Today, I have author Isaac Thorne in the hot seat as we discuss his novel, Hell Spring, among other things. Check it out.
1. HRR – Hey, Isaac. Can you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, there. I’m an independent horror author currently living in Middle Tennessee. I’ve been publishing short stories since 2012. I’ve also released two novels, The Gordon Place in 2019 and Hell Spring in 2022. The audiobook edition of The Gordon Place won the Horror category in the 2020 Independent Audiobook Awards, and Hell Spring was a finalist in the horror category in this year’s Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
I’m a lifelong horror fan with a particular love for Tales From the Crypt-style comeuppance stories.
2. HRR – When did you first start writing, and what prompted you to do so?
I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to do so, but I’ve been writing stories since I could form basic sentences on paper. I wrote my first story in probably Second or Third Grade. It was about overalls and why everyone should wear them. As a child, I also wrote fan fiction before there was a such thing as fan fiction. They were mostly centered on superheroes like Superman and The Incredible Hulk. I drew comics as well, most of which featured characters of my own creation. I’ve always been fascinated by diverse personalities and mindsets. It seems like I’ve been trying to capture them, document them, all my life.
If I must pinpoint where the need to write developed in me, I’d say it came about mostly as a means to process my own thoughts and opinions about whatever the topic of the moment was at the time. Folks these days like to think divisiveness is a new thing. I’ve been a news junkie as long as I’ve been a horror fan. Everything has always been divisive. Maybe not as balls-out aggressively divisive as it is now, but we’ve never been wholly unified as people.
When you don’t yet have the life experience to inform you—and maybe you’re a Gen-X kid whose parents were more interested in climbing the corporate ladder than whatever was going on with you—developing stories with characters that explore the world in ways you can’t often lead to your own revelations. Well, if you already have an open mind, of course.
3. HRR – How do you develop your plot and characters?
That depends on what I’m writing. My short stories typically develop around a climactic scene that I’ve already formed in my mind. Everything else in the story develops around that scene.
For example, when I wrote my short story “Diggum,” I had this image in my head of a man being shoved into an open grave that he’d just desecrated. When he looks up from that grave, there’s a creature standing over him that is comprised mostly of the remains of other folks buried in that cemetery.
The challenge then was to develop the story around the man who was shoved into the grave. Who is he? Why is he in the cemetery? What happened to him that caused him to want to desecrate this grave? Why is this creature attacking him and how did the creature come to be? I boil all those ingredients down to the story.
My novels are different. Whereas my stories are generally about weird and scary events, my novels are a combination of scary or weird circumstances and character studies. The length of a novel allows an author to really get inside the head of some interesting folks. It’s nice to step outside of yourself in that way, whether you’re reading such characters or writing them.
One common follow-up to this question is whether I outline. I don’t. I tried once, and then had to throw it out. Because my stories are more character-driven, the characters themselves seem to decide the course of events. After my first drafts, I go back and rewrite and clean up and connect the dots where they need to be connected.
4. HRR – Hell Spring is such a unique story. Where did the idea come from?
Thanks! Hell Spring was partially inspired by a real-life flood event that happened in Middle Tennessee on May 1 and 2, 2010. News media started out calling that a 100-year flood, but by the time it was all over they were referring to it as a 1,000-year flood. It was that devastating. The most iconic image associated with it is one of those temporary metal school buildings floating down a completely submerged section of Interstate 24 in Nashville.
In the end, I think more than 20 people died because of the flooding, but there were millions of dollars in property damage. Huge businesses like Opry Mills Mall and The Grand Ole Opry House were both closed for some time for cleanup and restoration. I believe there were some homes that were total losses as well.
Personally, I was trapped in my house for several days because of the flood damage. My driveway, which is on a steep slope, was completely washed away and rutted so badly that no vehicle could travel it. That meant I was trapped where I was until I could hire someone to come scrape it all up and smooth it out again. I think the idea for Hell Spring began to form back in those days. I’d wanted to write about people being trapped by historic flood waters ever since.
The non-flood elements of the story, including most of the characters and situations, are largely allegorical, though. That’s why I sometimes refer to Hell Spring as “literary horror.” I’ve embedded several “messages” or “explorations of ideas,” for lack of better terms, in the prose. Some of them are clear at a surface level. Others, not so much. The COVID-19 pandemic, social injustices, cultural injustices, and psychological power plays like toxic guilt and shaming are all addressed in some ways. I can’t help it. I write about what’s on my mind. I guess if I have any kind of muse, it’s probably the local news anchors.
5. HRR – If Hell Spring was developed into a movie or TV show, who would you like to see play the main characters?
That’s a question I ask myself occasionally, but usually only after the writing’s done. Some folks write with that already in mind. I try not to do that. I think Ana de Armas did an incredible job playing Marilyn Monroe in Blonde. If she ever wanted to reprise her portrayal, Hell Spring would be one way to do it. Ha! I could also see someone like Alexandra Daddario playing Donna Gilliam, the abused wife and mother of the infant Theo.
I’d want the role of Peter Mayberry to go to a gay man. I don’t know what his sexual orientation is, but I think Jesse Heiman would make a great Peter. Justin Simien might make a great Sam Brooks. The others I haven’t really considered, although I think there would be some awesome opportunities for a wide range of character actors in the roles of Mark, Kathy, Jeremy, and Eli.
6. HRR – What does your daily writing schedule look like?
I try to ensure I get an hour or two of writing on most days during the week. Sometimes I’ll get it out of the way early in the morning before I do anything else. Mostly, if I have the energy, I do it at night after everything else is done and the house is silent.
7. HRR – Can you tell us about any books you are working on at the moment?
I’m working on my next novel, which will be my third as well as the third set in the small fictional Tennessee town of Lost Hollow. I’m not done playing in that sandbox yet. As far as the story itself, I think it’s too early to reveal much about it except that (unlike Hell Spring) it is set in modern times and mostly follows a single protagonist.
8. HRR – How do you handle negative book reviews?
I don’t. Seriously. I might read them. I don’t generally reply to them or otherwise acknowledge them. It’s not an ego thing for me. It’s mostly that I already know that my work is not for everyone, nor do I intend for it to be. I’m not trying to be “the next Stephen King,” nor do I feel any kind of need for validation when it comes to my work. That’s one reason you won’t find me searching for an agent or a traditional publishing deal. I know what my work is. If what I write speaks to you, that’s great. If it’s not for you, that’s fine, too.
My only gripe with reviews is I think that the star rating system employed by most reviewers and review platforms is bogus. I understand that star rating averages are intended to be some kind of shorthand for consumers about the quality of a product. But they’re deceptive. Platforms like Amazon and Goodreads give you guidance on what each star level is intended to mean, but reviewers tend to ignore that guidance and either rate what they’re feeling at the moment or have devised their own separate system. That renders the star rating averages meaningless.
9. HRR – How do you celebrate when you finish a book?
That’s a great question and one I’ve never been asked before. Prior to reading (and then later watching) Stephen King’s Misery, I’d never even considered that authors might literally celebrate the completion of a book. I don’t have a set Paul Sheldon-like routine for it. Generally, I just feel a sense of relief. Then I spend my next movie night rewatching the 1990 Rob Reiner adaptation of Misery.
10. HRR – Finally, please tell us where we can find and follow you online.
I’m on all the popular socials as “IsaacRThorne” (make sure that “R” is in there!). I’m mostly active on Twitter for now, although that might change real soon. You can also find me at www.isaacthorne.com, where you can buy merch and signed copies of my books. You can also sign up for my email newsletter there if you’re so inclined. That’s where I announce upcoming appearances, interviews, and new releases.