Released last fall, Bryan W. Alaspa’s VICIOUS pits a vacationing successful author and his cabin guests against man’s best friend, aka a “snarling terror … an unrelenting menace that does not understand mercy. By the time the night is through, not everyone is going to make it home in one piece.” Where might one come up with such a horrific idea? Your local library, of course! Here, let the Illinois-based author tell you all about it …
It’s probably the most common question that we authors get. People love to know, “Where did you come up with the idea for that book?” And when you write horror, people tend to ask that kind of thing with a weird look in their eyes. As if no one with a sane and normal brain could possible come up with the demented stuff that comes spewing forth from your brain.
Once, while in a discussion with some friends, I was asked what I was working on. I told the group of friends about the horrific work of fiction I was writing while, at the same time, doing research on a violent and vicious murder that took place in Iowa for a possible nonfiction book (I also write true crime). A friend asked, “Why can’t you write about flowers, bunnies and puppies?” I thought about it for a moment and had to reply, “I have to write about what interests me and unless the bunnies and puppies are rabid and the flowers poisonous, I just don’t have an interest.”
And this is the truth. For whatever reason, my brain just turns toward the dark and the grim.
So, where did the story of VICIOUS come from? How can a man who protests puppy mills on the weekend and is a devout dog lover, write a novel where the protagonists are dogs? Well, again, this is just how my brain works.
There are certain horror tropes that we horror writers feel the need to touch upon. One of them is the “man against nature” story. For me, this stems back to the first novel I fell in love with in the horror genre — the one that made me want to be a writer. That was Peter Benchley’s novel JAWS. I was obsessed at a young age with that book and movie, and having my own take of people fighting for their lives against some kind of animal was always in my head. But what animal?
The other trope that we all touch upon is the “cabin in the woods” story. Again, I had this idea of a bunch of people trapped in a cabin, with some kind of animal out there preventing them from leaving. What animal? I thought about making it a bear. I even toyed with the idea of transferring the story from the woods to the Arctic and making it polar bears. But it just didn’t quite fit. I even toyed with making the animals fictional in nature, like Bigfoot or something.
Then, one day, I was working away during the afternoon at a local library. As I packed up for the day, I walked past a display of books and saw something that grabbed my attention. It was a book about a woman who had been mauled to death in the hallway of her own apartment building. Two dogs had done it.
It turned out the dogs had been trained to fight by two white supremacists for a dog-fighting ring. The two white supremacists were in jail, but had handed over the dogs to their lawyers. The dogs had gotten away from one of the lawyers who had been taking them for a walk and attacked this woman as she was entering her apartment. The wound she suffered were horrific and the woman had bled to death just inside the doorway of her own home.
Then I saw the photo of the two dogs.
Presa Canario, or Canary Island, dogs. They were huge. They were sort of like pit bulls, but they appeared even more fearsome, and their teeth were enormous. I thought, “That’s the animal.” If two dogs who had been trained to fight got out and tried to make their home a cabin used only on weekends and the people who owned the cabin showed up for a weekend getaway, well, those dogs would fight. And if they fought, they would be nearly unstoppable.
Just like that, VICIOUS was born. True, I did all I could to make sure that anyone who read the book understood that the dogs were not born bad. I do not believe there is a breed that is inherently bad. I believe that very, very bad and evil people turn good dogs into monsters. Peter Benchley, after the success of JAWS, spent the rest of his life trying to stop the wholesale slaughter of sharks that occurred because people feared them. I did not want a novel that would make even one person afraid of dogs.
Still, I think I created a novel that thrills and chills, excites and entertains. Yes, the blood flows, and people die within the tale, but that’s OK. It’s just fiction. —Bryan W. Alaspa