As the weekend arrives I thought I’d feature an author whose work might be of interest to readers who listen to hard rock and visitors to Metal Month. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s reanimator, Herbert West, author Audrey Driscoll has created a series of books which reimagine the exploits of West. I’ll let the author explain.
In 1922, Howard Phillips Lovecraft wrote a series of 6 stories called “Herbert West, Reanimator” for a magazine called Home Brew. Herbert is a medical student and, later, a physician who pursues secret research into corpse reanimation – creating zombies, in other words. Nothing good can come of this, you would think, and you would be right.
I thought Herbert was interesting. HPL described him as slight, blond and bespectacled. My imagination supplied elegant, neat-handed and witty. I wanted to know more about this guy and his friend, the unnamed narrator. Since H.P. Lovecraft was long dead, and had anyway spoken disparagingly of this story, the only thing to do was more imagining. Then I started to write.
I furnished Herbert with a family (a troubled one, natch) and named the narrator Charles Milburn. Charles could not be a medical student or physician because there was no way I could replicate the insider jargon of medicine circa 1910. So he became a librarian, a cataloguer at Miskatonic University in Arkham. Herbert wanted to have a look at the fabled Necronomicon, which was how he met Charles. Needing an accomplice for his dubious experiments, he tapped into Charles’s interest in the occult (while belittling it as “irrational”) in order to recruit him.
Herbert West, is, of course, a “mad scientist” in the Frankenstein tradition. Everyone knows these individuals are inherently evil or at least seriously misguided. Nothing good should happen to them.
I disagreed. Herbert was an attractive character (in some ways). I thought it would be a pity to destroy him. Why not a transformation? He’s a scientist, I thought. A chemist, in fact. Transformation… Chemistry… Alchemy! Charles is interested in alchemy, and once he realizes his friend is a complex mixture of good and evil, he starts to see him as the prima materia that, subjected to sufficient ordeals, may become the Philosopher’s Stone.
In the course the of four novels that comprise the Herbert West Series, the title character certainly undergoes a number of ordeals and experiences. At the end of the first book, The Friendship of Mortals, he changes his name to Francis Dexter. He travels around the world, striking sparks off some people, finding comfort and balm in others. Friendships, love affairs, sorrows and joys all have their effects. By the time the series wraps up, back in Arkham, Herbert West/Francis Dexter is a completely different sort of person than the hyper-rational, scientific corpse-revivifier he was at the beginning.
I hope that readers who make their way through all four books will feel moved to explore the forces behind things and allow for the effects of the unknown in ordinary life. They may even come to find alchemy, with its rich and colourful symbols, as interesting as I do.
The Herbert West Series comprises upward of half a million words. Given its title character’s origin in pulp fiction and lack of a firm genre focus, it’s no wonder I ended up publishing the four books myself. They are available as ebooks only, on Amazon and Smashwords and the ebook retailers Smashwords distributes to.
The process of publishing through Smashwords was surprisingly straightforward. Amazon’s KDP is perhaps slicker, but Mark Coker’s enterprise is more approachable and human. I am grateful to his efforts on behalf of indie authors.
Book promotion is whatever the author makes of it. I have found that making the first book of a series free is a good way to attract readers, some of whom go on to acquire the later books. The more people acquire that first book, the greater the number of repeat buyers. That said, I priced The Friendship of Mortals at $0.99 after I bought professional cover images for the series early in 2014. The other three books are $2.99 each, which means the entire series – a long and, I hope, colourful mind-movie – may be enjoyed for a mere $10.
Publishing, blogging, reading and reviewing books, along with participation in critique groups and occasional beta-reading commitments, hasn’t left me much free time for new writing in the past several years. I wrote another novel in 2007/08. Winter Journeys is a celebration of Franz Schubert’s gloriously gloomy song cycle, Winterreise. I’m not sure that I will publish it, though.
Instead, I have an intention to start writing something new this fall and winter. There are two proto-novels competing for my attention. One is a sequel to the Herbert West Series set in 1960s Egypt, featuring archaeological discoveries and ancient secrets. The other is a quest fantasy for which I have been cobbling together a world in spare moments. I’m not sure which one will prevail.
If you’re tempted to find out more you can follow the links:
Author blog: audreydriscoll.com
And you can buy the books here:
Thanks to Audrey for submitting the information and agreeing to be plunged into Metal Month! I’m sure H.P. Lovecraft would approve.