While it wasn’t quite up my alley, Matthew Warner’s Cursed by Christ book seemed intriguing enough that I had to pick the author’s brain about it. Maybe you’ll find yourself interested in my stead.
ABOUT THE BOOK
CURSED . . .
Living at her family’s rice plantation, Alice Wharton learns some disturbing news from her mother: their bloodline has been cursed. Jesus Christ punishes them for having psychic powers allegedly stolen from a Heavenly angel. He exacts penance in the form of the mother’s adulterous “communion” trysts with their reverend.
FORGOTTEN . . .
Escaping from the predatory reverend, Alice marries Major Thorne Norwick at his Georgian cotton plantation. She also meets the slave cooks, Jonah and Eliza, who show her how to telepathically eject troubling memories. When Thorne returns from fighting in the War of Northern Aggression, Alice uses this skill to hide from herself the devastating revelation that her husband now seems to serve Christ. After all, he aids a secret society—the Ku Klux Klan—that uses the symbols of her tormentor.
Everywhere she looks, the specter of Christ stands in judgment. What’s more, a mysterious presence stalks her, its mind echoing with thoughts that feel all too familiar. When it reaches her, there will be hell to pay.
First of all, how would you categorize the genre or genres that this book fits under?
Cursed by Christ is a Southern gothic horror novel for an adult audience. It’s also historical since it takes place during 1860-1868.
Historical novels require an immense amount of research. What’s the coolest thing you learned, whether or not the detail made it into the book?
Plantation families would save a lock of hair from a deceased family member and weave it into an ornament containing hair from other deceased family members. It was a really cool — but gross — tradition I kind of wish everyone still did. There’s a scene where my main character, Alice, is tasked with weaving in her father’s hair on the day of his funeral, but she’s unable emotionally to handle it.
As a man living in modern day, how did you approach writing from the perspective of a woman living in the 1800s?
There are some wonderful Civil War diaries by Cornelia Peake McDonald and Sarah Morgan that proved essential. By getting into the heads of actual women from that time, I was better able to portray Alice realistically.
From the back cover description, it would be easy to assign a lot of troubling and stereotypical tropes to your novel. How did you avoid those pitfalls in your writing, and do you have any advice for other writers in that regard?
There are trope and stereotype pitfalls in any type of story telling, but they’re particularly present in genre fiction and especially in horror. So I always aspire to emotional honesty, to respect that my characters could be real people with the same wants and needs as I have. Taken together with the tenet that good stories show how people change — character arc — then it doesn’t matter if you occasionally lean on the crutch of stereotype.
Your lovely wife (*waves to Deena Warner*) produced the cover art for this book. What discussions did you two have to arrive at the final design?
Deena waves back! My first email to her listed the cover text and specs and this note about artwork: “Surprise me! I have no preference on medium, whether stock photography or whatever. To give you some ideas, below is the marketing copy.” She then presented me with a few sketches. We also had ongoing discussions about ideas the cover should communicate, such as the Civil War, Christianity, and horror, and what symbols those entailed. As the process continued, she periodically showed me finer-detailed comps so we could discuss typography and color, although I generally deferred to her judgment. Deena has posted some fascinating “Behind the Scenes” photo essays about her work on projects like these.
And finally, leave us with an excerpt that shows why interested readers should check out Cursed by Christ!
How about I give you an audio excerpt?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Warner is a writer in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. His most recent works include The Organ Donor: 15th Anniversary Edition from Bloodshot Books and Dominoes in Time from Cemetery Dance Publications, reprinting nearly 20 years of horror and science fiction stories. He lives with his wife, the artist Deena Warner, and sons, Owen and Thomas. More info at matthewwarner.com.