m amazed I wasn’t arrested for just generally looking like a lunatic. Because, right there, I was out of my mind. My plane wasn’t due to take off for another hour and a half or so, but by the time I got on board I had already filled out three notebooks full of stuff about this guy. Anyway, the rest of it was almost like I was just playing “connect the dots”. Besides Horror, I’ve always had a fascination with American history and folklore, and the story of the Cardiff Giant and the subsequent trial of P.T. Barnum is interesting enough in its own right that it was just the right sort of something for the story to hang its hat on. In short, I had a hook. To tell the truth, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the Mall With A Taste For Human Flesh angle. I liked it, but there’s that whole thing about “Once way leads on to way…” and I’ve never been the sort of guy who backtracks. Then again, one never can tell. Anyway, I’d like to thank you guys for letting me hang out here and blab on for a bit. And to anybody who’s read the book so far, from the bottom of my heart I thank you, too. Feel free to drop me a line anytime.  

Infernal Machines

Infernal Machines Book CoverPaulie and Stoner aren’t bad seeds; they’re just a little too smart for their own good. They stole their first car in kindergarten, and as for the homemade rocket launcher in Stoner’s garage … well, it’s best just not to ask. With 9th grade just around the corner, Paulie and Stoner find themselves on the wrong side of some real bad kids, an older band of white supremacists that go by the name of “Twisted Cross.” When a rumble at a high school keg party turns fatal, it sets off a chain of events that test the limits of Paulie and Stoner’s friendship, and their very sanity. Welcome to Chapel Harbor, a town where everybody buries their secrets deep, and nobody is quite who they seem. A town where the ghost of a serial killer known as The Junkman is rumored to stalk the woods at night, and where an unassuming magic shop and its mysterious proprietor, Arthur Cardiff, may possess the key to an ancient and terrible evil. Packed with hairpin turns and twists that will keep you guessing until the very last page, Infernal Machines is a blood drenched, adrenaline fueled, roller-coaster of a horror story that’s at once a paean to the Pulp Horror classics of the early 80’s and a meditation on the enduring power of friendship.

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About Will Millar

Meet Will MillarWill Millar was raised in Commack, a quiet and unassuming town close to the northern shore of Long Island. As a kid, his primary passions were horror and hell-raising. As he tended to cultivate the latter to a greater extent than the former, by the time he was 17 years old, the whole town decided they’d had quite enough of his antics, and would he please just take his act on the road, thank you very much. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, where his penchant for fire, explosions and general mayhem were tolerated, if not somewhat approved. At this point, Will also discovered the writers of the Beat Generation and began to write more consistently, submitting his less profane poems to underground ‘zines and belting out the more terrible stuff to unsuspecting audiences at various open mike nights throughout the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the last 15 years, Will has worked as a writer in various mediums, though horror continues to remain his favorite. He sometimes contributes articles to, and his short stories are available in several different anthologies. Infernal Machines is his first novel. At the present, Will lives in Phoenix AZ. He is a father of four, owns two dogs and has a wonderfully understanding girlfriend, all of whom somehow manage to put up with all of his crap.

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