Please help us welcome author Soren Summers to TNA today. He’s joining us to talk a bit about his debut novel, Monster, and some of the influences he credits for inspiring him to write his own special brand of the macabre and unusual.
There’s little that’s more enticing than reading about two beautiful boys doing horrible, disgusting things to each other. That’s why we’re all here, after all, our common love of mm romance for all of its tropes and flavors. But we each have our own tastes, whether it’s a preference for shifters, jocks, or any of the many kinds of men to be found in our genre.
But there’s something to be said for awkward heroes, the outcasts, the losers, the misfits, people who are utterly unequipped to play the leading role, yet are forced to anyway. They’re the guys I like to read and write about. In a hero’s journey the main character is called to glory, or has responsibility thrust upon him, and so off he goes to quest and to confront his challenge. I’m into those characters who cannot. To put it into the terms of the day, they just can’t even. Literally.
There’s a heightened sense of tension when you replace your average alpha male with someone who so painfully isn’t. Take the musclebound, gun-toting, love-making action hero out of the equation and replace him with, say, that scruffy guy from your IT department who doesn’t talk much but has that cute smile. Lock that person into a room with something built out of scales, sharp teeth, and frothing animal rage. How do they deal with this threat? Do they make it out alive? I want those questions answered. I want to read those stories.
It might have to do with what I consume as well. I’m a huge fan of the darker side of entertainment, whether in comics, movies, or video games, and that goes for books as well. I’m fond of the fantastical, so most anything by Rowling, Gaiman, Pratchett, or Martin will rope me in hopelessly. Still, my greatest influences are two wildly divisive LGBT-adjacent authors and, quite unfortunately, one dead racist.
Anne Rice, Chuck Palahniuk, and HP Lovecraft have colored everything I’ve written. Their protagonists are hardly heroes, their stories pitting painfully regular human beings against overwhelming forces. Characters in the Lovecraft universe in particular have such awful chances of surviving their encounters, most of them dying horribly or going mad by the end of their tale. In Palahniuk’s case involvement of the supernatural is rarer, but the humanity of his monsters only makes his stories that much more riveting.
Despite the grimmer material of my favorite authors, reading within their shadows gave me a stronger yearning for glimmers of light. I rallied for their heroes to succeed, or at least to survive. They rarely ever did, but I stayed on for the journey anyway, because I could hope. One of humanity’s most striking qualities, after all, is that it struggles to prevail even in its darkest hours.
At the end of the day, we as authors live to entertain, but even as readers brave the rank wastes of a dystopian story or the chilling apathy of eldritch creatures and centuries-old vampires, they soldier on in expectation of an answer to one question: Will the hero succeed? It’s all well and good to throw characters into horrible situations, but at the end of it all, hope should prevail. It must.
I find writing horror therapeutic. It’s a way for me to turn away from the news and pretend that there’s hope left for our race of two-legged cockroaches, that there can be goodness lurking in the dark, that we can be like lilies growing out of the muck. Shiny, optimistic words for a horror writer to throw around, perhaps, but it’s a great part of why we turn to fiction, or why horror as a genre holds the appeal that it does. We want the Final Girl to escape the masked killer. We want the underdog to win. We want to know that humanity survives.
When the first reviews for Monster came in I was frankly surprised. I didn’t think that readers would connect with the main characters, one of them a socially-awkward, generally apathetic mess, the other an egomaniac loaded with emotional baggage and daddy issues. Neither would be considered a hero in any sense of the word, though they do try their best to play that role throughout the story.
Jarod knows his way around a firearm, but he’s far from your macho gunslinger. He’s more of a sulky man-baby who just wants to get through a day of work without dying and secretly thinks it wouldn’t be so bad to lose one or two extra pounds. That’s all of us, basically. At several points throughout both the book and its companion novella Siren (available free on my website) Gabriel, who’s hardly the pinnacle of perfect mental health himself, goes as far as to describe Jarod as sloppy, even husky. It’s pretty mean, but not untrue. That’s what real men look like. That’s what real people are like, and that’s what I love to work with.
As members and allies of the LGBT community we’re automatically outcasts, considered other from society, yet there’s also so much internalized discrimination due to matters of race, age, or outrageous standards of physical attractiveness. It’s fun to work with main characters who don’t necessarily fit that mold. It’s liberating to root for the underdog, to see the bullied overcome or escape his tormentor, to see man wriggle out from under the thumb of a mad god and live to die another day.
It’s okay to like eccentric billionaires for your protagonists, or grizzled ex-marines, or star quarterbacks, just as it’s okay to like the nerds and the turds, the freaks and the geeks. I love my antiheroes, and rest assured that I’ll continue to hurl average yet not-so-ordinary people into pits filled with fire and stakes and vipers – but I’ll be doing it, as always, with my fingers crossed and my heart in my throat.
About the Book
Bloodied corridors. Mangled bodies. Deranged test subjects. All in a day’s work at Vertex, a corporation devoted to perfecting the human form by any means necessary. But even corporations make mistakes. Sometimes the path to progress is littered with corpses.
It’s up to Jarod Samuels to keep Vertex’s hallways pristine and safe. He’s quiet and unquestioning, the perfect mix of tight lips and loose morals. But Jarod’s been looking the other way for five years. Scrubbing bloodstains and bagging bodies is losing its luster.
Then a handsome young maverick named Gabriel Anderson joins Jarod’s department, this man with a huge ego and an even huger mouth. He’s infuriating but intriguing, as brash as he is beautiful, and almost enough to keep Jarod preoccupied. Almost.
But between workplace hazards, psychic sociopaths, and a mysterious formula that alters the human body, Jarod’s doubts are surging strong. Should he stay with the corporation, or run like hell? This is Vertex, after all, where the walls watch with glass eyes, the laboratories groan with secrets – and employee termination ends more than just careers.
Then someone new joins Jarod’s department, this man with a huge ego and an even huger mouth. Gabriel Anderson is infuriating but intriguing, as brash as he is beautiful, and almost enough to keep Jarod preoccupied. Almost.
But between workplace hazards, psychic sociopaths, and a mysterious formula that alters the human body, Jarod’s doubts are surging. Should he stay with the corporation, or run like hell? This is Vertex, after all, where the walls watch with glass eyes, the laboratories groan with secrets – and employee termination ends more than just careers.
About the Author
Soren Summers spent 15 years working as a lifestyle journalist and public relations copywriter. After moving to Southern California he decided it was time to stop selling other people’s stories and start telling his own. Inspired by the sweat-laden horrors of ill-tempered editors and looming deadlines, Soren uses his unfortunate love of hyperbole to write novels about ordinary people struggling against overwhelming supernatural odds.