In one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons, the family go over a waterfall in Africa, and land in a giant carnivorous plant…which Homer promptly tears apart. And when Bart asks his father how he did this, Homer looks at him and replies, rather flatly, “It’s a flower.” Despite what Homer may think, though, some plants are dangerous, like the one in J. Lincoln Fenn’s new horror novel, The Nightmarchers (Kindle). In the following email interview, Fenn discusses the origins of this story, what influenced it, and who she’d like to see if it was made into a TV show.
I always like to start with a summary of the plot. So, what is The Nightmarchers about?
The Nightmarchers is the story of a woman on a mission to gather a flower with possibly world-changing properties from a remote and mysterious island. Seems straightforward. And then it goes on and odd and twisty path that makes her question her sanity, what the real mission is, and her real connection to the island.
Where did you get the original idea for The Nightmarchers, and how did the idea evolve as you wrote the book?
There’s a whole Frankenstein-patchwork of inspiration, much of it drawn from my time living in Hawaii. A strange mold that sprouted from the door and looked like tips of a hairbrush. The first time a gecko dropped its tail and I watched it writhe on the floor. The bombing of Kahoʻolawe that has made it uninhabitable, the leper colony on Molokai, the Monsanto farms hidden in the cane fields. The things that never make it into the tourist brochures.
J.D. Horn, writer of the Witching Savannah books, said that The Nightmarchers was, “…at the intersection of Annihilationand The Handmaid’s Tale.” Which makes it sound like a dystopian sci-fi novel. Is that how you see it?
There’s a definite dystopian, speculative fiction vibe, but honestly, I am terrible at coloring inside the lines when it comes to genre. If you put Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Island Of Dr. Moreau, The Ruins, and The Kettering Incident in a blender, you’d come close.
Now, I don’t know if Horn was referring to the novels Annihilation and The Handmaid’s Tale or the movie of the former and TV show of the latter, but either way, were either of those stories, whatever version, an influence on The Nightmarchers?
Both Annihilation and The Handmaid’s Tale feature strong women lead characters, like The Nightmarchers. Dominance is also a big theme, like The Handmaid’s Tale, and there’s a massive shift in the way nature operates like Annihilation, though in The Nightmarchers it’s because…well I don’t want to drop a spoiler. If you ever want to truly freak yourself out, read up on DARPA’s program for genetic remediation [which you can read here].
I’d add Lost to the listin the sense that the island itself is a main character, and the novel peels back of layers upon layers of story threads, history, and entanglement.
And this is my final question about influences, I promise: In your bio, it says you studied with one of my favorite poets, Charles Simic. Do you think his poetry — or really, anyone’s poetry — had an influence on any aspect of The Nightmarchers?
As a teacher, Simic gave us the freedom to experiment with imagery that was surreal and shocking. One poem that I wrote was based on a dream. I was in an elevator with a tiger, and when the doors opened, we were shot to death by soldiers with assault rifles. Pretty sure I got an “A” on that one. There are surreal, stream-of-consciousness scenes in each novel, and I can definitely credit that to his influence.
Now, as you know, novels in the vein of The Nightmarchers are not always stand-alone stories. Sometimes they’re the first in a series. What is The Nightmarchers; is it the first in a series or a self-contained story, and why is it whatever it is?
Right now it’s a stand-alone novel, but there’s definitely potential for more books. It just depends on how it does and what readers want. I promise though that the end won’t be Julia waking up to find that it’s all just been a dream.
Earlier we talked about the movies, TV shows, and video games that were an influence on The Nightmarchers. But has there been any interest in adapting The Nightmarchers into a movie, show, or game?
There’s always interest, although actually getting something produced is a long and twisty road. I think it’s best suited for a TV series. There’s a lot of history and storylines that could be excavated.
If The Nightmarchers was being made into a TV show, who would you like them to cast in the main roles?
Oh this is fun.
For Julia, I’m going to go with Emily Blunt [Edge Of Tomorrow], Ryan Reynolds [Deadpool 2] for Noah, Naomie Harris [Moonlight] as Beth, Timothee Chalamet [Lady Bird] as Isaac, Christopher Walken [Pulp Fiction] for the Reverend — let me dream big — and Helen Mirren [The Fate Of The Furious] as Aunt Liddy. We’ll probably need to get a Dubai prince on as a producer to afford all that, but we’ll give him a cameo.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Nightmarchers, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one as opposed to the other one?
There’s no hope there, because they’re each so different. If you like Supernatural or Buffy The Vampire Slayer you’ll probably like Poe, and if you’re into dark, full force grotesque horror with an equally dark wit, then you’d like Dead Souls. The ending on that one has caused readers to get literally ill and caused nightmares. For a horror writer, there is no higher compliment.