I’m thrilled to interview J.E. Purrazzi, author of the paranormal fantasy/horror book, The Raventree Society, among other works. I’m not usually a reader of ghost stories, but The Raventree Society was more fascinating than terrifying, and I look forward to what went into the writing of the tale.
About the Book
Kyle Hanson was not a believer. That all changed with what he saw at the Strawberry Lane Hotel.
1. Where did the idea for The Raventree Society come from?
The Raventree Society was one of those stories that pop into existence from nowhere. It doesn’t happen often, for sure. I conceived the idea for the first episode, The Strawberry Lane Hotel, after my Mom told our family she had been diagnosed with breast cancer a little over four years ago.
I often explore difficult subjects through my writing, particularly those that don’t have a straight answer. The Raventree Society started as a single short story as a quick escape but began to unfold as a way for me to explore how people respond to death. How a family evolves around it, in both positive and negative effects. How it affects individuals closest to it. What the after-effects are: both immediately after and long in the future. Being able to explore those concepts also opened up some much stronger themes for me, such as what effects love and acceptance can have on a person, and how change is impossible without them.
I think the fact that this series was mostly about asking myself questions and discovery is why I feel more like I discovered this story than created it.
2. What made you decide to publish it serially (in several different volumes)?
There were a few factors that played into the idea of using a serialization for Raventree. I was (and still can be at times) an avid listener of podcasts and interviews, and I had heard that serialization was a popular method for a while in Indie publishing.
In fact, one of my friends had become very successful in her own career by launching The Dragon School, a serialization of novella stories.
Ghost stories play well with this format because they don’t do well when dragged out. For readers to experience any real fear in a story, they should never know the rules, or become familiar with the attacker. Because of this, horror and paranormal books are often shorter, to preserve the fear.
When I first started writing Raventree, I took a lot of inspiration from CW’s Supernatural, and was later inspired greatly by Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.
Both are TV series, and the idea of releasing episodic stories through a “Season” really appealed to me and seemed to fit perfectly with the story.
By using a “monster of the week” episodic format, I could heighten fear, but by bringing in the tighter, overarching storyline, I could build bigger concepts, stronger themes, and more powerful character arcs.
It took a bit for readers to catch on to the idea at first, but most seem to really like it once they understand what I’m trying to do.
3. Was this your first time dabbling in the darker genre of paranormal fantasy/horror? If so, what made you choose it?
My writing is focused mostly around the cyberpunk and biopunk genre, with most of my books falling in the science fiction category. That being said, a lot of my work is darker, and draws a lot from horror. One of my favorite genres is gothic horror, and the ideas it plays with work really well in science fiction.
So while I haven’t written in paranormal fantasy or horror before this series, I have definitely played with some darker concepts.
One big reason I had for stepping into outright horror was to even out my brand. I had ideas for fantasy stories, and most of my stuff was a bit darker and scarier, so it made sense to step into that third branch of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror).
More importantly for me was the fact that I use my writing to explore concepts. I feel like ghosts and ghost stories are an avenue cultures throughout history have used to explore ideas around death, life after death, and grief.
While death snatches something away and leaves you alone without preamble or time to adjust, ghost stories give us a chance to wrestle with that loss. Time to adjust, and a reason why a part of us just can’t let go and understand that someone isn’t coming home anymore.
Because of the nature of ghost stories, it just seemed natural that my mind would have to go there to explore the things I was experiencing.
4. What was your favorite scene to write?
Oh, this is a hard one.
I think my favorite scenes to write are the family scenes. Family is at the center of this series, and as much as there are other themes and probably more exciting scenes, getting to really dig into the emotions of the family was probably my favorite.
If I had to pick one, there is a scene in the opening of Season Two that I love. It is in the first episode, Grace, and shows the first interaction we get with our main character, Kyle Hanson, and his family. Not everyone is present, but we get to see how the family dynamic was formed. How our main character impacts the people around him, and how they still stubbornly love him back. Though they have been changed by the experiences of the first season, and the dynamics are different, it was still a lot of fun to explore how Kyle relates to everyone. Who he is gentler with, who he is more guarded with, and how that has changed since the changes in the first season.
5. Which character is most like you? Least like you?
Every author knows that as much as we try to write characters that are their own person, we inevitably end up recreating a lot of ourselves. And honestly, I feel like readers who know me well might be able to point out those things to me better than I could find them for myself.
I know I put a lot of my own emotions and trials into the main character, Kyle, though the way he behaves is not like me at all.
I would like to believe that I am the most like Tyler, or even Hannah, but while both have some of my traits, I am probably the most like Josh.
Josh is the main character’s step-brother, and is constantly striving to “belong,” even if our main character feels like Josh is the perfect one and he himself the outsider.
Because of past hurts and his own high expectations, Josh is never fully able to relax in any setting. And he reacts strongly when he feels like he’s not “good enough.” Sometimes even being quite confrontational.
I am always learning and growing, but Josh seemed to point out a lot of my worst social behaviors, and it was funny reacting to myself as Kyle.
If I had to pick one character who I am least like… probably Leonard. He’s mostly played for laughs, though there are some reflections of some less than helpful advice and comments I’ve gotten over the years. I deliberately wrote him as a sort of punching bag to bring out the worst in me and set up the opening to Kyle’s arc.
6. Which part of the writing process is your favorite? Least favorite?
I love the planning process, research, and the first draft. That first fleshing out of the story is always the best. It feels the most like living in the story.
If I could have someone else take edits for me, I would very happily do so. And I think any author will tell you that marketing is the worst.
While I have come to enjoy aspects of marketing, mostly the interaction with my readers and the creativity, putting your creative work out there will never get any easier.
7. What excites you the most about reading and writing paranormal fantasy?
My favorite part of paranormal is the themes. While you can slip themes into most genres, and sometimes even fully drop in an analogy, you normally have to smuggle it in under the radar. Readers of straight science fiction want the original concepts, the fast-paced plot, or even the science itself. In fantasy, readers are excited about the sensation of awe, the characters, and the new world to explore.
However, in the gothic genres and ghost stories, readers expect and want there to be a deeper meaning. They look for themselves in the characters, and they expect their darkest fears to be reflected back at them. But I’ve found that most readers of horror and paranormal expect those personal fears not to be used against them, but to be leveraged as a vehicle for driving some deeper meaning home.
If you manage it well, paranormal can be one of the most effective means of driving home a deeper message or exploring a concept that you might not have the freedom to in another genre.
8. What are some of your favorite books in this genre?
I cannot recommend the classics enough: Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Grey, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Haunting of Hill House, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Hound of the Baskervilles. I don’t love Dracula but it’s well worth a read.
I am currently reading The Turn of the Screw and finding it particularly potent.
I will also recommend some more modern books. Neil Gaiman is a well loved author, and I really enjoyed both I read by him: The Graveyard Book and Coraline.
And if you want something a bit more unique with a healthy dose of humor, I will recommend Kyle Robert Shultz’s Crockett and Crane Series.
9. What can you tell us about your current projects?
I just got through planning for this coming year and I have a lot on my plate. I have a few major focuses, though.
The first order of business is to finish edits and publish the third and final book in my biopunk/dystopian series, The Malfunction Trilogy.
After that I will be working on drafting the first in a new cyberpunk series. I have hopes to put a few more books in my backlist by the end of the year.
I am also working on a secret project, and will be continuing to chip away at my Polynesian fantasy, Tawhiri, which is available on my website (see below for a link to J.E. Purrazzi’s website).
I have hopes to slip in a stand-alone late in the year that will fit into that gothic/paranormal tradition.
And of course, every year the Phoenix Fiction Writers, the writer’s collective I am a part of, releases a story anthology. My story is already written and ready to slip in, but being part of that publication is a highlight of every year.
It seems like a lot, but I have a few I am focusing on, and I am eager to start building my backlist with more stories.
About J.E. Purrazzi
I grew up on a steady diet of adventure both real and imagined. It was never quite enough. So what is a girl to do? The answer: live in a fantasy world.
Whether it be in art or writing, I am always trying to live multiple lives at once. You can usually find me lost in a maze of thoughts, occasionally emerging for my full-time job as a Nanny and the common distractions of being a housewife, church member, and mama’s girl.
I live in sunny Florida where I never visit the beach and avoid going out of doors in summer. I am at my best huddling in the air conditioning with my husband, two too many cats, and gallons upon gallons of fish tanks while I spend hours being distracted instead of being creative.
The best place to find me is on my website www.jillanepurrazzi.com. There you can find links to all my social media and my books, extras, goodies, a blog post, and more as well as links to my discord-based reader’s group.
What are you waiting for?! Go check out one of J.E. Purrazzi’s amazing books!