Fiction Reboot Review: Brian Kirk’s WE ARE MONSTERS.

Sammie Kurty (author/contributor), signing in! Today, I’m here to review writer Brian fictionreboot2Kirk’s debut novel We Are Monsters. Brian’s agent, Melanie Meadors, contacted Fiction Reboot and asked if we would review Brian’s work before it hit the shelves. Here’s an inside cover synopsis:

“The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.

WeAreMonsters-2-200x300He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious, patient—a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side.

Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.”

About Brian Kirk:

LBD_3071_BW_2-300x214I’m a writer of dark fiction. My stories have appeared in several magazines and anthologies. And my debut novel, WE ARE MONSTERS, was released in 2015. Feel free to contact me to discuss a current project, or just to chat. Don’t worry, I only kill my characters.

Twitter: @Brian_Kirk

REBOOT Review: (By Sammie Kurty)

We Are Monsters is a well-packed book, concluding in just under 1,000 e-reader pages. The novel is filled with extensive detail, well rounded, colorful characters, and enough medical jargon to make me believe I am reading about real life psychiatrists. At first, We Are Monsters may seem to be your average hospital drama, but do not be fooled! The finale makes a thrilling climatic turn (However, I don’t want to give out any spoilers!), showing just how horrifying the human mind can be.

The narrative follows the lives of Dr. Eli Alpert, the head psychiatrist at Sugar Hill Mental Asylum and Dr. Alex Drexler, Eli’s second in command.  Alex is an up and coming talent in the mental health world, testing a new drug that could change the world of medicine forever. Eli, on the other hand, prefers to practice natural and meditative techniques for treating mental illness.  For the first two-thirds of the book, we learn about Alex and Eli’s back stories, providing explanation towards their actions as “all hell breaks loose” in the asylum.  The novel emphasizes the two doctors’ moral struggles, questioning how they should treat the mentally ill: like normal people? Like children that need to be watched? Or like specimens used to improve our world?

While I enjoyed most of We Our Monsters, I have some qualms with the novel.  While I understand the importance of setting up the characters’ back stories, the novel does have a slow start.  There are multiple characters introduced and fair amount of escalating drama in the asylum, but I was left confused and unsure of the central plot line.  Second, the story takes a sharp 180 degree turn by the third part of the novel.  Although the conflict that takes place (again, no spoilers) is later explained by rational psychology, the characters encounter an event that seems supernatural. They risk their lives and sanity to save the hospital, learn to understand the importance of teamwork, and learn the consequences of not coping with your past “demons”. At this point in my reading, it felt as if I was reading a completely different book, but with the same characters. After I finished the novel, I flipped through the chapters again. I noted a few small foreshadowing scenes hinting towards the conflict, but all in all, I never expected outcome anything like the ending of We Are Monsters. After reading a realistic fiction piece for 800 pages, it left me confused.

Having said that, third part is my favorite.  The characters come full circle in their journeys and learn to humanize the mentally ill, showing that even those deemed “normal” can be haunted and traumatized.  And, I’ll admit, I have a bias for thrillers.

All in all, Brian Kirk threw a powerful first punch with We Are Monsters. I’m looking forward to reading Brian’s future work. Let’s see what creepy things he can come up with next!

We Are Monsters was released through Samhain Publishing on July 7, 2015. You can pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes, and Samhain Publishing.

About the Contributor:

sammieSammie Kurty is an English major in her junior year at Wittenberg University and a contributor to Fiction Reboot. She is a proud member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society. Sammie has been passionate about writing all her life and is about to complete her first novel, Sapphire Lake, a project she has worked on for three years. When she isn’t writing or reading, you can find her practicing makeup artistry or riding roller coasters. Twitter: @Shamtakee

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Fiction Reboot Author Interview: Barry Lyga, I Hunt Killers Series.

Sammie Kurty (author/contributor), signing in! For today’s Fiction Reboot Interview, I fictionreboot2have the pleasure of once again welcoLyga_AfterTheRedRain_HCming author Barry Lyga. You may recognize his name from his best selling series, I Hunt Killers. He has quite a variety of writing under his belt, from middle grade fiction, to YA, to graphic novels.  He even keeps an author blog, talking about books and all the ins and outs of writing.  Needless to say, he’s impressive.  His latest novel, After the Red Rain, (co-written with Peter Facinelli and Robert DeFranco) will be released this coming August.  Today, Barry talks with us about writing like a method actor, Bruce Springsteen, and his future projects. Welcome back to Fiction Reboot, Barry!

Author Bio:

Lyga0110Called a “YA rebel-author” by , Barry Lyga has published fourteen novels in various genres in his nine-year career, including the bestselling . His books have been or are slated to be published in a dozen different languages in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

Called a “YA rebel-author” by Kirkus Reviews, Barry Lyga has published fourteen novels in various genres in his nine-year career, including the New York Times bestselling I Hunt Killers. His books have been or are slated to be published in a dozen different languages in North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

After graduating from Yale with a degree in English, Lyga worked in the comic book industry before quitting to pursue his lifelong love of writing. In 2006, his first young adult novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, was published to rave reviews, including starred reviews from Booklist andSchool Library Journal. Publishers Weekly named Lyga a “Flying Start” in December 2006 on the strength of the debut.

His second young adult novel, Boy Toy, received starred reviews in SLJPublishers Weekly, and KirkusVOYA gave it its highest critical rating, and the Chicago Tribune called it “…an astounding portrayal of what it is like to be the young male victim.” His third novel, Hero-Type, according to VOYA “proves that there are still fresh ideas and new, interesting story lines to be explored in young adult literature.”

Since then, he has also written Goth Girl Rising (the sequel to his first novel), as well as the Archvillain series for middle-grade readers and the graphic novel Mangaman (with art by Colleen Doran).

His latest series is I Hunt Killers, called by the LA Times “one of the more daring concepts in recent years by a young-adult author” and an “extreme and utterly alluring narrative about nature versus nurture.” The first book landed on both the New York Times and USAToday bestsellers lists.

Lyga lives and podcasts in New York City with his wife, Morgan Baden, and their nigh-omnipotent daughter. His comic book collection is a lot smaller than it used to be, but is still way too big.

Twitter: @barrylyga

barrylyga.com

Author Interview.

I’m dying to know, is Lobo’s Nod based on a real place? If so, tell us more! If not, what inspired you?

Nah. I was going for a sort of ur-small town, or maybe the Platonic ideal of small towns. I always get them confused. 🙂 I talk about the origins of its name at http://barrylyga.com/2014/10/the-true-meaning-of-lobos-nod/, and of course the LUCKY DAY novella goes into the history of the town. But it was really just me ruminating on the nature of small towns (having grown up in one) and wanting to evoke it without having to turn the book into a Russian novel!

Your detail and accuracy into Jazz’s troubled psyche is astounding. Any remarks as to how you came up with Jazz’s story? Research you’ve had to do?

Before I wrote the first book, I spent about three months researching serial killer pathology, forensic science, and the history of serial murder. And then I did what I always do with a book: I submerged my own ego and just allowed myself to BE Jazz. It starts with a simple premise and a simple question: “I am not Barry Lyga. I am Jazz. My father is a serial killer. What’s my life like?” And I go. This is the only way I know how to write. It’s sort of like Method acting, except in a chair at a keyboard. And I guess the pay is worse. 🙂

Ever consider making the I Hunt Killers series into a graphic novel? Is television in the future? What are your hopes for the series?

I’m generally not interested in adapting my work. Once it’s done, I’m done. My publisher has the graphic novel rights, so they could do one, if they thought the audience would be there. I tend to think a graphic novel would be tough — it’s a very interior series, very much concerned with inner thoughts and feelings. Those are tough to do justice to in a graphic novel. The TV series looked promising for a little while, but died late last year, so that’s not going to happen. As to my hopes: I really only care about the books. Everything else is gravy. If a movie or something else comes along, great, but my only hope is that people will read the books, enjoy the books, tell their friends…and maybe re-read them every now and again to discover new little nook and crannies.

It comes up often in the IHK series, so I have to ask: Which do you think is more important? nature or nurture? (Or if neither, how do you see the relationship?)

Jazz was raised by a serial killer (nurture) and his father is a serial killer (nature). The question is moot for him. And the question that really matters — and its answer — is the theme running through the entire series, both overtly and obliquely…which I’d rather people discover on their own, rather than me spelling it out. It’s no fun if I give away the answers.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

If I did, I’m sure they wouldn’t seem quirky to me! No one has ever called me out for any. Sometimes I freak people out when I can type and talk to them at the same time for several paragraphs.

Do you have a favorite author? One that inspires you?

I have a whole range of people whose work I admire, stretching from the anonymous poet who wrote BEOWULF to Edgar Allan Poe to comic book writers like Alan Moore and Paul Levitz to prose authors like Joe Haldeman, Tom Perrotta, and Ken Grimwood. My biggest inspiration, though, is probably Bruce Springsteen. He manages to tell complete, powerful, compelling stories in about five minutes. It takes me five hundred pages!

Lastly, do you have any new projects? Would you want to dabble in any other genres?

I have a book coming out in August that I co-wrote with Peter Facinelli and Rob DeFranco, AFTER THE RED RAIN, which is post-apocalyptic with a twist. And then I have a very odd sort of middle-grade novel, THE SECRET SEA, coming in early 2016. A quick look at http://barrylyga.com will show that I love nothing more than switching up styles and genres. I’ve done contemporary realistic fiction, thrillers, kids’ super-hero adventure, and even an erotic adult comedy. I plan to keep shaking things up in the future!

Thank you, Barry, for joining us today! You can find Barry on his website, barrylyga.com or on twitter @barrylyga. You can find all of his fantastic books on Amazon or a book store near you!

About the Contributor

sammieSammie Kurty is an English major in her senior year at Wittenberg University and a contributor to Fiction Reboot. She is a proud member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society. Sammie has been passionate about writing all her life and is about to complete her first novel, Sapphire Lake, a project she has worked on for three years. When she isn’t writing or reading, you can find her practicing makeup artistry or riding roller coasters. Twitter: @Shamtakee

Fiction Reboot Poet Interview: Stephen Kampa, Bachelor Pad

Sammie Kurty (author/contributor), signing in! For today’s Fiction Reboot Interview, I have the pleasure of fictionreboot2interviewing poet Stephen Kampa. He is a multi-tasking fiend, working as a professor at Flagler College, playing harmonica in a band (he’s fantastic, may I add), and, of course, writing poetry.  He has won four major awards for his poetry and was nominated for four more.  Stephen has two published collections of poetry: Cracks in the Invisible and Bachelor Pad, which was released last spring.  Today,  Stephen talks with us about the reality of meeting your idols, making sense of the world through poetry, and writing well. Welcome, Stephen!

Poet Bio: Stephen Kampa

KAMPA-1-300x200Stephen Kampa holds a BA in English Literature from Carleton College and an MFA in Poetry from the Johns Hopkins University. His first book,Cracks in the Invisible, won the 2010 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and the 2011 Gold Medal in Poetry from the Florida Book Awards. His poems have also been awarded the Theodore Roethke Prize, first place in the River Styx International Poetry Contest, and four Pushcart nominations. His second book, Bachelor Pad, appeared this spring from The Waywiser Press. He currently divides his time between teaching poetry at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL and working as a musician.

www.stephenkampa.com

Author Interview:

1. If you could interview any poet, living or deceased, who would you and why? Who is your favorite poet?

That first question, trickier than it at first might seem, requires some interesting interpretive work. What would be the purpose of the interview—to meet someone talented, and perhaps famous, whom I admire? To keep the person company? To strike up a personal relationship? To learn more about the poetry? To learn more about life?

Were the point to be to meet someone talented and famous, I might be tempted to interview Dante or Horace, but in a way, I’m glad I can’t: how often are we disappointed by our heroes in the flesh when we discover they are human like us! Bad breath, poor table manners, a tendency toward arrogance despite all that humane hogwash in the poetry. Sidney couldn’t have been courtly and charming all the time, could he? Now, if it were to keep someone company, I would wish to visit Ovid in Tomis, ask him what his infamous unknown error was, and try to alleviate some of his loneliness and grief. (I have been reading his poems of exile lately.) I could go on about this—W. H. Auden, Byron, Heather McHugh—but suffice it to say that if I had to pick one poet to meet and talk with for some combination of all the reasons above, it would be Emily Dickinson. She probably would not enjoy it.

Oddly, I don’t think I would want to meet the poet I continue to consider my favorite, George Herbert, simply because I couldn’t bear it if he were not as beautiful a person in person as he is on the page.

2. I know you are also a part time musician. Does your poetry influence your music or vice versa?

I think those two parts of my life influence each other indirectly, and less in terms of particular techniques than in terms of what it means to live as an artist.

For example, music continues to teach me that you play the song, which sometimes means playing less dazzlingly than you are able because a flashy solo would ruin the beautiful, elegant simplicity of the song. All too often the temptation is to play the most technically complex, astonishing thing you can; you play one bebop solo on a country song, however, and what you’ve managed to demonstrate is not that you’re a great musician, but that you’re an asshole. The same can go for a poem: perhaps one does not use abstruse Latinate diction, virtuosic syntax, and elaborate stanzas when writing a lullaby. I suppose, in a sense, this is a matter of technique, but I don’t perceive it that way; I see it as a lesson in putting the art before the self, which makes it a matter of how I live my life—or, at least, how I want to.

To offer another example, poetry has taught me about the importance of technique and of expanding it until you can say anything you want, and this has been vital for me as a musician. Harmonica players often suffer from a limited understanding of music theory, a limited musical vocabulary, and an overreliance on the authority of the tradition, which is all a fancy way of saying that harmonica players too often resort to clichés. Naturally, one should be able to play classic blues riffs, but certainly that shouldn’t be all one can play: it would be like writing nothing but short anecdotal free-verse poems about childhood and nothing else. Again, one could argue that this is a matter of technique, but I think it has everything to do with growth, discipline, and that necessary restlessness I consider the mark of the true artist.

3. In your poetry, which is more important: the structure or the free flow of ideas? Or do you hold them to the same standard? 

Perhaps we might think of it this way: which is more important, the voice box or the voice? There is no voice without a voice box, but I’d go further and say there’s no such thing as a voice box without a voice: for a thing to exist merely as unrealized potential is for it, in the most important sense, not to exist at all. You can’t have a truly free flow of ideas without the structure that allows it to exist in such freedom. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because my thinking on this matter derives from Richard Foster’s compelling arguments for discipline as a means to freedom. Here he is in Life with God: “Only the disciplined gymnast is free to score a perfect ten on the parallel bars. Only the disciplined violinist is free to play Paganini’s ‘Caprices.’”) So, if we imagine a poem where the ideas are flowing freely but there is no underlying structure, I’d wager those ideas aren’t as clear, persuasive, or impressive as the writer believes them to be. On the other hand, when a writer manages to accomplish a structurally rigorous poem of intellectual vapidity, I wouldn’t call it a poem at all.

4. Are there any poets or poetry eras you use as a basis for your own work?

I like reading, and I “steal” from everyone, so this one is tough to answer. Most recently I’ve been dipping into the Latin elegiac tradition of Ovid, Propertius, and Tibullus, which nicely complements the reading of Horace’s odes that I’ve been doing for the past year or so. They all strike me as astonishingly modern: sometimes their psychology is so astute! I also appreciate the rhetorical caginess and the way those poems are embedded in a cultural context that makes them feel so public—in an extended sense having to do with civility, citizenship, and ultimately civilization—even though they are often ostensibly about the most private of matters.

5. Do you have any overreaching themes you want readers to find in your poetry? Or would you like them to derive their own ideas?

I believe once you finish writing a poem and send it out into the world, it no longer belongs to you (apart from the millions of dollars it will make you in royalties). Reading is an altogether strange transaction, one that is at least partly magical or alchemical, and if a poem I’ve written changes its elemental character in the consciousness of some reader who feels even a little gratitude for its existence, who am I to complain?

Let me add this: H. L. Hix, a deeply intelligent poet and critic whom I admire, writes, “The thinker’s task: to make sense of the world. The artist’s task: to make of sense a world.” I want to revise that to read, “The artist’s task: to make of sensibility a world.” No artist can do a better job of presenting the sense world than the world can, but I think we continue to come to art to immerse ourselves in sensibilities that respond to that world in enlivening and challenging ways. When we read all of someone, we feel we have come to know not only a body of work, but also a body, a somebody, a self in whose life and by whose mind we are engaged in quite intimate ways. As I tell my students, some of my best friends are dead. They died long before I was born.

6. Are you working on any new projects?

Yes, several. I’m a chronic starts-it-and-gets-halfway-through-and-then-starts-something-else kind of guy, and that unfortunate character deficiency extends to my writing life. Ironically, I’m currently working on a book of poems about character. I hope to call it Where There’s a Monster, which comes from an Ogden Nash poem: “…where there’s a monster, there’s a miracle…” I keep hoping that’s true.

7. Do you have any advice for discouraged poets wishing to publish?

Honestly, my best advice would be this: don’t worry about publishing, worry about writing well. Emily Dickinson, my choice of interviewees from your first question, hardly published during her life. Writing was more important to her than publishing, and it shows in the astonishing volume and accomplishment of her work. I tell my students if you want to be a rich and famous writer, write a YA trilogy with dystopian or fantasy elements and sell it to Hollywood: then you’ll be rich and famous. If you want to be a great poet, remember that every poem is not only a poem, but also practice for the few great poems you may be lucky enough to lodge in the language “where they will be hard to get rid of,” as Robert Frost put it. The goal, I would say to those discouraged poets, is not publication; it never was. The goal is art.

Thank you, Stephen, for joining us today! You can find Stephen on his website, www.stephenkampa.com. His latest poetry collection, Bachelor Pad, is available on Amazon and the Barnes and Noble online store!

What critics are saying about Bachelor Pad.

Front-Cover-Only“Rejoice! The young and frighteningly brilliant Stephen Kampa has already given us a stunning second volume of poems. The title Bachelor Pad offers a hint of the author’s winning modesty and wit, but hardly prepares us for the depths of his humanity. None of the perfectly-crafted poems here is funnier than ‘Homer at Home’ or more tragic than ‘Lana Turner’s Bosom: An Assay,’ and along the way are countless other subtly mixed moods. Here is a poet who looks into the existential abyss but sees love everywhere.”
—Mary Jo Salter, author of Nothing by Design

“Bachelor Pad is a gutsy and brilliant examination of a contemporary man’s single life. Love, lust, and loneliness tangle together, strengthening and warring with one another to form a complex and honest picture of desire in action. For the man who is looking for love in all the right places, ‘You’re yours to damn; / To find your sole reprieve / Takes someone else. That someone is inviting… / Now when the man I hope to be is writing / The man I am.’ But Stephen Kampa believes in love and so convincing is he that we too believe there is “A changeless love song hurrying to me, / Ecstatic in the static.’”
—Andrew Hudgins, author of A Clown at Midnight

“Stephen Kampa’s poetry features a rich variety of stanzaic forms and a wonderful wealth of verbal ingenuity—qualities that recall the work of fellow virtuosos from John Donne to Anthony Hecht. And in his love for and knowledge of music and movies, and in his bittersweet meditations on romantic love, Kampa may remind some readers of Woody Allen. A bounteous and resourceful writer, Kampa can also speak, as he does in such poems as ‘Wasted Time’ and ‘The Pocket Watch,’ with energetic concision. Bachelor Pad impresses from cover to cover.”
—Timothy Steele, author of Toward the Winter Solstice
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About the Contributor

sammieSammie Kurty is an English major in her junior year at Wittenberg University and a contributor to Fiction Reboot. She is a proud member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society. Sammie has been passionate about writing all her life and is about to complete her first novel, Sapphire Lake, a project she has worked on for three years. When she isn’t writing or reading, you can find her practicing makeup artistry or riding roller coasters. Twitter: @Shamtakee