One spring day, after four years of merry hell, I walked out of the convent. You’ve seen that angry red guy from the movie Inside Out? That was me, minus the flaming hair.
Fast-forward a few years. The anger is tamped down and gaining focus. I say to myself, What’s the good of going through awful personal experiences if I can’t turn them into fiction?
I wanted revenge against the mind games, the manipulation, the thought retraining, and I didn’t want to write nonfiction. Since I’ve been a horror fan from the age of five, the path opened clear and easy before me: A dystopian horror novel in which the bad guys were batshit insane descendants of Catholic monks convinced they had a direct line to God Himself.
And The Redeemers were born.
Did I say easy? Hahahahahahaha! I rewrote this book five times front to back. Annie, the main character, wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t angry enough, didn’t have enough of a reason to uproot her entire life for revenge.
I didn’t uproot my entire life for revenge. I got over it and created a life I never could have had in the convent: Husband, children, cats, my own garden. Never wearing black again. Nobody reading my mail and listening in on my phone calls. The little things. But this was fiction and Annie darn well better not get over it. And then I read the most perfect piece of writing advice ever, from the amazing Donald Maass: Think of the worst thing that can happen to your character. Now do it to them.
You know that evil grin the Grinch gets when he has his wonderful/awful idea? The Grinch’s grin spread over my face at that moment. Minus the green hair curlicues unrolling.
With the addition of one plot element, the whole book changed. Annie changed from a depressed average broad into a juggernaut of fear-fueled hate and revenge. I discovered new ways to torment her and she discovered new reserves of strength. I gave her a smidgen of hope or a brief respite from her personal hell only to ruin her life multiple times. It was glorious.
What? I’m a horror writer. We aren’t nice. You want nice, I can recommend several sweet cozy mysteries. You want nightmare fuel? You’ve come to the right place.
Speaking of nightmare fuel, I was a Cradle Catholic, which means I grew up with stories of God being tortured with whips and fists and nails until He was a bloody, shredded mess of flesh and bone. The convent encourages you to immerse yourself in His life and death.
I also vividly remember the 1980s, when the US and the USSR were playing nuclear chicken with the world. When we went to bed we weren’t always sure we’d wake up the next morning.
Combine the three: Cradle Catholicism, the nuclear 80s, and my years of seething anger at the cult experience that was the convent. What did I get? A 300-page cocktail of revenge, fear, terror, betrayal, and torture. Oh, and some good cooking, because you have to have fuel to run from the Redeemers. They are relentless.
Eat dessert first, y’all.
Kate is the alter-ego of Alice Loweecey, who writes the Giulia Driscoll mystery series.
Kate and Alice live in Western New York, where they deal with apocalyptic snow by growing a truckload of fruits and veggies in the summer and cooking with them the rest of the year.
Visit Kate on Facebook here.
Visit Alice on Facebook here.