At the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver last night, I met a fascinating author named Dan Wells. He’s published a number of critically acclaimed novels, including the John Cleaver series (I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want to Kill You), which focus on a young sociopath pitted against supernatural forces; a new YA series of apocalyptic-horror novels beginning with this year’s Partials; and the brand-new novel The Hollow City, about a paranoid schizophrenic facing some very real terror. Despite these endeavors, Wells is still flying under the radar, poised for his breakout novel. That breakout will come soon, have no fear. It’s inevitable.
Personally, I’ve read only the John Cleaver books, and they’re something special. It’s the voice of young John Wayne Cleaver that resonates with me: Cleaver is a young man struggling with what he feels are his own sociopathic tendencies. He believes it might be inevitable that he become a serial killer. As he tries like hell to avoid that fate, he begins to suspect that an actual serial killer might very well be preying on the population of his small town. It’s an irresistible concept, and Wells pulls off the voice with a smooth, quirky assurance. Cleaver’s is a such a strong, unique, and real personality that you might even feel disappointment when the first book turns toward the supernatural toward the end! But hey, aren’t we all suckers for a great monster story?
(There’s a terrific blog post over at TOR in which the dustjacket designer for the John Cleaver series, Peter Lutjen, talks about creating those striking covers. Check it out!)
At the booksigning, Wells was promoting his new book, The Hollow City, so he mostly talked about that work, and it holds great promise. His discussion about the book’s paranoid-schizophrenic narrator as the ultimate unreliable narrator was eye-opening. He also spoke about his new YA apocalyptic-horror series that begins with Partials, letting us Coloradans know that Denver will not fare well in the series’ second book, Fragments. Wells ended the evening with an insightful answer to a question from the audience about the value of horror fiction—that horror is the most cathartic and moral of fiction.
Wells has had a busy year! It’s enough to make an aspiring writer a bit envious! He’s got a few prominent hardcover series under his belt or in progress, and he’s busy with ebooks and web efforts. Check out his website. And if you’re not a fan of his Writing Excuses podcast, I suggest you become one. It’s an award-winning effort produced by four prominent genre writers, brimming with humor both low and high, and filled with industry insight. I also found this nicely conducted interview of Dan Wells. Worth a look!
I’ll probably tackle Partials next, because its end-of-the-world vibe is interesting to me right now as I’m writing my own apocalyptic-horror trilogy. I did sign a copy of Under the Skin for Mr. Wells and handed it to him as a gift at the end of the night, so I hope he has time to give it a look. Sometime in the next week, he’s moving his family to Germany for a year—adventurous spirits that they are. I can imagine Under the Skin as the perfect airplane ride. Except, you know, for all those parts about airliners falling horrifically from the sky. So, yeah, maybe not.