I have to say this series isn't for the faint of heart. Its not necessarily scary, at least not classic scary, more of the "Holy shit this stuff really happens" scary. It made me as a parent want to grab both my kids and attach them to my side so that I would never have to even think that something like this could happen to them, especially after reading the first book. Having gotten that out of the way I still think everyone should pick these books up and read them, because even if its not something you generally like to read its a real eye opener on certain things, as well as filled with the most unique characters you will ever come across. I'm an avid reader, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't have my nose stuck in some book and I can say I have never in my life read about any characters that come close to being how Spencer, Kaley and Shan are in these books.
Time to get to the good part. . .
-When and why did you start writing?
"I was thirteen or fourteen years old when I started writing. It came on the heels of my reading Sphere by Michael Crichton. Sometime between then and reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I thought, “I want to do this.”
I have my friend Doug Cline to thank for that. It was during one summer vacation where he was leaving for a while, off to some family trip or other, and for me that was like prison. I mean, as a kid you can’t drive, so being stuck at home all summer while friends are off doing other things…it’s miserable. So when I asked him what the heck I was supposed to do while he was gone, he picked up a random book lying beside his bed and threw it at me, and said, “Here, read a book.” It was meant as a total joke. Another friend of ours, Shane Weiman, had given him the book after he was finished, and Doug just tossed it off to me. I don’t know why it appealed to me, but I thought, “Hey, yeah, I’ve never read a book, not a long novel or anything, so I’ll give it a try.” I’ve read it a dozen times now and still have that copy.
I also always kind of knew I would do something in the arts. You just kind of know it, you know? Like, I was either going to be an actor or a writer or a standup comedian, something. There’s just no way for me to work the rest of my life as an accountant or lawyer or doctor. More power to people who do that, it’s just not me. Even though I research all those jobs for my writing and find them all very fascinating, I just could never do them on a daily basis. It would drive me to jump out a window.
I knew that I would be involved in stories since I was a kid—I was obsessed with the stories of things, the background on how it all was made. Everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to X-Men to Star Wars. I wanted to be a part of that somehow, I wanted to contribute. The obsession only got worse as I got older and read more books."
-What is the hardest part of writing a book for you?
"I have the opposite problem of most writers. Most writers will talk about writer’s block, or not having enough time. Well, I make time, and I never get writer’s block. In fact, if you’ll excuse the expression, I have writer’s diarrhea. The ideas just won’t stop coming out, and I’m rushing to get them on paper. I end up opening multiple files on my computer to handle it and jot it all down, and then I start finding books online or at the bookstore that can help me with the research."
-What do you think is the best part of writing a book?
"Best part? It’s gonna sound dumb, but it’s the truth. The best part of writing a book is the writing of a book. I’m kind of disappointed when it’s all over with. You know, it’s like, it was a fun ride, I made all sorts of new friends—the fictitious ones that I made up, of course—and I vanquished a terrible enemy, but even an enemy can be missed.
Creation is cathartic in so many ways. I’ve read that when you do anything repeatedly, no matter what it is, it is meditation. As long as you enjoy it, that is. Sewing, fishing, writing, baking. As long as you enjoy it and do it repeatedly, you get into the “zone” and your mind goes off someplace else. You’re both there and not there. Bruce Lee talked about this in martial arts, but he wasn’t the first by far. He said a fighter is “not thinking, yet not dreaming, either.” I’ve done martial arts for thirteen years now and can say you definitely get into that state. Everyone else is looking at a writer toiling away, or a martial artist getting abused, or someone who habitually sews, and they ask, “Jesus, why do that to yourself?” And we’re like, “Do what? Are you insane? This is fun! I’m in the zone here! I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!”
-In your opinion what makes a good story?
"I think most people would say characters, and I would agree with them. Even the really best books that have no humans in them whatsoever, such as The World Without Us by Alan Weisman—which is a really good book, by the way—you find that much of the landscape is personified as characters. Descriptions like “the Golden Gate Bridge moans loudly in the wind”: the moaning indicates that the bridge is a person in agony, and lamenting its neglect. And in that book, even the readers themselves are kind of a character, sort of like ghosts viewing the world they’ve left behind as the author details what would happen to the world if humans just vanished or died out suddenly.
My point is, you can’t get away from character. It’s the crux of anything. It’s their struggle you’re dealing with and what the readers want to know about. It’s not about will the bomb go off or not, it’s about what will happen to the character if it does. Will he or she die? Even if they live, will they always blame themselves for not getting there in time? In the end, you’re reading about a person. You’re vicariously living through them, and therefore making yourself a participant. Characters are so central because it’s the only way to invite the reader in and make them a character, as well."
-What made you want to write a book about a psychopath?
"Well, as I said, I couldn’t be a doctor or a psychologist, but I sure do love reading books about those professions. I’m an “armchair psychologist,” I have no degrees or even an ounce of training, but I do buy and own psychology books. So eventually I came across the topic of psychopaths, and just like I suspect most psychology students did, I found them interesting. How can you not? They don’t feel anything, and since they don’t feel anything, they don’t really believe that you can feel anything, either. I wondered, “What must that be like?”
Like I say in the book, it’s like convincing a blind man that there is such thing as the color red—he can take your word for it, but he can’t connect with it, at least not the way that you can. They say that blind people can sense the heat off certain things and tell you what color something is: well, that’s analogous to how a psychopath tries to determine emotions in others. They can’t sense motions or feel them, so he or she has to synthesize them in order to play the game—and that’s actually what pretty much all of them believe, that since they can’t feel something, neither can you, and therefore you’re just playing a game. And the psychopath is determined to play the game better to get ahead.
Interestingly, though, most psychopaths never kill. It’s emotional people like you or me or most of the people reading this that kill. Emotional people do it in a moment of passion. Psychopaths are good at emotionally manipulating people and rarely have to resort to that sort of violence, and the scary part is that they’re more likely to be someone you trust implicitly, that smiling sweetheart that you couldn’t imagine would hurt a fly.
An interesting misconception about psychopaths is that they’re crazy. Psychopaths aren’t crazy or stupid. In fact, they’re usually quite intelligent and aware of themselves, and, worst of all, quite cunning. They’re manipulative and they’ll use this skill to their advantage.
However—and this is a big however—because of all the things I’ve just said, their intelligence and emotional disconnect and whatnot, when psychopaths do kill, it’s not unusual for them to be exceedingly good at it. They’re just so calm that they make few mistakes, because they calmly planned ahead, and in the aftermath they go over everything with a fine-toothed comb, get their story straight, line up an alibi, and if taken into interrogation they are able to calmly spew out the lies and misdirections to confuse authorities.
For all these reasons I thought it would be interesting to have a psychopath be an unexpected protagonist—I hesitate to say “hero” or even “anti-hero” because Spencer’s not either of those things. He’s a villain, through and through, with absolutely no redeemable qualities. And yet the readers root for him. I set out to do that, and that’s the number one compliment I hear from people, that they found themselves rooting for a monster. Mission accomplished, I guess."
-What kind of research did you have to put into this book?
"A lot! But I enjoy research so it’s never been a burden for me. In fact, research is kind of my hobby, and it’s usually out of this research that a story idea emerges. I mean, I had read so much about psychopaths, human trafficking, and how Interpol was helping to break down on trafficking and child exploitation internationally, that eventually all these dark things started to coalesce into a story. All these hidden things that everybody is disgusted by and nobody wants to talk about, which is understandable because it is so disgusting."
-It always makes me feel a little guilty for liking Spencer, but how did he come to be?
"Well, as I said before, I was interested in including a psychopath because that’s as dark a topic as human trafficking or the exploitation of children. But as for his character specifically, like his crazed philosophy on darkness and coldness…well, I have to be honest and say that I didn’t know how to write a psychopath since I don’t know any, at least none that I’m aware of, so I just took thoughts that I’d had in my youth at their most bleak and intense—you know, those thoughts you feel when the world starts looking all phony and it doesn’t seem as though any adult is actually ever genuine with you?—then I took those thoughts two steps darker and made that Spencer’s overall philosophy.
Spencer is a “positive nihilist.” He believes that nothing we do has any meaning, therefore the only thing that has any meaning is what we do. In other words, since you are doing something at any given moment, you are imbuing that moment with a purpose, and that’s both the beauty and the tragedy of life. To Spencer, that alone gives your actions meaning. Regardless of whether or not there is a God or a Heaven or a Hell, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care about any Divine Plan that God may have, if there is one. I think that Spencer sees the existence of a Divine Plan for you or me as meaningless as he would find a father who has already decided that you’re going to grow up and become a lawyer like him. You have the right to buck him, even if he did give you life.
For Spencer, this means the universe is his playground, and he needn’t ever feel guilty for doing what he wants in it. As he says in the book to one of the girls, “If there is a God, then how could someone like me exist? He either doesn’t exist, or else He’s an absentee landlord.”
He’s a complex character, who, in his early criminal career, was taken under the wing of a man named Hoyt Graeber, who Spencer dubbed the Great Criminal Philosopher, a man who taught him all about auto theft, chop shops, drug running, and, inadvertently, added to Spencer’s misanthropy and “positive nihilism.”
So, if you find yourself guilty for liking Spencer, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Everybody that’s read it so far has said that. I think it’s due to many things: he’s the somewhat lesser of two evils—well, three evils—and even though he’s only trying to save Kaley and Shannon to get even with the people who took them, he is still trying to rescue them, which for some is close enough to a hero.
I also think people just like his weirdness, his nihilistic attitude that allows him to do whatever the hell he wants and feel no guilt about it at all. I think that’s a dark desire in all of us, just to do whatever we want. It doesn’t mean we’re all Spencer Pelletier, it just means we like to visit his headspace from time to time. Before, I said writing is cathartic. I think reading is, also. Spencer Pelletier is kind of cathartic.
Oh yeah, he also rips dangerous people apart with sadistic glee, and shoots human and supernatural monsters with equal indifference. He’s supremely unimpressed by your goals in life, or the goals of the things living in the Deep, and only means to take what he wants out of life. To be that fearless of enemies and driven to succeed is every person’s dream."
-Was it hard to write out Kaley and Shan’s story, especially in the first book?
"At times it could be, and for various reasons. First of all, I was a thirty-one-year-old man when writing it, and I have no idea what it’s like to be an eleven-year-old girl, or to have a sister, or to grow up in a place like the Bluff in Atlanta with a meth-head for a mother. So yeah, that was challenging.
However, I have unfortunately been around people with those kinds of problems before, both friends and family, and I’ve seen what it did to them as children. I’ve seen brothers and sisters sticking together in order to survive their parents’ neglect, and I’ve seen many of them repeat their parents’ behavior. The vicious cycle, and all that. So, there was something to draw from there.
Now, as for what the two girls go through in the book…yeah, I did have difficulty writing about what they went through, but I wanted to underscore that this world we live in has as much horror as beauty, and I also wanted to show that it’s possible to survive this kind of trauma.
I remembered that when Sylvester Stallone said they were making the first Rambo movie, the ending was supposed to be that Rambo forces the Colonel to kill him. They even filmed it, but at the last minute Stallone bucked the idea, saying that since the whole movie was about veterans returning from war and being mistreated, that the moral of the story would be that the only way out was for them to die. He didn’t like that. He said he wanted to show the veterans that watched the movie that it is possible to survive post-traumatic stress, it is possible to get on with life without killing yourself or succumbing to the same darkness that traumatized you.
I wanted to show that no matter what these girls went through, they could survive. They became my heroes, and they proved to me that together they could survive anything. It convinced me that I could survive anything. Again, writing being cathartic."
-When you first started writing Psycho Save Us did you ever imagine you would end it in the way you did?
"Kind of. For most writers, I think the story is always in flux, and the change of what appears to be a relatively minor detail along the way could cause huge and sometimes devastating changes later on.
I typically have an ending in mind, but it’s kind of amorphous, like I’m looking at it through a fog. It’s not until I start writing that the fog begins to lift, and I say, “Aha! Of course, there’s my ending.”
-In both books you take things that most people pretend don’t exist and masterfully weave a story of horror and pain out of it. Did you ever expect to write books like this?
"No, not at all. I’ve mostly written science fiction and “world-building” epic fantasy stuff, like Game of Thrones. I actually started off writing lighter, funnier stuff like Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s series, then I slowly transitioned into sci-fi after I became fascinated more and more with science, space, and technology.
The genesis for Psycho Save Us started some ten or fifteen years ago when I was walking through my living room and my dad was watching TV. There were two African-American girls missing from Atlanta, and their pictures were on the news. I remember thinking, “I’m about to go off and play some video games, and they’re out there being tortured, maybe murdered.” I remember thinking that the only thing preventing them from rescue was just one thing, just one piece of information: an address. It stuck with me for years. I remember thinking that if the girl’s had telepathy, even just enough to contact one person, they’d be rescued.
I never found out what happened to those girls. I don’t know if they were found alive or dead or not at all. But I still think about those girls, and wonder if they’re okay. I guess thoughts like that have to be placed somewhere, and a writer’s best place is to put them into a story. Exorcise the demons and whatnot, and hopefully find some meaning out of it all, or at least call everyone else’s attention to it. Sometimes I think that’s all writing is, just waving your hands around trying to call someone’s attention to a simple idea, or a cause you’re passionate about, or a notion you feel people haven’t thought enough about."
-You have two books out in the Psycho series, are you working on a third one, and if so, when can we expect to see it hitting the shelves?
"Yes, the third book is called Psycho Redeem Us, and it will wrap up the Spencer/Kaley/Shannon story and their bout with the Prisoner, the Others, and all other weirdness that lives in the Deep. You can probably expect that out in two to three months. I’m actually wrapping up the first draft now and sending it to my editor soon. Kirkus Reviews has chimed in on Psycho Save Us, and they’ve giving it a great review, so that’s pretty exciting.
I’ve also written a dark sci-fi book called The Phantom in the Deep, which is getting some good reviews in now. That’s set in the future, and it’s about the lone human survivor of an alien holocaust living in an asteroid field in the far end of the Milky Way, making his last stand."
-Can you tell us a little about or give a synopsis of Psycho Redeem Us?
"I can say that it completes a "trilogy", in that it wraps up the story I've been building since the first once, but that doesn't mean these characters are completely finished. The third book ties everything together, reveals who and what the Prisoner is, as well as the Others and the Deep in which they dwell. It also gives insight as to why the girls and Spencer were inadvertently pulled into this colossally horrific scenario.
Thank you so much for letting me chat with you. This was a lot of fun."
So as you can see there is a lot to these books. I can honestly say I'm just about crawling out of my skin waiting for Psycho Redeem Us to come out. I just really need to know how the story is going to end, but I also don't want the story to end either.
I can also say part of my love for these books stems from the way a psychopaths mind works. Really I have had some what of a off handed interest in this stuff for a few years. I would never say I was an expert in it but it is very clear in the writing that Chad did his research for this.
Time for the reviews, if you find that you need to read these books at this point just click on the title of the book and it will zip you on over to its Amazon page, I do these things because I love you. . .but also because I want you to read these books.
I can't make myself write a synopsis of this book because it wouldn't do it any justice. Reading this book was like seeing a car accident and not being able to look away. It was sick and twisted and disturbing but I couldn't make myself stop reading it. I needed to know what the out come would be. And it almost feels wrong saying it was a good book because it was so messed up, but it was, it was one of the best books I have read this year. I felt for all the characters, was saddened by the fact that there are people like Spencer running around for real, and to know what Kaley and her sister Shan went through is something that really happens.
If there was any editing or grammar errors my brain didn't register them at all. I was so drawn in by what these poor girls where going through that I couldn't notice anything else.
The book was told from multiple points of view and they all flowed together seamlessly. You were never left floundering.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, as sad as this book is, it also puts into perspective the things you try to not notice that are all around us all the time.
Psycho Within Us continues the chilling tale of the Dupré sisters, along with the psychopathic Spencer Pelletier, as he hunts down members of the Russian mob. Kaley and her sister Shannon are trying to piece back together their lives, but once again find themselves drawn into the pain and madness of Spencer's mind. But is it his doing? Or is there something darker lurking between worlds? A Prisoner searching for cracks in his cell.
This book is pretty intense, so many different things are thrown at you. In the back of my mind I knew that what I was reading is considered fiction with a splash of fantasy thrown in, but I just couldn't get over the fact that a lot of the things mentioned and seen are things that actually happen. It has the same feel as the first book to me. . .like seeing a car crash and knowing I should look away before I saw something I really didn't want to but at the same time not being able to take my eyes off of it.
Spencer was a seriously messed up person, but at the same time I couldn't help but like him and root for him and hope that things would work out and he would make it to the end alive. It almost makes me feel like I'm a bad person, but at the same time I got the feeling that just maybe there is something deep inside of him that is doing what is he doing for more then selfish reasons and that in his own twisted way cares about Kaley and respects her just enough. That we really aren't seeing the entire picture when it comes to him.
Kaley. . .I don't even know where to start with her. She feels like she is constantly changing while trying her hardest to hold onto the things that make her who she is. Her story is a sad one, and you almost feel at times shes going to fail and just give up, but she always pulls through somehow and has an amazing inner strength.
Everything is told from many different point of views, and this is once again done amazingly. You hear from different people that are all moving in the same direction and experiencing different things that all affect each other in different ways. It all twines together seamlessly.
If anything I feel like this book was more gruesome then the first one. In the first one you are exposed to something horrible and in this one you see what being exposed to that horribleness can do to a person. You see the way kids can be cruel to each other just to make themselves feel better. What a little girl will do to try and save the things that matter to her. Its like looking at the underside of life the dark part of things that we all pretend aren't really there.
The one thing I want to learn more about is Kaley and Shannons "charm" I want to know how it works and what exactly the others are. I got just enough to want to learn more about them.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, both of these books are amazing in their own ways. I will be waiting to hear more from the Psycho Series.
Clearly I really love these books, which I'm sure I mentioned somewhere earlier, or you just guessed. When Chad came to me about the interviews I know I walked around with a huge smile on my face, and I'm pretty sure I called my husband at work and said "Oh my God!" about thirty times before I even got to telling him why I freaking out.
An interesting tid bit (really its kinda pointless), I don't often read out loud parts of books to my husband but sometimes I need to share why I'm smiling like an idiot or why I just laughed and sacred the cat. Like I said I have just re read these books and in the second one, Psycho Within Us, there was a part that I needed to read to my husband, honestly I probably shouldn't have laughed at it but I'm that person that laughs at you when you fall, but anyway I get his attention and read it to him and of course look up with bright eyes waiting for his reaction and he just turns to me and says "You read this to me the last time you read that book." Needless to say it was a let down on my part. I didn't get the reaction I wanted from him, but hey it must have been some awesomesauce if I read it out loud twice to my husband, who hates to read by the way.
Well that is all I got in me for now, if you find yourself interested in these books you should really check them out, or put them on your to read list. They are great reads and you won't regret it.