HALLIE: I met KC Dyer at the wonderful Surrey International Writers Conference in Vancouver. She was the one in charge of coordinating speakers (aka herding cats). Wearing a red mini skirt with bright purple-and-yellow striped tights, her long blonde hair cascading in curls down her back, a smile lighting up her face, she’s the kind of person one doesn’t forget. Her fifth book novel for teens, A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW, is just out.
KC confesses a secret fondness for inducing nausea in teens and can often be found sharing some of the greatest grotesque moments in history with large groups of high school students.
Welcome to Jungle Red, KC. Please, tell us how you channel grotesqueries into your fiction?
KC DYER: Picture this:
Bodies pressed together; many bodies. Where skin touches skin there is sweat and stench, but extremities are always cold. Any air available is foul; fetid with the mingled breath of dysentery, malnutrition and slowly rotting teeth. There is no food beyond powdered grain crawling with maggots and puddled with a few drops of grey water to take a form that is burned black before somehow being choked down. A place where any germ can become a plague through sheer proximity. A place where death is never welcome, but always, always present.
And this is the best alternative.
I have a new book coming out this week. I write for kids and teens, and A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW is my fifth published story. All writers know the varying degrees of soul-baring that emerge with the production of a novel. True to form, after five books, I’ve found out a couple of things about myself. Turns out I’m a bit of a history fan – real history, not the theatrical version. I don’t like dates and battles and kings and queens. I simply have a yen to rip a hole in the fabric of time and plunge into the lives of real people who lived as though no one would ever look back on them in awe. And I kind of like the gross bits best.
I write time travel stories. In another life, I used to be a teacher, and the juxtaposition of the lives my students led -- in relative comfort and safety, generally with access to clean water, high standards of health and education, and families who loved them – as compared with the standards under which those who came before them survived, always struck me as problematic. Even in those days, I was big on telling stories, and since my audience was primarily teenagers I soon found – and I still find today – that there is nothing like a decently running sore or mucous-filled buboe to grab the attention.
So, though I have written of Kings and Queens, and of artists and geniuses, it is the gruesome realities of everyday life, be it in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, or aboard one of the coffin ships bringing pioneers and pestilence to the New World that seem to most capture my chosen audience. The Black Plague, The Reign of Terror, The Irish Potato Famine, The Smallpox Epidemic – ah, good times, good times. But I hope you believe me when I tell you that my secret goal is not only to turn stomachs. Instead, these gruesome scenes are my route in – my way to demonstrate that deep inside the folks who lived through the monstrous events in which happenstance placed them, there was a streak of something that allowed them find the strength to not only persevere, but thrive.
I see every story as a promise to the reader. You know – a little bit of blood and pus is a great way to capture attention, and a small price to pay for the resolution of a tale well-told.
And if you are interested, you can read more about what I am up to with my latest novel at my blog leftwriter , or my website at www.kcdyer.com.
HALLIE: I confess, my own favorite grotesque moments from history involve guillotines and blokes getting drawn and quartered. In classic lit, you can’t beat the bloody mayhem in Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.” And I’m sure I’m wasn’t the only kid who used to sing:
When you see a hearse go by
You may be the next to die
They'll wrap you in a bloody sheet
Then throw you in about six feet deep
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
The worms play pinochle on your snout
Something, something, something... (that rhymes jelly beans and fresh whipped cream, I do believe.)
What is it about kids and worms? Ah, nostalgia.
KC will be with us today, so please, share your pet grotesqueries.