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Thursday, 16 April 2015

ℚ The Remedy - Asher Ellis

THE REMEDY (, Full Fathom Five Digital) is a gripping tale of a college vacation gone horrifically wrong.

In his début novel with Full Fathom Five Digital, Asher Ellis displays a disturbing knack for campy fun and backwoods gore.  It’s Warm Bodies and The Strain meets Spring Breakers, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author Asher Ellis and talk about his brilliant début novel, The Remedy, our favourite book of the year so far.

"Straight-A student from the University of Vermont, Leigh Swanson, knew she should never have gotten in that car.  A raucous, booze-filled weekend in Montreal sounded like a bad idea from that start.  But, following the incessant nagging from her roommate, she finally gave in— against her better judgement.  However, when a half-baked scheme to smuggle illegal substances across the border takes a turn for the worse, the gang finds themselves lost deep in the woods, terrorized by a contagious deadly fungus and hunted by a family of twisted, interbred cannibals.  And these kids are about to discover that, sometimes, the only thing worse than the sickness itself is The Remedy."

Hello Asher and thank you for joining us on BooksChatter, where we are very keen to find out more about you and your novel, The Remedy.

Where did you find inspiration for this book? 

"I've always been a fan of the backwoods horror story, probably because I grew up surrounded by the forests of Vermont.  Many of these stories could've easily taken place just past my own backyard, which only served to heighten the scary factor for me.  So writing The Remedy was very much an example of "writing what you know."  Not only was I familiar with my novel's setting, I was well versed in my chosen genre's traditions and tropes.

And this brings me to a second point.  A reoccurring trope in backwoods horror is cannibalism. Now, I have no problem with that, as cannibals are one of my, if not my number one, favorite "monster."  But I was finding that both authors and filmmakers were often falling short in their explanations of what drove these characters to cannibalism to begin with.  More often than not, a family of cannibals were simply written off as "crazy," or they were merely following tradition--it's just what they had always done.  This always got a "meh" reaction out of me.  I mean vampires don't drink blood just because they like it.  So I set out to write the novel I would like to read—a backwoods cannibal story that attempted to answer my own question.  The result was what many reviewers have accurately called a "mash-up." I've always seen it as "Cabin Fever" meets "Wrong Turn", but I've loved seeing the connections others have made!  One of my favorites thus far has been "The Hills Have Eyes" meets "Dreamcatcher".  I'd read that book!"
I can see exactly where you are coming from and I think you truly did achieve your goal, which is one the reasons we enjoyed your story so much.
Are any of the characters in The Remedy based on people in your life?

"Though this may be disappointing to people I know, the truth is that none of these characters are really based on anyone from my life.  But really, my friends and family should consider that a good thing!  The characters that inhabit The Remedy are far from innocent— and I'm not just referring to the story's antagonists.  Everyone is guilty of something in this book, be it a terrible secret or bad behavior.

Our protagonist, Leigh Swanson, and her group of friends have a lot about them that is far from likeable.  With friends like these, who needs a killer fungus?  I'm thankful to be able to say that I know much better people in real life, and if I ever want to write a character that really has their act together, I'll have no shortage of inspiration.  

Character names, however, were very much plucked from reality, especially our gang of college students.  I named each of them after members of a group of horror filmmakers that were once labeled, "The Splat Pack."  Leigh refers Leigh Whannel ("Saw" and "Insidious"), Rob is Rob Zombie ("House of 1,000 Corpses", "The Devil's Rejects"), Marshall is Neil Marshall ("Dog Soldiers", "The Descent"), Alex is Alexandre Aja (remakes of "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Piranha"), and Eliza is Eli Roth ("Cabin Fever", "Hostel")."

That is indeed good to hear, and I love your thinking in the naming of your protagonists.
Can you take us through your writing process?

"While my writing process can differ from project to project, there are a few methods that I always do. One is outlining. I am a firm believer in outlining, no matter what form it may take.

Yes, sometimes plot points and character traits come to me as I'm writing, but for the most part, I always have my stories pretty well mapped out before I begin. I think this practice has served me well, as it’s allowed me to be better prepared to tackle the ever-important ending.

Endings are crucial in any piece of fiction, but I've read so many potentially great horror novels that fall apart in the last chapter or so.  I find its incredibly beneficial to know exactly where you're going before you begin, as it helps avoid that nightmare every writer has of getting halfway through a project only to realize you don't have a story.

Screenwriter Michael Arndt once recommended that a writer procrastinate before writing.  "I postponed any labor on [Little Miss Sunshine] for several years, allowing the story to ripen in my mind.  When I finally sat down to write the script... I finished a first draft in three days."  Though several years may seem a little extreme, I still agree with Arndt's method.  In fact, I originally wrote The Remedy as a full-length screenplay, and that served as a great blueprint for when I wrote the story as a novel."
As a life-long procrastinator, I now feel validated.  Jokes aside, that is a film I would definitely like to watch!
When did you know you wanted to be an author? 

"I've always enjoyed writing stories, ever since I was a little kid.  Somewhere in my childhood home are my third grade journals filled with comic book and cartoon inspired tales.  It wasn't until high school, however, that I began to think of writing as something I could do professionally.  That interest only grew while I attended college, though my sights were originally set on being a playwright and screenwriter.  In fact, my first real success as a writer was a script accepted to the American College Theatre Festival.

Though I've since wandered from theatre, I am still a practicing screenwriter, and I try to utilize things I've learned from each medium in whatever I'm currently working on.  For example, attempting a screenplay is a great way to practice imagery, while a stage play can really exercise your dialogue muscle.  I suggest to all new writers that they try their hand on all sorts of writing.  You never know what you may learn or where it might lead."
Have you always been drawn to horror? 

"That is a definite yes!  Well, I did bury my face for the rest of the movie when Geena Davis pulled her face off in Beetlejuice, but I was like four years old when that movie came out.

It wasn't too long after that though that I purposefully began scaring the wits out of myself with Alvin Schwartz's "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark".  On Halloween, my mom used to dress in the creepiest old woman costume and read those stories to kids at school. nbsp;It was great!  Then, like many children of the 1990s, I was obsessed with R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" books.  From 1992-1997, I read and collected 54 of those suckers before calling it quits, a mere eight books away from completing the original series (the ten-year-old inside me still regrets never finishing my collection).

Add in kids TV shows like "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" and "Eerie, Indiana" to more adult shows like "X-Files" and any movie I could convince my parents to rent, and I was a total junkie.  

Flash forward to today, and I'm still fuelling my addiction! Only now, when I see a face get ripped off, I don't turn away... I take notes."

The sickness will kill you, but can you stomach The Remedy

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