This week, I’m pleased to introduce Terry Kroenung, the only author I know who features a Poop Monster in his stories. I can only say that I wish I’d thought of it first.
I learned about Terry and his books through Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Charmed by the book cover (since I’m a sucker for great cover art) and the synopsis for Brimstone and Lily, I tracked Terry down and asked him to do a guest post for us.
Brimstone and Lily was a Bronze-medal winner in Fantasy/Sci-Fi at the 2010 Independent Book Publishers awards. The second book in Terry’s series, Jasper’s Foul Tongue, has just been released. His ghost story prequel to A Christmas Carol, “Lonely Crutch”, is part of the anthology Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was a Colorado Book Award finalist this year.
Please welcome Terry Kroenung, here to tell us a little more about writing in the genre, and a little more about the Poop Monster.
“Sing, O Muse, of the Wrath of the Poop Monsters…”
Truth be told, until asked to write this guest blog, I didn’t consider myself to be a horror writer at all. I mean, Brimstone and Lily and Jasper’s Foul Tongue are YA fantasies molded in the standard fashion: youth finds magic item, flees dark forces, goes on quest to rescue friend and discovers self. But when I re-examine the novels I find an awful lot of horror elements. Slobbering demons from the next dimension; shuffling decomposing zombies; evil necromancers casting vile spells; awful weapons from hell that consume victims with purple fire from the inside-out; giant murderous ravens; tentacled three-eyed cannibals with goat legs.
Oh, and poop monsters. Yes, AA, I must admit that I have a problem. I’m addicted to my poop monsters.
These guys are a running joke now, to be included in each installment of the Legacy Stone series. They are precisely as advertised, aggressive foes made of human sewage. Initially the idea was to lighten the mood of the first book and include something reluctant boy-readers might enjoy. One scene, a couple of pages, and they were dispatched. But now they’ve become a major attraction in their own right, which is why they feature so prominently on the back covers. In the newest book they’re fifteen feet tall, are on fire, and regenerate like the mythological Hydra. But they’re still ambulatory poop. Funny and fearsome at the same time. This is by design, believe it or not. Here’s why.
Writing any genre fiction is like playing tennis with a very high net that has a tiny gap built into it. The only practical way to get the ball over to the other side is to whack it through that pre-placed hole. Every game looks the same as every other, with only a pair of possible outcomes. Either you fail miserably and slam the ball into the net, or you manage to miraculously poke it through that one fist-sized spot. “Monster/peril/rescue…monster/peril/rescue…” That’s the charm and the trap of writing any focused genre, be it romance, Western, or science-fiction. You know the limitations and try to excel within that confinement. Add the YA designation and you’ve effectively narrowed that little target by half.
Humor is a tool to help you play the game better. It’s a specialty racket to add topspin and velocity. It gives you a way to still plunk the ball where it needs to go, but at the same time you thrill the crowd by striking that sucker behind your back or through your legs. The ball ends up in the same place, yet the crowd will give you an “Oooh!” for style/variety points. Then when you strike a standard ace on the next shot, they’re that much more impressed. Try and pull the same stunt on every shot, though, and your opponent — reader boredom – will yawn and blast the ball back down your baseline.
Horror can be dreary. Part of its power depends on a steady build-up of oppressive sensation and emotion. You’ve experienced this in the stories of Poe. Great stuff. But can you imagine how difficult it would be to get through a full-length novel by the same author? Without some mood variation you’d either hurl the book aside or reach for the Prozac bottle. Shakespeare understood this. He breaks up even his tragedies with episodes of humor. It both relieves the tension and makes the horrifying scenes that much more intense by comparison. In Brimstone and Lily the poop monsters are followed by the appearance of Venoma, a truly disgusting and frightening dearth-demon who kidnaps the heroine’s friend to set the prime plot in motion. In Jasper’s Foul Tongue the manure fiends are prelude to an attack by thousands of decidedly unfunny zombie ghouls.
So experiment with a few yucks before you give your reader their shrieks. It may pay off.
I’m off to write about tentacled vampire aliens now. Where the heck is my AA sponsor?
Thanks, Terry. You’re a great guest. Thanks so much for being here today.
To learn more about Brimstone and Lily and Jasper’s Foul Tongue, please visit the Legacy Stone site. Information about the publisher/writers’ cooperative is available at Rare Moon Press. Enjoy Brimstone and Lily on Facebook as well.