Exclusive Interview: “The Redemption Of Morgan Bright” Author Chris Panatier


We trust mental health professionals with our minds, and the minds of those we love. But if that trust is broken…

In Chris Panatier new psychological horror novel The Redemption Of Morgan Bright (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), a woman has more than just her trust broken, as he explains in the following email interview.

Chris Panatier The Redemption Of Morgan Bright

To start, what is The Redemption Of Morgan Bright about, and when and where is it set?

A woman has herself committed to a mental institution to find out why her sister died there.

It’s contemporary / near future, but undated. Hollyhock House (the “modern asylum”) is in the middle of nowhere, Nebraska.

Where did you get the idea for this story?

A lot of events conspired to bring the story together. There was something my daughter had said years ago that sparked my imagination. It will make little sense now, but she was four, and saw a giant blow-up Darth Vader with a candy cane light saber in someone’s yard and said, “Hey Dad, look: it’s the Christmas Witch.” That phrase, “Christmas Witch” was so evocative to me, I started thinking about how I might craft a story with that title. As you can see, that didn’t happen, but there is a character named Christmas in the story.

The other important factors in shaping the story were my research into 1950s “treatments” of women as well as the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and of course, my love of a good spooky gothic.

To get herself committed, Morgan creates a fake identity she names Charlotte, but then Charlotte’s fake person starts taking on a life of her own, and the book goes from just being from Morgan’s perspective to Charlotte’s as well. When in the process of writing The Redemption Of Morgan Bright did you come up with this idea, what made you think of it, and when did you realize this was the way to go?

I had initially set out to write it as a straight-ahead single POV. Morgan as Morgan and Morgan when she’s posing as Charlotte. That’s how I began drafting it.

I was probably 80 or 90 pages in when I realized that Charlotte was coming alive. Neither Morgan nor I were unable to quash her. It made for a much more twisty and engaging story.

The Redemption Of Morgan Bright is your third novel after Stringers and The Phlebotomist. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Morgan Bright but not on anything else you’ve written? Because it sounds like a very different kind of story.

This is yet another pivot for me, especially as concerns my novel writing. I’ve always steered toward horror in my short fiction, so I guess this was inevitable.

I’m a huge fan of Catriona Ward and specifically The Last House On Needless Street. It’s extremely twisty with reveal after reveal. I did a lot of that in Morgan Bright. I was already employing those moves back with Stringers, but now they’re less galactic and more intimate.

There’s always a little dose of weird Vandermeerian gunk in my work of late. I can’t shake his influence.

How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Because it kind of reminds me of that movie Shutter Island, and I didn’t even see it.

Ha! I’ve never seen Shutter Island either. However, others have already made the comparison, so let’s roll with it.

Other than my non-fiction research — Carol Warren’s Madwives, and a lot of video interviews with women diagnosed in the 1950s with “schizophrenia” — there aren’t any other non-literary influences I remember that I was conscious of while writing the story. I made every effort to make this story as singular and original as I could. So much of what you see inside was cut from my noodle’s deepest crevices.

The Redemption Of Morgan Bright sounds like a horror story, but of the psychological variety…

Yes, it’s certainly psychological horror.

But it’s more than that. Hollyhock House and the land it is built on aren’t right. There are supernatural elements at play, bigger than any one character in the story.

It also sounds like The Redemption Of Morgan Bright is a stand-alone story.

This book is absolutely a stand-alone.

Earlier I asked if The Redemption Of Morgan Bright had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think Morgan Bright could be adapted into a movie, a show, or a game?

It could be adapted into a show or film, yes. But the central format would have to change some. Right now, so much of what happens is in Morgan’s / Charlotte’s head. Plot-wise it would be easy to adapt. This would be the wrong story to gamify.

And if someone wanted to adapt The Redemption Of Morgan Bright into a movie or a show, who would you want them to cast as Morgan / Charlotte?

I love the gravitas of Florence Pugh [Don’t Worry Darling] and Sydney Sweeney [Immaculate], but they might be tough to get.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about The Redemption Of Morgan Bright?

It’s a book that’s doing a lot. There are sections of prose told from both Charlotte’s and Morgan’s POVs, transcripts, text messages, newspaper articles, and other bits of evidence. It’s all there for the reader to put together. I love books that challenge me as a reader, so that’s what I wrote.

Chris Panatier The Redemption Of Morgan Bright

Finally, if someone enjoys The Redemption of Morgan Bright, which of your other books would you suggest they read next, and why that one and not the other one?

Well, The Phlebotomist is horror adjacent, so it’s the easiest switch when it comes to genre. Structurally and intellectually, Morgan Bright more similar to Stringers — lots of big ideas and threads woven together as we follow a pair of stoners abducted by a bounty hunter.

That said, each of these books couldn’t be more different when it comes to tone and story. Want to think and laugh? Read Stringers. Want a near future dystopian where society is segregated by blood type and a grandmother main character? Read The Phlebotomist.



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