Monday, May 20, 2013

Burning the Middle Ground by Andrew Cooper: Interview

Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

Jeanne Harper, a preacher who opposes the wicked goings-on at my novel Burning the Middle Ground’s First Church, has immense resolve. I don’t share all her beliefs, but I know her strength comes from her faith. It’s a strength that makes a woman who is fundamentally introverted and fragile a nearly invincible leader. Besides, she just likes people, and it’s hard to dislike someone who genuinely likes you.

Plotter or Pantser? Why?

I plot big points and fly by the seat of my pants until I get from one to another. That way I have a meaningful structure and direction while still having plenty of room for spontaneous energy.

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?

In novels (more soon!), major characters and major plot points are idle-moment fantasies for years. Long before drafting, I would hear something and think, “Mike Cox would be glad to hear that,” or “Ronald would love a chance to respond to that.” As for the plot, I had scenes—the prologue, Ronald and the dogs, Mike’s garden comeback, the ending, others—and I had the background universe. Writing was a process of connecting the people to the events, seeing the effects caused by those connections, and following chains of cause and effect around from the beginning to ending, which were born together. The most fun during writing is developing the smaller details. I knew Ronald, my main character, very well when I finally got to write him, but his pal Winston was a delightful discovery; similarly, Sara Cox, Mike’s wife, insisted on a bigger part and was a surprising joy to work with. And while I do use some devices, some of which—like Winston’s use of “the damnedest thing”—I mean to call attention to themselves as devices, mostly these characters and events are not fully under my control. 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

In the third grade I wanted to be a police detective, so I wrote stories about Detective Cooper visiting really violent crime scenes. Later, I wanted to be a psychiatrist. Then the literature and film professor thing. Solving crime mysteries to solving mind mysteries to cultural immersion… surprise that I write mentally unsettling, horrific stories about crime? 

What are your favorite TV shows?

Very pleased with The Following (lots in common with Burning the Middle Ground paranoia-wise) and Cult (which, sadly, is doomed, or so I’ve heard). Longtime Supernatural fan. Bones, too: not horror, but one of the goriest things ever. Bates Motel and Hannibal are still on probation. Naturally South Park, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, and such. 

Are the names of the characters in your novels important?  How and why?

I occasionally indulge in a name that is outright symbolic. For example, a major character in a novel related to Burning the Middle Ground—something I actually wrote first and am thinking of bringing out, although it’s a very dark book—is Carter Anderson. The idea of “One who carries the son of Andrew” resonates on several levels, not all of which are entirely narcissistic. And some names are more random references. Some I can give away. For instance, Barry Glassner wrote the book The Culture of Fear, which I really liked in, I dunno, 2000, so I used his last name. As far as I can recall, I chose “Brian McCullough” purely for sound. 

Describe what it’s like to be an author in three words.

Obsessive wandering commitment. 

Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?
            Fast action and gruesome scares, but also strong characters and challenging ideas: the supernaturally twisted perspective on contemporary life and politics won’t agree easily with everyone, but the book has something to make anyone feel delightfully disturbed.

About L. Andrew Cooper:
L. Andrew Cooper thinks the smartest people like horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. Early in life, he couldn’t handle the scary stuff–he’d sneak and watch horror films and then keep his parents up all night with his nightmares. In the third grade, he finally convinced his parents to let him read grownup horror novels: he started with Stephen King’s Firestarter, and by grade five, he was doing book reports on The Stand.

When his parents weren’t being kept up late by his nightmares, they worried that his fascination with horror fiction would keep him from experiencing more respectable culture. That all changed when he
transitioned from his public high school in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia to uber-respectable Harvard University, where he studied English Literature. From there, he went on to get a Ph.D. in English from Princeton, turning his longstanding engagement with horror into a dissertation. The dissertation became the basis for his first book, Gothic Realities (2010). More recently, his obsession with horror movies turned into a book about one of his favorite directors, Dario Argento (2012). He also co-edited the textbook Monsters (2012), an attempt to infect others with the idea that scary things are worth people’s serious attention.

After living in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California, Andrew now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches at the University of Louisville and chairs the board of the Louisville Film Society, the city’s premiere movie-buff institution. Burning the Middle Ground is his debut novel.

Author Links:

Website and Blog   |   Facebook   |  Google+:  landrew42  |   Twitter


Burning the Middle Ground
Book Synopsis:
Burning the Middle Ground is a dark fantasy about small-town America that transforms readers’ fears about the country’s direction into a haunting tale of religious conspiracy and supernatural mind control. A character-driven sensibility like Stephen King’s and a flair for the bizarre like Bentley Little’s delivers as much appeal for dedicated fans of fantasy and horror as for mainstream readers looking for an exciting ride. Brian McCullough comes home from school and discovers that his ten-year-old sister Fran has murdered their parents. Five years later, a journalist, Ronald Glassner, finds Brian living at the same house in the small town of Kenning, Georgia. Planning a book on the McCullough Tragedy, Ronald stumbles into a struggle between Kenning’s First Church, run by the mysterious Reverend Michael Cox, and the New Church, run by the rebellious Jeanne Harper. At the same time, Kenning’s pets go berserk, and dead bodies, with the eyes and tongues removed from their heads, begin to appear.

Burning the Middle Ground Buy Link on Amazon


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