Authors Cornered! L.X. Magruder, Creator of The Darkening

library.jpgHere at Scratchbomb HQ, I get a lot of review copies of upcoming books. Oh my yes, I’m practically inundated with literature. But while I love to read, I rarely get a chance to speak with the authors behind these works. But that ends today! Because today begins a regular feature on the site, Authors Cornered!

My first interviewee is L.X. Magruder, best known as the creator of dozens of young adult novels. He’s the man behind such beloved children classics as The Sleepover Pals and Wikipedia Jones. Next month, Slapdash Books releases the first volume in his first series for adults, a twisted universe of vampires and other monsters called The Darkening.

First off, I’m surprised you decided to write a series of vampire novels. It’s quite a departure from your previous work.

I’ve always been a huge horror fan, so I didn’t see it as such a reach. If you go back and reread at my books, you’ll see many elements of the supernatural.

Even though your last five novels were in the Johnson High Cheerleader Squad series?

The supernatural elements are subtle, to be sure, but believe me, they’re there. I mean, there’s no way those really complicated pyramid moves could have been accomplished without the occult.

How did you come up with the idea for this new series?

Vampires are huge in publishing right now. Particularly, books where vampires fight humans and/or other types of monsters. While these works raise some intriguing issues, I don’t think they explore them as deeply as they could. That’s what I hope to do with The Darkening series.

What kind of issues?

Like, what would happen if a werewolf did it with a mummy? How would that work? I’m sure you’ve wondered about that before.

I can’t say I have.

That’s the role of the artist–to ask the questions no one dares contemplate.

So your novel features vampires battling whom?

All kinds of creatures. Werewolves. Vampire-werewolf hybrids. Vampire-vampire-werewolf hybrids. Werewolf-vampire-werewolf hybrids. There’s a race of vampire Frankensteins…

Vampire Frankensteins?

Vampires who have been killed, then chopped up, then reassembled by mad scientists. They’re not very smart, but they are extremely powerful. And they’re much more respected in The Darkening Universe than the zombie-alien-robot hybrids.

“Why stop at just werewolf-aliens when you can have werewolf-alien-mummies?”

I have to be honest, I found the book very difficult to read.

I’ve heard that complaint from a few readers. My style is not for everyone. I like to think it combines the Gothic horror of H.P. Lovecraft with the lyrical sensuousness of Anne Rice, coupled with the melancholy, minute details of Proust. And of course, I was greatly influenced by the master of terror, Tim Allen.

Tim Allen?

Have you read his books? Horrifying.

For me, it wasn’t so much the prose style as it was the enormous number of characters and place-names.

When I decided to write this series, I resolved to let my imagination run wild. I guess I’m the kind of person who always asks himself, “Why not?” Why stop at just werewolf-aliens when you can have werewolf-alien-mummies? Why not have a race of vampire-robot-zombie-humanoids? Why not mighty dwarves that look like kangaroos but glide through the air like flying squirrels?

But how is a reader supposed to penetrate sentences like this: “The Gorlocks gathered upon the heaths of Ach-en-hotep, staring down menacingly at the looming hordes of Jereminim, wondering if they would be beset by the fearsome forces of Drezhikaners before aid could arrive in the form of either the intrepid Ferrahs of Bedunim or the plucky Ixtenhals from snowy Qentlip–if the dread Lesanthunim did not reach them first.”

When you start a new series, you have to establish a lot of backstory, explain characters’ origins…

Yeah, but that’s the first sentence in the first book.

What better place to establish, then?

I guess your complicated style is foreshadowed by the title: The Darkening, Part the First: A New Dawn – Forever Gloom Shall Reign – Or Shall It? The Reckoning of the Lachensmen of Velmore.

I want a title to tell my readers exactly what goes on inside my novel. I hate books with totally nondescriptive titles. Like The Great Gatsby. What the hell’s a Gatsby?

Just because your title is long doesn’t make it descriptive. I have no idea who the Lachensmen are, or where Velmore is.

That’s why you have to read The Darkening Compendium.

I’m supposed to read another book before I read this one?

You should have it by your side as a reference in case you get confused. My publicist sent you a review copy.

Let’s see…Yeah, I do have it here. Jesus, it’s 600 pages! That’s twice as long as the novel!

It includes all the vital information about The Darkening Universe. All creature names, major locations, origin stories, significant battles, tribal rituals, nutrition data, sexual habits, parenting techniques, space vehicle repair tips…

I just flipped open this Compendium, and I can’t find anything. The first page has an entry for something called “The Kerians of Montorrh”, followed by “Destranor, Zemblax”, followed by a picture of a vampire having sex with what looks like a giant chicken.

That’s a Ching-Texuactit, a half dragon-half Aztec fire beast.

How is this Compendium organized?

The entries appear in chronological order, based on when the creatures achieved full Crechlachan status.

How am I supposed to know what that means if I haven’t read the book yet?
It would make more sense to organize the Compendium alphabetically.

That’s why we published The Darkening Compendium Index.

Is that the enormous thing that looks like a cinderblock? The FedEx guy dumped it on my stoop with a forklift.

I don’t recommend trying to lift it yourself. If you want to read it, get at least three friends to help you. Oh, and make sure you place it on something sturdy, like an architect’s drafting table, or NASA-grade steel.

So in order to fully understand your novel, I need to purchase two additional reference works, one of which requires four people to lift it and will destroy most furniture.

It depends on your friends. I would say four strong guys, six to seven scrawny guys. As for the furniture issue, you can purchase the Official Darkening Compendium Index
Hydraulic Lift. It raises the index four feet above any flat surface and the aluminum tube is inscribed with a terrifying portrait of Rathmore the Eviscerator. I’m proud to say that I am the first horror author to ever have an exclusive merchandising deal with Home Depot. And the whole thing only costs $875, plus installation.

Wow, that’s pretty steep. But I guess you could lift other things with it, too, right?

No. I don’t know how it’s possible mechanically, but the guys in marketing promised me the hydraulic lift would only work with the Index.

Do you think it’s wise to make readers spend that kind of money in this economy?

These days, how can you afford not to spend that kind of money on horror?

Very easily, I would imagine.

Cleary, you don’t understand the horror world. My fans want to escape their tired, miserable, pointless lives for a few hours, and they would gladly pay any price to do that.. They want to be transported to another time and place, where anything can happen. Where they could find a vampire-midget-albino-zombie-giant around any corner.

Okay, thank you for your time. Your book sounds completely impenetrable.

You flatter me.