The Sixth Gun's Cullen Bunn stops by to talk about his spooky new young adult novel, just in time for Halloween!
Cullen Bunn is the writer of the hot indie hit, The Sixth Gun, which is being developed into a Syfy miniseries. His latest work comes not from the world of comics but rather the much more frightening world of children's prose novels. The Outhouse sat down with Cullen to get the scoop on Crooked Hills, his new novel.
The Outhouse:So Cullen, tell us a little bit about Crooked Hills. What's the general premise of your new prose novel?
Cullen Bunn: Crooked Hills is a horror novel set in the Missouri Ozarks. Our protagonist, Charlie, is uprooted from the life he knows in suburbia to spend the summer in the backwoods town of Crooked Hills... which just happens to be the most haunted small town in America.
And by "hijinks" I mean headless chickens, scorpions, tarantulas, hellhounds, bullies, and undead monsters who are trying to return from the grave!
Not only is Charlie a fish out of water in a town simply crawling with ghosts and goblins, he is thrown headlong into an encounter with Maddie Someday, a fiendish child-eating witch who met a terrible demise decades ago. Maddie's not really happy about being dead, and her minions are hard at work bringing her back. When Alex vanishes, it's up to Charlie, his cousin Marty, and his new friend Lisa (and her trusty slingshot) to rescue him from the clutches of a creature that is simply too evil to stay dead!
The story comes off a little bit like The Goonies Meet The Blair Witch (even though the target audience probably doesn't get those two references)!
OH: What would you say are the main themes of Crooked Hills and who do you think they'd most resonate with?
CB: I didn't sit down with a theme in mind when I started writing this story. Instead, I sat down to tell a rollicking ghost story set in a quirky haunted town. But as the story came together, the theme of putting it all on the line for your family certainly surfaced loud and clear (at least to me). It's a theme that comes up again and again in the story (and in the future stories I have envisioned) although it is often masked under the comedy, action, and horror elements.
OH: What inspired you to write Crooked Hills? Is there any real life basis for the town of Crooked Hills that children should avoid?
CB: I grew up in rural North Carolina, and my imagination was fueled by a steady diet of ghost stories, horror comics, spooky novels and short stories, late night horror movies, and urban legends. Stories of the Maco Light, Blackbeard's Ghost, and the Devil's Tramping Ground scared me silly when I was a kid. And if the famous legends weren't enough, I heard plenty of more... uhm... grassroots attempts to get me to wet my pants.
...We lived for a while near a small pond where a teenage boy had supposedly drowned... only no one had ever found the body. On certain cold mornings, they say you could find foot prints in the mud leading out of the pond...
...A wild gorilla was said to have escaped from a transport vehicle on the way to the zoo in Ashville. The animal had never been found. It was said to stalk some of the deepest parts of the woods...
...A flying saucer once soared over town, dipping so low out of the skies that it chased the local sheriff off the road, causing him to wreck his patrol car...
These stories—and plenty of others—came from my older brothers and sister, who must have delighted in the idea of traumatizing me. But I still never hesitated to slip off into the woods to go exploring in search of "haints" or ghosts. Soon enough, I was making up my own "legends" in an attempt to scare my own friends and my little brother.
Crooked Hills is a combination of small towns I lived in throughout my life. Newton Grove, Goldsboro, Thayer, Koshkonong, and every other tiny town rife with spooky legends and deep woods.
OH: Where do you think is the ideal setting to read Crooked Hills at?
CB: Read it by the glow of a flashlight while hiding under your bed sheets from the boogieman. Also, I think it might be a fun read on a family road trip. Barring that, dim the lights a little bit, sit back, and enjoy.
OH: What makes Crooked Hills the perfect Halloween story for kids?
CB: Kids love ghost stories and folk tales and being scared... and Crooked Hills is a pretty scary tale. I didn't pull any punches when it comes to the "stuff of nightmares." At the same time, though, I didn't forget that getting scared can be fun! The story is full of adventure and comedy. I've always thought this is a book that both kids and adults can enjoy. It's funny to me that many of the adults who read it comment on how scary the tale is, while most of the kids who've read it mention how much fun they had with the story.
OH: When will be seeing the next installment of Crooked Hills? Is there any chance that Crooked Hills will cross over into comics?
CB: The plan is for a new Crooked Hills novel to be released every year in October. I'm working on the next book, Casket Full of Nightmares, right now. In terms of comics, there has always been plans to do a series of original Crooked Hills stories as graphic novels or short comics. In fact, on Halloween, Earwig Press is releasing an 8-page comic titled "Raw Head & Bloody Bones" that readers can check out for free on IndiePulp (www.indiepulp.com).
Earwig Press was kind enough to give the Outhouse an exclusive preview of Raw Heads and Bloody Bones. Enjoy!
Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer