Publishing fiction is always a risky venture. Will anyone read the things I made up? Will enough people? Will they enjoy them? Sometimes, though, it’s worth upping the risk a little and making the questions shriller. And so it is with great pleasure and enormous fanfare (okay, maybe regular fanfare) that I announce the publication of my new novella, Everything Is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here.
Why do I claim an elevated risk here? Well, I decided to write a political story, and in our divisive times, that will lob off a chunk of the prospective readership. Being an author is rather like being a business owner, after all. I live in America, and this is an American story. Examining white supremacy and violence in a small, normal community, which is the focus here, may lob off even more. I’m not saying it takes courage to write and publish a story like this. It only takes conscience and curiosity, like any monsters I want to write about.
In this instance, I was deeply interested in writing about the living specter of white supremacy from the perspective of a white person, in terms of complicity and that needling urge to sweep it under the rug. Words are powerful things with a certain responsibility even when they are not wedded to social commentary. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what this story’s reception will be.
It’s also a greater risk because of the price tag. $30 is a lot to ask a reader to fork over, especially for 20,000 words. But Nightscape Press has devised this product model in order to provide a full third of every cent to a charity of the author’s choosing. After much deliberation, I chose the Southern Poverty Law Center as the recipient of the donation. The theme of this book made the organization an ideal match. Rather than donate a larger portion of a smaller cover price, we can make a substantial contribution to this vital nonprofit ($2,500 if the limited print run sells out, plus 40% of all proceeds from the ebook, which will be released later) while also providing twelve gorgeous full-color illustrations from Luke Spooner and great production value down to the paper that was used for printing.
I think highly enough of this story to have originally intended to save it as an exclusive original for my second fiction collection, but there was no way I could pass up the chance to do good with it.
But the novella has two beating hearts–or rather, two beating chambers in the same heart. The horror of racism blocks the light in a way that overshadows the horrors we authors dream up. These disparate horrors can certainly coexist, but part of the reason they can is that they’re not so disparate, really. Horror is sometimes said to function as a mirror held up to society, to the darker side of our humanity, to injustice, and to impulses that reach out behind us and try to pull…us…back.
And, at its best, horror adds a little traction and texture to the soles of our shoes, so that we can pull…ourselves…toward the light.
But that other chamber: Yes, it’s still a horror story, with creepy supernatural goodies lurking throughout, and a very strange backyard fence. A horror story should still strive to entertain. And this one certainly wants to do this as well. It wants to slide under your skin and creep you out like the pretty large majority of what I write.
So what’s it about? From the back cover copy:
This is a ghost story. It has those that scratch at bedroom doors and tap at windows, wanting to be let in. It has those that haunt all of us, long after the others tire of the scratching. For some, doors are not enough.
Bea Holcombe loves her life in Fontaine Falls, a perfect little town tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. She has never thought to question that love until her next-door neighbor opens fire on a crowd of black demonstrators gathered in the city park to protest the town’s Confederate statue. Lester Neal has torn open an invisible wound in Fontaine Falls, and what festers inside of it will change Bea, her family, and the dimming mind of her mother forever.
As the national media descends and violence spreads, the town endures a conflict it is no longer insulated from. Bea is given a special sight so that she may witness how deep the rot has burrowed inside the postcard charm of Fontaine Falls. And she will be asked to turn the light of scrutiny and complicity upon herself as she is visited by horrors that won’t rest quietly. “This is a ghost story,” she tells us repeatedly. This unflinching, poetic novella is an examination of that claim—its layers of truth, of untruth, and the uneasy specters that inhabit modern America.
To everyone who pre-ordered this book, your blind faith in me resonates. I feel it humming in my bones, and I can hardly believe the frequency it carries. I appreciate it more than I can say, and I hope you enjoy the story (along with your limited-edition collectible book, of course). To everyone who will read it now and later, thank you very much for reading and for supporting an important cause. This story means a great deal to me, and I’m fiercely proud that it came into the world in this way.
Ghost stories are important. And they can take place before death, too.