Please welcome Elizabeth Reuter
Tell us about The Demon of Renaissance Drive.
Succubus Annabelle—tired of sex, babies, and Hell in general—makes friends with a damned soul named Harry for the thrill of it, breaks out of Hell, moves to Iowa, and then has to deal with daily human life: paying bills, hiring a shrink for her damned soul, working a crap job, etc. Unfortunately, Harry’s shrink figures out his new patient isn’t normal and goes on a religiously based soul search just as local Satanists figure out where Annabelle lives. Cue chaos.
How did the idea come about to have a story surrounding a succubus?
Annabelle grew organically in my head over about fifteen years, so I don’t even remember now. I think it might just have been that I was a teenager when I first thought of her, and thought that porn stars and Belle du Jour were the coolest, strongest women.
What inspired the characters of Annabelle and Harry?
Harry began very simply: I tried to imagine the most disgusting person I could. He grew from there as I read about the Hitler Youth and such, trying to get an accurate grasp of what could motivate a human being to such grotesque extremes.
Annabelle was more complicated, and grew in my head over years. When I was a teenager I had a simple story outline about some poor schmo stuck in Hell undeservedly, and a succubus who takes pity on him (Farfarello, and Annabelle’s scene with him in chapter one, came into my head at that point; it’s probably the earliest scene written). No logic needed apply.
The pieces came together when the concept of time began weighing on me more heavily. What do people do every day? We get up, we work, we eat, we sleep… Immortality is romanticized, but more and more I’ve come to realize what a horror it would be to actually live forever. How dull! Annabelle would be as bored as anyone else, I decided, but wouldn’t be the type to sit around and put up with it.
Now that you have brought life to a succubus, are there any other classic creatures you would like to try your hand at?
Oh hell yes! Dozens of them! Zombies, superheroes, ghosts… I’ve been researching overseas too, and really want to do something with the Japanese Yuki Onna (Snow Woman) demon.
The Demon of Renaissance Drive is often labeled as Horror. Do you find this classification restricting or liberating?
Both. It’s restricting because horror is often looked down upon, and so DoRD will be dismissed by many people based on that label. However, I find horror freeing because it’s a genre with so few restrictions. The characters don’t have to be likable, you can work with the supernatural or not (Clive Barker’s Dread,(Amazing short story, lousy film) Stephen King’s Misery, the 2010 movie The Black Death), the ending can be happy or sad, you can go with action/violence or more subtle psychological stories. I never felt Annabelle had to be anything, or her story had to go any particular way to fit within conventions.
What fictional character had the greatest impact on you?
You know what? Rogue, from the X-Men comic books. I was eleven years old when I first saw the X-Men cartoon and “met” this character, sick with depression and anger because she was cursed to never touch other human beings. Rogue’s inability to touch other people physically mirrored mine to connect with people emotionally. Now I know that’s due to various mental irregularities, and can compensate. Then, I felt like I was wandering through a desert and someone had finally come to find me. Through her, the power that fiction holds became clear to me, and I’ve never lost that awe of language and storytelling.
What is the first book you remember being truly frightened by? Immediately afterword did you run out and search for other stories like it, or throw it in the closet and try to forget it?
Not a book, a movie—John Carpenter’s The Fog. I slept with my mother for a week and didn’t watch or read horror anything for over a decade, until I accidentally picked up a book of Lovecraft short stories and hooked myself. Then I ran out to search for more. And never stopped.
What active authors are still excited to be following?
Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Mike Carey. Just discovered Dan Simmons and Octavia E. Butler and am now quite wild for them. Comic book creators Colleen Doran, Kaori Yuki, and Mike Crilley. Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy is the most interesting zombie story I’ve read in years, and I’m going to hurtle myself out the door to get the third book once it’s out.
Do you have anything new coming down the pipeline you would like to share?
I’m hard at work on Annabelle and Harry’s next adventure, with two other unrelated almost-finished horror novels—one zombie, one haunted house—to polish after that.
Also, after JournalStone published me, I got to know the deeply cool editor-in-chief and now do some editing for him. I’m currently going through the newest book from Brett Talley, author of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated That Which Should Not Be. This one veers into sci-fi, and pretty darn well. Look forward to it!
Thanks to Elizabeth Reuter for stopping by.