Hi guys! To be honest, I have not read that many horror novels in my lifetime. The most recent one was The Lairdbalor by Kathleen Kaufman, and although I wish I had enjoyed that book much more than I actually did, I am really excited for The Gravedigger’s Son by Patrick Moody. I am actually ready to be scared to my bones! Today, I have the wonderful opportunity to interview the book’s amazing author, and I’ve certainly enjoyed writing his questions and reading his answers. I hope you have the chance to check out his novel!
About the Book
“A Digger must not refuse a request from the Dead.” —Rule Five of the Gravedigger’s Code
Ian Fossor is last in a long line of Gravediggers. It’s his family’s job to bury the dead and then, when Called by the dearly departed, to help settle the worries that linger beyond the grave so spirits can find peace in the Beyond.
But Ian doesn’t want to help the dead—he wants to be a Healer and help the living. Such a wish is, of course, selfish and impossible. Fossors are Gravediggers. So he reluctantly continues his training under the careful watch of his undead mentor, hoping every day that he’s never Called and carefully avoiding the path that leads into the forbidden woods bordering the cemetery.
Just as Ian’s friend, Fiona, convinces him to talk to his father, they’re lured into the woods by a risen corpse that doesn’t want to play by the rules. There, the two are captured by a coven of Weavers, dark magic witches who want only two thing—to escape the murky woods where they’ve been banished, and to raise the dead and shift the balance of power back to themselves.
Only Ian can stop them. With a little help from his friends. And his long-dead ancestors.
Equal parts spooky and melancholy, funny and heartfelt, The Gravedigger’s Son is a gorgeous debut that will long sit beside Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener.
1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
First, thanks so much for hosting me, Kester!
I love writing because I’ve always been a daydreamer. I’ve always had stories in my head, or at least little snippets of stories, thinking up fantastical places and people, heroes and villains, dangerous quests and spooky castles. Growing up, my mind was filled with “what ifs”. I think, in all honesty, that I never really grew out of playing make believe. I love writing because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be fulfilled creatively.
2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?
My favorite genres are fantasy and horror. Science Fiction is up there as well, and a bit of magical realism, too. I think the most impactful writer in my childhood was Robert Jordan. My father was a fan of his, and had his entire Wheel of Time series. I remember climbing up onto the bookshelves and staring at those incredible covers, completely spellbound. Aside from Goosebumps and Lloyd Alexander, I never really read for my age group. I jumped right into epic fantasy. Terry Brooks came next, followed by Peter S. Beagle and Ursula K. Leguinn.
Beagle has influenced me more than any other writer. I think The Innkeeper’s Song is the most beautiful fantasy ever written.
As for favorite books, ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King & Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury have always been close to my heart. Recent favorites include The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill and The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe. I’ve also really enjoyed a few short story collections by Kelly Link.
3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading. It seems my TBR pile gets bigger every time I turn around. I think it’s growing on its own! Maybe that’ll be my next book?
For me, writing isn’t really a job. It’s a passion. A need. I do have a full time job as a middle school custodian. It’s really great for my writing. Nice and quiet, with plenty of time to think. I write for one hour a day, on my lunch break. I feel that setting a time limit really helps. On my days off, I always tell myself, “Okay, lets get writing. You’ll get so much done!”…Until I turn on the tv or crack open a book. Having the structure of writing at work really helps. Otherwise, I get way too distracted.
4. Your MG debut novel The Gravedigger’s Son tells the tale of Ian Fossor, who feels conflicted between his desire to become a Healer and his family’s lineage as Gravediggers. As he is Called to help the soul of a young boy, he finds himself fighting against a group of witches bent on seeking revenge and power. Would you be a Gravedigger or a Healer? How do you explore the themes of life and death, good and evil, and following your dreams versus your family’s expectations in your novel?
That’s a tough one! Gravediggers and Healers both help people, but one helps the Living while the other helps the Dead. I think I’d like to be a Gravedigger, since they deal with a certain amount of magic and mysticism. Healing is noble, but I’d be too worried about messing something up. I was never too good in biology or anatomy class!
Exploring the concept of death can be tricky, especially when writing for a MG audience. In terms of religion, I kept everything utterly vague and set it in a fantasy realm. I also had to do it in a way that wasn’t too bleak (I hope), so I knew that I needed a lot of comic relief. That came in the form of Bertrum, Ian’s grumpy but loving undead tutor. And it comes later with Thatcher Moore, the skeleton who refuses to stay dead. One of the main struggles in Ian’s life is the fact that he lost his mother at a young age, and though he’s growing up in a family that has the power to speak to the Dead, he knows he’ll never be able to reach her…or so he thinks. I liked the idea of having something so important being just out of his reach. It makes for a melancholy character, but a sympathetic one. Ian knows that death is a serious business. There’s a big part of him that really despises the whole notion of it (which is probably true for most of us), but as the story progresses, he discovers that death is far from the end.
Good and evil was also something I wanted to explore, but I knew that I didn’t want to make it so black and white. In the story, Ian comes across a coven of Weavers, or dark magic witches. At first, they seem to be completely evil. Yet as the conflict reaches its climax, Ian realizes that their evil deeds are coming from a place of great pain, and in the case of the younger Weavers, a place of learned ignorance. I never like stories of completely flawless heroes vs. completely evil villains. That’s been done before, and I think it’s (thankfully) becoming a dying trope. Everyone has the capacity to be good and bad. There are a thousand shades of gray. You never know what might drive a good person to do something bad, or a bad person to do something good. We all handle things differently. I wanted to write about characters who struggle with righting past wrongs. Naturally, they all have a lot of emotional distress, their morality is clouded, and that heavy baggage can lead to some pretty drastic action.
5. Horror is not a very common genre found in Middle Grade fiction. What first sparked your love of the scary and the frightening, and what inspired you to write a spooky horror novel for young readers?
I think I grew up in a perfect time for horror geared towards a younger audience. R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps hit the stores when I was 6, and I ate those up. Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Eerie, Indiana were also on television, both of which made great Friday night viewing! Besides those, I grew up watching the old Universal Monsters. The Creature From the Black Lagoon was the first horror movie I saw, and it fueled my love of monsters. I actually got a chance to meet the actor who played the Creature, Ricou Browning, and I was completely star struck! In terms of horror as a genre, I think it’s great for middle grade. When we face our fears, that’s when we discover the hero inside of us. And what better way to face one’s fears than having to face down actual monsters, demons, and witches?
6. Since reading a horror novel and watching a horror movie are two very different experiences for those in the audience, what are some of the best ways to scare readers in a story? How can writers make even the bravest of readers tremble in fear with their hearts pounding and chills creeping down their spines? (I know I’m exaggerating this, especially since your book is intended for middle grade readers, haha.)
I think that watching something scary and reading something scary can be very similar, it’s just a matter of perspective. Usually when we’re watching a horror film, we follow one character (or a group) as they encounter terror after terror. We see them run. We hear them scream. We also see what’s lying in wait around the corner. It’s the actors, the writers, producers, special effects technicians, CGI artists and set designers all working together. We’re seeing the end result of a cast and crew of hundreds working together to create something that will hopefully scare us, or at least make us jump once or twice. In short, it’s a group effort.
But when we’re reading something scary, we are often in the mind of the person being terrified. We can see what they’re thinking. Smell what they smell and hear what they hear. We can feel what its like to step on the floorboards of that rickety old haunted house. Feel the prickles on the backs of our necks as we enter the cobweb covered tombs. The sense of dread and foreboding can be much more immediate, if the writer is talented enough to take us there. I think the best horror writers write their books cinematically. They are the directors, producers, set designers, and special effects department all wrapped into one.
7. The Gravedigger’s Son has many beautiful illustrations that greatly enhance Ian’s story. What was it like working with Graham Carter, your talented illustrator? How did the idea to include illustrations throughout the book come into fruition?
Thank you! I was so honored that Graham agreed to illustrate the book, and I think he did a fantastic job. He really captured the essence of the world. Sadly, I can’t take credit for any of it. It’s all thanks to my brilliant editor, Alison Weiss at Sky Pony Press. When she brought up the idea to include illustrations, I was thrilled. I love illustrated books. I think all books should have at least a couple thrown in. It just adds to the whole experience. Working with Graham was a blast. Since he’s across the pond in the U.K. and I’m in New England, we would send him the scenes we wanted illustrated, along with some notes, and he would send us back a few samples. Honestly, I loved everything he sent us. One day I’ll have to go over there and take him out for lunch!
8. Could you describe to us the world-building process you used to create a spooky fantasy world full of magic and darkness in your novel?
The idea for The Gravedigger’s Son came from two places. The first was an image that came to mind of a boy in a rowboat. He was wearing a black cloak, and had a sledgehammer propped up beside him. The boat was gliding across a silvery lake, towards a mausoleum bathed in moonlight. That image is still crystal clear in my mind. I didn’t know why he was going to the tomb, but I knew that there was a story in there, somewhere. I just needed to find it.
Once I had that scene, I began to think about the tomb. I wanted the boy to live in a strange, eerie world. The idea to have him live in a gigantic graveyard came from my own childhood. I grew up on a dead-end street that bordered a cemetery. The neighborhood kids would play there all the time. It was our hangout spot. Our playground. It might sound weird, but we loved it, there. I was always fascinated by it. The craftsmanship that went into the tombstones, the layout, the landscaping around it…it really did seem otherworldly. When I first started writing stories, I’d take a notebook and go write down names I read off the stones that I thought sounded cool.
We would play manhunt at night, or tell ghost stories. The funny thing was, none of us were ever scared to be there. We thought nothing of it. Maybe because we were so used to it. When I thought about that scene of the boy in the rowboat, I knew that I wanted him to live in a graveyard. I liked the idea of having him in a traditionally “spooky” place, but, like my friends and I, not think anything of it.
9. How would you “sort” your characters into Hogwarts houses
10. What or who gave you the biggest jump scare of your life, and what was your reaction like? Would you consider yourself easily scared or valiantly brave?
The biggest jump scare of my life came from Jaws. I remember watching it for the first time in Cape Cod, right before going to the beach. For the record, I do NOT recommend watching that before going for a dip. There was a scene where Hooper is exploring a sunken wreck, and as he’s swimming by a porthole, a body floats out (with a very loud musical sting) and startles him. It was such a quick scene, and not at all as famous as Quint’s speech or the actual shark attacks, but to this day I jump out of my seat every time.
11. What are you currently working on? Do you have any secrets that you would like to share about your upcoming stories?
I just finished a new novel, though sadly I can’t reveal the details just yet. But I will say that it’s spookier than The Gravedigger’s Son, and more action packed. So if you enjoyed Ian’s story, stay tuned!
12. Before you go, would you like to share any advice you have to any aspiring authors or writers reading this post right now?
For any aspiring writers out there, I would say read. Read anything you can. Visit the library and spend a day wandering between the shelves. Explore new genres. You may find a whole new world waiting for you. Or you may hate it, and if that’s the case, you can say you tried it and it wasn’t for you. But I guarantee you’ll get something out of it. Research history, mythology, astronomy, or whatever topics you can think of. Go down Wikipedia and Youtube rabbit holes. The more knowledge you soak up, the richer your own worlds will become, both real and imaginary. You’ll have more tools with which to build your stories. You never know what little factoid might pop up during the course of your writing and brainstorming, and it might just be the thing that makes your story that much more detailed.
Thanks so much, Patrick, for coming onto the blog! It’s so great having you!
About the Author
When he was six years old, Patrick Moody saw The Creature From the Black Lagoon on late-night television, which sparked a life long love of all things horror, fantasy, and science fiction. He also grew up next to a graveyard, which probably helped.
Patrick is the author of numerous short stories, ranging from adult horror to Middle Grade fantasy. His work has appeared in several journals and magazines, and a few have been adapted into audio dramas.
His first novel, The Gravedigger’s Son, illustrated by Graham Carter, will be available August 1, 2017 from Sky Pony Press.
Patrick lives in Connecticut with his girlfriend and their mischievous coven of cats.
When he’s not thinking about zombies, witches, werewolves, and wizards, he’s writing about them.
Have you read The Gravedigger’s Son? Do you like MG horror novels?
Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!