Robert E. Dunn writes across a number of genres. From crime thrillers such as ‘A Living Grave’, featuring detective Katrina Williams, to his short novel, Motorman – a story about gods and fast cars, and his most recent release The Harrowing – a story about a biker that goes to Hell. One things for sure, you are never quite sure what Robert will present to you next.
I loved ‘Motorman’, you can read my review for that one here. And although I was a little cautious about ‘A Living Grave’, it really knocked me for six. I’m not really a reader of thrillers but this one has a great lead in Hurricane Katrina Williams, a great story and a strong supporting cast to go with it. You can read my review of that one here.
Robert was kind enough to offer this guest post about writing. It’s an insight into the shaping process of writing and how YOU and your life contributes to what goes into a book. It’s a great post and I thank Robert for taking time out (from writing, obviously) and putting this together. I hope you enjoy reading it, I know I sure did.
By Robert Dunn, author of The Harrowing
Adrian has given me a little piece of his media empire to talk about something dear to me. Thank you Mr. Shotbolt. I’ll try not to waste the space. There is something I want to talk about and I hope I don’t sound preachy or, like my kids would see it, like I’m lecturing. It’s about writing, yes. But it’s about taking a stand as well. See? Hackles are beginning to rise on some of you already. Let me explain how and why I feel as I do.
Stories, the oldest and the most resonant, the ones you grew up hearing and will carry to your grave, are the ones intended to teach you a lesson. Think of the fables. Recall the Bible stories. How about The Pokey Little Puppy or Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel? Take a look at the urban legends so many of us grew up with. Remember Hook Hand? If you heard it you remember and you know the lesson even if it was never explicitly said.
That’s all well and good, you may think. But you are a reader of dark fiction. Perhaps you are a writer of horror stories so black as to kill any light that might peek through the curtains of your characters. But here is my thought. Good writing, the kind that inspires a deep connection between the author and the reader, will always give something of the writer away. Why? Because no art can be phoned in. The simple, the easy and obvious, that’s for captioning screenshots of Trump Tweets and posting them on Facebook. Fun but not deep. Did you see the one where… Never mind. I got sidetracked but remind me to tell you another time.
Now where was I?
Art. Yes. Think of yourself as a child. Now go take a look in the mirror. I’ll wait. Okay, good. You look different now than then don’t you? Life shapes you. It erodes and reforms. Sometimes it takes huge chunks and lets you live without them. Sometimes you get patches that are not quite the same color but they hold you together—well enough. What life is doing to you is happening to Life itself. That’s capital L Life, humanity, everyone, the human experience. Life shapes you and your shape is a part of the definition of the greater. See I was worried about being preachy.
Anyway, in writing the story, you are Life capital L. You are experience and humanity. You can’t adequately shape the story without giving away. I can go on and on but I think you get the main idea that writing is a shaping process. You take bits of yourself and make them ideas then words then share them. I believe if you do it right, you reveal some of what life has done to you in the book.
All of that being said, I always take the long road don’t I, what part of you do you want to put out there? That’s the big question. I’m not talking about legacy. I’m talking about foot prints. Most of us will be known by only a few people, perhaps for a generation after our passing. Our footprints won’t last. Unless we put part of ourselves into the shape of the world. We start with our children. We teach, we guide, and try to make them people who carry a particular shape into the world. Those of us who write a book or two, have something that could, only could, no guarantees, be picked up and read for years beyond our life. At that point the words will not be nearly as important as the shape. Think of Tarzan. How many movies? The story of courage, finding—making your place in the world, the draw of family, and love of a family you were not born into, still burns brightly. Have you read it? The writing is dated and difficult for modern readers. That is what I mean by the difference between the words and the stand.
Those are my reasons for suggesting you write with a stand, it makes better art, it makes better people. Now the how. What exactly do I mean by a stand? I’m not blowing a Social Justice, dog whistle here. At least not on purpose. And I’m not saying write to solve the world’s problems. Hell, you could be a hateful Nazi, writing Mengele-Smurfs mash-up fan stories in your Hello Kitty notebooks and your writing would be improved by the admonition, put what you believe into the story.
It can be simple, if you have a fear of octopuses—octopi—? If you have a fear of sharks, that’s it, sharks, and not spiders, write a killer shark book. If you have a love of poetry, make a character talk about a poem or poet. They will stand out and flesh out. But if you really want to communicate and shape, find a core and take a stand. Think again of Tarzan and the idea of family. I hear chuckling. I hear a couple of jeers from the audience saying my latest book, The Harrowing is about a mercenary biker who goes to hell on a rescue mission. The question is obvious. What kind of stand could I be taking in a fantasy bit about warring angels and a gypsy biker with a magic sword?
I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is no big signpost like in my novel The Red Highway. But just like that novel, The Harrowing is about racism. I won’t spoil it for you, but when you get around to it, here are some things to notice. There is obvious talk about race between my character Demon Jack and Edgar Allan Poe in hell. Less obvious is the simmering civil war in hell. Hell is a land of cruelty and segregation but it is a land of active resistance. It echoes the world of Earth. Both places are messy but trying to figure things out. Heaven is a homogenous world of angels who want the mess cleared away and the trains running on time.
In other books I do things differently. I have a mystery in progress with a main character who discovers gay people are people after all. In that and, I’m thinking from here on out, I’m using diverse characters. It is not simply a white world with people of color filling in supporting roles. Taking that stand has made my writing more interesting I believe. I hope you will think so as well. But the real question is, what stand will you take? Make your writing about something, even if it is about the joy of doughnuts. Because your belief, your joy, your rage, will inspire and make the story your story.
I would kill for a doughnut right now.
Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #TheHarrowing #badasshorror #angelsatwar
The Harrowing, Synopsis
- Print Length: 263 pages
- Publisher: Necro Publications
- Publication Date: November 24, 2016
Andrew Jackson Presley, mercenary and nomad biker, learned the hard way—never trust an angel. Recruited by archangel Puriel for a harrowing, a descent into hell to rescue the innocent, the next thing he learned is that no one is innocent.
Hell is a prison not just for men but for the old gods as well. Heaven is an insulated club for angels, no humans allowed. The two worlds are locked in an eternal war that may soon be coming to an end. It turns out Jack has been to hell before and there are secrets buried in past lives that make him the key to victory for both sides.
As he tries to finish his mission, Jack finds that the woman he’s to rescue is Orisa, someone he had loved and killed for in life. But Orisa is half-angel with her own secret role to play in the war. While magic, burned into him by angels, gets stronger, and the mystery of his past unravels, Jack becomes Demon Jack, and learns there is more at stake than one innocent person. With the help of Edgar Allen Poe, the Queen of Ghosts, an Earth Goddess, and the most beautiful woman in hell, Satan herself, Jack must stop the angel’s final battle from consuming Earth. Even as the truth takes shape and the plans of eternity are playing out, Jack raises the stakes. To save the world, he sets loose the gods of antiquity, risking the entire universe.
Robert Dunn was an Army brat born in Alabama and finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.
An award-winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.
A writer of blognovels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novels Behind the Darkness, A Living Grave and The Red Highway.
Mr. Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.
Praise for Robert Dunn
“The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read! It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story. 5+++ stars!”
-2 Book Lovers Reviews
“This is hardboiled fiction at its best. We’re talking Elmore Leonard territory. A fantastic read and I hope there’s more to come.”
–Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon on A Living Grave
“Dunn’s lyrical descriptions of Katrina’s inner struggles and demons read almost like poetry as he weaves an intricate and deadly plot of motorcycle gangs, the MOB, cancer survival, and child abuse into a novel so rife with complex feelings and life-situations, you are compelled to read it slowly, so you don’t miss a nuance of the gut-wrenching emotions he elicits from his characters.”
– Peggy Jaeger, Author of The Voices of Angels
“Parts of this book moved me to tears while others made me want to cheer out loud at Katrina’s kick-ass-atude. The twists and turns in the story kept me on the edge of my seat until the entirely satisfying ending. I’m so happy that this is just the start of what promises to be a totally addictive series! I highly recommend this phenomenal 5 star read.”
-Horror Maiden’s Book Reviews
Want to Feature?
Professional bloggers or media who would like to review The Harrowing, or are interested in featuring or interviewing Robert Dunn, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at email@example.com.