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Q&A With BENEATH Author Kristi DeMeester
This coming Saturday (10/21), Kristi DeMeester, author of the Lovecraftian horror novel Beneath, will be holding a book signing at Posman Books in Atlanta from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. as part of a month-long series of science-fiction and horror-themed events. Here's a Q&A about her novel.
What inspired you to start writing Beneath?
I started writing Beneath because I couldn't shake a lot of the images from the [Fundamentalist Pentecostal] tent revivals of my childhood. I was very young and very indoctrinated, but I remember looking out over the congregation as they were swept up, as they shook and trembled and frothed, and I watched as that mania swept through the room, and I was afraid. I did not understand why, but I was afraid. I wanted to write about that feeling and about the deep belief I once carried in the Devil. That he was incredibly real, a monster lurking in the darkness forever searching for soft girl meat.
How long did it take you to finish writing it?
Four years. Start to finish. Mostly because I stopped working on it for close to two years because I didn't know what to do with it.
Once it was done, how did you go about getting it published?
I did some agent hunting but quickly became discouraged. Because of the subject matter, even the agents that were interested turned it down. "Too hard of a sell," they said. I'd kind of resigned myself to the fact that it may never see the light of day, but I'd gone on a podcast, The Outer Dark with Scott Nicolay, and I talked about the book. Ross Lockhart from Word Horde heard it and reached out. The rest is history.
What kind of reception has Beneath received since publication?
I've been thrilled to see some positive commentary about Beneath in addition to comments that it's unsettling. I can't avoid saying that there hasn't been controversy and criticism. A lot of people don't like the ending. A lot of people have a problem with the surreal, dream like nature of the story. A lot of people have a problem with my tendency to be plot "lite."
What do you mean by "plot lite"?
I tend to focus more on emotional resonance than "This is what happens." I prefer ambiguity.
What are some major literary influences on Beneath?
Shirley Jackson, Flannery O'Connor, my own childhood.
What does the future hold for you writing-wise?
Keep writing novels. Keep trying to find an agent.
What was your favorite part to write?
The scenes in the liquor store. If you've read it, you know the part.
What was your least favorite part?
The scene where an imagined version of Cora's mother reveals how she'd wanted so badly to protect her daughter but couldn't.
Do you anticipate writing any sequels or works set in the same world?
I don't think so. Hensley, North Carolina was fun to play in, but I don't think I'll ever return.
So that's our Q&A. I've read Beneath and although I haven't gotten around to reviewing it (yet), I strongly recommend it. There is some really good imagery and legitimately creepy stuff. Given how hard it is for fiction to spook me, that's really saying something. So get the book on Amazon or, if you'd like to meet the author herself or get a signed copy, come by Posman Books Oct. 21.
Also, special thanks to Anya Martin and ATL Retro for making the introduction. This article and a big chunk of the October series at Posman Books wouldn't be possible without you.