Doyce Testerman on HIDDEN THINGS:
As with most reckless undertakings in my life, Hidden Things was born out of a dare.
My friends and I were sitting around discussing our favorite books, and one of them (De Knippling) commented: “It really sucks that there’s no weird, magical, fantasy stuff set in the Midwest.”
I, secure in my role as the snarky South Dakota expat, replied: “That’s because nothing magical happens in the Midwest.” I paused. “Ever.”
“And that,” De countered, “is your fault.”
I coughed on the soda I’d been drinking. “Really.”
“Yup.” She pointed at me. “Fixing that needs to be your next book.”
“And write a female lead this time,” said the-friend-who-would-always-rather-read-female-leads.
“But — “
“And make her a private detective!” called out the-friend-who-likes-mysteries from the kitchen.
“I dare you,” De finished.
And thus, my fate was sealed, Calliope Jenkins was born, and her feet were set on a path that neither of us knew very much about, except its eventual, inevitable destination.
What Do You Do When There’s No Place to Hide?
“Nothing magical ever happens in the Midwest,” Calliope reminded me, her voice as sure and dismissive as mine had been.
But she’s wrong. Very, very wrong, as it turns out. In the first few pages of the story, we see Calliope’s best friend killed by what can only be described as a monster — a twisted Thing with a child’s name. The next morning, someone finds the body. A few hours later, that same friend leaves a message on Calliope’s phone, asking for help, and off we go.
I never thought of Hidden Things as urban fantasy (which is the way it often characterized) because ‘urban’ doesn’t really come into it very much, and it didn’t seem to have any of the trappings I typically associated with the genre. Vampires, sexy or otherwise, were nowhere to be seen; neither were werewolves. Ditto Chosen Ones, surly street wizards, or talking animal companions. There is magic, to be sure, but no spellbooks. Tattoos don’t factor in any significant way, and everyone’s is hair a reasonable, manageable length, and generally the right color. My inspirations came from other areas: Hammet’s stories of Sam Spade and Continental Op gave me a frame of reference for early parts of the story, and the style and pacing of pulp science fiction and fantasy writers like Roger Zelazny have imprinted themselves on me so deeply I probably have Doorways in the Sand encoded somewhere in my DNA. Neil Gaiman’s light touch with the supernatural is something I’ve always love, as well as Stephen King’s gift for characterization.
And, of course, the greatest influence of all — that big stretch of open county and enormous sky where I grew up. There’s a kind of magic there, that much is certain: there’s a magic of extremes, where it can freeze you like the sub-artic in the winter, drown you in Spring, and kill you with heatstroke in the summer. (Fall is actually kind of nice. All two weeks of it. We’ll leave Fall alone.) There’s a magic of stories, too: it’s a lonely country, and the people that live there — from the tribes who first wandered from river to river, to those who came later, decided to stay, and actually survived long enough to make families — they tell stories like they’re sharing food with those that need it.
“The sort of Hidden Things that live in a place like that,” a stranger tells Calliope, “are probably the toughest, smartest Things of all.”
Turns out, he’s right.
*For more fun and games visit Doyce at http://doycetesterman.com/
Critics are loving HIDDEN THINGS!
Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s dark fantasies and the early books of Stephen King,” — Library Journal
“I loved this book from start to finish. It’s strange, weird and down to earth, all at the same time; chock full of fascinating characters, dark dreams and fantasy elements that deliver a real sense of wonder. What’s not to love?” — Charles de Lint
“Along with the clever, determined, dauntless protagonist, Testerman brings an impressive dark energy to the scenario and plotting . . . Agreeably creepy, with original flourishes and flashes of dark humor.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A satisfying blend of noir and magic.” — Publishers Weekly
“Hidden Things reveals the America I want to believe in–dragons on highways, trolls in the hills, motels that lead to new dimensions. I’ll never look at a rest stop the same way again.” — Maureen Johnson, author of The Name of the Star
“Testerman tells a story of a secret world that is sad, sweet, funny, and more than a little twisted. This world of wizened wizard-men and demon clowns will lure you into the shadows, and once you meet the characters who live in those dark strange places you’ll never want to leave. The magic matters here, but it’s the human touch that really brings the book to life.” — Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds and Irregular Creatures
Hidden Things Excerpt