Bachman: Your latest book is different than what readers know you for writing. How come the change?
Denney: I was chomping at the bit to challenge myself to write a straight-up psychological thriller. It’s one of my favorite genres to read, in addition to the horror, scifi, and fantasy genres I read and have written in previous novels. I wanted to push the boundaries of my imagination yet stay confined to the rules of “the real world.”
There could be no magical salvation or redemption, no deus ex machina, no rescuing my protagonists through the use of paranormal or supernatural aspects, characters, or events this time… although I couldn’t resist adding a manifestation of what was a genuine ghost or a figment of a delusional man’s imagination. No spoilers; you’ll have to read the novel to find out which it is.
Because of that aspect, I believe Stalking Gideon Cain works well in both the thriller and speculative fiction categories.
Bachman: What inspired you to write this book?
Denney: I’m glad you asked that, because there’s a unique story behind it. A good friend of mine came up to me a few years ago smiling and said she’d had a dream about me that she wanted to share. Who could say no to hearing about that?
In her dream, the characters from my novels came to life and hunted me down, intent on doing me harm. That was my “eureka!” moment, and that’s when the concept was born. It gave me the perfect idea for a psychological thriller: an emotionally distraught author who believes his characters have become real and are trying to kill him. I could go so many fun and creepy directions with that. The story sprang to life in my head instantly, and I started writing Stalking Gideon Cain the next day.
Bachman: Is there anything you can share with us, a little sneak peek perhaps?
Denney: Gladly! A free sneak preview of the first three chapters is available on my author website here.
You can also read the first few chapters using the “Look Inside!” feature of the Stalking Gideon Cain Amazon page here. Just click on “Look Inside!” above the cover graphic. My publisher and I are confident you’ll quickly become hooked and have to keep reading.
Bachman: Who is Gideon Cain?
Denney: Gideon Cain is the pseudonym for my main protagonist, Brendan Callahan-McCallum, a bestselling author who writes psychological thrillers about femme fatales with deadly vendettas. Each of those killer women suffer from an unforgivable betrayal, and spend all of their energy and efforts in a reckless pursuit of vigilante justice. With blockbuster movies made of each thriller, the sexy villainesses from his novels become wildly popular with legions of hardcore fans, and vault Brendan into unexpected success, fame, and riches. And Brendan doesn’t know how to handle that because he’s living a lie—and hiding a shameful secret from the world and everyone he knows and loves.
Nine years after the tragic death of his pregnant wife, Brendan still hasn’t fully recovered from his loss. With too much money and not enough maturity at forty, he pretends to live a carefree playboy lifestyle in an effort to prove to the world that he’s unbreakable. But that effort is futile. Haunted by the ghosts of his past and confounded by the mystery surrounding his wife’s unexplained disappearance and subsequent death, Brendan starts losing touch with reality. Is he really being visited by the spirit of his dead wife, or is he experiencing delusional psychotic episodes?
Then the villainesses from his thrillers seem to come to life and begin accosting him. Real or fantasy, they’re trying to kill him. When a forgotten nemesis from his past begins stalking him with a weapon so deadly it can kill with the touch of a button, Brendan realizes he must solve the mystery before he ends up dead.
During his desperate race to discover the truth about his past, Brendan meets three indomitable women—including two badass sisters with an underground network that fights for the underdogs of the world—who team up with him to help find those answers before his enemy kills him. Then he meets an enigmatic woman from his past who reveals a secret that changes everything he thought he knew about his life.
Come join him on his adventure and discover the dark secrets for yourself.
Bachman: What can you share about the character development of Gideon/Brendan and the other characters?
Denney: Once the story idea jumped from a spark to a brightly burning flame, the characters came to life in my mind all by themselves. I didn’t spend much forethought on creating them; rather, they were suddenly just “there” and ready to play their parts in the story.
This is the case with most of my novels and stories. The characters become so real to me that it’s as if they are entirely separate entities outside of my creative imagination. Instead of me directing them, they “tell” me how they speak and how they think, act, and react. I’m not their puppet master; I’m their biographer, sharing their stories with the world through the medium of words. In a fantastical way, and in the convoluted corridors of my mind, they are as alive as you and I.
Or maybe I’m the one who’s suffering from delusional psychotic episodes.
Bachman: With this book being a psychological thriller, did you have to do any research to delve into this genre?
Denney: Yes, but not any more than I usually do. Primarily, I wanted my science and police procedurals to be credible, accurate, and realistic. I also focused on learning about certain drugs and their effects and potential side effects because one of Brendan’s supposedly fictional femme fatales slips him a nasty concoction of various drugs. I needed to make his reaction to them as well as his recovery, believable.
To my “typical male” chagrin, I had to interview a friend—a mother of two children—to learn some specific and more personal details about the tribulations and joys of pregnancy, along with the child’s development and the mother’s physical changes through each trimester.
The toughest details to juggle were in the extended timeline. All the concurrent and subsequent cause-and-effect events over a nine-year period had to dovetail as neatly and seamlessly as possible, and that was a challenging feat. Nailing it required the use of a timeline chart, which I haven’t used before in the creation of my former works. But all of my previous novels take place over a much shorter span of time than Stalking Gideon Cain does.
Other than those crucial factual details, the book practically wrote itself. I was just the conduit to my muse, obeying the voices.
Bachman: Do you plan on continuing to write in this genre or do you think your next one will be strictly horror?
Denney: That’s somewhat of a three-pronged question, because I have two stand-alone novels nearly completed that are strictly horror (one is my tribute to classic Creature Features). On the other hand—sharing a tantalizing secret here—I’m also currently writing a spinoff sequel to Stalking Gideon Cain that features some of the same characters and stars as the two badass sisters Callie and Shirley Wayne and their underground network. This will be the first sequel I’ve written, although it and Gideon each function as stand-alone novels. No cliffhangers from this author.
Basically, I will probably do as I’ve always done and write whatever fires my imagination and launches me into the “creative zone”: that coveted place where time and the world disappear and the words take on a life of their own.
Bachman: With Covid affecting all of us, keeping us from doing the norm for reaching readers like conventions, what have you had to do to adapt?
Denney: I am an experienced and unrepentant professional recluse with legit credentials. Kids, don’t try this at home, lol. Severe and possibly fatal injury may occur.
For real: Since I’ve been writing full time from home for about a decade now, I’ve become adept at being a homebody. Plus, I’m a damn good cook, and enjoy eating the delicious meals I prepare. I did all of my “going out” wild oats-sowing back when I was a performing guitarist for twenty-seven years, so I got most of that “reckless youth” behavior shit out of my system.
Most of my marketing is done via social networking. However, there are a few annual conventions and festivals that I’ve always enjoyed taking part in—whether as a guest speaker, vendor, or attendee—that Covid has either co-opted, postponed, or transformed into an online event. Several are public events arranged and sponsored by The Atlanta Writers Club, of which I’m a long-time proud member. I sorely miss their annual summer picnic, and networking and brainstorming with friends and colleagues at their monthly meetings (also now all online).
The biggest—and my favorite because it’s an outdoor festival and I can bring my dog with me—is the world-famous annual Decatur Book Festival each Fall in Decatur, Georgia. The downtown area is closed down and vendor booths of all kinds and genres are strewn up and down several streets. It’s always been such a thrill to walk around at a festival in which I’m literally surrounded by books, books, and more books. I missed being able to go last year—it was partly done online, pfft, a piss-poor substitute—and I’ll miss not being able to attend in person again this year. Damn that confounded virus!
I guess I’ll have to settle for taking my dog to the dog park—which this virus has thankfully not closed down—and handing out my business cards there. Yes, I have really done that at the dog park before, and with positive results. Gypsy Dancer, my Labrador retriever, thinks it’s the best kind of marketing there is.
If you haven’t checked out my works already, I hope you will. I’m confident you’ll find something you like.
Thank you, Lynn, for this fun interview, and happy reading to everyone.
Stalking Gideon Cain links: