by Larry Rodness
Larry Rodness joins me today to share an excerpt from his latest book, Perverse, and to discuss his writing.
19-year-old Emylene Stipe is a second generation Goth who, like every teenage girl, is trying to find her place in the world. One night she comes upon an old painting in an antique store and is compelled to purchase it. When she brings it home an image of a young woman appears in the sketch and then magically materializes in her apartment. Emylene nick-names her 'Poinsettia' and they soon become fast friends. But Poinsettia has an ulterior motive for her sudden and strange intrusion into her host's life which causes Emylene to question her whole belief system.
The next day during her lunch break, Emylene returned to the antique shop to find the sketch sitting on the dusty floor, leaning against the grimy picture window. She looked at it more closely this time. The artist had framed the winter scene by drawing a weathered old wooden fence that zigzagged from the foreground all the way to a line of trees that met the horizon. In the center of the sketch stood the subject of the picture, a great cypress tree surrounded by a blanket of pristine snow. Aside from that there was nothing distinctive about the picture at all except that Stelio seemed captivated by it. And yet the more she looked, the more Emylene felt a strange emotional tug. The sketch was serene and unsettling at the same time, evocative but distant—just the right mix of perversity for the heartsick Goth.
Her mind made up, Emylene pushed open the paint-peeled door that creaked as if it objected to the intrusion. The air inside hung heavy with the smell of melancholia. The items on display, not so much antiques as other people's castaways, were piled haphazardly onto shelves and tables in no particular order. This was not so much a store as a graveyard of forgotten relics and memories. And if that wasn't bad enough, Emylene sensed an air of gloom emanating from the shopkeeper himself who was behind his counter, staring sour-faced at her. He was a tall, gaunt man in his seventies with wispy grey hair who had lived in the district for over thirty years and suffered them all—the druggies, the hookers, and the hustlers. He took one look at Emylene and made up his mind about her before she said a single word: Goths. If they were so in love with death, why didn't they just slit their wrists and let the rest of us get on with our own miserable lives? Nevertheless, Emylene greeted him with a cheery hello.
"Hey there. The picture in the window, the one with the tree? How much?" she asked.
"It’s not for you," he replied with a trace of a European accent.
"How do you know? Maybe it is."
"Why? Why would you want it?"
"I dunno exactly," replied Emylene. "It just kinda speaks to me."
"Really. And what does it say?"
"It says… 'I'm lonely, I need a friend, a nice place to live.' So, how much?"
The storeowner stared at Emylene at first with curiosity, and then with disdain. "A million dollars," he replied. "You got a million dollars? If not, don't waste my time."
Emylene offered her prettiest smile while she lifted the picture from the floor and eyeballed it like an appraiser from Sotheby's. There was nothing particularly creative about it. Artistically speaking, the scale was tipping more towards 'garbage' than 'antique.'
"I don't have that much, but I'll give you a hundred," she offered.
"You really want it? Tell you what. You come back here tomorrow…”
Emylene knew what was coming next.
"…dressed from head to toe in white. You wipe all that black polish off your nails and the paint off your face, and you come here dressed like…"
"…like a little lady?" asked Emylene.
"Yes, like that, and she's yours."
Emylene put the picture down where she found it.
"See you tomorrow then," she sang as she left the shop.
Although she had never met this man before Emylene knew him all too well. Her parents had taught her early on that whenever people were confronted with something odd or strange, they generally went into "fear mode." This man was afraid of something and desperate to keep control of his domain. To do that, he needed to demystify Emylene by degrading and shaming her into showing that beneath all the make-up and the gear, that she was as dull and ordinary as he was. Emylene needed to show him that she was a grown-up, and no one was going to push her around. Both were in for a shock.
The next day Emylene returned to the store as requested, wearing the only white dress she owned and treasured—an exact replica of the bridal gown Miss Lucy was buried in, after Dracula turned her into a vampyre. When Emylene stepped across the threshold of the store, she looked more frightening than she did in anything she had worn in black, and the look on the store owner's face instantly faded to the same pallor of white as the dress. As Emylene approached him she slowly opened her hand.
The owner drew back, fully expecting to find a beating heart pumping away in her little palm. Instead there were five twenties. He hesitated a moment, wondering whether to deny her the purchase and shoo her out, but instead, he scooped up the bills. Emylene took the picture and exited the store. Not a word was said between the two. After she left, the owner crossed himself, and then oddly, tears began to roll from his eyes.
When Emylene returned to her apartment, she looked around for just the right place to hang the sketch. There really was only one place for it. A nail went into the plaster with two bangs of a hammer and the picture was hung upon the wall opposite the main door of the apartment so that it would be the first thing she'd see upon entering, and the last thing upon leaving.
That done, Emylene took a moment to appreciate her new acquisition. Ignoring the slap-dash method with which the simple brush strokes were applied, she concentrated on the basic elements of the scene—a rickety wooden fence that zigzagged all the way back to a line of trees in the distant horizon. A few wavy strokes indicating a blanket of unblemished snow, and of course, the lone Cyprus that commanded center stage. So simpatico did she feel to the tree that, for a moment, Emylene fancied the artist must have had her in mind when he drew it—two lone entities against the world. That was all and yet, there seemed more although she couldn't put her finger on what, exactly. Perhaps it was in the hastily drawn strokes that she had all but ignored until now. What was the artist's intention? Was it just plain laziness or was there a sense of urgency? But then, because even Goths get hungry, Emylene stripped off Miss Lucy's bridal gown and bounced downstairs to grab a sub.
It was 8:15 when she returned. When her world changed. When the glorious mystery of the picture began to reveal itself. When she gazed upon her new treasure and noticed for the first time footprints in the snow that were not there before.
Creative! Imaginative! Clever and intense! Perverse by Larry Rodness has what it takes to be called all of that and more! Have you ever heard of a second generation Goth? That idea alone had me! Emylene Stipe is a Goth Princess, daughter to the `royalty' of the Toronto Goths. Her Goth society prominent parents held sway over the city from their Goth club. Little did Emylene know that her world was going to shift into another dimension when she purchased an old sketch that seemed to call to her, there was NO way the picture was changing or moving, right? And what is it about the strange old shopkeeper who sold her the sketch? After bizarre things begin to happen, Emylene knows there is something about the picture that transcends the world as she knows it. The shop keeper, Lazlo, tells her of a curse that only she can break, and it involves the sketch. Laszlo and Emylene must team up to help save Toronto from the chaos that has been unleashed upon it. But can she trust him? What if things don't go right?
Full of fantasy and darkly intriguing, Perverse is a fresh escape from reality into a world that Larry Rodness has brought forth with vivid details, a little humor and a lot of eerie moments. His ability to hold my attention throughout is to be commended as he deftly drew his characters and unfolded his plot, creating twists and turns that rival the best mazes. Great YA reading with a dash of mystery, fantasy, and a strong heroine who you can't help but love, right down to her black nail polish!
Interview with the Author
Hi Larry, thanks for joining me today to discuss your latest book, Perverse.
Which writers have influenced you the most? None have really influenced me in my writing because it all comes from within. However I do admire the following writers and their works: John Irving, Robin Cook, Robert Ludlum, Edgar Allan Poe.
What age group do you recommend your book for? Those who would be most interested in this novel would be from ages 15 to 30 interested in the paranormal.
What sparked the idea for this book? I noticed a picture a rather dull landscape in an antique store one day and wondered what would happen if I glanced at the picture a second time and saw footprints in the snow that were not there before. Who would have made them, what would she be doing there? Then my imagination took over.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel? Generally the idea comes first for me and then the characters begin to write themselves according to the predicaments they find themselves in.
What was the hardest part to write in this book? The genesis or the idea, and the first third of the story came easily enough. I had to put it down for about 6 months because I was not sure where to take the story (or where it was taking me). However, after returning from a trip to Europe and becoming fascinated by the history of the cities my wife and I visited the rest of the story quickly fell into place.
How do you hope this book affects its readers? I hope the reader will walk away having enjoyed an unexpected journey. My favorite response from readers is that there were twists and turns they never expected.
How long did it take you to write this book? All in all, about 5 years but that’s because I could not devote myself entirely to writing. Life got in the way and I had to make a living.
What is your writing routine? I travel every week so I tend to think about ideas when I drive during the day and write in my hotel room during the evenings. My wife and I have a rule that I do not write when I’m home.
How did you get your book published? This is my 2nd published novel. Naturally I went to my original publisher with my second book who accepted it but his editor quit on him mid way through the assignment for unrelated reasons. The publisher could not find another editor and after 2 months I asked to be released. After that I scoured the various writing sites for another publisher, got several bites, and decided to go with Itoh Press.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer? Work with a group of peers and accept their criticism with a healthy attitude. Write the best script you can, and by that I mean, do not send anything out knowing you could or should fix something at a later date because this is the version you will be judged on when you send it to publishers. Go to sites like Preditors and Editors and send query emails to the ones who are looking for your kind of story. If you are fortunate enough to get a response, read their request carefully and send them exactly what they want. Then hold your breath for 2-3 months.
What do you like to do when you're not writing? I have a couple of businesses I run because you can’t expect to make a living at writing - at least not in the beginning. I have also appreciated that every experience can be a source of inspiration at a later date, no matter what business you are in. Just being around people every day gives you opportunities to develop characters you may use later. Physical workouts are also a great way of adding fuel to your life and energy.
What does your family think of your writing? They are supportive but I’ve learned that the writing process can also be detrimental to family life because of all the time a writer must live within himself. It took me a long time to strike a balance so that one aspect of my life did not infringe on another.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was born in Toronto, Canada back in the 50’s. In the early 60’s my family moved to Los Angeles to seek a better life. It turned out to be the worst decision we made. Three years later we returned to Toronto where I have lived, married and raised 3 children with my wife. My first novel, Today I Am A Man was written as a way to work through that traumatic time in L.A.
Did you enjoy school? My younger years were filled with being bullied. When I turned 15 and started high school I decided to make a change with myself. I took up wrestling and Judo, began singing in bands and acting in local theatre which developed the confidence I needed to stop being a target.
Did you like reading when you were a child? No. I did however realize that I enjoyed school exams that allowed me to write creatively. Math and science were never my strong suits.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I was given an assignment in a university English course and got a failing grade. My professor suggested I could either rewrite the essay or write something original that would express the assignment I was given. I ended up writing a story and received a B+. That was it for me.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing? For the past 20 years or so I have written musicals, screenplays and novels. The genesis of the ideas generally comes to me as a “What if...” scenario. I can be walking down the street and witness an incident. My mind quickly suggests, “What if this happened next? ” So the present time is as rich as I need to find inspiration.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say? I hear from readers in the form of reviews they post after reading my work which is generally very gratifying for any writer. Some find me on Facebook. But they are travelers on their own journeys. We meet at the corner of “When I write and they read”, spend a little time together, after which they’re onto the next book, the next story, the next adventure.
What can we look forward to from you in the future? I am working on two different stories currently. The first is a ghost story set in a small village outside of Toronto. The second is a story of 6 friends and their families who get involved in a pyramid scheme as a last ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy.
Thank you for your time, Larry. I wish you every success in your future writing endeavors.
About the Author
Larry Rodness began his professional career as a singer at the age of 19 working with various bands around Toronto. After studying musical theatre Larry worked in summer stock where his love of writing began. From that point on he wrote for dinner theatre, trade shows, and even ice skating shows. To date he has written over 10 screenplays and has had 3 optioned. Today I Am A Man is his first novel, a fiction based on his early experiences about his family who moved from Toronto to Los Angeles in the 60's. His newest novel is entitled Perverse, a supernatural young adult novel about a 19-year-old second generation Goth princess named Emylene Stipe. It was released December 2012.