A lifelong fan of horror and dystopian, Evan Bollinger likes to dream up the wild, the dark, and the devilish. His latest book, Siphoners, is a story of identity and trajectory, in which certain people have the ability to siphon human life. As our author of the day, Bollinger tells us all about his inspiration, explains why he included conspiracy in this book and gives us some insights into the characters.
Please give us a short introduction to what Siphoners is about.
Siphoners is a story of identity and trajectory. Who are these four young strangers, and where are they going? Why are their lives suddenly changing so rapidly, and terribly? Why were their lives so different to begin with? I like to think of Siphoners as a fusion of supernatural horror, psychological thriller, and dystopian sci-fi. It doesn’t fit cleanly into one genre or niche but I think its appeal is its uniqueness, its blending of genres and blurring of realities. What transpires is a collision of sorts. Between a world unseen and unknown, and the one we thought we knew. With devastating consequence.
What inspired you to write about people with the ability to siphon human life?
I’m not a huge vampire guy, but I do like the idea of ‘psychic vampires’ or supernatural (sometimes nefarious) beings and entities that can influence us from afar. This can lead to a sort of narrative distance, fractured psyches and general mystery and intrigue. Since Siphoners is about millennials, it already includes characters who are curiously coming into their own and ‘waking up’ to the illusions they’ve been sold. These aren’t like your annoying thoughtless, entitled, self-righteous millennials though. They’re real, raw. They’re young but not too young, ripping through the veil into an underworld they couldn’t fathom. They have their own sorta dialect, and though each of these characters is very different, they do share a common but deadly thread.
It’s also a sort of allegory. Who hasn’t seen somebody and thought, if only I could have his or her energy, power, charisma, or ‘it’ factor? Siphoners is kind of like that. Except at a certain point, it’s not a choice. These four characters have to siphon to live. They are conflicted, confused, and hiding in the shadows. Well now, the shadows are forcing them—and everything—out.
Why did you decide to include conspiracy in the story?
Oh I love conspiracy. I live for it. It keeps me up at night and into the morning. My inner darkness craves it. I’m generally an agreeable and trusting person, except when it comes to certain types of people, places and things. Conspiracy is just cool to me. But I can’t just accept it. I have to really dig and do the research, like an aspie. I can’t accept anything at face value. Not if I’m being serious. So yea, Siphoners incorporates elements of substantive conspiracies, and also a lotta stuff to ‘stir the pot’ so to speak. I love to stir the pot. People that know me, like really know me, know that I love to stir the pot haha I definitely push the boundaries and have no qualms about it.
Truthfully, I want to make people uncomfortable, I want to make people feel strange, alien, sick and disturbed. I don’t do it merely for the ‘shock factor’ or ‘gross out’ but I don’t mind if people do end up feeling that way. I think you’ve gotta feel that way to truly live, to experience the spectrum of good/bad, light/dark, you name it. I don’t mind being a little divisive, and I’ve noticed some readers have absolutely looooathed my stories for that divisiveness, and that’s fine. I can take it.
The story contains a couple of twists - did you plan them all out before you started writing? Or did some of them just "happen"?
To be honest I just start writing. I have a general idea but the scenes sorta just flow. I know I want twists but I don’t know what kind. Once I’ve finished I go back to make sure there’s some internal consistency. My goal in Siphoners was to provide some crumbs, not too many. I also do a sorta ‘data dump’ at times. Some readers find that overwhelming, others not so much. It is what it is, but I do like to catch readers off guard, so to speak. It does set the stage for a larger conflict, as this is only Book 1 of the “Soul Burn” series. So Stay Tuned!
Tell us a bit more about your main characters. What makes them so relatable?
So we’ve got four: Donovan, a meek introverted college freshman with a shitty immune system (or so he thinks). Seth, a homeless but very successful pickpocket who is easygoing and cool. Avanti, a beautifully dark intelligent stripper and aspiring musician. And Frederick, a gay telemarketer who loves sangria and laments the end of his one and only loving relationship.
I think they’re all relatable in a number of ways. They’ve got insecurities, and they long to fit in and be accepted, and understand why they are what they are. Just like anybody. They’re generally smart and thoughtful, and quite in tune with others’ emotions. They question things, and perhaps, see things that others never will. But at the end of the day, they’re still human like you and me—maybe…
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Well, I can drink a lotta beer does that count? I can also grow a pretty nice red beard.
In my spare time, I like to run and exercise and stuff. I like to dive into different topics too like abnormal psychology, metaphysics, politics, para-phenomena, read up on conspiracies, of course, read different fiction, and of course, browse Tinder ;)
You chose to tell the story from different POVs - why did you take this approach?
I just feel like the whole idea of the story lent itself to this narration style. Different characters, distinct perspectives, and then, as the characters come together, these perspectives go from separate situations to different takes on the same situations. And then the ball really gets rolling as they discover who they are, what they’re part of, and where it’s going.
Do reviews and reader feedback shape your work? Or do you feel like it's better to avoid the feedback—both positive and negative—so that it won't interfere with your vision?
Oh, I read every review. Sometimes the really nasty ones make me wanna sit in an ice bath (?) haha but nah I’d say reviews are important to me. I mean, I’m not going to totally change my style just because some people hate what I write, just as I won’t keep my style totally the same just because some people love what I write. I take constructive criticism into consideration, and try to present my story in an honest way so that people who might want to read it end up doing so. I mean, you’re not going to pitch, say, a book about serial killers to a bunch of Harlequin romance readers? So yea, I try to keep it real. But I definitely do consider every review, however briefly, and then usually still end up writing what I want ;)
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
I sometimes get too big for my britches. I want to include too much, and I lose sight of the scope. I want it to be all globalized, with all these variables and problems and crazy facets of this thing called life. With Siphoners, I had to take a breather, just rein it in and just say, okay this is what the story is about. Come to think of it, I should probably plan it out beforehand but that’s just not how my brain works. I’ve tried that organization method, it just doesn’t jive. I’m more like, order from the chaos.
How did you maintain the eerie atmosphere of suspense throughout?
Well, I am kind of a weird dude. I’m pretty dark beneath these handsomely hairy layers ;)
I’d say I just came from a certain place. Finding that voice isn’t hard when you’re not looking. It’s like when you can’t remember something and then you stop trying and it just pops in your head. I just sit down and start writing. I don’t worry about what I think I should be writing, I just do it. I realize this explanation is pretty crappy but that’s basically how it works for me. I just let my fingers move across the keyboard and then my mind, heart, soul, whatever just sorta syncs. I hope…
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day for you?
I used to say when it rains it pours. Because I used to go for long periods, and then one day I’d sit down for some reason and it would just fly out and I’d be at it for hours. Sometimes I forgot to eat or drink haha sometimes I have some alcohol or take a little toke (mind you, no hunter s thompson here).
Nowadays, however, I’m more disciplined. I treat it more like a job. I set up the laptop and say, okay let’s get something done here. Let’s at least get something down, no matter how bad I think it is. I can always go back and edit most of it or just hit delete anyway. But for now, in the moment, let’s just get the ball rolling and see what happens. That’s life, you keep the ball rolling
Your work takes you to some very dark places. Do you ever get nightmares while writing your books?
This is true, I do explore some very dark places in my fiction. But frankly, I’ve been to some very dark places, personally. I allow myself to go there. I put myself through those things, I meet the kinda people a lotta people probably don’t. I seek certain situations. I seek the fringe. I want those people to impact me before I die. I want those experiences. I want to know different types of pain, and triumph and sufferings and absolute nail-biting, heart-bleeding other. I can get along with almost anybody, anywhere, and I do. But frankly, I’m a loner. I’m an introvert. At the end of the day, I might be happiest removed from people. And I love people. But I need time to reflect. I need time to take the energy I gained from others and situate within my own energy. Sorta like a Siphoner, I guess huh?
But actually, yea haha, I do get nightmares and they’re often nuts! I’ve included some of my worst nightmares as scenes in my fiction and some of them were so freakin intricate and mind-blowing to me. I only wish I could’ve represented them on the page the way I saw them. I don’t have many nightmares anymore, but my childhood was plagued by nightmares. No real reason, I had a pretty good childhood. I sorta just like nightmares though. Like, I subconsciously prime myself for them. I remember not wanting to get up on Saturdays and Sundays as a kid because I wanted to keep dreaming. Nightmares, lucid dreams, sunshine visions, whatever. I was like that in school too, always spacing out, never focused. It’s amazing I was able to get decent grades. In a nutshell, I love to dream and nightmares are part of that haha I’m a nutball like that.
What are you working on right now?
The sequel to Siphoners of course. And the sequel to Sly. And I’ll also been dusting off an old rough draft, a high fantasy. I actually always imagined writing high fantasy. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, create my own universe with unique creatures and places and laws of magic and history and the whole nine yards. It’s daunting but I love the idea of doing it and I think I would love doing it even more. I think the time has come to take a stab at it. The one I had in mind was about an orphan who has been adopted by a gang of highly-skilled rare beast hunters. He discovers he has suppressed powers just as a scourge of necromancers are returning from a 1,000 year banishment. He basically learns how to manipulate mana in everything and it goes from there...
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My blog: http://meandermin.blogspot.com/
My twitter: @Eballzz
And if you wanna shoot me an email: [email protected]