On an average street in a typical suburban town, a child dies in an all-too-plausible accident. For Sherri Matthews, a neighbor who has dedicated her life to God’s calling, this is part of God’s plan. And when the child wakes in the morgue seemingly healed, Sherri knows she must now prepare the way for what comes next.
A SINISTER POWER AT WORK
“Something big is coming,” the revived child promises. His pet dog, dead and buried weeks prior, has come back as well, but more monster than mutt. Abbott French and Ellie Pike have never trusted Sherri or her unwavering belief and don’t believe these resurrections are God’s work. But how to explain when his sickly mother dies and is resurrected? And what about the horror Chance Gold encounters in the woods and the voice that insists, You’re mine? Or the secret a mental patient who murdered her friend knows? Or the terrible thing Carl Nichols is hiding in his basement? Or the hundreds of crows gathering across the street as if in anticipation?
A SHOWDOWN BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
As Sherri gathers believers, she takes an unthinkable step to fulfill God’s plan. Meanwhile, Abbott and Ellie must find out why this is happening and how they can stop it. The stage is set for a gruesome, apocalyptic showdown between good and evil, between life and death—where life may be the most horrifying prospect of all.
Not your typical zombie novel, Revival Road is a fast-paced thrill ride of horrors human and supernatural, an exploration of the dark underbelly of suburban life, and a testament to fears elemental and otherworldly.
1 In the woods behind her house, Maria told Juliette to close her eyes.
“It’s a surprise.” Juliette did as asked. Freckles saddled her nose. At fifteen, she was all-American cute, pulling stares from boys at school, especially in their fifth-period English class where even the teacher watched her cross the room to sharpen her pencil.
“He walks in the woods,” Maria said. Bailey, their third wheel, stared at the printout in her hands. Saggy jeans and an awful Ramones T-shirt made her look like a little kid.
“Come on,” Maria said.“This is supposed to be fun.”
Bailey’s mouth creased but she started reading, voice unsteady.“He walks in the woods. He lives in the spaces between the shadows. He haunts our dreams. He comes for us. He is hungry. He must be fed.”
“This is stupid,” Juliette said. Her blue dress billowed around pale knees. Maria slipped the knife from a front pocket. Fading sunlight streaked the sky red and orange. Mosquitoes hummed. Trees towered all around. In the distance, little kids laughed and cars thumped across a bridge. Juliette was peeking. Maria hid the knife flat along her thigh.“Eyes closed, Julie.” She sighed, slapped her arm.“I’m getting bit.”
“Read the rest,” Maria said.
“He walks in the woods. He lives forever. He is eternal.”
“Keep going.” Another arm slap.“Seriously. We’re not little kids. This is dumb.”
“We’re almost done.” Darkness creeped through the trees, shadows eating the light.
A bird’s cry echoed. Maria opened the knife until the blade locked in place. She bought it for thirteen dollars at Gander Mountain. The guy at the counter pushed greasy hair behind his ears and asked her if she knew how to handle a knife like that. She played the flirt and let him show her. He asked how old she was, and she said,Old enough.
“The rest, Bailey.” Bailey swallowed. The paper crinkled.“We come here as day dies to offer supplication to he who lives forever. Only the gift of death can save us.”
“I’m not scared,” Juliette said. She lifted her dress in a curtsy and hummed a stupid pop song.
“Patience, Julie. The surprise is coming.”
“She’s right. This is stupid,” Bailey said. She folded the paper, but couldn’t meet Maria’s stare.
“Don’t you dare, Bailey.”
“Let’s go,” Juliette said. Sunset-orange brushed her open eyes. The knife, curved to a tip and serrated along the straight edge, pointed at her. Disgust trumped fear.“I’m not doing that blood-friendship thing.”
“That’s not what this is.” Bailey was a blind witness, refusing to look. Juliette swallowed, fear creeping into her now and that was good. As it should be. Life wasn’t all bare legs and cute smiles. Would Juliette insult her? Maybe say something derogatory about Maria and Bailey’s friendship. Go ahead. Jealousy burned hot.
“I’m going home,” Julie said. Children’s laughter floated above them.
“What about your surprise?” She played the knife slowly back and forth. Juliette straightened, flattened her dress.“You’re sick.”
“That the best you can do?” She stared, her breath quickening, and that was good too, would make it faster. She huffed, a little girl trying to be tough, and started away. Ground debris crunched under her flip-flops, pink like her toenails. Maria went for her. Bailey finally looked up.“No!” Juliette spun around, and there was the knife cutting through the air, and her hands came up in defense. Sliced her palms. She screeched more in surprise than pain.
“What the fuck? Look what you—” Maria stabbed Julie’s hand, the girl’s eyes going huge, and then she shoved it all the way through flesh and bone. Julie spasmed, a scream dying in her throat. Maria pushed hard and they stumbled several feet before Julie tripped and Maria landed on top of her. The knife pushed in to the hilt and the blade pierced her stomach. She gagged, mouth wide, eyes enormous shadows. The sharp metallic-bite of blood mixed with her apple-scented body spray. Her free arm batted at Maria, smacked her in the head. The knife came out with a hard, mushy yank. Blood slipped from the blade. Soaked her dress.
“Stop,” Bailey said.“STOP!” Juliette convulsed, choked. Her face paled. She swallowed several times.“Please,” she said. The next stab was a hard and merciless punch between her breasts. After that, it was like beating a rag doll.
2 Bailey said nothing on the way back, head down. Maria walked tall, a strange grin on her face, her red hands at her sides. Blood stained her arms and blotted her clothes. Three little kids ran in a circle in her neighbor’s backyard. They laughed and cheered. Maria could not tell who was chasing whom. A woman stood on the deck, watching, a yellow light behind her. The woman raised a hand to Maria. Backlit, the woman was a faceless shadow person. Maria waved back. Moonlight darkened the blood to oily smears. She did not tell Bailey to keep her mouth shut, and it was just as well. In the bathroom, Maria stared at herself, black hair long and silky, pale cheeks splashed with blood. She pulled two fingers down her cheek through the blood to reveal the tannish birthmark beneath. Maria scrubbed her arms, and her mother pushed open the door mid-sentence and was halfway through explaining the latest office gossip when she stopped. They stared at each other.
“It wasn’t my fault,” Maria said. Watery blood splashed against white porcelain and whirled down the drain.
DiLeo grew up in a house filled with books and fell in love with the written word before he even started school. That love grew even further when he penned his first story, a tale he wrote in second grade about a raindrop that is born in the clouds, lives its full life as it plummets, and dies in a watery splash on the sidewalk.
His love for the macabre comes from his father. Warren DiLeo loved Halloween, decorating the house in lavish, grand fashion, complete with gravestones, costumed mannequins, fog and strobe lights. But the centerpiece was a wooden coffin fit for Dracula. In full disguise, Warren would emerge from the coffin to delight trick-or-treaters.
During the rest of the year, that coffin stood among the bookshelves in the basement. Its contents: horror novels. Following Warren’s death, 11-year-old DiLeo began reading those novels as a way to commune with his father.
DiLeo’s love for story and language found a home in the horror tale.
He sold his first short story (a Poe-esque tale of teenage madness and murder) when he was seventeen. He wrote his first novel two years later, and he hasn’t stopped since.
DiLeo self-published the novelsHudson House,Calamity, andBlood Mountain. Bloodshot Books publishedThe Devil Virus, Headshot Books publishedDark Heart, and JournalStone publishedDead End. They are all available.
DiLeo teaches high school English in New York’s Hudson Valley where he tries to inspire a love for the unquiet coffin in his students. He is also at work on his next novel.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love books in which crazy events push people to their extremes (think Under the Dome), and one day I wondered what would happen if a child was killed in an accident on a suburban street but then came back to life seemingly completely normal. Well, my book is the answer to that question and it was damn fun writing it.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I keep writing. Earlier this year, I adapted a screenplay I wrote years ago into a novel that I think is pretty good, and I’m currently finishing a novella before working on revisions for a book I wrote during the autumn of 2020.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I don’t recall what writer it was, but I read that this writer has each of his characters write him a letter explaining why he or she should be in his book. I did that in the earliest stages of writing Revival Road and characters that I thought would have big parts ended up getting cut. On the other hand, I found my villain, and fell in love with her.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Revival Road?
In Revival Road, the characters are a diverse group of everyday suburban people living their lives the best way they know how.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Originally, Revival Road was called Happiness Avenue and included a kidnapping and giant underground insects that were trying to dig their way free. Once I got rid of the giant bugs and changed the kidnapping to an accidental murder, the story fell into place. One character, 14 year-old Chance Gold, was in a different book that I never finished, but he flourished in this one, even if some really bad stuff happens to him.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I love how the tension and craziness escalates through the characters’ growing hysteria. It was so much fun to write the set pieces where violence and blood have almost no bounds.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Abbott French is a school hall monitor who is generous and pragmatic and focused on caring for his ailing mother. He’s also in love with a woman down the street and has a healthy distaste for any form of zealotry.
Sherri Matthews is a devout follower of God’s Word, and when a young child dies on her street and comes back to life, she is positive God has burdened her to make way for what He will bring next. I love her single-minded purpose. It is both inspiring and completely terrifying.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
On Revival Road, the dead are coming back to life. Sounds fitting.
Who designed your book covers?
This book was designed by Lynne Hansen. She did an incredible job.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I’m very pleased with how it came out.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Someone else said this, but I’ve found it to be true for me: Every book you write teaches you how to write that book.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Good question. Not sure. I’d be thankful just to have a movie made at all.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers? Revival Road is a horror novel. Bad things happen to people, including children. There’s a lot of gore. Religion gets wielded as a shield and a sword. This is not a story for the easily offended or the squeamish.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
Sherri Matthews, my villainous religious zealot, does something so gloriously evil that I was shocked when I realized it was going to happen, and yet I had such fun writing that scene.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I’d be with Sherri Matthews because I want to see if she could persuade me to believe God has come to her suburban street and see if she could turn me into one of her devout followers.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
In a sense, they each share something in common with me. I can see myself in each of them.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I mostly knew where it was going, but I let the characters do what they needed to—and they did things far worse and much more desperate than I could’ve anticipated.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
What would you do if anyone who died on your street came back to life seemingly normal? Would you think it an act of God? Or would you think something insidious was going on? On Revival Road, that’s exactly the choice each character must make and suffer the consequences.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Lots. I must’ve written six full novels before I finally wrote something worthy of readers. And there’s a ton of half-completed works tucked away in notebooks and desk drawers.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
What did you edit out of this book?
There were lots of references to other books I’ve published, inside jokes or Easter eggs (as they call them), but most of them didn’t need to be in there so out they went.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I’m lucky in this regard. I’m a big fan of Michael Koryta’s work and I emailed him purely as a fan but when he responded, we exchanged emails in which he was kind enough to answer many questions my creative writing students and I had about how a professional writer works. I’m very grateful to him for taking that time and sharing his insight. Another writer with whom I’d love to discuss writing is Joe Hill. He’s so damn creative and his stories are just damn cool.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
Some people believe there are things called Ley Lines, which are places on Earth where the energy levels are extremely powerful. Ancient civilizations may have constructed their temples along these lines. My father-in-law told me about this, and it went right into my book.