Carissa Ann Lynch is an Indiana-based Summer Indie Book Awards nominated author of two horror book series – the Flocksdale Files and the more YA-appropriate Horror High books.
We had a chat and shared a few thoughts on writing and when I asked if I could post the chat in interview form, she generously agreed.
I said in a recent tweet about one of your books that it’s very like Hitchcock. The comparison's valid coz you have a talent for some "off-screen" gruesome stuff. Sort of like looking through the Rear Window, or cutting to the blood in Psycho. And, for example, there’s the hammering on the back window of a car that I felt was really noirish, early on in Have You Seen This Girl?. Powerful imagery, woman! [DEEP BOW.]
Awwwwww thanks!!! Any comparison to Hitchcock makes my eyes widen LOL. I really appreciate your kind words. It was easy to write because I never planned on having it published. With a background in psychology, I've always been a little obsessed with the darker areas of the mind and social problems so I try to channel all of that into my writing.
I find it easier to write what I want and not worry how it will be viewed when I don't expect others to read it, if that makes sense. I've always loved to read and never considered myself a "writer" until a few years ago when I couldn't find a book to read and decided to try writing my own story.
I hope to publish a story collection myself this year. But what do you keep on the bookshelf at home?
I like most genres, honestly. And if you wrote it, I'm eager to read it.
The pressure! This is true about writing for yourself, see? No pressure.
Haha the pressure! Well, they DO say you should write scared LOL!
Your style in that first Flocksdale book is super too. I’d really have to cast my mind back to capture all the double-bluffing and triple-bluffing I used to do with the folks. And you have your main teen character hiding a birthday present for a made-up party so she can hang out with the boys. Very true to life. I think there's also a lot of foreshadowing, and symbolism and nice little touches like that, whenever I think about Have You Seen This Girl. It's great. And a lot of very anxious, tense stuff too. Gut-wrenching. Really. Edge-of-the-seat stuff. And it’s nominated in the Thriller category for a SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Association) Award? Huge congrats on that too.
Thank you. That book - all of the Flocksdale books - were really emotional for me to write. It's almost hard for me to read them back. Being able to affect one person by a scene or page makes it all worth it, so thank you.
Awwww. You're very sensitive to it all. And yes, "write scared" is true. "Be brave" and all that. I think writers push themselves, often researching things like psychopathy, drugs or depression, and it can get them very low coz they’re thinking about it all. It’s like method acting: Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, an evil villain, say.
Speaking of research, can I ask about the second Flocksdale book, the House of the Lost Girls book? The characters go to New Orleans seeking a third character? Did you travel to New Orleans to get that right?
Yes! The main character goes searching for her mom in New Orleans.
I like to write what I like to read - which is everything! But I've found that I'm better in the thriller/mystery/horror genres (although I did just finish my first paranormal romance). I live in southern Indiana which is where Flocksdale is based. I think it's easier for me to write what I know. I actually did go to New Orleans to write House of the Lost Girls. I wrote half of it there, and half when I got back. But I don't normally travel to write. I try to stick to places I know, or made-up worlds if I can. But some authors are great at doing research on areas and then writing about them. I prefer writing in my comfort zone.
I would love to write sci-fi and complex worlds, but I struggle with those.
Yes, yes! Your comfort zone with heroin-snorting addicts, murderously vicious ‘aunties’ A.K.A. human trafficking “brothel” “madams”(!), and charming teenage-boy misogynists who’d kill their dates as soon as kiss them.
Can I ask if you chose to have your protagonist snort heroin coz it's not quite as lethal?
TOTALLY my comfort zone. Southern Indiana is like the heroin capital of the world with the highest rate of HIV in history for the U.S. I understand it because I've worked with people struggling with addiction and I live in an area that has experienced a significant increase in heroin usage and HIV over the last few years. So, it's an issue near and dear to me.
I chose snorting because I know more about snorting than injecting and I didn't want to get it wrong.
Whoa! Are you serious about that?
About Indiana? Oh yeah, absolutely. Twelve or fourteen people overdosed in the past few days here – and that’s just the stuff covered in the media. The stats are actually much higher. This is normal.
I was giving you kudos for your amazing imaginative capacity.
I worked for a long time running groups for addicts too, so that helped me. Yeah, Have You Seen This Girl was in my wheel house for sure lol. We don't have trafficking issues or prostitution issues like that, so I did research those.
Yeah but you are totally right. Doing the research and staying in another world for too long can be draining.
What about the stuff beyond writing and research? Did you shop around agents before getting your publishing deal?
I did shop agents. Most rejected it or didn't respond. I did gain interest from an agent but it was too late, I'd already signed my contract and didn't need her. I am going to try to do the agent route with my newest book I just finished. I like the traditional route, it's just so tough and requires a lot of patience I don't normally have.
And you got a deal with a publisher?
Yeah, I'm with Limitless Publishing. And they are growing. They have lots of best sellers. I haven't self-published, but do plan on self-pubbing some anthologies later this year. The point of having an agent is to get a contract with the big 6. All the mid-level and small pubs, you can go straight to them yourself.
What's the Cheerleading series about? One of those is nominated for a SIBA in Horror and Young Adult, right? Is it sort of Mean Girls with daggers?
Yeah, it's more geared towards teens and young adults. Means girls mixed with daggers is a good description lol.
All roads lead to Flocksdale when evil is involved. Flocksdale even plays a small role in my Horror High series (the cheerleading books). Wendi, the main character from book 1, is in all of the Flocksdale Files books, although she's not the main character in books 2 and 3.
And your Carnival of the Dead which is Book 3 in the Flocksdale series – can we discuss that?
The carnival one starts out in another small town. The carnival comes to town then leaves, taking a young girl with it. The search for her leads Josie (the main character) to a town called Flocksdale...
And the haunted house in that? Is that not really haunted?
No, it's a Halloween attraction associated with the carnival - it's worse than haunted because the people inside are real life monsters who wear the masks of normal people.
I like that realism – it adds a dimension of credible threat to things that some horror lacks. Sounds good.
There’s a naughty teen who meets her end in Have You Seen This Girl, written in a very shocking but subtle and realistic manner. So what’s up with this horror trope of the bad girls always ending up dead?
Well, usually the purer ones are more likable and tend to be the main character, so they can't go first. So yes, the naughty ones are more expendable lol.
"the naughty ones are more expendable lol."???
You. Heartless. Bitch.
First it’s "Ooooh! It's so harrowing to write such dark material!" and we're both having a little cry.
Next thing "EXPEND-A-BLE! EXPEND-A-BLE!" and you’re clapping your hands to the beat.
Hahahahha I know. I've finally come to terms with the fact that some characters have to die. My first couple books, I cried for them. Now I occasionally chuckle, I won't lie. Especially if they are unlikeable characters. My main characters though - they are the ones that are hard to kill off. And I can't reread main character death scenes, I really can't.
You say you’re more comfortable creating imaginary places than using real places, unless you’re familiar with them. Are there fantasy elements that I have yet to encounter in your novel series?
No, none so far. All of my published books are in the mystery/thriller/horror genre, except for my first book which was women's fiction.
However, I'm doing a boxed set that will be available soon called Dark Legends. My story in that set is called Midnight Moss, and it's paranormal romance. It has a lot of fantasy/paranormal aspects to it. I'm also doing a time travel anthology in the spring that will include some fantasy elements.
So what’s next for Carissa Ann Lynch?
My next release is Oct 4th. It's an anthology called 13 and all proceeds will go to charity.
She resides in Floyds Knobs, Indiana with her husband, children, and massive collection of books.