Few authors today continue to impress me book after book. Perhaps it’s a cynical view, but I generally start each new book expecting disappointment. i’m going to have to rethink that approach.
If you have yet to introduce yourself to Hill’s writing, you have no viable excuse. His previous outings, including Horns, Heart Shaped Box, and the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, have rightly secured him in the company of today’s strongest horror writers. Like his contemporary peers, Hill knows horror isn’t just about monsters – it’s about life, it’s about love; and it’s about characters we, as readers, gravitate towards – flaws and all.
It’s an approach he exercises well in his newest presentation, N0S4A2 (work it out, it’ll come to you).
A proper summary of this hefty tome’s plot is difficult, admittedly. Hill introduces one of his most likable characters in the form of Vic McQueen, a spunky kid with an odd ability to travel anywhere via and old, dilapidated covered bridge and her bike. That gift – if that’s what it is – seems more like a curse, lands her in the cross-hairs of Charles Manx, a notorious child killer who collects children to take them off to the mystical Christmasland. Manx is anything but a Jolly Old Elf as he travels the countryside along with his Renfield-like henchman, Bing, dispatching parents and killing kids. And once the kids are killed, they become creepy, soulless remnants of their former selves.
However, at its heart, N0S4A2 is an examination of dysfunction, mainly that of families. We watch Vic grow from that adventure-seeking tot to a recovering drug and alcohol addict who struggles not just with the demon that Manx is, but also with the personal demons present with addiction; an estranged son who joins her in her quest; and a marriage that seemed plagued with failure from its beginning.
It’s here that Hill shines. His depiction of a mother trying to reconnect with her son while also realizing a past she thought was nothing more than a twisted dread is, in fact, reality, is not only believable, but is also fraught with a raw emotion seldom seen in today’s fiction.
Don’t assume that means Hill has skimped on the scares in return for sentimental scenes, though. This man knows how to paint mental images that are burned onto your frontal lobe and will bore through your brain like a slow burn.
I refuse to get into Hill’s lineage and gene pool, but let’s say readers in the know – which should be just about everyone these days – may find themselves forgetting just whose book they’re devouring. That’s meant as a compliment, not a cop out.
Book are made to last, not just in their physical form, but in the mental state of the reader as well. Hill either knows this, or just has the knack for presenting his readers with a universe that fully envelopes them and sticks with them long after that last page is lingered over.
N0S4A2 won’t be leaving your memory any time soon and, let’s hope, Hill certainly won’t be exiting the horror scene in the near future if he continues to travel the path he’s on.
This post started out as a lengthy gushing about how Monica S. Kuebler is one of my favourite people in the entire publishing world, regardless of her stature as a “Woman in Horror”.
In that piece, I spoke at length about the fact she is an invaluable, knowledgeable, and helpful human being, a credit to the publishing world, and about how she’s got the entire genre in the palm of her hand and doesn’t even know it. In all honesty, being a woman in this “boy’s club” is a tough hand to be dealt, but Monica plays it with skill and humility.
Eventually, I went on to talk about Burning Effigy and the effect that it had on me as an upstart blogger, reviewer, website thingymabobber, and all ’round literature geek – not just horror lit, either. I blabbed on and on about how she introduced me to one of my favourite writers – Ian Rogers; put on or invited me to some incredible and memorable events – Durham Darklit Festival, an Evening with the Authors; and generally stoked the flame for my love of short horror fiction through the output of those in her small press stable and through random conversation. The incredible array of books that Burning Effigy has put out over the span of time that I’ve known about them is astounding. Rogers’ Temporary Monsters, The Ash Angels, and Black Eyed Kids remain some of my favourite stories, and one of my top 3 favourite series of all time.
I never would have known about them if it hadn’t been for Monica.
And lest we forget the obligatory championing of her involvement in Rue Morgue Magazine (whose new site is freaking spectacular, if I do say so). Truth be told, this site wouldn’t exist without that publication and, in essence, without Monica. Now, I know it has everything to do with the motivation to get something like this up and running and all that jazz, but think about this: I’m sure that the fact that she is an avid reader/writer helped spawn the “Grim Reader” section on the now defunct Rue Morgue Forum, the Rue Mortuary. I can say, without a doubt, that she was one of a handful of people that inspired me to start Paperback Horror, expand to Dreadful Tales, and at the very least come into contact with some incredible talent out there in horror-land. Hell, I met Pat Dreadful and Meli in the Grim Reader, and I’ll go on the record to say that Monica introduced me, by default, to two of the best people I’ve ever worked with, and ever had the fortune of calling friends.
But that’s not what this post is about.
While I was writing it the first time, this post took on an entirely different life of its own, so I’m running with it.
This entry into the WiHM festivities at Dreadful Tales is about progress and inspiration. This post is about one of the most inspirational and frustratingly cool people I’ve ever met. Someone I’ve been waiting to introduce to people since the first day I heard an inkling that she existed.
And now I can finally do it.
This post is about Monica S. Kuebler – the author.
Monica first told me about her YA trilogy, The Cold Ones, in or around November or December of last year. At first, when she got into the idea just a little bit, I was intrigued, but not enough to drop everything and go nuts.
But then Monica got into the story a little bit more. I swear to you, dear reader, when she got into the meat of The Cold Ones, this woman’s eyes took on a determined look of passionate possession. It was as if she was focusing on a world beyond the cramped little library basement we were currently standing in, completely lost in a landscape of her own making.
And then she hit me with some of the main plot points and the bits of action she could divulge. I don’t know if it’s the way she told me, or the passion I could see in her eyes, but something clicked.
And I instantly found myself intrigued.
See, I’d read some of Monica’s work before. It’s not stuff that the general horror fan would be likely to take on because, well, most of the stuff I managed to score was poetry. And we all know what sort of folks read poetry, right? Ugh. Wrong. But I have to say, I love that stereotype. It’s just so… special.
Listen: I read poetry. The average horror fan who thinks poetry is for goth girls and emo boys is dead wrong, and using Kuebler’s Some Words Spoken as evidence, readers can see it’s one of the most cathartic things a person can do. Getting lost in the realm of a poet’s design is akin to finding utopia while still wrestling with the possibility of heartbreak, horror, and pain just beyond the horizon. Along with Liisa Ladouceur, Monica is my favourite modern poet. Period.
If you need an example, take a look at what Kuebler can do with the most innocent offer of coffee, leading the reader/audience into an epic love affair, and chronicling one of the most lust-filled pieces of modern poetry I’ve ever heard.
In her joint offering with Cynthia Gould, Some Words Spoken, Monica offers up poems like Chocolate Cake Trophy Girl, Visions of the Week it Rained, and Cycles – pieces that speak to the reader about things they would otherwise keep to themselves, coercing an inner dialogue about the truths in one’s heart while at the same time making things a tab uncomfortable just under the surface. These are the things that keep me going when I’m not reading about the baddies that go bump in the night.
And then there are pieces like Passing Over You and Phone S(ex) that send shivers up the reader’s spine and appeal to the erotica fan in me. This is creativity mingling with lust and frustration… in a good way.
Regardless, Kuebler is a woman who is in touch with her words and knows how to wield them in a way that can hurt, heal, and entertain like no other.
The Night We Slept In Poetry houses one of my favourite selections from any piece of poetry I’ve read in a long while.
We fell asleep in poetry,
books like sharp thin limbs jutted out
from beneath your hip, my shoulder.
Life finds us tangled in such unusual ways.
This was always more than a fragile illusion of text,
this was always just mere moments away from realization.
– The Night We Slept In Poetry Monica S. Kuebler Some Words Spoken (2002 – Burning Effigy Press)
Getting back on track: when Monica spoke to me about The Cold Ones, my reaction was mixed at first (as I’ve said), but by the end of the short description I wanted more. Now. She assured me that she was doing what she could to get it out there, but that it was a process and I’d basically have to wait it out. I’m not good at waiting. But, ever the humanitarian, she gave me a consolation prize in what I was about to experience, and hoped it would peak my interest a little more. At the time, we were hanging out at the Durham Darklit Festival ’12 in Oshawa, and she was about to go up for a reading.
And she was going to read directly from The Cold Ones.
“Intrigued” no longer fit the bill. Now I was ready and eager to completely absorb this.
In short, I was floored by the snippet that she offered to the crowd that day, and have listened to the following recording many times over. Well, until January 1st, when Bleeder, the online serial prequel to The Cold Ones, went live to the world. You can keep up with the story at the Bleeder website. I do. Religiously.
To me, Kuebler is a study in perseverance and drive. She’s working herself toward her dream, and doing a damned fine job at achieving it.In the latest Rue Morgue Podcast, Monica mentions the fear that she has at releasing her fiction to the masses, and I can’t applaud her more for conquering this fear and gifting us with such a phenomenal story.
Monica S. Kuebler is more than the Managing Editor at Rue Morgue Magazine, Curator and Owner of Burning Effigy Press, and all around modern renaissance woman. She’s also an incredible author, poet, and person.
To sum this up in a few words: apart from my incredible wife, Shelagh, if there was anyone out there in the world that I would want either of my daughters to look up to and aspire to be like, it would be Monica. She’s strong willed, intelligent, creative, and resourceful. She’s everything I want to see more of in the women of this genre, and frankly, in the real world as well.