Scott Thomas’ debut novel, Kill Creek, is a classic “haunted house” updated for the 21st Century. It is also a love letter to the horror genre, its authors and readers. Now Thomas is back with his second novel, Violet, and it is every bit as compelling as his debut. Thomas was interviewed for the LAPL Blog in 2017 for Kill Creek. Recently, Daryl Maxwell had the chance to ask him a few questions about Violet for the LAPL Blog.
What was your inspiration for Violet?
Here’s something I don’t think I’ve ever shared with anyone. One day I randomly found myself thinking about a bizarre movie from the early ‘90s called Drop Dead Fred. It’s a comedy where Phoebe Cates plays a woman whose life is turned upside down when her imaginary friend from childhood reappears. I started thinking, “This idea doesn’t feel like a comedy. Wouldn’t that imaginary friend feel abandoned? Wouldn’t they be angry that they were forgotten once the child grew up?” Think about it: if you only had one connection to this world and that connection suddenly abandoned you, leaving you alone for twenty or thirty years with no other friends, what would you become? What would that isolation do to you? As the idea took shape, I realized that my story was, at its heart, a ghost story. I love slow-burn ghost stories that take their time getting under your skin, so I was inspired by similar books and movies that I’ve always admired: The Changeling, The Turn of the Screw, The Other, Harvest Home, Ghost Story, The House Next Door. And, as with Kill Creek, I was inspired by the people and landscape of Kansas, my home state.
Are Kris, Sadie or any of the other characters inspired by or based on specific individuals?
They aren’t based on specific individuals, but I tried to draw from my own life experiences so I would have a very close connection to them. My dad died of cancer a little over ten years ago, and I’ve never really known how to fully comprehend that loss. I’m not really a religious person, so I can’t take comfort in that. There are no easy answers for the living; it becomes a question that only the dead can answer. As I wrote Kris, I realized she was dealing with similarly unanswered questions. I have two daughters, so I took inspiration from them when writing Sadie. I also drew from my own experiences as a parent—of trying not to screw your kids up too badly—when I was writing Kris. Being a parent is amazing, but it can be a struggle. Sometimes they drive you crazy and you just want to yell, “Would you go upstairs and play with your imaginary friend so I can have ten minutes of peace and quiet?!”
How did Violet evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?
Violet actually began as a spec screenplay. The basic concept was the same, but the way the story unfolded was VERY different. It was much simpler. After Kill Creek came out, I was talking to Adam Gomolin at Inkshares, and we agreed that Violet should be my next book. I started to expand on the characters and the setting, and the town of Pacington—with its submerged houses in the lake—began to take form in my mind, as did the mystery at the heart of the story. I quickly wrote a draft of the novel that had the right structure, but I wasn’t living enough in the moments. It was more of a novel-length outline. With each revision, I expanded the scenes, spending much needed time with Kris and Sadie. We ended up cutting the book down from its largest draft, but I don’t think we lost anything that I miss. There were some transcripts of Sadie’s sessions with Dr. Baker that were fun and creepy, but the book is better without them. What they discussed and what Sadie revealed is now left to the reader’s imagination.
Did you have an imaginary friend as a child? If so, what do you remember about them?
I never had an imaginary friend, although I was convinced that there was a monster under my bed that would steal my stuffed animals. There was, however, a girl who lived at the end of my block who had an imaginary friend. I remember one day she pointed to where he was, and for a moment, I thought I saw a shadow move across the wall. But I was 7 or 8-years-old with an overactive imagination, so maybe I simply wanted to see something there.
Your first novel, Kill Creek, was a Horror novel, as is Violet. What do you think it is about Horror that draws you, as an author, and/or readers to these types of stories?
I’ve always loved horror. It’s been my favorite genre practically since I was born. I love creepy stories. I like the feeling of being scared but knowing that the thing scaring you is make-believe. When I was a kid and I went to the public library, I would go straight to the section with books on ghosts, UFOs, bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle. For those of us who love horror, I think we’re drawn to it because it is a way of experiencing fear in a safe, controlled way. The world is a scary place, and often it offers no closure. Horror allows us to release that fear and tension, then close the book when we’re done or walk out of the movie when the credits roll. There’s something about acknowledging the darkness that may exist around us, whether it is human or supernatural, and seeing someone battle that darkness that is very cathartic. Also, who doesn’t love a spooky campfire story? After all, that’s what we write as horror authors, stories to tell with a flashlight under our chin as we try to scare the crap out of our friends.
What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?
In an interview? I guess it would be, “Can I get you anything?” And my answer would be, “A beer would be great, thanks!”
What are you working on now?
Developing Kill Creek as a series for Showtime and working on another exciting project that hopefully will be announced soon.
Violet, the new novel from Scott Thomas, author of 2017’s excellent Kill Creek, tells a story that is a bit difficult to pin down. Part of it is about tragedy and grief. Part of it looks at parenthood and how the stakes can be raised on one parent when the other leaves, whether or not by their own choice. And part of it is a horror story, with a small town, filled with memorable residents and a sense of foreboding that settles over everything like a shroud.
Violet is a slow burn of a novel. It’s starts off innocently enough, but Thomas increases the horror incrementally by small, almost imperceptible degrees until you reach the terrifying, white hot and inescapable conclusion.
This is a remarkable sophomore novel from a writer to watch!