So, as you may or may not be aware, this month has been all about the darkness that is noir novels. No one wants to hear about how many chocolate covered strawberries you plan on eating while your partner whispers sweet nothings into your ear, we want to hear about the latest psycho, bloody and murderous noir book that you’ve purchased and reviewed for #Fahrenbruary, now THAT’S what I call a perfect Valentine’s month. Wouldn’t you agree?
This week is an extra special week because (as I like to call it) it’s the #WeekOfAriana. If you’re hoping for Ariana Grande, turn back now because you are most definitely in the wrong place! You’ve been warned. This week some cracking posts have been published by Matt, over at It’s An Indie Book Blog and Kelly at From Belgium With Book Love. This week begun with a fantastic review of Red Hands and a guest post from Ariana herself, that you can find here AND here. Kelly then swooped in with a cracking Q & A with Ariana, focusing on how she pronounces the word scone and her writing process that you can find here. Kelly has also recently read and reviewed Ariana’s novella Dark Water that you can find here! I think between the three of us, we’ve made quite a team!
I have been totally in awe of all the bloggers and readers who have taken part in Fahrenbruary, I’m also happy because I’ve been able to find authors that I wouldn’t have, if it wasn’t for this bookish event! My first read was in fact on of Ariana’s masterpieces, in the form of Red Hands (Review here) and that was it, I was hooked on Fahrenheit Press and F13Noir books hook, line and sinker!
Well today, I have had the amazing opportunity of partaking in a Q & A with the person who has got me hooked on dark noir novels! Everyone meet Ariana!
Good afternoon Ariana, or afternoon / evening, I’m not sure of our time difference but i’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, especially Mart’s… How are you?
Hi Danielle, it’s 8:18am here!
Wow that’s early! Well we best start, we both know that a bearded blogger is just dying to have his questions answered, I can see him now; sitting at the computer screen like a child at Christmas! So, here goes! The first question is shortcrust or puff pastry?
Though I understand they’re called Linzer Tortes across the pond, here they’re simply called Linzer Tarts, a simple cookie with jam filling and powder sugar on top.
Oh wow, they sound absolutely delicious! Possibly a baked relative of an English Jammy Dodger, without the powdered sugar, if you took it away the resemblance is uncanny!
While we are on the subject, Kelly has asked you about the baked good that is Scones, how do you prepare yours? Jam first, or cream?
I like ‘em naked, er dry.
Well, there you go, you read it here first; Ariana loves her scones naked! The next question, quite like the preparation and pronunciation of the scone has been some what of a twitter debate between myself, Kelly and Mart. In the UK many people keep the tradition of purchasing chocolates called ‘Quality Streets’. The selection of chocolate contains orange and strawberry creams; fruity cream covered in dark chocolate. They are my favourite! What’s your favourite Quality Street chocolate?
Well, based on my research (um, Google search), we don’t have anything like this in the states. If I were to pick a chocolate in a box of chocolates over here, I’d choose the chocolate covered cherry.
They sound yummy, and also high five for loving fruit dipped in chocolate. Now this is the final question that Mart kindly demanded that I ask you. What are your favourite slippers?
Well, I wish that I could give a cute answer, like fluffy purple slippers or even a more practical answer like isotoner ballet slippers, but honestly, I prefer my bare feet. Wearing footwear of any type to me is like using a condom during sex – it takes away all the pleasure and sensation of feeling what’s natural. I think there is something to be said about being able to feel all the textures and surfaces your feet touch. Socks leave my feet too hot and sweaty, and anything else is too cumbersome.
Ariana, this is my most favourite answer ever! I will always hold it close to my heart for when I need something to make me smile. That and the thought of Mart cringing because he HATES feet, not just yours, EVERYONES! I personally agree with you, I hate covering my feet unless I wear trainers or boots! Out of my pure curiosity, are you a dog or cat person?
I’m a cat person. Dogs will always love you unconditionally, I think, but cats make you work for it—no matter how many times they tell you to go fuck yourself, you’re going to continue to coo all over them, and they thrive on it.
I feel the same, I admire the feline trait of being independent! Anyway, I think we have covered all the ‘getting to know you’ introductory basis, not it’s time to get into the nitty gritty! I mulled over the questions that I wanted to ask and I really appreciate you giving your straight cut. no bullshitting answers! What i’d love to know, is how did you came up with the concept for Red Hands?
After a suicide attempt in 2012, I vowed to myself to never make the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I w/Psychotic Features a secret. I am always open with it. When I created Garrison, I injected pieces of me into his character in the sense that I could write his illness, PTSD, and psychosis authentically while still separating myself from his madness. Yes, he’s a serial killer and I am not, but there is a part of Garrison I wanted the reader to feel sorry for; and, you partially see this side of him in his therapy sessions with Dr. Wright. In the scientific battle between mental illness being either genetically or environmentally born, some will view it all or nothing or a combination of the two. I believe Garrison wants to be a good person who may have more environmental influences than genetic, in that he vaguely opens up to his psychiatrist and splits his psyche between two characters to embrace the good parts of himself, but in the end can’t help himself because both psyches work for a common cause. I guess in the end I was aiming to tell a story of a serial killer who might just not be as psychopathic as one might think.
That is amazing, how you’ve used various life experiences and channelled it into a creative foundation. Would you say that by doing so, it has helped you confront your diagnosis head on by using it as a creative foundation?
I’ve been battling my diagnosis for close to 20 years and due to its chronic nature, that battle will never end until I die. I have other books that tackle self-identity and illness, prosthesis, an experimental memoir on splitting the self to create a better self-understanding within my diagnosis, and Finger : Knuckle : Palm, which is an experimental literary/genre novelette that was written as part of a narrative therapy goal set by my therapist for me to learn more about myself in channelling all the dark corners of my being, the recesses that were preventing me from moving forward in life. Oddly enough, the structure is a hypnosis therapy session that travels through a host of dream sequences. There are many literary elements employed throughout the book that bring the story full circle in the end. It is dark, and it is a platform from which I launched Garrison.
You’ve said that you wrote a novelette as part of a therapy goal; when you began the RH manuscript it was a therapy session between Garrison and his therapist, you then developed the full storyline upon that. Was the writing of ‘Red Hands’ also a type of therapy for you?
Yes, there are certainly pieces of my psyche mirrored in Garrison—fear, torment, psychosis, and an inability to conquer trauma in order to move forward. I think if a reader can connect with Garrison as a human being there can be a tinge of forgiveness for his transgressions. I don’t think he’s so much a psychopath as he is psychotic and suffering from regression and stunted growth. Short of me being a psychopathic serial killer myself, there are pieces of my own truth floating around the narrative, but that’s where it ends, and yes, I did personally grow a bit in determining what he could or couldn’t overcome or what I could or could not overcome.
What was your writing process for Red Hands?
Red Hands was written in three parts or plots, Garrison’s semi-revealing therapy sessions, Garrison’s descent into madness, and Garrison’s psyche split, and were woven together into a timeline that followed the progression of Garrison’s self-destruction. However, when I first set out to write this novella, the manuscript solely consisted of the therapy sessions with psychiatrist Dr. Wright. As I developed Garrison’s personality and backstory, the other two parts seemingly fell into place.
As the readers of this Q & A may have already come to the conclusion, Red Hands is of a dark and twisty nature. I’ve read it and i’m still getting over it! You obviously have a talent for noir writing. What do you enjoy the most about noir writing?
Noir, much like the literary movement my writing is most influenced by, Dark Romanticism, is filled with melancholia, insanity, crime, stories of personal torment, punishment, judgement, social outcasts, the nature of man, fallibility, and proneness to sin and self-destruction. It’s a place to mirror a world where many people unknowingly living torment and hubris to their own detriment. For me, the nature of being human, in all its facets is enough to fill millions of pages of noir. Noir is a place where the darkest parts of the mind has seen over time emerges—into characters and worlds without boundaries. In noir there exists a world of escapism where one can submerge themselves into darkness and safely experience a fictional world that might lend itself to making sense of the darkness of everyday reality.
I think that is such a beautiful and poetic answer, you can really tell that you’re head over heals in love with the genre. Would there be any other genre that you’d like to dip your toes in?
For those of you who haven’t read Red Hands, this is the blurb and cover;
“Garrison is a predator.
Garrison hunts his prey methodically, hiding his true nature beneath the most respectable of disguises. Garrison’s victims never suspect him until it’s already too late and when he strikes, he strikes quickly and viciously.
This psychological tour de force is noir at it’s very blackest. Ariana D. Den Bleyker takes her readers on a journey into the terrifying psychology of a twisted violent mind.
Red Hands is both the story of a man obsessed with the thrill of the kill and a warning that the most dangerous psychopaths live among us, hiding in plain sight.”
Ariana, how would you describe Red Hands in three words?
What the fuck?
At first, I thought this was in relation to the question that I asked but very quickly realised that these are the words that I myself was muttering the whole way through reading Red Hands, therefore I totally agree with the three that you’ve chosen! If I were to ask you to create a three song playlist for ‘red Hands’, what would you include?
They are fantastic choices! Why would you choose these songs specifically? Would they be included in the film soundtrack? What order would you place them?
First, I am inebriated by music, and I have an extensive library that spans quite a few genres. And, I’m really drawn to music by lyrics over sound.
These are some of the lyrics to “Plowed” by Sponge:
“Will I wake up
Is it a dream I made up
No I guess it’s reality
What will change us
Or will we mess up
Our only chance to connect With a dream”
I chose this song, and I would open with it if it were a soundtrack, because it sums up Garrison and all of his personal turmoil. It’s just a simple yet loud track to set-up the rest of the narrative.
These are some of the lyrics to “One” by Metallica:
“I can’t remember anything
Can’t tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel to scream
This terrible silence stops me
Now that the war is through with me I’m waking up,
I cannot see
That there is not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me“
This piece certainly captures Garrison’s descent into pure madness. If I played it, I would insert it into the scene “watch” scene in the basement.
These are some of the lyrics to “X Amount of Words” by Blue October:
Prevent trigger intent
Say X amount of words
You’re solar, bipolar
Seems harder and harder and harder
Still you try to control it”
I would play this during one particular therapy session I won’t summarize as to not give away the plot.
The songs you’ve chosen are extremely fitting, especially in the order that you’ve put them! While talking about film soundtracks / playlists, if ‘Red Hands’ was to be developed into a film for the big screen, who would you choose to play Garrison? And why?
Edward Norton. First of all he’s a juggernaut of emotional range and complexity. Think Fight Club. Norton’s ability to portray a role disassociated from reality, to split his psyche is very impressing. How could he not play Garrison?
Here’s a picture of the man himself, and I have to completely agree with you on your casting choices Ariana! He’s also just as I imagined Garrison looking also.
You’ve written 17 chapbooks, 3 collections, 3 novellas and you’ve also grown up writing poetry. When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer? And if you hadn’t, what other career path would you have taken and why?
I realized I wanted to write when I was a teenager, but my influence was mostly poetry. Though I majored in creative writing in college, it took a long time for me to settle into writing and getting published regularly because for 15 years I had a career as a Commercial Lines Insurance Underwriter.
Wow, you never gave up on your calling. I, for one am so glad that you persevered and published your work! Are there any available published collections, other than Dark Water and Red Hands, that fans of your writing can purchase?
Finger : Knuckle : Palm is a very short read and is available online for free. I know it reads a bit odd in its disjointed narrative, but it’s gotten favourable reviews in the past.
It sounds very interesting and has been described as:
“a thrill and a treat to read a writer who isn’t afraid of pushing their reader to the edge by testing their audience’s limits. Only by being stretched further than we think we can go do we experience new and original ideas/feelings. The writer in such an instance needs to take their reader out to a place where there are no stars, where they must rely only on the unique strength of their singular vision to try and light the way.”
You’ve even been kind enough to provide us with a cheeky excerpt!
““Do you know how old you are?”
“I’m a child.”
“What are you doing?”
“Restless, I feel the need to move my hands and fiddle with objects. I’m unable to keep still. I’m impulsive. I touch everything that isn’t mine. The impulse is innate. I can’t feel or even notice my own movements. My fingers twist and contort. I call out. I tap my fingers on every solid surface. It becomes a habit. Over time my fingers become more noticeable than any other part of my body. They drag, curl, rapidly spread apart and close, I’m compelled to tighten and stretch them. I attempt to restrain them. I wrap both of them in duct tape, force each joint and knuckle into a tight, immobile fist. They shake under the tape, rub against it, generate a mix of cold sweat and burns. I force my arms down to my sides, sweat excessively as my fists begin to itch, burn, ache. I rip off the tape with my teeth when the pain spreads up my wrists. My freed hands twitch and jerk, every muscle and bone moves all at once.”
To continue reading, you can access ‘Finger : Knuckle : Palm’ here!
Since your first published novel, how do you feel that you’ve developed as an author / person.
Writing and publishing anything teaches you to be humble. Not everyone is going to like your work; you’ll get your fair share of criticism, but you’ll also get your fair share of praise. It’s learning how to balance the two without taking any of it to heart that keeps you writing the next thing.
The development of a thick skin must be a difficult trait to develop, especially when you’re putting your heart and soul into something that you want everyone to love as much as you do. What is your motivation to continue writing after any criticism?
I’m by far a very sensitive person in general, and I frequently suffer from imposter syndrome. I’d say the positivity of favourable reviews and the support of very engaging and caring editors often carries me through.
A great support system is always key! If you could give your past self any advise, in hindsight, what would it be?
I can honestly say the advice I would give my past self and present self is the same because I never learn: stop being so hard on yourself, there’s enough people in this world doing it for you already.
Those are the words that everyone should live by, but you’re doing great and as you know there are so many of us that love your work, we can’t wait for your next book. Speaking of which, it’s called ‘Sins Of The Father’, would it be possible for you to give us a sneaky excerpt please?
Sins of the Father, is a hardboiled story that diverges from my comfort zone.
Excerpt from the end of chapter one:
“Nathaniel asked the stranger to drop him off a mile outside of Pedgrove. It was a long walk in the dark, but when he got back to the house, he stopped by the master bedroom, hoping to hear Doreen but heard nothing, then proceed to walk down the hall toward the guest bedroom. He entered the bedroom and turned the lights on, pulling his black had down over his face.
In the recent weeks, he would just sit up at night, seeing on the girls, unable to sleep. His father had been a cop, and he just like his father before he became Mayor, and sometimes he was left to wonder if he’d done his father justice in the lucrative trouble, he’d gotten himself into in the recent years. He’d seen how broken some criminals are, how he though humanity didn’t have any hope.
The first time he’d seen a trafficked, incarcerated young woman beaten beyond recognition, no longer innocently beautiful—breasts exposed, genitalia bruised, hands and legs twisted in an impossible position, he’d nearly expelled all the contents of his stomach. He could not believe there was a person, a living, breathing human being, capable of such a heinous act. They were girls, young woman, prostitutes, all beaten and raped, kidnapped and sold to religious cults throughout the west.
It’s only in the manuscript phase and I am super excited to read the full book when it is published! We all love books here, if you were sent to a desert island, what would be the one book you’d take with you? And why?
‘Intensity’ by Dean Koontz scares the shit out of me everytime. ‘Intensity’ is basically a two-character novel. You have a young psychology student and a homicidal maniac killer, Edgler Vess, who revels in pain or pleasure, the intensity of an experience. It’s the kind of story that can give you whiplash, as it’s a viscerally exciting thriller of cat and mouse. The book certainly lives up to the title of the book. I read it in one sitting the first time.
I think that’s a book that I should add to my TBR pile, I haven’t read any of Dean Koontz books but if they’re all as dark and twisty as Intensity sounds, maybe I should! Thank you Ariana for answering my questions so honestly, it was lovely to get to know the person behind the books! Would you like to add anything? Any last words?
Fahrenheit Press is, by far, the best press I’ve ever worked with, and I feel tremendously honoured to have been published by them twice. I admire both Chris’ greatly. Plus, the authors are warm and there’s real community. I wouldn’t trade my experience(s) for the world.
I’d like to add to that and say that us bloggers and readers have thoroughly enjoyed interacting with you all this month, as well as reading out Fahrenhauls! Thank you again for agreeing to take part in your third guest type post this week Ariana! I think you deserve a Linzer Tart or two!
That’s it folks! I highly recommend reading all of Ariana’s work, especially ‘Red Hands’ and ‘Dark Water’. You can also go and read ‘Finger : Knuckle : Palm’ for free! I’ve included purchasing links, social media links, as well as the #Fahrenbruary page where you can catch up on all the reviews, Q&As and guest posts that you may have missed this month. Help us spread the Fahrenlove this month!
Okay, that’s all from me and my terrible (?) Fahren-puns! Let me know if you’ve read any of Ariana’s work, what did you think? How do you say scone; like ‘gone’ or ‘stone’? Leave me a comment!
Red Hands https://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_red_hands.html
Dark Water https://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_dark_water.html
Fahrenbruary page where you can catch up on this months reviews, Q&As, guest posts etc https://www.fahrenheit-press.com/fahrenbruary.html