Terry Moore sits down with the Outhouse's Russ Burlingame to discuss the latest issue of Rachel Rising!
With a second issue in the can and a long wait for the column, Terry Moore joined The Outhouse's Russ Burlingame for a discussion of Rachel Rising #2, writing for horror instead of drama and the creation of an eccentric town full of bizarre, frightening and human characters.
Russ Burlingame: The mystery woman who was standing on the bluffs when Rachel came back from the apparently-dead seemed in the first issue to be a kind of quiet and gentle face of death. This month—not so much.
Terry Moore: I wanted to reveal her like an iceberg so you've just seen the tip and there's a bunch. She's a major part of the initial story, and I wanted her introduction to be confusing. You don't know whose side she's on, if she's good or bad, but by the time you finish the second and third issues you'll begin to realize that she's leaving a certain kind of path behind her, in how she's affecting her surroundings. You'll know her very well by the time we get to issue four.
RB: You've said in the past that the Town of Manson will be a big part of the story – Will we see more from the very disturbing little girl from this issue or is she just kind of a general representation of the creepiness in town?
TM: Actually you see the little girl return in issue three and you won't believe what she's doing. I'm just delighted by the characters that are in the town. The whole town is part of the story. The people in the town, and the town itself, is just creepy. It's like stuck in Halloween, so I'm really enjoying that and I'm enjoying revealing these layers.
RB: In terms of pacing: Is writing for a story with no definitive endpoint different from the approach you had to Echo?
TM: Yeah, it is, because when I find a good moment I always want to linger and present more character. I feel like it's worth it because unless you care about the person, you don't care what happens to them so the character moments are important. Because I don't have an ending in sight, I might linger just a little bit—like an extra page on a conversation or something—so it does make me feel a little less pressured. I don't want to use up my welcome and go too slow of course.
RB: Aunt Johnny is obviously something of an androgynous character, and the GBLT community has been behind your work since Strangers in Paradise. – Is it important to you to get that kind of diversity in characters into the book?
TM: I just feel like it's real life. I get real nervous when I get into a room full of white people—I mean, that's not real life, you know? So the same thing in a story: you don't want everybody to be middle-class white, or everybody's Judeo-Christian or something. I just see it as the variety of life. Actually, I grew up with a friend of the family and her name was Johnny and she wore cowboy boots and we all liked her and when I was younger I thought, "Johnny's different, and I don't know why, but we like her." So I grew up with an Aunt Johnny and this is my chance to put her in the story finally and I think she's cool. I think that without the complications of the baggage of husband and kids and an SUV and all that crap, you can get characters who are more flexible. If Rachel and Johnny decide to go to India tomorrow, they can. She doesn't need to say, "Oh, I need to get a babysitter," and blah blah blah. I like my characters to be flexible, in case they need to change and go somewhere.
RB: Their relationship is really great because while they get along really well and they care for each other, so far in the series neither of them is 100% sure that they can believe what the other one is saying yet. Is that going to be resolved soon or is that a longer-term issue for the characters?
TM: I like to reveal the story to the character along with the reader. It's a way of pretending like we're doing it first person. I really don't want you to know much more than the character so that you can both experience the discovery of the answers and things like that. So that's what I'm trying for there. And...I like writing stories where the characters lie. I don't use my characters for explaining the story—I hate that, I think it's a cop-out. They don't recap. I like the discovery of the story throughout the process. I do what I can to keep the mysteries from you, to keep things a mystery and let you always feel like you're learning something new. It's more interesting that way—it's like peeling away layers on an onion and you don't know what's inside.
RB: Is everybody in this town crazy, or are there going to be a couple of people like in Twin Peaks where they kind of realize they're in the middle of a group of insane people?
TM: [Laughs] Well, see, you've read two and I've read three. In three, it all happens in town and so there's a lot more town revealed in three and you'll get a feel for that balance. In three there's a scene in a jazz club and of course not everybody in the club is crazy, which makes the scary people...you need that contrast. They can't all be scary because then nobody is scary. So yeah, you need that contrast, and there's a variety.
RB: Maybe in another story Johnny would be creepy because she talks to dead people, but here she's endaring and kind of funny and maybe a bit odd but there are bigger fish to fry in terms of terror.
TM: It really is all about setting, isn't it? For instance, if we go to see a movie where it's all bad people shooting each other, you don't care who gets shot because they're all bad but if you go to see a romantic comedy and suddenly they're all gunned down, that's tragic. Because you didn't expect it, it was in the wrong setting. And that's how real life is, I think. You're making all of these plans and then boom! Disaster hits. As a horror writer, you need to know that to sucker-punch your reader and the best way is to not wear out your welcome and try to make every page scary because you can't. You have to have—nothing's loud if there's not a quiet, so it's all about contrast.
Written or Contributed by: Russ Burlingame, Outhouse Contributor
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