Haunted houses, scorpions, and teenagers. It sounds like the rumblings of your typical tween science fiction novel, but it isn’t. The debut novel, The Red Scorpion, from Ed Newman — who is generally known for his short stories — deals with all these topics. But Newman combines them in an mature, adult fiction kind of way.
The scene of the story is set with Book One — a professor and researcher travels to Mexico to follow up on some well-known myths. But along the way, he comes across a dangerous breed of red scorpions. His naive, but curious demeanor encourages him to bring a scorpion back home. And so begins an 80-year haunted house story with a twist. The house isn’t haunted with ghosts, but scorpions.
I reached Newman via email and spoke with him about some of the themes of the story, how he came to publish his first novel, and why he found it important to make it strictly available as an e-book.
Q: In your afterward, you talk about how you got the idea for this story. You said that it started out as a dream you had about the action sequence at the end. But those who read it know the story deals with a lot of different themes — fear, adolescence, bullying, even mythology. How did you develop the initial sequence you had in mind into the story it became?
A: Good question. I think all creativity is a form of problem solving. Many of my stories have emerged from dreams over the years, but only this one became a book. The idea required developing a backstory, and as I mulled over where the red scorpion came from I drew from my experiences living in Mexico in 1981. Making a haunted house story came from my experiences as a teen exploring abandoned houses, always imagining something dark about the place. Unrestrained imagination is like weather patterns. You don’t really control them, you just go with whatever is stirred up.
Q: I was very intrigued by Book One. Did you ever think of developing that a little more? And, what made you decide to tell the story this way — in two parts?
A: Book one was originally a middle section called book two. I had attempted to write it as a diary, but there were too many loose ends that a diarist couldn’t really touch on so I wrote it as a first person account telling what was in the diary. Finally I re-wrote this as a third person account and liked it better, but ultimately decided to make it book one for the purpose of set-up. Maybe this came about as a temporary aversion to the overuse of flashback in films.
Q: At the end of your afterward, you allude to a sequel. Do you have one in the works? If so, what can we expect?
A: Well, I do not have a fully fleshed out sequel, but imagined that there could be some kind of news story that Dusty, now a couple years older, connects to the red scorpion. In the sequel Chuchui, the youth who betrayed his tribe, is now an elderly man who has an empire of some kind. He used his education for evil and has become corrupted by power perhaps. It could play on the drug wars and violence south of the border as a continuation of No Country For Old Men.
Q: After writing short stories for years, this is your first novel. How does it feel to finally get a long-form story out there?
A: A bit like giving birth. A lot of labor pains at the end. Gratifying, of course, since I carried this thing for such a long, long time.
Q: Why did it take so long to make it happen?
A: I work full time and it simply takes a lot of energy to produce a book length manuscript. Stories and articles and blog entries are so much easier to dream up, assemble and release. It takes a special degree of motivation to tackle a book. I was not motivated by money since most books fail to really get a serious return. My aim was to create a Lord of the Flies type book that all the kids on my son’s school bus would be reading when he was a senior in high school. I got serious about the book when he was a freshman or thereabouts. It never happened that way – he is 25 now – but this was the driving force that helped me finish the project. When I failed to get a publisher I set it aside until picking it back up this summer as an endeavor that needed closure so I could move on.
Q: Your book is only available in e-book version. What lead to your decision to just do it as an e-book?
A. Ten or so years ago my father-in-law wrote a wonderful World War II memoir called And There Shall Be Wars. Over 500 pages, 176 original photos and more. He self-published after we made endless attempts to find a publisher. The 2000 books he printed cost $9,000 dollars. A majority of those books are still in boxes in my garage.
Ultimately, the week before our book launch I was persuaded by a publisher friend to print 50 copies for people who come to our book launch party. The economics of such short runs doesn’t make sense though and I have no interest in leaving a garage full of books for my heirs.
The real impetus for going virtual with our book is that I have at least four more books in the pipeline, and that Amazon announced that they have sold more e-books than printed books this year, a first, and a foretaste of the future.