We always appreciate the opportunity to talk to authors, especially when they have just released a new book. The title alone had us interested, so we had to talk to author Renee S. Decamillis about her book that has been described as “…razor sharp…grabs hold from the get go, and drags the reader through a surreal experience that evokes One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, if written by Clive Barker. A recommended novella.”~~Monster Librarian. So take a few minutes to find out more about her book, how it came to be, if she was really a grave digger or not, and more…
-PH: Let’s start with an easy one. What’s ‘The Bone Cutters’ about?
-Renee: It’s about a young woman named Dory who finds herself involuntarily committed to a dysfunctional psychiatric hospital, where the staff keep making her go to a counseling group that she does not belong in. That group is where she encounters a sinister population of patients who are all marked by similar scars that appear to Dory “like serpents with ADHD”. She soon finds out the scars are from where those patients carve themselves open and chisel their bones to extract bone dust. When they realize Dory’s never been “dusted” she becomes their target, and they won’t give up until they get what they’re after—bone dust from a “freshie”.
-PH: This seems like a crazy story. Where did you get the idea from?
-Renee: It all started with a nightmare I had, and it just grew from there.
I was at an Artwalk in Portland with a friend, and she asked if it was all right if we made a quick stop to see one of her friends she had agreed to meet up with while we were there. I agreed. That’s when she brought me into this place where a group of people—all scarred—were all sitting around in a circle, and they were in the middle of a discussion. I immediately noticed their scars, and, as I listened to one of them speak—who just so happened to be my friend’s friend she was supposed to meet up with—I found out about their self-mutilation and the bone dust extraction. I also found out why they wanted the dust and what they used it for. I was mortified, especially mortified to find out that my friend was friends with this person. Then I woke up. It was so horrific, so fucking weird—I just knew I had to write a story with that scene in it. I started writing it that same day.
I took that scene from my nightmare and put it into a more realistic setting—a dysfunctional psychiatric hospital. Then I replaced myself with a psych. hospital patient, one that had no idea about this other group of patients—much like me in that respect, where I had unknowingly walked in on that group of people in my nightmare. The rest of the story just developed from there, with inspiration coming from all sorts of different places.
-PH: What more can you tell us about Dory, and how you developed her character?
-Renee: Dory—she’s quite a mixed bag of fucked-up from her horrible life experiences. If you want to believe the psych. hospital staff—Dory is a delusional suicidal with a diagnosis tagged “with psychotic tendencies”, though that’s a diagnosis she vehemently disagrees with. She’s a loner, depressed and anxious and awkward, not very social. As she says in the book, “Some might say I’m a misanthrope. No. I’m a realist. A survivalist.” She does what she does in order to survive and just get by—to protect herself from harm, harm like she’s already experienced so often in her past. But at the same time, she is also a harm to herself in some ways, with her depression and anxiety, and her need to face the darkness head-on. She doesn’t take shit from anyone, that’s for sure. And she’s definitely a fighter for truth.
-PH: So she falls in with an unusual group of patients. What more can you tell us about them without giving too much away?
-Renee: They are a whole lot of creepy and fucked-up! Each one of them is different in many ways from the others, but what they all have in common—self-mutilation and bone dust extraction. Many of them also prey on others in order to get what they need. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just leave it at that.
-PH: You’ve done a lot of writing, but this is your first book correct?
-Renee: This is my first published book, yes.
I have two other books I’ve been working on, both novels. One has been finished for a while—my first one, but it took so long for me to hear back from my beta readers (Actually, only one out of many ever got back to me at all, but his feedback was excellent—and much needed and valued.), that by the time I heard back from the one, I had already started my second novel and had finished an early draft of The Bone Cutters. So that first novel has been sitting, waiting for me to go back and revise the second half. I haven’t done that yet because I am so far along with my other novel-in-progress, and I don’t want to stop now—I’m right at the climax. You can never stop in the middle of a climax, man!
I also have a sequel planned for The Bone Cutters, though it is just a rough outline and many notes right now. With this next one I have plans of coming from more than one point of view—and one of those will be from a bone cutter. I’ve heard from many readers that they are quite anxious for me to publish this sequel—so I need to get to it, and fast.
-PH: Why now? What made you feel now was the time to write a book?
-Renee: Well, as I said in my previous answer—this isn’t the first book I’ve written or worked on.
Also, when I first started writing The Bone Cutters, I had actually thought it was going to be a short story. But it grew from there, and I quickly found out that my idea was too big for a short story. That seems to happen to me often—my ideas grow so big that they cannot be contained within a short story. That’s when the book is born.
When I started writing more seriously, I had thought that short stories were where I was most comfortable. At that time, the thought of writing a book-length work had scared the shit out of me. So much goes on in a book that I didn’t think I would be able to manage it all and keep it all straight in my own head in order to create a complete and cohesive story in the end. (Confession: I was also very worried that I would bore people if I wrote something of book length.) But I now find that I love the process of trying to keep it all together and pulling all the threads through to the end.
-PH: Who are some authors that you look up to, and may have inspired you to write this story?
-Renee: My biggest influence is Poe. I love the unreliable narrator, and it is such a difficult type of narration to pull off and to do it right. But I sure do love a challenge.
For this story, I have to say that a lot of influence came from Victor LaValle’s work: The Devil in Silver, The Ecstatic. I also got some inspiration from Joe Hill: NOS4A2 & The Fireman, as well as the Damien Angelica Walters’s story collection Sing Me Your Scars. With the question of mental illness versus reality versus supernatural forces, Paul Tremblay’s Head Full of Ghosts was also an inspiration for me. There are supernatural elements in my story, and just before writing this book I had just finished reading Elizabeth Hand’s novella Wylding Hall.
Other writers I look up to include: Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Kelly Link, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson … the list goes on, but these are some big ones. I’m sure I missed someone big, but … so it goes.
-PH: You’re also an editor so did that help you when going back over your book?
-Renee: Yes and no.
It’s a lot different editing your own work compared to editing someone else’s work. Where I’ve read my own work over and over so many times, and the fact that I wrote it—I know what is supposed to be on the page, even if what is supposed to be on the page isn’t on the page at all. Some things that I know in my head about the story, things that never went on the page, other people will pick up on that and will hopefully let you know that there is valuable stuff missing from the story the reader gets. That’s where it is very helpful to all writers to have other people—preferably other writers and avid readers—read your work over and give you feedback. If you can find someone who is actually willing to give you enough of their time to line-edit your work—that is especially valuable. Beta readers are gold! As I mentioned above—I had many people step-up and tell me they wanted to be a beta reader for me, and I gave them by work-in-progress to read, but only one of them ever did what they said they were going to do. So, I’m still on the hunt for true beta readers for my other works-in-progress.
-PH: You’ve already got a couple of positive reviews. How does it feel to know the book has been well received?
-Renee: It feels amazing! And, I must admit, I was surprised to hear how well it has been received. I mean, I love my story, but to have other people love what I created—I don’t even know how to describe how that makes me feel. It feels surreal, actually, absolutely surreal.
-PH: So we can’t move on with asking about your bio, which mentions you were a gravedigger. True, just for fun, or you will have to bury us if you tell us the truth?
-Renee: True. But if I tell you more, yes, I will have to bury you all.
-PH: Finally, why horror? What is it that you love about horror, and has you continuing to work in it today?
-Renee: I like to face my fears, and I think everyone should face their fears. Life is filled with horror, and if you cannot face those horrors head-on, the world will eat you alive.
As one of my writing mentors says about me and my book The Bone Cutters, and she gets this quote from author Steve Almond, “Race toward the darkness and shine”.
My life has been filled with many horrific people and horrific experiences and occurrences, and all of that feeds into my need to write horror. I have overcome all the bad that has happened to me, and I want and need to write about it. Though I write fiction, there is autobiographical stuff woven through it all—what that is, well, that’s for my readers to speculate.
-PH: Here’s your chance to promote anything we haven’t talk about. Let us know something more about your book, other writings, future projects, or anything else you would like to mention.
-Renee: Well, as I mentioned above, I do have a sequel planned for The Bone Cutters. I hope to get that up and rolling very soon.
I also have another novel in the works, the one I plan to finish next—a story about the evil intentions of the invention of the iPhone. This is another mixed genre work: horror, supernatural, thriller, suspense. It follows The Dude, a twenty-something mind-reading musician and music engineer out to seek justice for his father’s murder. The Dude sets out to finish his father’s work—the reason he was murdered—and reveal the plans and identity of those who are responsible for the vicious intentions behind the iPhone addiction.
We would to thank Renee for taking the time to answer our questions. We hope this gave you a good look into her new book, and that you’ll start reading it today! It’s now available at Amazon! You can find more information about Renee below including links to her site and social media.
Renee S. DeCamillis is a dark fiction writer & editor, an Editorial Intern for Crystal Lake Publishing, an “on-hiatus” horror movie reviewer, a lyricist and poet, a hard rock/blues rhythm guitarist and singer, and a member of the Horror Writers Association and the New England Horror Writers and Horror Writers of Maine. Her debut book, The Bone Cutters, came out on September 1, 2019 through Eraserhead Press. Renee’s short fiction has been published in Deadman’s Tome: The Conspiracy Issue, Sirens Call eZine Issue 37 The Sixth Annual Women In Horror Month Edition, on The Other Stories Podcast—along with an interview. Her poetry appears in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. IV. Her horror movie reviews have been published on AllHorror.net and Horror-Movie-Reviews.com, as well as on her websites reneesdecamillis.com and http://phantom1333.wixsite.com/renee-young-decamillis.
Social media links:
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/ReneeDeCamillis/