Alister Kunkle has been in seclusion for 25 years in Sunnyside Capable Care Mental Institution. He won’t look or speak to anyone, for fear it will fatally harm them. You see, Death takes a personal interest in anyone he communicates with and he is tired of watching this curse play out. He hides away in a small cell with no outside contact until Dr. Anna Lee shows up determined that her psychiatric skills can help cure Alister. Is she really what she seems? Is the curse real or a figment of his imagination? When I first agreed to read and review author Keith Rommel’s book The Cursed Man, the first stand alone novel in his Thanatology series, I told him that “a book having a character with the name of Alister (in any spelling) is on my ‘Top Ten Things that Make Me Want to Review a Book.” It was all in jest, but truly, isn’t that a name that just makes you want to read a suspense novel?
I’m glad that “Alister” led me to read the book because Rommel’s novel has left me haunted for a week now. It engaged so many thoughts in me about life and the universe forces surrounding us, that I must highly recommend this book if you are looking for a thrill ride of drama that will keep you guessing until the very end. It was a quick read for me; I read it in one night so as not to put off the ending and it was reminiscent of my favorite short stories of Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King. King has penned several stories playing around with the notion of Death, and Rommel’s story was just as good as the master of suspense. It was almost leaning toward having a Ted Dekker quality in its novel form, yet had a harder evil tone than Dekker’s final chapter finales. This time Death certainly is the serial killer and good might not win out.
The Cursed Man’s spooky quality and lingering aura could send chills up your spine deep into the night and keep you pondering about your mortality and the state of humanity. The writing quality was excellent and Rommel is certainly an author to watch if you like the horror suspense genre as much as I do. I look forward to reading the second book in this series, called The Lurking Man, sometime in 2012.
And speaking of The Lurking Man, guess what?!? Keith is having a CONTEST to name the female main character in his next upcoming book, The Lurking Man (second in the Thanatology series). Answer three questions on his site about The Cursed Man, then starting with a sentence he has given you, write a short story (300 words) utilizing the name you choose. There will be a voting period in which people will vote on the name for the book. To view all the details, please go to: http://keithrommel.weebly.com/contest.html.
I also had the pleasure to sneak into the mind of Keith Rommel with an exclusive interview below (after the giveaway information) in which he answers all my deep, comical, and intense questions with ease. Take a more comfortable seat, and read on; you won’t be disappointed.
Keith has graciously agreed to GIVEAWAY, no strings attached, TWO copies of The Cursed Man, to two lucky readers of this blog! All you have to do is read the interview and in the comments of my blog, tell me what inspired you or what you learned or even just something you liked about it. You can also go to my facebook page (www.facebook.com/almehairierin (friend request me if you need to)) and leave me a comment on my wall, or under the link posting for this particular blog, or you can go to Twitter and give me a mention at @ErinAlMehairi (www.twitter.com/ErinAlMehairi).
I appreciate my readers and so do the authors, so they love to giveaway books in hopes you’ll read them and spread the word. What have you got to lose? You’ve only got something to gain!!
INTERVIEW WITH KEITH ROMMEL
Hi Keith, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview to accompany my review of your novel The Cursed Man. Let’s dive right in to our Q and A on your well-written horror/suspense novel—the first stand-alone novel in your Thanatology series.
Q: First of all, I pride myself in being well read and educated, but I had to look up the meaning of Thanatology! I see it’s the study of death and dying and now see how it relates to your book. Your main character, Alister, has caught the interest of the entity called Death and dying surrounds him. I realize now that I don’t know much about this area since I completely avoid talking about Death because it scares me …well…to death! So the question is, how did you become interested in the storytelling of death and dying and why?
A: It is like a big blue elephant standing in the center of the room. You know it’s there, staring at you, but you don’t want to look at it or talk about it because if you do, you might get its attention. That is why I wrote about it.
(Erin comments: True, and it makes for a really good story too as being confronted or singled out by Death is certainly an eerie proposition!)
Q: How do you feel most people deal when confronted with the topic of death? Why are we so obsessed with birth and try to hide our feelings about death?
A: A little over two years ago, I found out my father was terminal with cancer ten days before my son was born. I was unclear how much time my father had left, but I knew his prognosis was not good. I clearly remember the confusion in my heart as I celebrated the birth of my son while I began to prepare myself for the worst. Dad passed about a month later and it brought me to a very dark place. For me it was a place of anger and sadness and it overshadowed the blessings I had in my life. The healing hand of time has worked wonders on me, but the void that was left behind is still there, raw and bothersome. But the joy of having my son and watching him grow is a Band-Aid given to me by God. Birth is a time for celebration, and death (in cases such as my own) is a private time to grieve and find understanding.
Q: What role do you feel that religion and God play in Thanatology? How do they play into your book?
A: I purposely tried to keep the theme of religion obscure in The Cursed Man as I tried to challenge myself as a writer. I had a tendency to lean towards religion earlier in my writing career, but this time around I wanted to create something that did not have a clear villain like Satan or a powerful entity such as God. When you peel back all the complex layers of the plot, The Cursed Man is a story about a man and a firm belief that death shows him favor by allowing him to live. But yet, his price for such a gift is that everyone around him dies. Therefore, the theme of death was the presence that needed to remain on center stage.
(Erin comments: Yet, Death certainly is a powerful entity, isn’t it? We certainly feel its power, and to some degree the power of evil, in your book. I know I certainly felt it. I would explain more why, but I don’t want to spoil it for new readers.)
Q: What lessons of good and evil can we take away from The Cursed Man?
A: For me, the strongest lesson is given at the very end of the novel. Though I cannot go into what the details are because it would be a spoiler to the story, it is an event that is based off of a true story. I was standing in the kitchen at my grandmother’s house and I was in my late teens. My uncle was telling me a tragic story about a family friend and that story made such an impression on me I based The Cursed Man on it.
Q: What were your hopes when you set out to write a novel in the horror/suspense genre?
A: My hopes for writing The Cursed Man were very simple: if I gave someone an experience that they didn’t feel cheated after they plunked down some of their hard-earned money after they read my novel, then I had reached a certain level of satisfaction. For a long time, I believed in the story and worked very hard to get it to a professional level. I had agents show the story great interest, but never to a level of acceptance. I remember feeling confused and determined all at the same time. How could they not see what I saw? I’ll show them! And just when I was ready to give up and try my hand at self-publishing, the novel was picked up by Sunbury Press. They are a small press company, and when they offered to publish The Cursed Man, I remember the overwhelming joy. For days I walked around with a great big smile. Finally, someone saw the hard work I’d put into the book. Oh, and I recently received some emails from readers that have been nothing short of gratifying and inspiring. It has truly been a humbling experience.
Q: I know you like to read comic books, and so do we at our house. I’m curious, what part do you feel comic books play in both society and storytelling?
A: Comic books were introduced to me when a teacher suggested that I read them to help with a reading comprehension problem. I have read and collected comic books since I was in junior high and continue to do so today. Comic books are an important art form that suffers from a persona of being nerdy and uncool. Of course, I feel much differently about it and believe they can influence young people into the love and rewards of reading. Most movies that people are flocking to see are based off of comic book titles and they probably don’t even realize it. Without pointing out the obvious titles such as Superman and Batman, to name a few movies that come from the comic platform would be : The Crow, Men in Black, Cowboys & Aliens and Kick Ass.
The flow of storytelling is unique in the sense that it is done through both words and pictures. It makes for a quick and easy read, and the story usually comes out once a month and is a continuation from issue to issue. For parents that have children that don’t like to read, I suggest going to your local comic shop and picking them up a copy. There are plenty of titles to choose from, and it can actually be used as family time to open up discussions. Something that becomes quite addicting is going to the comic store every Wednesday to see what new books have hit the racks. You’ll be amazed by what you might find and how fun they really are.
Q: Now on to a little about you as an author: How do you work over 50 hours a week, commute, make time for your wife and 2 small children and EVER find time to write? What advice do you give others in the same situation?
A: I believe if it is your passion and you are doing it for the right reasons, you will make and find the time. My formula is simple and I’m sure that countless other writers abide by it: get an hour less sleep tonight, or wake up a little earlier in the morning. Set a reasonable goal for yourself (maybe a word count per week) and try and write at least one paragraph a day.
Q: Tell us about your writing process and what you’ve learned about yourself as a writer and also about the industry over the years.
A: I have learned quite a bit over the years. The first and foremost thing is that I had to find my voice on paper and that has taken me a long time to accomplish. I often compare it to how a kid grows into a young adult, and years later, into a wiser, more mature adult. Some days my writing voice comes out easier than others, but I found it important that I no longer pressure myself to “get it done.” I write when I can and try to make time to do so. Small press and self-publishing is the new “in.” With social media sites and a well-written book, you will find a fan base. Set real expectations as to how many copies you think you are going to sell and study your craft. Join writing groups (I suggest Critique Circle, my handle is Krommel). There you won’t have your best friend telling you how great your stuff is. You’ll have writers (some of them very experienced) critiqing your work and giving you good, constructive feedback to help you learn and grow.
Q: Tell us a little about the man behind the scary story The Cursed Man.
A: First, I am a husband and father of two. I have a passionate belief that hard work does pay off and that everyone should follow his or her dreams no matter how big or small. I did and will continue to do so whether I sell one book or a million. It is my passion and has been for years.
Q: What is next on the horizon for you?
A: The response to The Cursed Man has been so positive that I want to stay focused on the Thanatology series. I am looking to release The Lurking Man sometime in spring of 2012, which is book 2 in the Thanatology series. I am then going to quickly follow it up with two more novels that explore different genres (Thriller, and religious fiction).
Q: Where can readers or other authors find Keith Rommel online, and how do they connect?
A: I encourage readers and writers alike to contact me, whether they look me up through my website: http://keithrommel.weebly.com or through Goodreads.com, Librarything.com and of course Twitter (@keithrommel). If you follow me on Twitter, I always follow back (it’s just good karma).
Thank you, Keith, for the exciting new book and for answering my interview questions. It has been a pleasure to connect with you. Best wishes in all your continued work.