Author Interview: PD Avella

Recently, I was offered a chance to read and review the novel Golem by author PD Avella. (You can read that review HERE) PD Avella offered to do an author interview -and I am so excited about it!

Read on to get a first hand look at Golem, PD’s advice to young writers and more.

(Also, there may be some spoilers ahead)

So first off – What is Golem about?

This is probably one of the more difficult questions to answer. At its core Golem is a horror novel that follows a wet behind the ears Detective, John Ashton, whose first assignment is to find the District Attorney’s missing daughter, and all the hell that follows him during his mission, but this description is really just scratching the surface.

I do believe that all writers, whether they are aware of it or not, reflect their beliefs on society within the pages of their novel. If you think about it, how could they not, we all need a point of reference whether we’re writing urban fantasies, literary, or science fiction, we always require a basic foundation for our characters and the world they live in. Golem is no exception to this rule; it’s a reflection of current society that addresses themes of isolation, loneliness, heartache, and division. Although I do believe the most dire conclusion made in Golem are the harms caused and brought on through self-deception. Every character in Golem-other than Golem himself-have indulged in self-deception, attempting to be something they are not in order to live up to societal norms and beliefs. This is the fuel Golem uses to manipulate his agenda. So few people in society are able to take a hit on the chin and maintain their integrity, always selling out instead of taking a stand for what is right, even if doing what is right isn’t within personal benefit.

I write books during the day but at night I moonlight as a psychotherapist in private practice, a career I’ve had for more than fifteen plus years. I see a wide variety of patients, people from all walks of life, from the poor and homeless to the super rich, lgbtq+, to straight white men, and what I find is how brainwashed society has become, with belief systems that reflect whatever news channel they watch as if their lives depended on it. And all this division and fear is infecting their minds but its really all an illusion. Complete bullshit IMO. And as we’re digging at each other and fighting to see which side is right and which is wrong, the few who rule the world are laughing all the way to the bank. Simple fact is this, whatever news station you’re watching, the person who owns that station also owns the news station you refuse to watch. Two completely different narratives driven by the same bird. It’s a joke really and we’ve become too lazy to find out the facts for ourselves, listening to bureaucrats living in mansions and flying private jets while we all scramble to find our way in life.  

What you believe is what you manifest, this is true, but here’s some information that most people don’t know. Our belief systems are forged through our programming. We are all programmed; we get it from our parents, teachers, family, friends, and what we consume. Then, when we are confronted with adversity what we see is our belief system. There are more than four thousand bits of information coming at us during every second of the day, but we don’t see all four thousand bits, its impossible, so what we do is delete, distort, or generalize the information in order to validate our belief systems. This is why two people can see the same movie or read the same book or be asked the same question and have completely different responses. What we also do is manifest situations, circumstances, and events that validate our belief system. And while this tit for tat is raging across society, evil laughs and maintains control. It’s a pretty sad state and believe me I’ve fought for 15 years to turn the tide.

I live my life on a few very basic principles: never take anything at face value, do your own research; Trust few and love all (that’s Shakespeare) but choose the few your trust wisely; and, The only thing I know is I don’t know anything (Socrates, or Plato depending on which philosopher you’re talking to). My best advice is plain and simple, do you want to be right or do you want to be peaceful? I choose peace every time. Until we can all accept and celebrate our differences as a society the devil wins-as metaphorical as the word devil may be.

Golem is definitely a psychological horror. It’s got uncomfortable scenes, a great villain and a driven storyline. What inspired you to write Golem? 

What inspired me to write Golem was a love of the written word and the classics that have had such a large impact on me as a writer and human. Books like Frankenstein, The Shining, Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, and all of Edgar Poe and his macabre manifesto on life and society. Then there were the villains, characters who have stood the test of time and still stand immortal. Think Lestat, Hannibal Lecter, Dorian Grey, Frankenstein, and even the Joker. I was inspired to write a villain of equal tenacity, intelligence and deviance.

When you wrote Golem, did you have the character ideas in mind already? Or did you piece them together as you wrote? 

When I write just about any novel, usually a main character or two are already on my mind, however, most of the characters are pieced together as I’m writing. For Golem, Alena and Golem himself were already on my mind, but Annette and John Ashton along with all the supporting characters arrive as I’m writing.

While writing the book, is there anything you wrote that kind of surprised you? 

The demonic possession sex scene in the ClairField surprised me. I remember saying to my wife, “I think I successfully wrote a sex scene with demonic possession. Pretty cool right?” Wife rolls her eyes, says nothing, and goes on about her day as if she didn’t hear a word I said. Also, the scene when Alena is first possessed and meets Sophia for the first time. I still find that scene creepy and demonic, its pure evil and freaks me out every time I read it. Its one of my favorite scenes.

Which character was the hardest to create? Why? 

Annette Flemming was the hardest to write, which is why I find the first chapter so important. It’s a true reflection of Annette with insights into her psyche that develop and manifest later in the novel while setting the tone for the rest of the story. She had to be impactful and yet forgotten a second later.

If Golem was turned into a movie, which actors would you want to play the main roles? 

For Golem it would have to be either Bradley Cooper or Leo Dicaprio. I had Leo’s hairstyle in mind when I wrote Golem. What can I say, the man’s got great hair but I think Cooper would be better in the role, he’s got more of a sinister look about him, although both are damn fine actors. However, without a doubt, if Heath Ledger was alive the honor would go to him. A lot of Golem’s mannerisms and manipulative nature were inspired by Heath’s portrayal of the Joker.

Alena’s role would go to Elisabeth Moss. I firmly believe she can pull this role off, considering The Handmaid’s Tale and The Invisible Man.

John Ashton: When I wrote John I always had Brad Pitt’s character from Seven in mind so lets go with Pitt on this one, although I may be aging myself with these actor picks. However, if we need to go young I’d pick Timothee Chalamet, that guy from the new Dune movie, from what I’ve seen the kid can act so let’s give him the role.

Annette Flemming: This is a tough pick. My first instinct would choose Jennifer Lawrence, although Emma Watson or Saoirse Ronnan would be good picks too.

I know that the ClareField was based off of a real place in history – did anything inspire the other settings in Golem? 

The Francon Mansion on Long Island had two inspirations, the first was the mansion from The Great Gatsby, and the second is the mansion in Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. Also, the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital was inspired by the mental health facility I worked in when I first entered the psychology field.

Speaking of history and folklore, in the Afterword you mentioned parts of your book were based on old stories and folklore (Golem, the ClareField, the scandals with the Mayor and more) – How did these help you shape your story? Did you read them and decide to write a book about them, or did you do research and it fit together with the storyline well? 

The folklore (Golem, Pandora, Pygmalion) was all researched well before I started to write. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, and folklore, and enjoy twisting these into my stories. After I chose the setting and time period I began researching New York City during the 1940’s and 50’s, specifically looking for scandals and treachery I could use in the novel to explain Golem and his manipulative nature. The time period and New York did not disappoint, everything fit perfectly within the narrative. I’m from New York so I knew there would be a slew of controversy.

There were parts in Golem that were nerve-wracking to read, where I wanted to yell at John to turn around and leave or at least remember Alena’s story. Is it hard to write certain situations knowing that bad things could happen to your characters? 

Not hard at all really. In fact when such scenes are about to occur I can’t wait to start writing them. I’m a horror fan so writing those scenes are so important to get right and I never want to disappoint fellow horror fans so I take them seriously and put everything I’ve got into making them as real and surreal as possible. I’m like a kid hopped up on Mountain Dew before writing those scenes.

Which scene was most difficult to write? 

The scene when Alena first meets Maleva, the gypsy in New York. It’s such a pivotal scene and was highly important to me on a personal level considering how much I adore the gypsy in Lon Chaney’s The Wolf Man.

Which scene or chapter is your favorite? 

I have so many favorite scenes in this book I can go on and on but basically a few stand out as my all time faves. I do love the initial gypsy/Alena scene, but also, the scene with Alena talking to her statue the night Golem is born, the scene when Golem takes the orphans and the possessed Alena to the apartment to talk with Mrs. McGovern, the scene when Golem meets Alena outside the ClairField after her first possession, and the scene towards the end of the book when Golem meets with John Ashton. And I do love the scene when John is talking to the cabbie on his way to the Francon Mansion. Also I love Golem’s speeches, they’re so truthful and hurtful, he really knows how to manipulate. And of course the end of the book, which had been planned well before I started to write. I believe that how the book concludes is the most important aspect of the entire novel. There’s a long story about why the book ends like it does. I would like to tell that story but unfortunately it’ll give away the ending so I’ll have to wait a few years to tell it.

Which scene, character or plot line changed most from first draft to published book? 

Truthfully, not much changed from the first draft to published book other than the typical content and proofread edits. If anything it would be the first chapter, but that seems to happen with all of my books.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story? 

A profound sense of how evil manipulates, how we need to accept ourselves, even those parts of ourselves and our families we despise, and, in the end, I hope readers have a truly excellent reader experience with a novel and story that cuts to the bone and satisfies that literary itch like no other book has. If a reader ever says to me that after they read Golem they felt like they just read Frankenstein in 1819 that would make my career.

And now some questions about you! 

What led you to start writing? 

I’ve always been a writer; I started writing well before second grade. Writing has always been what I’ve known I need to do in life. I hold literature in such a high regard I can’t even begin to let the world know just how important literature is to me. I’ve also had truly amazing teachers in my life who have opened my eyes to literature and what literature should be, a profound experience that touches the heart and enriches the soul.

What is your writing process like? 

It all starts with an emotion and a scene, something I want to transfer to the reader, and then the themes start piling on and then the plot. At this time what I do is I begin sending myself emails with little tidbits on characters, scenes, and plot development. Then I’ll put all those emails into a folder in my email and when I finally sit down to write, I’ll take those emails and copy and paste them into a word document that I keep open while writing. Then I start writing, flying by the seat of my pants and never, not once, look at the word document.

Does writing energize you, or wear you out? 

100% Energizes. I’m never happier than when I’m writing.

If you were to genre-hop, what other genres would you like to try to write? 

I have more than a few books published. I’ve written everything from a literary coming of age novel with metaphysical content (Indifference), to a metaphysical family saga-what I call my Hallmark novel-about immortality (A Billion Tiny Moments in Time), to a non-fiction self help book (Let Your Soul Evolve). I’ve also written a dark fiction short story collection (Twisted Tales of Deceit), and a dark fantasy paranormal inspirational story (Presenting the Marriage of Kelli Anne and Gerri Denemer). However, when I took the plunge and decided to take a smaller role in my private practice to write full time I chose my go-to die hard fave genres, science fiction and horror. Golem is my first true horror novel, and I have already written my second horror novel, Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect, with at least two more in the pipeline. My science fiction fantasy thriller series, The Rose, has Volumes 1 and 2 already published and I’ll begin writing Vol 3 soon. The story features a sophisticated species of alien vampires living in hollow earth who have conspired with grey aliens and the human elite to subjugate the human population after WW3. This is true escapist type of literature with a lot of conspiracy theories that any ancient aliens or X-files fan would have a field day with.

I also recently started writing an urban fantasy novella series titled Girl on a Mission. As you can tell I don’t like to limit myself.

What’s the best writing advice someone has ever given you? The worst? 

Best advice: Read, read, read. Write, write, write. There’s no getting around these two.

Worst advice: Don’t write horror, no one reads it unless you’re Stephen King.

Who are your favorite authors and why? 

This is a loaded and unfair question. I don’t think there’s enough space in this word document to list all my faves so I’ll keep this to a very few:

Edgar Allen Poe: He’s the master of the macabre. What else can I say?

Ray Bradbury: One of my favorite authors since childhood. His imagination, stellar prose, and ability to write in multiple genres is fantastic. Truly one of the greatest writers ever.

Stephen King: How can I not list an author who has had such a great impact on authors and readers for decades? Although I do believe his novels have gotten a bit cookie cutter over the last few decades, his earlier work is what has enthralled me for years. I consider The Shining a masterpiece and have always appreciated how far his imagination can reach.

VE Schwab: I had to include a contemporary author, although I consider most of today’s authors more like colleagues, I do love her style of writing, especially books like Vicious and Vengeful and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was pretty damn good too.

Other honorable mentions include: The Bronte Sisters, Mary Shelley, Washington Irving, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dante Alighieri, Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway, Clive Barker, John Herbert, Blake Crouch, JD Barker, Sylvia Plath, Anne Rice, Shirley Jackson, Dan Brown, Thomas Harris, HG Wells, and Lovecraft.

And finally, what writing advice would you give a young writer starting out in your genre? 

Read young one, but do more than just read, study the craft and the art. Stop every once in a while as you’re reading and study how the author introduced new characters or concepts. How does the book flow from one chapter to the next? What is the sentence structure? Are they short sentences or long sentences. How does the author plant seeds in the readers mind and foreshadow the end to the story?

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