Author R. L. King on his new-found ability to assist in a heart surgery, if it’s weird to have a minister that writes horror, and his latest novel, Dead Heart.
What inspired Dead Heart?
The inspiration definitely came from my older sister Rhea Lansdown, she was the best. She was born with a special heart condition, and when she got sick, I wanted to surprise her with a book about her. It was going to be my get-well-soon present. Also, I had an unconventional childhood, and when I was fourteen, a man named Paul Vieyra took me into his home to live with him and his family, and taught me how to be the man I am today. This book is my way of honoring both of them.
Did you have the ending worked out before you began writing or did it develop with the story?
Yes and no. I had originally written an outline of a heart doctor who still saw the ghosts of his patients, but it was not until the ghost of Haley kicked another ghost, and began making things happen in the real world that everything changed. I actually took a day or two off of writing just thinking about the possibilities of what she was able to do. It was the exact moment that “The Magic” happened. For the first time the characters became independent from me and I decided to let them write the ending, however the final chapter came much later at the request of a friend, just before I submitted it to my publisher 48fourteen. I am so grateful my friend talked me into changing it, because it changes everything and justifies all the tears.
What was your favorite scene to write?
I would say the fight scene on Paul’s first day in prison. I knew the ghost of Haley was going to do something strange in the real world, and I enjoy writing action. I was so excited just to see what she was going to do, and how the rest of the characters would react that I wrote all night until the sun came up.
Did the title change at all during the writing and publishing process?
Yes. In my very first draft the title was Rhea’s Song and I thought when I started that it would probably change. It later changed to Rhea’s Heart, but during the first revision it became Dead Heart when I was asked who the antagonist was. It just fit, and I think it has a nice ring to it.
What type of research did you have to do?
I had to do a lot of research. Since I did not attend medical school, I bought about seven books on heart transplant surgery, and referred to them all constantly while writing. I did so much research that I would feel comfortable assisting in an actual surgery. One thing that definitely helped was I was working at an answering service at the time, and I spent eight hours a day talking with doctors and learning their dialog and characteristics, and I put that knowledge to good use. I also have a friend who is an attorney and a first reader of all my material, and he helped me get the court scenes just right.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I would say never give up. I would also say this is much easier said than done, as there will be many low points, self-doubts, and at least one time in your career where you ask yourself if you should keep going or give it all up. I had several. I can say that writing a novel is not that much different than digging a tunnel with only a small shovel. It is dark and lonely, and it seems to take forever, but when you finally get to the other side, it makes it all worth while. Finally, when you get published, your editor is never wrong.
What can readers expect next from you?
I am beginning the first draft of my next novel this winter. I have not yet finished the outline, but I can say that it will be much darker and horror-based than any of the other books I have written. After that, I will keep writing as long as I can. I have too many stories floating around in my head and if I don’t let them out, they will keep me up at night until I do.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I like to listen to rock music both old and new, especially when I am writing. Dead Heart was written while listening to Pearl Jam, RA, The Offspring, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and some good old Elvis Presley.
What books are in your to-read pile?
Up next I am actually re-reading a great book called Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti, because I was so wrapped up in seeing how it was going to end that I feel I missed some of the deeper layers of this gripping story. After that I intend to finish The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, and I am on book four. I am a fast reader so this won’t take long and I intend to start filling an empty spot on my bookshelf with new books from unknown authors during the holiday season. I need at least twenty books to get me through the winter.
What is something that people would be surprised to know about you?
People are always surprised to find out that I am both a horror writer and also an ordained minister. I guess I understand the contradiction, I mean it would seem weird going to a church where Stephen King was the preacher, wouldn’t it?
About Dead Heart
Would you give someone your own beating heart so they may live?
That is the question Doctor Paul Vieyra will have to ask himself as his world comes crashing down around him, and the ghost of those who died on his operating table haunt his mind.
When Dr. Vieyra sister’s heart begins to fail and her life fade away, a new heart or surgery are her only chances for survival—a chance no doctor is willing to take. Dr. Vieyra will risk everything he has and more for his sister. He will need the help of both old and new friends along with his mental ghosts if he is going to overcome the incredible obstacles that stand in his way.
The clock is ticking. Will he be able to save his sister’s dead heart? What is he willing to risk?
About the Author
R.L. King was born in Grants Pass, Oregon, in 1978. King grew up in a poor mountain town. He and his family lived in an old school bus and shared an outhouse. They did not have a television until Reagan was re-elected.
King is the author of Two Bad Men (2005), Parallel You (2006), and Dead Heart (2007). These novels were created at the request of his friend who needed something good to read. King also published two short stories in 2010, for publishing credentials: The Tell-Tale Soul and The Water-Grave Redemption.
R.L. King currently resides in Oklahoma City, and works in the precious metals industry. He continues to write as late as he can most nights.
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