Jeremy Hepler is a new name to me. His debut novel, THE BOULEVARD MONSTER (2017, Bloodshot Books) is getting some great reviews, and I trust Pete Kahle over at Bloodshot. I’m getting ready to dig into the novel this week, but I had a chance to harass Mr. Hepler early. So, here’s how that went:
GLENN: Hi, Jeremy!
First off, congrats on your debut novel, THE BOULEVARD MONSTER. I’m getting ready to start it myself, but how about telling everyone where the initial idea for the story came from. Also, how close to the original idea did the final product turn out?
JEREMY: Thanks for having me, Glenn! The initial idea for The Boulevard Monster came many years ago when my son Noah and I left story time at the library. We stopped at a red light, and when I glanced to my left, I saw a couple of Hugh’s Construction trucks parked on a site where a new strip mall was being constructed. Three or four of the workers were standing by the truck, laughing and eating, but there was a separate worker off in the distance behind a porta potty, digging with a small shovel. The digger kept glancing at the others, and he appeared both paranoid and unhappy. I had been brainstorming ideas for an anthology I wanted to submit to so later that afternoon while Noah took a nap I started writing a short story I called For Love and Money. It was about the worker, his relationship with the other guys, what he could’ve been burying, and how that linked to why he looked so paranoid and unhappy. When I reached the 10,000 word mark, I knew it was too deep for a short story and I wasn’t confident to write a novel at the time, so I set it aside. Six years later, after I finished my first novel and wanted to start a second, I remembered For Love and Money, pulled it out, and took off with it.
When it comes to the blue jays on the cover, after I’d written the first three or four chapters, I knew something was missing from the story, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. Then one day when Noah and Tricia and I were chalking on the back porch, a blue jay landed on top of our A-frame swing. It watched us draw for a while before hopping down onto the cement right next to us. It stayed for an hour before flying off, seemingly playing a game of cat and mouse when Noah chased it around. Over the next week or so it came back, sat on the swing nearly every day, and watched us. We named it Mr. Blue, and while we were outside one afternoon, Noah, prodded by a slew of recent break-ins on our street, asked me, “Dad, do you think Mr. Blue protects the house for us while we’re gone?” A spark went off in my head, and I immediately knew that was what was missing from my story. That night I worked until dawn rewriting the first few chapters, adding blue jays into the story as the antagonist’s deliverers, watchers, spies, but more importantly, his companions.
In the end, the final novel turned out similar to the original idea, but there were some major changes I didn’t see coming until I got there. The birds were a big one and many of the side characters—Seth’s adopted daughter and dementia-ridden father, for example— were too. They didn’t exist in the original. Also, the ending turned out way different than I’d first imagined it would when I started the short story.
GLENN: I find that I learn things about my stories that I didn’t even realize I was putting into a character or situation, secondary themes. Looking back on THE BOULEVARD MONSTER, did you make any of these discoveries? Did you surprise yourself?
JEREMY: I did. An example that immediately comes to mind is that I named the fictional town my protagonist Seth lives in, Mercy—a name I actually pulled from one of my wife’s foreign exchange student’s names—not realizing until the editing stage that mercy was what Seth was searching for the entire time.
GLENN: I checked out your blog and see you like doing Top 5’s. Upon also reading that you’re working on a coming-of-age novel, how about Jeremy’s Top 5 coming-of-age horror books?
JEREMY: Thanks for checking out my blog! You’re one of the few Like many readers, I love coming-of-age novels. My top five, in no particular order, are:
1. December Park by Ronald Malfi
2. It by Stephen King
3. Ghoul by Brian Keene
4. The Traveling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon
5. The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (I know this one is categorized as a mystery not horror, but it’s still a dark, thrilling, kick-ass coming-of-age tale.)
GLENN: What are you currently reading?
JEREMY: I’m late to the party on this one, but I’m currently reading John Dies at the End by David Wong. So far, I’m digging it.
GLENN: All right, last one: Would you rather…. Enter Thunderdome with Glenn Danzig or be thrown into the ocean with Jaws–your boat (and safety) twenty yards away?
JEREMY: I love heavy metal, grew up on Pantera, Metallica, Slayer, White Zombie, etc., and would therefore much rather enter the Thunderdome with Glenn Danzig than swim around with a blood-thirsty shark. I feel like I’d at least have a sporting chance at convincing Danzig that I’m a fan who spent hours of my youth riding around in cars jamming out to “Mother,” and that I’m a writer and love Poe, too, and that we should rock out together, discuss dark ideas for comics, not fight. In the ocean, there’d be no convincing Jaws of anything.
GLENN: Thanks for stopping by Jeremy. Anything you want to say to potential readers?
JEREMY: Thanks for having me. I’m a huge fan and feel privileged to be here. To potential readers out there: Please give my story a taste and see if you like it.
Follow along the tour with these hashtags:
#TheBoulevardMonster #bluebirds #birdsofhorror #BloodshotBooks
The Boulevard Monster
by Jeremy Hepler
Pub date: April 7, 2017
A debut novel you won’t want to miss!
The Boulevard Monster, Synopsis –
I KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD ABOUT ME
You say that I am a madman. You say that I am dangerous. You say that I am the one who has been abducting women, slaughtering them, and burying their corpses all around this city for years. You are wrong, because only part of that statement is true…
I AM NOT A KILLER
I know that you probably won’t believe me. Not now. Not after all that has happened, but I need to tell my side of the story. You need to know how this all began. You need to hear about the birds, but most of all, you need to understand…
I AM NOT THE BOULEVARD MONSTER
And it’s available at other online retailers too. Plus, ask your indie bookstore to order for you or tell your local library about it!
Jeremy Hepler, Biography –
Native to the Texas Panhandle, Jeremy Hepler now lives in a small rural community in central Texas with his wife Tricia and son Noah. Throughout his life, he has worked jobs ranging from welder’s hand to health care assistant, but writing has always been his passion.
Jeremy is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) and is currently working on his second novel, Demigod Dreams. In the last five years, he has had twenty-four short stories published in various small and professional markets, and in 2014, he placed second in the Panhandle Professional Writers Short Story Competition. You can contact him via Facebook or Twitter (@jeremyhepler) where you will find links to his blog and Amazon author page.
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