Borris: A Gothic Tale
by Chad McClendon
Genre: YA Horror, Satire
It was supposed to be a normal night at work for Jenna Byam, but when a Vampire Raccoon puts the grocery store where she works on lock-down, everything changes. She must find solace in the arms of a young stock boy hero, Brody, who is the only hope of ridding the world of this terror. But the raccoon's manservant, Vaan Strudel, has no intentions of making things easy for them. There's a cleanup in every aisle once Borris gets their juices flowing.
I pick up the phone, sure that someone should be alerted to this. “You won’t get answer, Vaan Strudel knows.” Vaan Strudel says to me, almost sycophantically. “Is dead. Phone is dead. Like emergency exit doors. Like man on floor. Maybe your cellular phone, enh?” Just as he predicted, the phone was dead.
Chad McClendon is a 32 year old author who studied English & Creative Writing at Northern Kentucky University. Chad has been published most recently through Crossed Heart, as well as in several online publications. He has won various awards for Fiction Writing. His short story, "Uploaded Vengeance" is now available in "One Night In Salem" by FunDead Publications.
Chad attended high school in Alexandria, Kentucky at Bishop Brossart High School. He was a founding member of Monday's Child, a volunteer group that worked around the Tri-State to better the lives of others. He was active in French Language competitions, and a general troublemaker otherwise.
He and his wife, Briana, have two daughters and one boy . In his free time Chad enjoys camping at Red River Gorge, playing video games and also swimming. Authors who have inspired him include Stephen King, John Steinbeck, William Golding, J.K. Rowling, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, and others.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I love answering this question, Starting in college, I got really into Firefly, so much so that I decided to stop studying French, and learned Mandarin just for the show. I ended up taking Chinese all four years. I’ve now forgotten more than I learned as I lost many opportunities to use Chinese past college, but occasionally (sorry if you’re reading this Dr. Sheng) will burst out a string of curse words in Mandarin so colorful I’d fill a coloring book. I swear! I can say nice things too, it’s just a lot more convenient to curse in a language a lot of people in this area don’t speak so I don’t get shameful glances. There was a time I was the Subway in New York and slipped into Mandarin. They understood me perfectly well, I’m afraid.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in a little river town, everybody knew everybody’s business, school never closed due to bad weather because we were all about 4 blocks max from the school. We have an awesome little establishment there called the Dari Bar which makes the best burgers and coneys you’d ever want. My class size was around 12 students total, so quite tiny. We are a railroad city, so every couple hours a big blast from the train would come through, during the day you kind of ignored it; at night it became more challenging to do so. I really enjoyed living there.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
I would spend every last second with my kids and wife. I’d fit some time in with everyone else too, but my kids have had the least amount of time with me, I’d want their final memories of me to be good ones. They’d eventually fall asleep, I’d record videos for each of their birthdays. I’d write them as many letters as I could. But they have to know how much I love them, and how every single thing I do in life is for their betterment.
Who is your hero and why?
David Bowie remains my hero, actually, even though he’s left us. He challenged the world, and made being abnormal okay and embraced. His music, his acting, his impact on society has left lasting impressions. I have a glass orb as he did in The Labyrinth, and pretty much still play all his music until the notes are etched into the walls of the house.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I think I would be a purple one, about twelve inches in length, the nice flexible rubber kind that never snaps. ?
What are you passionate about these days?
These days I’m passionate about buying a house, and getting further out of debt, and making good memories. It’s a lot to maintain a full-time job, taking on a second job as a teacher, and being a husband at the same time. It’s hard to find time to do the things that keep my creative side alive, but music has always fueled my imaginative side. So I suppose I will say certainly music. Been listening to a lot of Foxy Shazam, Icon For Hire, and Dropkick Murphys lately.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I’m a member of the Dudeist church – yes, Dudeist. Some of you may be familiar with the movie, The Big Lebowski. We adopted the Dude’s go with the flow way of living, and try to take it easy by enjoying some music, the company of our friends, and perhaps imbibing a few White Russians. Among keeping that vibe, I love playing League of Legends, Worms Armageddon on the switch, definitely having fun with my family, hiking at Red River Gorge, and camping as much as I can. Did I mention I have a new puppy? He’s a boxer named Bruce, and he’s a goof.
How to find time to write as a parent?
My kids ask me to tell them stories. As I do I tuck away ideas I come across during the tales I tell them and jot them into a file to come back to later. I’ve probably got around 30-50 story prompts that I’ve gotten the basis for, but haven’t had time to write out yet completely. They’re stewing.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Empathetic, Loyal, Loving, Introverted, Hurricane.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It clicked really early for me, I’m talking around 2nd grade. I wanted to write stories, so I did! I wrote them, I collected my works, and kept writing. I ended up winning competitions in class for best creative writing, and my eighth-grade class superlative was “Most likely to write something that will emotionally move you.” And that really meant a lot, coming from my peers. As I’ve hinted, I’m an introvert, and though I had friends (Aaron, Dylan, Joel, Alex, good to see ya if you’re reading this), I never really opened up to a lot of people, but everyone knew I wrote. That is the unshakable thing about me, when speech fails, I will always be able to write.
Do you have a favorite movie?
There are a lot of different movies that I really enjoy. Each one for a variety of reasons. Boondock Saints is my oldest, well loved movie. The lessons of vigilantism demonstrated in that movie really resonated with me, still do. Boondock Saints fueled my pursuits into Criminal Justice in college. Since becoming a father, I’ve got a hell of a lot more favorite movies just by exposure to my kids films. A lot of them are silly, but Moana is one hell of a film. It’s got an amazing soundtrack that doesn’t bother me like most other kids movies. Also, Moana herself defied her parents for the betterment of her whole island. She is the true Disney badass.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I would love to see Natalsa of the Brim turn into a movie, or a miniseries. I owe the most of my time to Natalsa, I owe her the fullness of her story, many of it still needs to be written. But the first one stands up by itself, and is magical fantasy. It’s a story about a fallen matriarchy that has to build itself back from a lone survivor, and save the people who shunned her from their society.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I gather ideas from all over the place, but the most influential was to Salem Massachusetts. To me, I’ve always felt connected to Salem. They have the like-minded people I’m into, the appreciation of the dark and misunderstood, and of course all the history. I went to see Gallows Hill, and stood on it. Did you know a Walgreens is built where the lake under Gallows Hill used to be? It’s a badass city, and cannot wait to go back for a longer adventure.
(Photo Credit: Me, October 2016)
What inspired you to write this book?
When I first wrote Borris, I was actually working third shift at a local grocery chain. I had many hours of the night where I would just be stocking the Spice & Baking aisle, and I would get to listen to Coast to Coastwith George Noory, audio books, and all of the Iron Maiden albums. We would occasionally shut the store down, despite being open 24 hours, for floor maintenance. We would have our normal employee cleaners take the night off, and we would have a different set of cleaners come in (None of them foreign, but maybe one or two mustaches ?), and they would lock the store up tight. They were kind of creepy, and the products they used did smell quite funky, old. It got me thinking, what would happen if something horrific happened while we were locked in? Obviously we could just unlock the doors and leave, but what if we couldn’t? This is what gave birth to Borris, that and silly conversations with my friends Doug & Dallis. I think it was Doug that prompted the idea for the creepy eyes at the end-cap scene.
What can we expect from you in the future?
My immediate goal is to write the sequel to Natalsa of the Brim, as with any war, there are remnants of old regimes, and prejudiced mentalities need to be altered. There is a lot to unpack with where I left Natalsa’s story, and I owe it to her to finish her tale properly. I say this, because I haven’t yet, and it’s been 3 years. Sorry, ol’ girl.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
This is a cautionary tale about backing up your work in multiple places. I had a prequel to Borris, titled Borris – Ad Initio (Or Borris – The Beginning). It was pretty fun. It will probably never see the light of day because the story got destroyed with a failed computer. But it told the story of why Borris became the way he is. He was a happy father, living in the woods with his family in 13th century Europe. A band of hunters were passing through his wood, and they came across Borris’ family at dusk while he was out scavenging. The story turned rather grim at this point, and Borris returned to find his family all dead. He was filled with grief, denial, and lastly, rage that knew no prison. His rage grew so primal that a demon from the bowels of the Earth rose up to soothe the creature with an offer of revenge. And the rest, they say, is history.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Borris?
Yeah, there are real-world inspirations for all the characters in Borris. Brody is based off of Dallis more than anyone else. He too is tall, and brooding, and is a natural leader. Brody, as I imagined him, is forced into a stock-boy position as a means to an end. He hints at having a dark past, or at least a past rife with Occultism, as he is the first of the characters to suspect there is a threat in the Castle store. He also seems to have a remarkable amount of things in his pockets, so to say he’s prepared is an understatement. I think he has the capability of love, but he’s terribly obtuse about how to show it. He wants to be a hero, and I feel he becomes that in this story.
Borris himself is actually based off a real life trash panda. I kid you not. Once while camping under the stars, I heard a scurrying, snapping of twigs, and hurried footsteps. There was a low chittering, and I was convinced it was a demon of the forest. I laid there, petrified of what it could be, until I worked up the courage to turn on my flashlight. I flooded the copse with halogen, and staring back at me was no demon; but a wide-eyed raccoon with its teeth bared. I don’t know what ever came of this creature, but he is hopefully living his best life, unaware that a story was written to a degree with his help.
Jenna Byam is named in honor of my college professor who led a summer course on Gothic Literature. Borris was composed in her class, though she didn’t yet possess the name of Jenna Byam. Regardless, Jenna is a naïve young heroin, who is bored generally, and longs for a life more than what she has. She is finding herself, and after the events of the book…well, I think she’s found a good bit of what she doesn’t want.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
What I liked most about writing Borris is that it was fun, cult-styled horror like you’d used to see in shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark, or books like Goosebumps, as well as movies directed by Kevin Smith. It was offbeat horror, and the type of horror I love best is the kind that gives you a little heeby-jeeby, along with some laughs. Vaan Strudel was probably the most absurd character I’ve ever written, and he never would have worked in any other book. But we can appreciate his eccentricity here, thankfully.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
My first novel was a young adult / coming of age story titled Lipstick Trace. It is a gender questioning novel that I wrote close to 14 years ago now. The main character is a boy who just loves doing what makes him feel good, and the other main character boy is a character who is very isolated, and can’t open up easily. The book follows them as they grow up and start a glam rock band, very similar to the sounds of Roxette. Lipstick Trace comes from the bands love of Glam Rock, and for one of them, lipstick. I’ll let you take a look at it for more.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Time travel is a bitch. Just don’t do it. There are so many other ways to fuck your life up if you want to. I hear collecting landmines is a much better use of your time.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Demons. I learned a LOT about demons while researching my most recent book. I actually have a whole sub-section of my website with at least 30 different books on demons, the occult, and religious texts from nearly every single religion out there. I learned that nearly every culture believes to some degree that demons can be bound to serve humans, even if the ending isn’t clear about what happened to the people who attempted these things. More than half of the books I have read on the subject all seem to include the same sort of reagents to summon/bind a demon, so I have to think some of it is valid. Will I be crazy enough to try it? Maybe if I use time travel in a story again…
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I was in love with Alba Baptista’s acting in Netflix’s Warrior Nun. I feel like she plays a young heroin extremely well, and I believe that I want Jenna’s actress to be someone quite like her.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Writing is hard. Let nobody tell you otherwise. If you liked the story, just drop a review on goodreads or amazon – it really does validate writers on our days where we feel like trash.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
I really like the ending paragraph, it was inspired by another gothic story, Rebecca. The Castle to me represents Manderley, and I just had to make a nod of my head to one of my favorite stories.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be?
And what would you do during that day? – I think I’d spend time with Borris, I’d want to ask him about things he’s seen throughout the centuries, (if I could get him to stop utter only certain phrases that is) and see if he’s got any advice for the human race. I figure he’d want us to keep going if we’re his #1 food source. I care about nature, gotta look out for the blood fiends too.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
My characters don’t even knock, they just walk in and put their feet up. And that to me is a sign of a story having a life of its own. You can’t force your characters into molds they’ve outgrown, or ideas that they are just NOT having. You have to listen to what your character wants. Often times, if you’ve got writers block, it’s because you done goofed and your character is crossing their arms, pursing their lips, and shaking their head.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
It’s almost Halloween, we’ve all mostly had a dreadful year of confinement, regulations, lack of sociality, and man – you just gotta enjoy what makes you happy. So get in the spirit and read some books. Watch some movies, dance with no pants on. For me, offering you my book to read makes me happy. I’m a joker, and what I desire most out of life is just to make someone’s day that much better. I hope Borris can make your day even the tiniest bit better. I don’t know you, probably, but I care for your well being!
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I definitely do, I have a bunch of loose sweater string stories that are waiting to be unraveled. I’m waiting on those, too, because I’m very eager to see where the story takes me. I always feel like each one of my stories is true in some universe, and I’m just here on my side recording their history. Each story may not be beautiful, but it deserves to be written.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
A mossy forest on the 37th morning of Autumn just after a chilled rainfall.
What did you edit out of this book?
It was the sex scenes on the skids of groceries. Trust me, you didn’t want to see Vaan Strudel like that.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Sure, this is always a fun one to do. Where 1 is the highest, and 10 is the lowest (But still good!):
10. Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
9. Of Mice & Men (John Steinbeck)
8. Mateguas Island (Linda Watkins)
7. Kill Creek (Scott Thomas)
6. Night of 1,000 Beasts (John Palisano)
5. Hellmuth (Meghan Richardson)
4. Harry Potter Series (But JK can get fucked)
3. Goosebumps (R.L. Stine)
2. Dragonlance (Weis/Hickman)
1. Hearts in Atlantis / Dark Tower (Stephen King)
What book do you think everyone should read?
Whatever the holy handgrenades of heck makes them happy. If that’s Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, do it. I think everyone should read On Writing by Stephen King if you’re a writer. If you’re just a reader, Oh the places you’ll go by Dr. Seuss.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since about 2nd grade. I regret nothing.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
So definitely NOT all at once. Like, Torga, for instance from Natalsa of the Brim, I didn’t know he was going to be one of my favorite all time characters. Did I know he was also going to be a bear? Nope. But nobody else knew that either, so I don’t feel bad! ?
Do you see writing as a career?
It absolutely is, whether or not you’re getting paid is irrelevant.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I think there’s never been a better time to be an author. We are no long bound by the stringent crap of publishing houses who for so long overlooked a heckton of good stories just because of [generic reason here].
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I love the horror industry. I’ve been a proud member of the Horror Writers Association for about 5 years now. I like feeling scared, it’s a controlled fear, and lets me experience emotions in a way I don’t normally get to. It’s adrenaline, it’s primal, and it’s hotter than Satan’s BBQ pit.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
When it comes to writing, I have to have music. I need to lose myself in the rhythm, the cords, and just get the heck out of real life. I’m the story when I zone in, and I adopt mentally any emotion that character is experiencing. If they’re in love, I’m in love, if they’re on their way to slaughter 15,000 peasants, well, I just hope there ain’t a village nearby. That is good writing, getting to a symbiotic relationship with your characters and letting them live through your keystrokes.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I always enjoyed reading stories, I loved escaping into their world, and getting to see things from their eyes. I wanted more than this however, I wanted to shape those worlds from the air, I wanted to breathe my characters needs. It was the right decision and I know this because very few things outside of my children and family give me this level of enjoyment and completeness.
Advice they would give new authors?
Write every day. It’s going to suck before it becomes success.
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