AAs avid Burning Chair watchers will know, 30 July 2020 is a very special day, for it is on that day that Love Is Dead(ly) by Gene Kendall is released, spitting and screaming into the world. If you like your thrillers snarky, snappy and paranormal, then you’re going to love this one…
As we like to do, we’ve started the warm up to this exciting event by having a wee fireside chat with the author, Gene Kendall.
Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you start writing and why?
I was often bored as a kid, terrible at sports and likely perceived as slightly odd by my classmates. Reading was probably less of an “escape” and more of a way to kill the time. Summers were spent at the library, where I consumed Choose Your Own Adventure and Encyclopedia Brown books. My father also grew up reading compulsively, and made sure I was familiar with writers like Mark Twain. Comic books were an early obsession, once I realized many of the cartoons I watched also had comic versions.
At around the age of 9, I began to craft my own stories, sometimes just in my head and other times on lined notebook paper. Even from an early age, I was intrigued by ideas like story structure, studying when a novel paused for a chapter break, or those mini-cliffhangers on TV shows before the commercials. I would incorporate these concepts into my imaginary Transformers stories, always careful to obey the rules I’d set for myself.
With no spoilers, tell us a bit about Love Is Dead(ly) and what prompted you to write it
Love Is Dead(ly) is the story of a cocky psychic who gets far more than he bargained for when he ends up in the afterlife himself (rather unexpectedly.) It amused me to write a story contrasting the values of today’s society against that of the Old Testament. I also liked the idea of grand mystic truths being known by one of the shallowest humans alive. Dividing the narrative between three characters occurred to me as I wrote the early chapters, and I was intrigued by the challenge of making that work, too.
How did you come up with the inspiration for the story?
The earliest genesis of the story comes from the writing prompt where you write a conversation between two characters, with absolutely no forethought. You write no surrounding prose and work out no backstory beforehand—just write the conversation. The characters reveal themselves as you write their dialogue.
The opening conversation in the novel is, after many edits, that writing prompt. While writing the conversation, I had to decide if this Brad Burns really could talk to dead people or if he was running a con on this man. It seemed like a far more interesting story if Brad truly could do these things, so by default, he became a psychic and not a con artist.
I’d also watched something about the making of Ghostbusters around this time that revealed Dan Aykroyd demanded a scene featuring his character being, ah, “spectrally seduced” remain in the film, even though the rest of that sequence had been cut and it really makes no sense in the finished movie. Aykroyd’s firm in his view of ghosts as seductresses, so he refused to cut this. This was likely in my head when creating the corner of the afterlife Brad visits.
Is Brad Burns – the “paranormal desperado” and main character of Love Is Dead(ly); or the other main characters Sandra, John, Alex – based on anyone you know?
The worst aspects of some of the characters are exaggerations of a few people I know, or knew. For the most part, I wanted personalities that contrasted against one another. One brash character, one timid one. One woman who suppressed her wilder instincts in order to grow up, one woman who stayed in youthful rebellion and paid a nasty price.
Tell us about your writing routine and where you tend to write.
I write when I can find the time during the day. Usually after lunch. Writing every day is a nice habit to get into, and I try to accomplish at least something on my projects each weekday. On weekends, usually early in the afternoon, I work on my freelance writing gigs. I’m not sure if I’ve ever written anything after 6 pm.
My bias is to write in quiet, which isn’t always possible. I have no preference for desktops over laptops, although I’ve discovered I write faster with the thin, new keyboards versus those old ones with the heavy keys.
How did you find the editing and publication process? (Don’t worry about hurting our feelings – we’ve got thick skins…!)
A part of me just wants to slap the book up on Amazon once I feel it’s done and not think about it again. Obviously, that’s not a consideration when other people are invested in the work. I don’t mind taking notes and reviewing ways to make the story better; there’s no one way to do this, and you have to respect the fact that ideas perfectly clear to you might be opaque to others. Dealing with someone else’s style guide, and how Brits interpret very specific American references, has been interesting.
You share a passion with us for comics (Sandman is one of our absolute favourites, and we’re currently enjoying The Walking Dead collection) – what would be your recommended go-to comics / graphic novels for any comic virgins out there?
Alan Moore is an obvious name to cite, but his Supreme and Tom Strong stories are nice gateways into comics, celebrating the medium while also looking at it sideways. Another Moore series from that era that’s overlooked is Top Ten, which is a TV police procedural translated into the world of comics.
The Maxx is an all-time favorite. Many people know it from the MTV adaptation, which pretty much followed the book page for page, yet the show was cancelled before the story was finished. The comic actually finishes the story…then goes on to an epilogue set ten years later…then meanders around because the creator lost interest in the concept but didn’t want to abandon his property…then just ends with promises of a reimagined series that never materialized. But those first twenty issues do hold up, evolving into an emotionally complex story that’s often funny and touching.
Nth Man is an insane comic from my childhood that’s likely to never be reprinted, but is worth checking out. A bizarre blend of military action, parody, Eastern philosophy, and morality plays.
Fans of the X-Men movies should look into the X-Men Classic: The Complete Collection volumes, featuring thoughtful character pieces by Chris Claremont and psychedelic trips from Ann Nocenti, pencilled by John Bolton, who’s adept at portraying both. Most of Ann Nocenti’s comics are worth a look, especially the Typhoid collection.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
A novel about a teenage vigilante who discovers increasingly terrible things about the world around her. It’s inspired by ‘80s trash culture, like Cannon films. Another novel about a mysterious death in a sleepy small town and a nice young man who might’ve been born into a murder cult. And, very likely, a follow-up to Love Is Dead(ly).
That’s just made us very very, happy…! Finally, here’s our QUICK FIRE ROUND (one word answers only):
1. Plotter or pantser?
2. Pen or keyboard?
3. Character or plot?
4. Early bird or night owl?
5. Crossword or Sudoko?
6. Asking questions or answering questions?
You can check out Love Is Dead(ly) and get your hands on a copy by simply clicking here.
And you can read an extract from the novel, absolutely free – click here!