The following is an interview with writer L.C. Barlow regarding the upcoming release of her novel, Perish, from California Coldblood Books. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Barlow about the inspiration behind the novel, her creative process in bringing the story to life, what she hopes that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your novel, Perish, from California Coldblood Books! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
L.C. Barlow: Perish is the second novel of the Jack Harper Trilogy – a trilogy I have been working on for about six years. It will be released this October 13, 2020, and it is a continuation of Jack Harper’s story. Pivot – the first book of the trilogy – was released in October of 2019, and the last of the trilogy, Peak, will be released October 2021.
The first book, Pivot, is about a young girl named Jack Harper who is adopted by the leader of a cult, Cyrus Harper, and turned into an assassin against all who oppose him or blaspheme. As it turns out, Cyrus, the charismatic and maniacal mentor (think Charles Manson meets Lucifer from Supernatural), does indeed have extraordinary powers, as he claims. Half of them come from a creature he has locked in his basement, and the other half… well, you will have to read to find out.
Jack’s well-being is precarious in such an environment where ruthlessness is relentlessly required of her, and so she both curiously and desperately pursues the creature in the basement. When they finally meet, her world is turned upside down, as he offers her more than she could have ever expected―the possibility of escape and her own secret, magical power.
In Perish, the book continues Jack’s story beyond the cult. She travels to a different state to attempt to start her life anew, but she immediately begins receiving letters from children who are still trapped in Infinitum – Cyrus’s old following – the tendrils of which she realizes still exist all across the world. One tendril leads her to Patrick, a man who speaks of a contraption that “bleaches anything white.” Yet another tendril stretches beyond death.
Potential aid arrives from an unusual source when Jack encounters Jonathon Roth and his kill-for-hire outfit. Together, they hope to become an unstoppable force, but the truth is that Jack may be falling into her old acolyte ways, and Roth may have found in Jack the very thing that made Cyrus so powerful—his own magical being.
In terms of what inspired the story, during high school, a friend of mine was a Lutheran at that time, and she invited me to come to a special event her church was having, where an “ex-Satanist” came and spoke about her experiences to the youth group. I attended, and the experience was so strange. It was just such an eerie speech, an unsettling account of events, and it got me thinking and thinking and playing out scenarios again and again. It was an idea that didn’t leave me, even though the woman’s story was likely a fabrication (I suspect this was a “scared straight” attempt). This is what inspired the Jack Harper Trilogy.
BD: Given that Perish is book two of the Jack Harper trilogy, what can you share with us about your creative experience in returning to the universe and its characters for this follow-up story?
LCB: My experience with the two books is likely different than what it would be for most authors. Years ago, Pivot was originally self-published, and when I wrote the novel, I did so with the chapters alternating between past and present, with two plot lines that complemented one another. When I finally met up with several people who were willing to help me produce a more professional, publishable version of the novel, they helped me to significantly change, enhance, and build those different plotlines. When an agent took on the novel, he wanted me to separate the book into two books. At first, I declined, but as time went on, I realized that the book needed to be separated into two, that my agent was right, and I did so, taking the time to build up both Pivot and what would ultimately become Perish. There was no break between writing the first and second novel, and so the entirety simply felt like a continuance of the story.
That being said, I enjoy Perish in that it has a far less claustrophobic atmosphere than Pivot. Jack is no longer stuck in a singular house, but is rather out in the world, and I feel as though the novel capitalizes well on all the seeds I planted in the first novel. One reviewer on NetGalley recently said that all the great items in Pivot are taken up to notch 11 in Perish, and I definitely agree.
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 Perish’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
LCB: What a valuable endeavor! To answer this question, I need to describe the type of character Jack Harper is.
Since the above experience I described at my friend’s church, Jack Harper has been with me about sixteen years total. She has manifested in different ways, with slightly different desires and personality traits, but she has always been there. She started blond, as though that matters, and then transitioned to having black hair so dark it’s almost blue. She is the survivor of a traumatic situation, and she is cunning. My favorite thing about her is her genuineness in all things. Although she commits terrible acts, she is also fully genuine in doing them, and though she fits into a psychological horror type of villain at times, she is not necessarily a psychopath, as every psychopathic trait she has is a learned attribute, a second nature, rather than a choice. Each time she is given a choice, she chooses to step beyond this and become something else.
The redemptive lesson of this trilogy is that even a child who has been raised to kill, to erase the difference between good and evil, and right and wrong, nevertheless has inherent worth. The people in the lowest of places can grow or inherit miraculous abilities, sometimes sparked within them by strangers who see worth in that person no one else has. No matter the terrible things one has done, one can change one’s ways, and no matter the darkness that one commits, that does not prevent one from saving a life or many lives. This is a story worth telling – that angels are demons that are done with biting.
BD: What makes California Coldblood Books the perfect home for the Jack Harper trilogy?
LCB: The editor/publisher at CCB – Robert Peterson – understood the story and the characters in the trilogy in a way that I could only have hoped. His favorite scene in the original Pivot, which he later shared with me, had been my favorite scene. The character he enjoyed the most is a character I really enjoyed. He simply gets the books, and the advice he provides ensures to enhance them. Not only this, but he is all ears when it comes to plot ideas, character ideas, publishing ideas, marketing ideas. He has given me ways to broaden the world that I hadn’t thought about. Working with Bob and CCB has been an incredible partnership that I don’t think really exists between a lot of authors and publishers. I have been incredibly fortunate to land with CCB.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
LCB: I am currently editing Peak right now with a copyeditor. In addition, I recently finished my fourth book – a dark fantasy novel about a seer (clairvoyant) society in the throes of a revolution. It is intended to be the first of a duology. It’s in my agent’s hands, so we shall see!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Perish and your other work?