Sonia Fogal: Interview with the Author of "Blood Related" - William Cook
William Cook, author of the great "Blood Related" was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about his book, horror, and the writing experience. He had some fascinating answers. Enjoy!
1. Well I guess I have to ask the question at the top of my mind first. I
loved "Blood Related", I thought it was a fascinating read. It is
very graphic and very violent so I must ask about where all that came from. I'm
assuming you aren't a serial killer so you must have done a great deal of
research. Wondering about where you went for that research.
I don’t know why but I’ve had a fascination with the darker side of humanity
ever since I was a teenager. I am a huge Horror fan; movies, books, art,
theory. I’d say that this obsession comes from the same source. In fact if I
hadn’t channeled my predilection for darkness into the writing of Horror I
would hate to think where it would’ve taken me otherwise! ‘Blood Related’ is a
story about a family of serial killers, each with varying degrees of
psychopathology. The two central characters are twin brothers, one who is of
the psychotic variety and the other a more organized and cunning psychopath,
and yes there is a difference. I researched as much about abnormal psychology
as I did about serial killers and their methods and characteristics.
serial killers are basically psychopathic, of reasonable intelligence, appear
normal when occasion calls, and so on. And of course this is one of many
aspects to a complex and evolving criminal psychology. I read both fiction and
non-fictional accounts of these fiendish characters in order to get inside the
mind of these killers. I’m not sure if I’d write another first-person narrative
from a serial killer’s perspective; at times it was quite harrowing and
disturbing to envisage the kind of thought processes these people operate with.
2. Now I don't condone the actions of serial killers in any way but one
thing I liked about "Blood Related" is that we got in the head of the
killer. We learned about his childhood and the horrors he witnessed that played
a part in him becoming the monster he became. He actually seemed to care about
a couple of people. I actually felt bad for him sometimes because in a sense he
was a victim too. As with the plot, I wondered where this came from. Was this
from research or was it you considering what may go into the creation of a
What a lot of people don’t realize is that these freaks of nature are
capable of portraying human emotion and on the surface probably appear more
normal than Joe-average. One of the basic tenets of writing good characters is
that the reader must be sympathetic to at least some aspect of the protagonist
as a fellow human being. It is because of these two factors that Caleb the main
character does have a sensitive side and has had a crummy upbringing. Nature vs
nurture is an old debate when it comes to the development of criminal behavior
and I would have to say from my research I believe that given the right circumstance
everyone is capable of murder. Sounds shocking but when you really think about
it, there are certain things that would drive the most placid of us to react
with violence, e.g. the murder/assault of a loved one, perceived injustice,
road rage, protection of children/family members, self defense and so on. So
just because Caleb has had a crappy abusive childhood and is also genetically
predisposed to mental illness because of his lineage (coming from three
generations of murderous kin), does not necessarily make him a serial killer.
There are plenty of people with the same experience and familial history who
don’t turn into killers. But with Caleb I wanted to show how his thinking is
twisted and trace the source of his urge to kill. Hopefully by the end of the
book the reader will be asking the same questions and have a more in-depth
understanding of the motives behind this kind of criminal behavior. If we can
have some understanding about how these people operate, hopefully it in turns
gives us a greater sense of our own nature. But essentially, I am trying to
scare the hell out of my readers while stimulating the morbid curiosity inside
most of us by presenting a complex fictional character, slightly distanced from
reality (because he is fictional), that people feel safe enough to analyze in
the comfort of their own homes.
3. Am I crazy to enjoy a book so graphic and violent? If I am then many
people are. I think there are a lot of reasons people enjoy this kind of story.
What are your thoughts?
Have you ever slowed down to rubber-neck at a car accident? I think most of
us have. There is a reason why the news on television streams hours of violent
imagery from across the world. 80-90% of most news broadcasts focus on negative
events; war, murder, serial killers, accidents, death, etc. It is seldom that
we see positive stories on the news and this is because the general audience
laps up this kind of media side-show. I think it was Thomas Hobbes who said
something like “war [violence] is the essential nature of [hu]mankind,” and as
I said earlier I tend to agree – especially in the male of our species. I won’t
get into the gender difference/similarities on this topic as it is a whole
discussion in itself filled with interesting facts and potentialities. But in
answer to your question, no you are not crazy. People enjoyed being scared and
confronting death from a safe perspective. Someone said that we spend our whole
lives preparing for death and this may well be why we pursue horror in
literature (in all genres). If we can confront death from a distance and
survive, in a way this affirms life, but for some of us (like the characters in
Blood Related) it also serves to hasten that realization to its ultimate
4. Did you enjoy writing this book or was it difficult? What did you like
the most and what was the most difficult part?
I enjoyed parts of it but found it difficult to write due to the subject
matter. I love creating worlds as I did with this story in the form of
‘Portvale’, a fictitious industrial city within a larger metropolis. I also
created the small rural town of ‘Repose’ which was fun to populate and
landscape. So I guess that the most difficult part was placing myself in the
mind of a seriously disturbed serial killer. The most enjoyable aspect was the
sense of completion I felt when I had achieved one of my life goals – writing a
5. How long did it take you to write "Blood Related"?
Blood Related took nearly six years to write. I really did do a lot of
research and possibly got bogged down in that side of things, hence the
extended period of writing. The novel evolved from a shorter work titled ‘The
Eternal Now’ and took on a life of its own. I wrote a lot of it as I sat on the
train on my way to and from work, scribbling frantically in my notebook. In the
end one notebook grew to ten and the outline turned into a solid novel-length
manuscript. After many edits and changes it finally reached a presentable level
and I started subbing it around to traditional publishers in New Zealand with
no success. I write in an American style/vernacular so the obvious choice was
to look to the US for a publisher. I subbed the manuscript to three different
publishers including my current publisher and received three offers to publish.
I originally chose Angelic Knight Press as they were the first to come to the
party, and in retrospect my decision was probably a bit of a hasty one, because
the day I signed the contract I received two others one of which was my
preferred choice, Black Bed Sheet Books. Things were amicable enough with AKP
and I was one of their ‘flagship’ writers as they were just starting off and
thank them for taking a chance on a previously unpublished novelist. Nick
Grabowsky from BBSB left his offer open and when my contract term had finished
with AKP and no new contract was forthcoming I happily accepted Nick’s offer to
publish and here we are. The new edition is a lot tighter and the formatting is
professionally done and I’m really happy to be with BBSB who are also publishing
the sequel ‘Blood Trail.’
6. I have seen on a couple of places on the internet that there will be a
sequel! Got a title yet? Any idea when it will be available?
As mentioned above, the sequel is titled ‘Blood Trail’ and should be
available sometime later on this year from BBSB. I am halfway complete and am
aiming for a June wrap for the completion of the sequel. It will be quite
different from the first book, in that the perspective has shifted from a
person account by the killer to a focus on Ray Truman, the troubled
investigator who is trying to bring down the Cunningham clan. The following is
an excerpt from the sequel:
I looked and I observed. When I turned away, I looked some more. And I continued looking, into the night, into my dreams, into my waking hours. The vision of Jean-Marie Palliser, lying there, and there also, and there, and up on the shelf there, and
slowly charring on the glowing element. Pieces of Jean-Marie scattered like roadkill across the kitchenette, in the room at the lodging house. I put her back together in my mind with one exception. Her head to the lower portion of her neck was gone; a conspicuous absence if ever there was one. I coughed and lit a cigarette to rid me of the stench of warm blood and other bodily fluids.
He had killed her right there in the kitchenette. She was nude with no sign of restraint visible, on the clear parts of her pale flesh. Blood still dripped from the bench, a shiny black pool of blood looking like an expanding hole in the linoleum.
I guessed that’s where the fucker had rested the head, on the bench, while he finished playing with the rest of the dead broad’s young body. I had to push the image of her away and it wouldn’t budge. I felt a nauseous growing horror creep up my body like a bad trip. I was shit-scared for the first time in my professional career as a cop.
I heard movement in the hallway outside the kitchen area. I ducked to the ground, scanning the room as I snapped the snubnose from my ankle holster.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! My chest heaved, as the backdoor slammed shut, I had just missed him.
I sprang from the bloodied floor, pain exploding up the length of my spine, and burst out the swinging screendoor at the rear of the building. I busted my face pretty good on the side of a head-high clothesline as I ran across the back yard. I went down hard, my face pissing blood like a geyser, and fired from the ground two quick shots at the back of a black-hooded figure bursting through the hedge. I glimpsed a woman’s decapitated head, bobbing by his side, the long bloodied hair gripped in the clenched fist of Caleb Cunningham, as he disappeared away into the black night.
I lay there breathless, the pain in my lower back unbearable so that I couldn’t even feel the gushing wound in my cheek. And then I ended up back in hospital, lying in that damned same bed in a cast from armpit to knee, thinking of Jean-Marie Palliser, as if one might think of a jigsaw puzzle missing a few pieces. Laying there in that stark white hospital room, I started thinking of all the ways I wanted to kill Caleb Cunningham. The blank dead eyes bored into my memory, like two pits of oil, where the fires of hell slowly smoldered. This was the second time I had caught up with Cunningham and I was flat on my back, mortally injured once again. This time I would have to wear a back brace permanently and be consigned to light duties. I was fucked if I was gonna be a desk jockey. The drugs they started giving me did their job and I knew I could get a continuous supply if I needed one. It took time and a lot of thinking and planning and expectation. I firmly believed towards the end of my stay at the hospital, that Cunningham was watching me, plotting against me in a similar fashion. And then Caleb’s ex-shrink, Dr Morrison, walked in and I forget all about Jean-Marie Palliser and Caleb Cunningham, for a few minutes.