Interview with Chad Huskins, author of Psycho Save Us
Tell us about Psycho Save Us.
Psycho Save Us is a book I’ve been working on for quite some time, maybe even since high school. In a nutshell, two small black girls with a gift for telepathy are abducted off the streets of Atlanta by a ruthless ring of traffickers and internet child pornographers, and their only hope is making remote contact with a man named Spencer Pelletier, who is a career criminal recently escaped from Leavenworth Penitentiary, and who for mysterious reasons can detect their telepathic link.
The inspiration comes from some true events. In high school, I saw a story about two young black girls that were abducted near Atlanta, and I remember hearing from black community leaders how blacks aren’t covered in the media nearly as much as whites when they go missing. In recent years, I’ve seen all of this on TV, we all have, and you can tell that it’s true, at least to some degree.
Couple that with my fascination with psychology and, perhaps one of the most controversial parts of psychology, the study of psychopaths. The story began to form in my head, and really crystallized when I read about this massive international internet child pornography ring that Interpol busted up about two years ago. The members were all over the globe—Germany, United States, Britain, parts of Asia, everywhere. It was vast, and what these people were doing defied imagination: for instance, the more they made children cry while being tortured and raped, the higher “rank” they got on their secret porn website, and thus their status was increased amongst the group and they had the “privilege” of accessing more videos of children being tortured. Truly horrific stuff, the kind of stuff you don’t read about anywhere in any fiction.
I’m also attracted to discussions about good and evil, the real discussions that matter, that dissect and analyze, and I thought, “If psychopaths are real, and one believed in God, then wouldn’t one have to believe that even psychopaths were a part of God’s plan?” The implications of that are actually quite terrifying, if you think about it.
All of these elements were kind of swirling around in my head, like ingredients looking for a pot to jump in. So, I combined them, and Psycho Save Us was the result.
What genre is it?
It’s kind of hard to pin down; it’s definitely suspense-thriller, but with one supernatural element—the girls kidnapped in this book happen to possess a very mild form of telepathy—and there’s even some smatterings of horror.
What kind of readers will it appeal to?
I think the kind of readers who like my stuff are those who are kind of tired of the standard stories—you know, there’s a brawny hero who’s solving some puzzle, there’s a woman somewhere in distress, sometimes the gender roles are reversed, but otherwise these two characters are destined to win and they serve as the love interests to each other. I understand that there is a reason that these clichés exist, they are the “tried and true” methods, but I’m the kind of guy who likes to see what happens if you suddenly were to kill off the main character, a la Game of Thrones, or if there was no love interest in the movie at all, only ruthless people after money, a la The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Complete this sentence for us: If you like __________, you’ll love Psycho Save Us.
Tell us a bit more about Spencer Pelletier. He sounds intriguing. How do you expect your readers to react to him?
Well, Spencer is a walking contradiction and he knows it. In fact, he embraces it. He’s not brilliant in the classical sense, he’s more intuitive and able to read people. It’s because of his psychopathy that he’s so emotionally detached from the outcome that he doesn’t really sweat it if he gets caught, which means he takes far more chances than any normal person would, even a normal criminal.
So far, readers have reacted by telling me things like, “Jesus Christ, where did you dream this guy up from?”
Spencer is really a composite of people I met in my later teenage years, people that were into drugs (even though I wasn’t) and thought it would be cool to live like Scarface someday, and acted big and tough, but every so often you’d see this one guy in that “world” that wasn’t acting so tough, he was just crazy. He didn’t belong to any Mafia or the Bloods or the Crips, he was just crazy and everybody in that part of town knew it. A true rogue, an outlander that nobody wanted to invite to their home, but also didn’t want to refuse a favor to.
You don’t flinch from portraying brutality in your book. Was this important in creating the world your story is set in?
I think the duty of every writer is to present the reality of something, whether it’s war or rape or torture, and then leave it up to your readers whether or not they want to look away. It’s very important to be honest, and not dance around the truth by using evasive language. There’s a time and place for beautiful verbiage, but you also have to know when to cut to the point. Sometimes, cutting to the point is seen by many as being “blunt” and “horrific.” I prefer to say, “I’m just telling it like it is.”
And yes, the world that I’ve created is definitely one much darker than readers of this sort of genre are probably used to, but like a lot of writers, I’ve always written the kind of books that I wish somebody else was writing so I could read them. So, I just wrote it myself. I believe that’s something I heard George R.R. Martin say about his Song of Ice and Fire series, and that’s why you can see such originality.
Writing a book is never easy, but other than that, what has been the toughest part – editing or marketing?
Marketing. Definitely marketing. So many new authors hit the stands or have their indie books put as Amazon digital books every day, and you’re just one more in the pile. In a way, it’s great for readers—digital downloads are cheaper, and you don’t have to leave the house to pick up the next in a series if you just finished the last in that series—but it also means the internet has been flooded with newbies, and we’re all just learning to swim.
You pretty much have to tackle it with a three-pronged social media approach: blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. Other things like LinkedIn, DeviantART and Google+ are also well and good, but those three seem to be the ones that I hear all publishers asking about when trying to get the word out about you.
I’ve gone a few ways with it all, with a small publishing company, to independent publishing, to paid work for magazines, and the hardest thing is getting anyone to notice you. But if you keep trying, you see momentum building, a small fanbase becomes a medium-sized fanbase, and perhaps over time…who knows?
Psycho Save Us has a beautifully haunting cover. Is there a story behind it? How do you go about communicating your vision to the designer?
Axel Torvenius is my cover artist. He’s a Swedish artist and he’s the head of the art department for a video company in Sweden, and recently he’s gotten work with Marvel Comics. Basically, I found him on YouTube showing some of his work, I found his Facebook page and messaged him, and a month later he got back with me and I started communicating with him.
I told Axel about the story, and without even reading it he came up with a few concept pieces. We went back and forth on a few small items, but in the end we got the dark look that we wanted. I love his work because it’s rugged, dark, brooding and very much emotional. It’s not just slapped together, a lot of thought goes into his pieces. I’ve worked with him on my next THREE novels, one of which is set to come out in six months.
Axel is amazing! And, by the way, he’s always open for work if you’re willing to pay. He’s worth it.
You write fan fiction. What kind?
For practice, whenever I need some time to sit and think on my next project but maybe I’m still doing the research, I like to approach characters that are already established, that I don’t have to create myself but I can create a new adventure for them. For instance, I’ve written an ENTIRE TRILOGY of Batman that I call the “City of Fiends” saga, which more or less takes places in Christopher Nolan’s “universe” of the Batman and introduces the Riddler, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and the Mad Hatter. I had fun inventing new riddles for the Riddler (since, in this day and age, Batman could just look up the answers online), and I took care to make sure they all made sense. I made the Riddler an expert at cryptography, and became interested in that for a while to make him more believable.
We hear that your day job sometimes brings you into contact with celebrities. Care to name-drop?
You probably wouldn’t know most of them, they are the stars of shows like Love and Hip-Hop, which takes places here in Atlanta. Though I have worked with the bodyguards of Tom Cruise and Robert Redford, so maybe someday soon I’ll get to protect them on a job.
Tell us a bit more about yourself.
I’ve been writing since I was fifteen years old. I became interested in martial arts when I first saw Jackie Chan when I was, like, thirteen. When I turned nineteen and was officially out of the house, I immediately began searching for martial arts schools. I’ve been studying for about twelve years now, and I’m a second-degree black belt in both jeet kune do (a style invented by Bruce Lee) and Filipino kali, which is a weapons art that you see Matt Damon using in the Jason Bourne movies, as well as kung fu. I also actively train in muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
What’s the best place for readers to keep up with your work?
My websites are www.forestofideas.com and the upcoming www.chadhuskins.com, and you can find me on Facebook and Twitter (@ChadRyanHuskins), and follow my blog “Realm of Ideas” at www.bloggersaveus.blogspot.com.
Where can we buy Psycho Save Us?
Two novels. One is a fantasy high seas adventure called Waves Crash and Seas Split, and the other is historical fiction set in feudal Japan called Shinobi Conspiracy at Izu Harbor. Both of which Axel did the covers for, by the way!
Enjoyed this interview? Then check out our conversation with Shaun Allan.