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In a lonely lot at the end of a forgotten road sits a building, a place of secrets and unimaginable horrors. Wendell Mackey has just escaped from it, where he had been imprisoned against his will. But after his escape, Wendell begins to change.
The old Wendell is dying, but something new is being born, something uncontrollable and terrifying. The men in that building planted in him a seed that is beginning to grow, and when they come to find him, Wendell isn’t sure what will be there to greet them.
ursued by his former captors, threatened by the dregs of a city imploding from within, watching his body melt into something monstrous, Wendell sees little chance of escape, until he meets one person, an old woman, who may be the last ray of hope in his brutal and dark life.
What follows is a journey into fanaticism, deception and violence. The horrors of science run amok blend with the surreal and nightmarish, creating a story that forces you to question reality and the foundations of human nature. The Death of Wendell Mackey will stay with you long after the story ends.
CT: The first story I remember writing was a short story back in the fifth grade.
TR: That’s pretty good…I can barely remember 5th grade. What was it, and in what genre?
CT: When I was a kid, I remember loving the child-friendly Three Investigators mystery series. They were about three boys in Los Angeles who solved crimes with the help of Alfred Hitchcock (yes, that Hitchcock!). And I remember spinning off one of those stories and writing my own, with three little boys investigating a crime that brought them to, of all places, Cambodia. (I remember looking at pictures of Angkor Wat in a picture book, and I thought it would make a great scene for a story, as far-fetched as my story came to be.) So, I guess that would fall into the mystery genre.
TR: Cambodia. That’s a pretty impressive undertaking, for a 5th grader. How did that come about?
CT: It was a school project. I actually remember reading it aloud in front of my class. I can still see my teacher, sitting in the back, giving me encouraging nods as I quickly began to realize how ridiculous my story sounded.
TR: I doubt she thought it was ridiculous. You should have received an “A” just for the setting. So, what have you written since then?
CT: For years after that I wrote mostly short stories. I’d complete a creative writing project at school, and then I’d go home and write its sequel. Haunted carnivals, aliens, spy thrillers, everything a pre-teen boy would love to read.
Right after college I tried my hand at novel writing. My first attempt was a Ludlum-esque thriller about a terrorist coming to America. After that fell flat, I worked on another thriller with a more supernatural bent. That one lasted quite a bit longer, but after having my wife read the opening chapter, and after seeing the puzzled look on her face, I decided to shelve it. A year later, I started The Death of Wendell Mackey, and surprisingly enough, I finished it.
TR: You were a busy young man. What was the inspiration for Wendell Mackey”?
CT: That’s a good question. I’m not entirely sure. Around that time I had finished reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, so I’m sure that had an impact on me. I started writing it, thinking it would end up as a novella, but then I just kept writing, thinking, “Hey, why not just flesh it out a bit and try for a novel?”
TR: Makes sense. Tell us a little about it, and where it’s available.
CT: The Death of Wendell Mackey is a psychological thriller, but it does have a few traditional horror elements as well. I tell people it’s a little Koontz and a little Cronenberg, a thriller with a twenty-first century Frankenstein vibe. Wendell Mackey, the main character, was the subject of a series of horrific scientific experiments, and after his escape from the institution in which he was held captive, he finds himself changing into a creature. But as his body begins to change, so too does his mind, forcing him to call into question all of reality and the most basic elements of human nature.
TR: Very nice. So tell me, Is there a particular place or setting where you get your writing ideas?
CT: Not really. Every idea has a different source, I’d say. Some come from things I’ve seen on the news; others come from things I’ve read in books. The story I’m working on now started as my wife and I were driving north on Route 15 through Tioga County, Pennsylvania. I was staring out the window of the car, and the seed of a story was planted.
TR: Ah. Pennsylvania, my home state. Very cool. Now, what made you choose either traditional or independent publishing?
CT: At first, I considered traditional publishing. But I assumed that finding an agent and then getting published would be very difficult, if not completely impossible. (I’ve heard enough horror stories.) And since self-publishing with ebooks has exploded in popularity, I thought this might be a good way to get started with my novel. The time it took to get my cover art and my formatting ready, and to get uploaded to Amazon, was rather quick and painless.
TR: They do make it relatively easy nowadays, don’t they? If you had to choose the most important element in an author’s platform, what would it be?
CT: Reviews. Getting reviews of your book from reputable sources is essential. Reader reviews, mind you, are essential too. But getting other authors and full-time and/or professional reviewers to give your book a look makes an enormous difference.
TR: I agree, especially with all the competition out there. Now, tell us – what mistakes have you made in regards to publishing and marketing your work, and what will you do differently in the future?
CT: I’m still figuring that out. (By that I mean that I’m still making plenty of mistakes.) Next time, I might try to land an agent, and see where that takes me. But honestly, I’m not sure. I still feel like a newbie.
TR: We are all newbies, my friend, don’t worry. Do you have an idea for your next book?
CT: Right now my next novel is in its infancy, but it’s starting to grow. It’s a murder mystery, and it involves a series of ritualistic murders that occur in the hills of Southern New York and North-Central Pennsylvania. Two bored academics, over their summer break from school, decide to investigate the killings, and as their investigation spins them into various directions—pseudoscience, drug gangs, doomsday cults, the occult—they quickly realize that they’re on to something far greater than they ever imagined.
Tune in Thursday, when I interview my pal Stan R. Mitchell, author of “Sold Out”. Be there!