Zealot Script is proud to be a part of the Jack Anderson Blog Tour, promoting Perennials by Bryce Gibson.
Check out the rest of the tour details here.
PD: I got the chance to talk to Bryce Gibson about his latest novel, Perennials.
Can you describe the plot of Perennials in 10 words or fewer?
Serial killer targeting people that share names with plants.
Perennials has a focus on botany. Is this something that you have drawn on your own life for?
Plants are a big part of my life. I work on a scuppernong farm and gardening is a major hobby of mine. In addition to planting, harvesting, and taking care of plants, I love to read about the folklore, medicinal, and magical uses for them. There are a lot of plant books on the research shelf where I write.
I have a fascination with the process of naming characters. Whilst your characters fit a very specific theme, how did you come up with them? Did you pick names you liked and try to work it into a plant, or pick plants and try to work it into a name?
The names of Dusty Miller and Nandina Bush came to me first. Then I began to think about all sorts of plants and if it seemed plausible that a person could have the same name. When I was close to being finished with the first draft, before sending it off to be edited, I decided that I wanted to increase the body count just a tad. I turned to my Facebook fans for name suggestions. They gave me a lot. Unfortunately I was only able to use a few of them. Also, there are three short story tie-ins, The Murders From Perennials, that accompany the novel. The stories were written by other authors that I invited; I left the character naming for the stories up to them and then added the names into my manuscript. The stories can be be found on my website.
It’s clear that your own experiences of life in the Southern US are an influence in your settings. Is there a certain sense of feeling that you are trying to evoke in the descriptions of the region?
I want the settings to seem real and authentic, but at the same time, I strive to set my books in as quaint and charming places that I can; sometimes it seems more like a Hollywood version of The South. When I throw in the “scary” aspects of the plot, there is a big contrast between the visuals. It is something that I like and hope that my readers do as well. A tagline that I came up with for myself as a writer is this–“I write Southern fiction that takes readers to charming and oftentimes sinister areas of The South.”
Were there any other major influences when writing Perennials? Perhaps other books or films that inspired you?
I read all kinds of books. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any ones in particular that influenced the writing of Perennials. Obviously, a lot of teen books, particularly the horror ones that I grew up reading, contributed to the overall story.
I am a horror movie fanatic. I think all sorts of horror films, slasher flicks in particular, influenced the book in some way or another.
Regarding the darker side of Perennials, how did you come up with the idea of this serial killer?
I was working in my yard when the idea for the book first came to me. The initial idea was a love story between two teenagers–Dusty Miller and Nandina Bush. Not a minute later I had another thought–what if there is a serial killer that is targeting people that share their names with plants?
When writing, I try to empathise with the characters I’m writing for, to better understand and express their motivations. Do you find it difficult to address the mindset of a serial killer?
I do somewhat. Both of my books, Perennials and Unclaimed Acre, feature what I call a “reveal type of ending” where the identity and reasoning of the killer is made clear to the reader. I like the explanation scenes. They are fun to write. I want the reveal to be a big surprise, but at the same time, it is important for the narrative that came before to make sense as to why this person would have done all these crazy things.
A lot of writers struggle with the issues of different points of view when beginning in their craft. What made you decide to split the narrative between the first and third person views?
I knew from the beginning that the story would primarily be written in first person, from Dusty’s perspective. It wasn’t until I was well into writing that I decided to break away from first person and write Nandina’s chapters in third person. It was something that I debated quite a lot about, but ultimately decided that it was the right thing to do. Stories, legends, and lore are common themes in the book, and I think that the third person narrative lends itself well to this.
Was it difficult to write with this change of perspective between chapters?
It really wasn’t. Honestly, it was much harder trying to stay constricted to the first person. During the writing process, I knew that the story desperately needed to break away from Dusty’s immediate thoughts, views, and surroundings. Once I started writing much of Nandina’s story arc in third person, things started to become much more limitless to me as a writer. In fact, I think if you took the third person narrative away and read Nandina’s story on its own it would be just as satisfying.
I’d like to finish this interview with a few questions that I like to ask every Author. What’s your number one tip for an aspiring author?
Write. If you write a book, get it professionally edited, publish it, and write another one. I’ve learned a lot from each book that I’ve written. You’ll get better and more confident each time.
Which book do you consider a must-read?
If you’re talking about mine, I’d have to say Perennials. It is the one that I’m most proud of. If you’re talking about anybody else, anything by Alice Hoffman.
And finally, you have one quote to be remembered by, what is it?
I may change my mind after I answer, but right now I’d have to say this one from Sophia in my novel, Unclaimed Acre: “Folktales, myths, and legends, all of it is passed down through generations and over time it becomes jumbled, changed, and distorted, but I think that there is always a seed of truth that remains.”
I’d like to extend my thanks to Bryce for this interview and to Jack for the invitation to be involved in this Blog Tour.
9th August – Zealot Script
11th August – Segilo Salami