A HOLIDAY ANNOUNCEMENT FROM TODD KEISLING
Earlier this year, I announced a partnership with Bloodshot Books regarding a secret project titled “Project: Willoughby.” Here’s what I had to say then:
“This post is the last time I’m going to talk about it here until it’s done. It’s likely that when the project is done, you’ll have forgotten all about the project, as it’s not expected to be complete until 2020–but for now, I’m telling you it exists so you don’t think I’m not working on anything of substance. I am. It’s just going to take a while to finish.”
A full month later, I was laid off from my job, and suddenly I had a lot of free time. Work formally began on Willoughby around May of this year, and I worked on it every day between freelance projects.
The project was broken up into three phases. Phase One was finished in early summer. Phase Two was done in late summer, just before Scares That Care in August. And Phase Three began in earnest not long after.
To be clear, Phase Three isn’t done, but it’s nearing the halfway point. It’s far enough along that I’m ready to announce what Willoughby actually is. Ready?
It’s a red herring.
Project: Willoughby is a nonsense title made up to disguise the fact that I’ve been working on the Monochrome Trilogy. You read that correctly.
I’m happy to reveal that Bloodshot Books will be publishing newly revised and expanded editions of the first two novels, A LIFE TRANSPARENT and THE LIMINAL MAN, in 2021. The final novel, NONENTITY, will be published for the first time later that year.
The titles will feature new covers and interiors designed by Dullington Design Co. The first two have been expanded to feature additional chapters which help set the stage for what’s to come in Book Three. All three titles will include an extended afterword series “Who is Donovan Candle?” They will be available in trade paperback and Amazon Kindle editions.
WHAT IS THE MONOCHROME TRILOGY?
It’s the story of an everyman named Donovan Candle and what happens when he discovers one day that he is physically disappearing from reality. On the other side is a desolate mirror image of our reality, drained of color, filled with gaunt monstrosities, and lorded over by a demigod who calls him Aleister Dullington.
On the surface, the story is equal parts King, Koontz, and Kafka. There are monsters and violence and casualties, with undertones of cosmic horror throughout. It’s been described as “if Stephen King wrote The Matrix.”
But at its heart, it’s an existential horror fable about identity, manipulation, and finding one’s place in today’s world. With monsters.
A Real-Time Chat with Todd Keisling about Project Willoughby
NW: So, let's just jump right in with your special top-secret project with Bloodshot Books!
TK: Sure thing. So, way back in '07, I self-published a novel called A Life Transparent. The book was inspired by a shitty job situation (big surprise), and is about a man who one day discovers he's physically fading out of existence. And so the character of Donovan Candle was born.
The book was re-released in 2010 following a successful Kickstarter campaign, after which I formed Precipice Books. A sequel, The Liminal Man, was published in 2012 and was a finalist for the 2013 Indie Book Awards in Horror & Suspense.
During the editing phase of the sequel, I realized that the book was the middle of a trilogy. One I hadn't really planned for. I'll come back to that in a moment.
NW: *picture me eating popcorn, listening intently*
TK: Hahah, okay!
So, I gave myself some time away from the series. I needed a break. I was burned out on that universe and needed a change. That's how the stories which eventually became Ugly Little Things and The Final Reconciliation were born.
I struggled with the third novel for about five years. Finally, I announced publicly that I was going to abandon it. None of my current readers knew about the Monochrome Trilogy, and I wasn't all that interested in finishing it.
And then...I found myself in a shitty job situation again. I started thinking about that story, where it was going, and how each entry seemed to coincide with turning points in my life. By that point, ULT and Final Rec had become big successes. I'd signed with an agent, and she was shopping my novel, Devil's Creek. I wasn't really a self-pubbed author anymore. I'd built a solid fanbase, way bigger than I'd had with the original novel back in '07. So, I thought maybe it's time to introduce my new readers to this character and universe I'd created. I approached Pete at Bloodshot about reprinting the first two novels, and finally publishing the third. He was all for it.
I just had one request: We had to keep it a secret.
NW: This is so exciting for you and your audience!
TK: I hope so! I'm excited for this thing to finally be happening. We kept it a secret all year, and I didn't want to announce it formally until the third book was truly underway.
NW: And at this point are you still working on the third story or is that finished? What stage is that book at?
TK: I'm working on the third book. Just started Chapter Six, approximately 23k words into the story. I expect it to fall somewhere between 60K & 80K.
Shooting for a March completion date.
NW: So fans really should start at the beginning with the first book, A LIFE TRANSPARENT which will be expanded and reprinted, correct?
TK: That is correct. A Life Transparent & its sequel The Liminal Man have been completely revised and feature two new chapters each. This arrangement with Bloodshot allowed me an opportunity to go back, fix some of the inconsistencies, and smooth out the gaps that happen when you're writing a trilogy that you didn't plan for. The result is, I hope, a more cohesive experience for new readers who are meeting these characters for the first time.
And for my legacy readers, there's more story with the characters they've come to know and love/loathe.
NW: So for someone like myself, a newcomer, how would you explain this universe? What is this story about--is this a horror genre series?
TK: It is a horror story, but not in the conventional sense. I like to call it ‘existential horror’, but I could see it being lumped in with weird horror or even supernatural thrillers. As I mentioned before, it's about a guy who wakes up and discovers he's fading out of reality. He's starting to see strange things--creatures big and small, sometimes in corners of the room, sometimes on the shoulders of people he knows. He's beginning to be ignored by those around him, and as the days go on, his visions grow more intense. He's seeing a world drained of color and texture. This is the Monochrome. A parallel reality, populated with creatures called the Yawning (which hunt and consume those who've transitioned over) and the Cretins (which make others forget). Controlling this place is a monk-like figure named Aleister Dullington. He's taken an interest in Mr. Candle, for reasons I can't spoil.
The books have been described as "If Stephen King wrote The Matrix" and "Koontz meets Kafka."
NW: Well, SOLD! That sounds amazing. You've been busy writing, then! You also have Devil's Creek coming soon!
TK: I am, and I do! Devil's Creek drops June 16th, 2020 from Silver Shamrock.
NW: I have loved everything that Silver Shamrock has been investing in! An indie press to keep our eyes on for sure. What can you tell us about working with them on Devil's Creek
TK: Working with Ken & team at Silver Shamrock has been fantastic. The rights are fair, they're putting a lot into their books and promotion of their authors, and they pay on time.
NW: Well, that's refreshing to hear after everything we've heard in the industry lately about shady principles and dealings behind closed doors with some indie presses--I wonder if it makes some authors reconsider self-publishing!
TK: Yeah, it's definitely refreshing, and also a relief. I have friends who've been burned by so many small presses in the past. So far, Silver Shamrock's doing everything right and above board.
NW: Todd, do you have any advice for up and coming authors navigating this industry for the first time? Any pitfalls to be aware of or sage wisdom you can impart to our readers?
TK: I do. Read your contract. Read it again. And again. And then ask someone else to read it. And if you still have questions, ask the publisher to clarify. Understand what rights they're claiming in the contract. Make sure there's a time frame or catalyst for rights reversion. Never be afraid to push back on something you aren't comfortable with. And if things still don't feel right, there's no shame in walking. It's YOUR work. Value it. Value the time you put into it. And if you aren't sure, there's a whole community of writers, professional and indie alike, who you can ask.
And for the indie authors out there: Please invest in better covers and interior formatting. And take your time with editing. In fact, don't hit "publish" until you've checked all those boxes. Please. Your readers will thank you.
*steps off soapbox*
NW: YES!!! *clapping* Great advice!! Will you be making any public appearances or going to any cons in 2020
TK: I will! I'll be at Necon 40 in Salem, MA next July, and Scares that Care in VA next August. I'm also hoping to do some indie bookstore events around the release of Devil's Creek. Details will follow as they materialize. Oh, and I'll be attending the Von Trapp Lodge writing retreat next month in Vermont (weather permitting).
NW: A pretty full schedule! I'll be seeing you at STC-I'm looking forward to it, my very first con weekend
TK: Yay! I can't wait to meet and hang out! I'll be at the Silver Shamrock table all weekend.
NW: Fun! Okay, last question: What books did you read in 2019 that blew your mind? Who are you a fan of?
TK: Oh man. I try to read as much as I can, but it's never as much as I want. Let's see... John Taff's THE FEARING. Ketchum's THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (in audio--Dallas narrated it. Utterly gutting.), Brian Kirk's WILL HAUNT YOU, I'm nearing the end of Gwendolyn Kiste's THE RUST MAIDENS in audio (beautiful book). T.E.D. Klein's THE CEREMONIES. John Horner Jacobs's A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL. I know I'll think of more as soon as the chat is over, but those all stand out to me right now.
NW: Oh man, I loved A LUSH AND SEETHING HELL too, really memorable writing.
TK: Agreed! And The Rust Maidens...just, wow. Kiste's writing makes me want to up my game.
NW: I still need to read that! It haunts me! Thank you so much for visiting with me today, Night Worms will continue to update readers as to your progress with this exciting new project and we anticipate the release of DEVIL’S CREEK
TK: Thank YOU, Sadie.