Author Spotlight With Chad Ryan
Chad Ryan resides in the desert of Arizona and spends his days cooking up stories. He loves blending genres and breaking rules to make something fresh. He mostly dabbles in horror, fantasy, and dark fiction. He is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, and co-founder of Lost Boys Press, an independent publishing house. His debut horror novel, Ghost River is available at major retailers. Online, you can find him on social media platforms under the handle: @writingiswar.
Lovely to have you here on the blog Chad! How are you doing?
Thanks for having me, Aimee. Doing well, thank you for inviting me to your blog
First things first, for those who don't know about your book 'Ghost River' could you tell my blog readers more about it?
Ghost River is a horror tale about opposing forces of evil, fighting over land in a primordial desert. It's a story about survivors who reside in a ghost town there; people who are monsters, and monsters who are people, trying to live their wretched existences in a worsening curse with a very dark past, present, and future.
I always ask what an author's inspiration is for their book, and I'm so curious to know yours! I wanted to write a book in homage to King and Barker and other masters of the horror genre who influenced me as a young reader. Also, I wanted to write an edgy, experimental narrative that would challenge readers to fully engage with their imaginations to be active participants in the story. Third, I wanted to embed bits of 'literature' (character-driven exploration) into a very dark narrative in what I hope is seen as a fresh way. The book, is what I should call, VERY messed up, dark and creepy, probably one of the most twisted book I have ever read. There is an advisory warning at the start for a reason, do you think this makes readers more intrigued into reading your book, or do you think this possibly shies them away? Ghost River unabashedly digs into a lot of sensitive and triggering topics. Beyond the typical blood and guts of horror, the story explores trauma in a lot of forms (abuse, assault, toxic masculinity, and more). Although I hadn't used content warnings previously, Ghost River demanded one from me. Kept me up at night before publication, to be honest. It didn't feel responsible to not include one. I'm a firm believer that art can and should provoke, but not hurt. I'd rather not retraumatize those who turn to stories as an escape from their pain.
So, if the content warning shies uncomfortable readers away...GOOD...working as intended. No book is for everybody, and Ghost River is certainly at peace with that philosophy. This novel was nothing short of addictive, what was your main aim that you wanted readers to take away from it? My aim was to write an engaging story that keeps you wanting to find out what happens next. The reader has to be a participant (and be patient) to uncover all of the treasure that's buried in the bloody sands of Ghost River. Challenging as it can be to push through it, I wanted the rewards to be well worth the trouble and nightmares.
From a character point of view, the denizens of Orphan Rock are extremely flawed and they are products of their brutal pasts. By the end of the book, my hope is that readers will fully appreciate why and how trauma (and healing) is a complicated process that can be a very messy thing. If there's a moral, it's that people see things from where they've come from, and it's not easy to break free from those chains to escape our painful pasts
In terms of horror, and aspects of paranormal, magical realism etc. What are your personal thoughts in this area (afterlife etc) Personally, I am an agnostic. Spiritual, but not religious. I believe in a higher order of things, but I can't tell you what it is or how any of it works. Ghost River, specifically, explores what it means to be a ghost. In my book, a ghost can be many things: a haunting spirit, a person who is there but feels unseen, a divine energy that can change into other vessels and forms at will...the story offers a lot of different variations of ghosthood.
Maybe none of them are right, or maybe they all are.
How do you deal with any negative reviews? To be honest, I don't really pay attention to reviews. They aren't for me. Once I published the book, it no longer felt like it was mine to protect and defend. It speaks for itself and I'm cool with that.
Now, do I enjoy reading nice reviews? Of course, I'm mostly human ;)
Your imagination can be quite disturbing at times haha! Do you think that some readers can judge you for your style of writing? This is an interesting question. Ghost River was written during a tumultuous time for myself (and the world) in 2019-2020. I can't say that I'm not everywhere in the book, because parts of me certainly are splattered across the pages. My anger, my fears, my broken daydreams--I captured a lot of *me* during that time period.
Now, if you know me in "real life" you'd know a pretty level-headed, Average Joe. But as a writer and artist, I approach my work from a tempestuous inner space that is not afraid to "go there" and bring the honesty along for the ride. Since childhood, I've always processed the scary world around me through stories and make-believe. My imagination is a great asset to me, whether it creates something beautiful, terrifying, or beautifully terrifying like Ghost River.
So, if I am to be judged for what I create...so be it. What else can an artist do? BUT, this is one book from what I hope will be many more to come. Not all of my work will be as intense and aggressive and dirty as Ghost River. How long did it take you to come up with the plot? It was immensely well thought out? Ghost River took nine months to write. It's a story that came to me like shards of broken glass--fractured, out of order, with no real road map. Whenever I tried to piece it together, it'd slice my fingers, so I have to move slowly.
Plus, it's an enormous cast in a story that covers 30 years of time. In other words, a very challenging narrative to weave together. As a first-time author, the book nearly broke me (many times) piecing it together.
The characters were a very mixed array of complexity, torturous, naïve and intimidating souls, who was your favourite character to write about? Esther Northamm is who I call "the beating heart" of Ghost River. She's passionate, strong, and loving in her own broken way despite the horrible circumstances she's mired in. If I had to pick one character the story is anchored by, it's Esther. What happens in Orphan Rock is her legacy. She was a hell of a lot of fun to write Because the book was so disturbing, I don't think many authors would of had the courage to publish something like this, and execute it as well as you did, did you ever have any doubts about publishing due to the nature of the contents? Yes. I almost didn't publish it for that reason. As a first-time author, I was convinced I'd ended my career with Ghost River before it started. Despite my best efforts to execute it mindfully, I thought I went too far, and the story would not resonate with readers due to its dark nature, triggering concepts, and very grey characters.
That first week, after release, I barely slept waiting for reviews to roll in. I know I previously said reviews don't matter to me, but those first few certainly did. When they came back positive, I took a deep breath. Readers were enthralled by the twisty web, and that restored some missing confidence in my ability to craft a compelling narrative. Did you always want to be a writer?
Absolutely. Every since I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to tell stories. Writing seemed like the best way to do it. With my imagination, I could go "big-budget" on the page and not have any restraints. I really think this would make a fantastic movie, and in this day and age we don't have any new films that scare us as much as I think this genuinely would. Who would you have to play the main characters? Ha! I'm the worst person to answer this question. I'm terrible with actor names (and names in general). I recognize faces in movies, but can't really tell you who they are (unless they're mega-stars like Julia Roberts or Morgan Freeman, or somebody else I've seen a hundred times).
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused? Mostly, I need quiet. I put on noise-cancelling headphones and try to tap into my imagination without distraction. I don't even listen to music. If I do, it's ambient or just beats (no lyrics). I go inside my head
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing? Finishing what you start is a hard thing for most writers, especially beginners. We want to see a diamond fall out of our imaginations right away, and it's not easy to accept and push through the pile of dirt that is the first draft.
Holding your nose and accepting that several rewrites and revisions are in your future, lessens the pressure you put on yourself to get it perfect right away. That permission to be imperfect is important because if your head is filled with expectations, you don't let the story breathe and tell you what it wants to become when it grows up.
What's in store for the future for you? I can't wait to read more from you? I have several projects in the works right now. Currently drafting a grimdark fairy tale novel that I hope to publish in 2023, tentatively titled, Way of the Dark Woods, and an epic fantasy novel that is co-authored by my editor and fellow managing partner at Lost Boys Press, Ashley Hutchison, called Godsrift. That book is in revision, and it's another BIG story in scale. After my next novel is in the can, I'm planning on a few horror novellas to clear my palette, before I do the follow-up to Ghost River (same universe) that I hope will see the light of day in 2024.
Thank you so much for taking part in this interview with me. Thank you, Aimee! Appreciate your interest in my work.