The following is an interview with P. J. Thorndyke regarding the recent release of the horror novel, Road of Souls. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Thorndyke about the creative process of bringing the story and characters to life, what he hopes that readers may take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Road of Souls! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the story’s premise?
P. J. Thorndyke: Thank you! Road of Souls is a standalone horror novel set in the 1970s. It’s inspired by all the occult thrillers and Satanic horror movies of that decade and concerns a married couple who are playing detective, traveling around Orange County, California, in a Winnebago looking for the wife’s little sister who they fear has got caught up in a cult. It’s a sun-bleached, seedy thriller with cults, ritual murder, and deep dives into the dark side of 1970s California.
BD: This story weaves together the suspense of an occult thriller and the mystery of a great detective story. What can you tell us about your creative process in bringing these narratives together while crafting your story?
PJT: Detective stories are hard to write! Not only did I want to convey the doom-laden atmosphere of ‘70s horror movies like The Omen and The Wicker Man, but I also wanted it to work as a gritty detective story that wallows in the seedy locales of great hard-boiled pulp novels. That meant knowing where I wanted my characters to go but not letting on to the readers too much too soon. It’s about dropping the clues for both characters and readers to pick up as they go along without being too contrived and hopefully weaving in some twists and red herrings. There’s a lot to balance at once!
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Rick and Diane’s story may connect with and impact readers?
PJT: Road of Souls is essentially about a marriage, and it’s not a perfect one. Diane’s little sister, whom she has always felt protective of, has gone missing and she and Rick are using their summer vacation to look for her. Her sister has always been a wild child, and Rick feels a little resentful of having to travel across the country to find her when she might just be shacked up with some guy. But he goes along with it because he can see that Diane is so concerned. I think a lot of readers will relate as there are occasional conflicts of interest in any relationship, and, sometimes, we do things for different reasons.
BD: Do you have any plans to expand this story into subsequent novels or other entertainment mediums (if given the opportunity)?
PJT: Well, Road of Souls is part of a series of standalone horror novels I’m writing called Celluloid Terrors. Each novel is set in a different decade and is inspired by the horror movies popular in that decade. I’ve already written books for the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s and have stories outlined for the ‘80s and ‘90s, too.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
PJT: Yes, somewhat connected to Road of Souls. Obviously, I had to watch a lot of movies from the 1970s in preparation for the novel and I’ve decided to write a non-fiction book about the occult horror movies of the 1970s that Road of Souls is inspired by. I’m about halfway through writing it, and it’s called Satan in the Celluloid: Satanic and Occult Horror Movies of the 1970s. I’m hoping to get it finished by the end of the year. I previously wrote a non-fiction book about sword and sorcery movies of the 1980s called Barbarians at the Gates of Hollywood, so this will be something of a companion piece to that, as well.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Road of Souls and your other work?