Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Inhuman! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Eric Leland: During a class for my MA, I wrote a 25-page short story titled "Recon Team: Mercury." That story was shortened to five pages and is now the prologue to Inhuman. For a NaNoWriMo idea, I thought it would be interesting to see what happened when the rescuers came looking for the team that disappeared in my original short story. Inhuman is the result.
About the book:
It is 1969. Somewhere over South Vietnam, Captain Brandon Doran sits aboard an unmarked aircraft on final approach to a Top Secret military base. A shadowy government operative is offering him a deal. Brandon is listening. Intently. In exchange for wiping away Brandon's tarnished military record, all Brandon will have to do is ensure the recon team, to which he is about to be assigned, follows orders. Easy enough. Or so Brandon thought.
Sergeant First Class John Nicholas has no time to be salty about the inexperienced officer sent to babysit him and his team; Recon Team Florida has gone missing near a remote village in the north. Now John, with Brandon and the mysterious "Smith" in tow, leads the elite Recon Team New York deep into North Vietnam on a rescue operation. At first, John expects heavy resistance. But intercepted radio traffic suggests something near that village has spooked even hardened NVA. And soon after New York's midnight insertion behind enemy lines, John finds out what.
Confronted in the night by a merciless demon, John reacts the way any soldier would: he shoots it. But John discovers, far too late, pulling the trigger is the worst mistake he can make.
Flung headlong into atrocity and supernatural chaos, New York's surviving members discover an unexpected ally in Jaran, a young novice in the old magic of her ancestors. She is the only defense New York has against this powerful evil. But to use her magic, she must pay a cruel price.
Now, with a ruthless NVA hunter-killer team on New York's trail, and an ancient evil lurking in the dark periphery, it dawns on this handful of survivors that escape has a brutal price. And to pay it, New York must become as inhuman as their demonic pursuer.
BD: The novel deftly combines military suspense and supernatural horror. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
EL: To find the right tone of the story, I consumed everything about the Vietnam War that I could. Fiction, non-fiction, documentaries. Not just from the perspective of American troops, but from journalists, civilians, and even PAVN and Viet Cong troops. To name a few sources: Matterhorn by Karl Malantes, The 13th Valley by John Del Vecchio, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy by Max Hastings, the documentary An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story. A common thread throughout these stories was an unnerving eeriness about the jungle, almost to the point where the landscape became a living thing.
I was also unfortunate enough to be able to draw from my own experiences of extreme stress combined with sleep deprivation, a weird state where things can be both true and untrue. I always felt safe when I read the H.P. Lovecraft stories in which characters couldn’t trust their own minds. Maybe I was just confident that madness was this abstract thing that couldn’t touch me. I felt safe right up until a time where, in the dark, in some other country, I held an entire conversation with a friend, only to blink and realize he was never there. In Inhuman, I suppose I wove the military suspense and the supernatural horror together with a thread of madness; by making things simultaneously true for one character while also untrue for another, and by never letting on who was right… because can we ever really be sure?
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Brandon’s’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
EL: It’s my belief that readers come to fiction looking for truth, and the #StoriesMatter initiative reaffirms my belief. I think Brandon’s story is one that will connect with people who think they are broken in some way. At some point in our lives, we will all do things we regret, or things that disappoint the ones we love. We will hurt people. We will want to hurt people. People who realized they were wrong, people who regret the things they’ve done, these are the people who will connect with Brandon. Brandon’s story, for me, was important to share because of all the veterans I see struggling with their own demons. In Brandon, they might see themselves. And through his story, they might discover their own way to escape their pain.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the novel into subsequent books or even into other entertainment mediums, if given the opportunity?
EL: As far as other mediums: I’m a writer. That’s all I want to do, and that’s what I’m most happy doing. But just because I’m not actively seeking out comic or graphic novel artists to collaborate with doesn’t mean I’m opposed to the idea. If there’s an artist out there who loves the book, well, I’m easy to get ahold of. Same thing goes for indie filmmakers. I’m not sure how Inhuman would translate onto film, but if someone wants to give it a go, like I said, I’m easy to get ahold of.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
EL: I am plotting a continuation of Inhuman; however, I think readers would resent a rushed sequel that merely capitalizes on Inhuman’s success.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Inhuman?
EL: Inhuman is available on Amazon in both print and digital.
Audiobook forthcoming Summer 2021.
To stay updated you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.