Monday, 31 October 2016 08:00

Lethbridge Herald reporter pens new horror novel

Written by  Greg Price
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Trying valiantly to keep the human spirit alive in the most inhuman of conditions is the focus of Taber writer — and Lethbridge Herald reporter — J.W. Schnarr’s latest novel, Living Dead.

Given some over-the-top shock value of some paths of the horror genre, for Schnarr, his fascination with the genre has been the commentary of mankind’s struggle within themselves.
“There is that fun with horror. There’s jump scares, and gore, and everyone loves Halloween, but horror, when it’s well done, really tells people about themselves,” said Schnarr. “The best horror conveys some sort of message. It’s a larger truth about the world that people can explore from a safe distance.”
Living Dead, Schnarr’s second novel, involves four friends in Calgary who are trapped in a home with all the supplies they need to survive. As time wears on, their inner psyches and relationships degrade to the point of madness. It is a story about how people cope both constructively and destructively when everything they love turns to rot.
“They are dealing with this relentless pressure of not being able to go outside,” explained Schnarr. “And every noise they make in the house brings the attention of these monsters, who bang on the doors and bang on the walls. The relentless noise of it day after day is grinding on them, and breaking down their will. They are losing their humanity and slowly getting worse and worse as time goes on.”
The main character is a woman named Bretta, who is the mental and physical caretaker of the group.
“She reminds me of that person you see at parties, where everyone is drinking except for that one person who remains sober and baby-sits everyone,” said Schnarr. “As the novel progresses, she gets stronger while the others are falling apart.”
One of the themes of the book is what people view as normal can be drastically different depending on their circumstances. Schnarr loves exploring horror tropes and mixing them together with issues he finds horrifying in real life. This includes many stories he has examined in his time as a journalist for the Claresholm Local Press, Taber Times, Vauxhall Advance and the Lethbridge Herald.
“We see it in journalism a lot,” he said. “You come across people who, for example, have been involved in a domestic situation. It seems like a horror show for you, and you think, ‘how could you possibly put up with that?’” asked Schnarr. “But when you are in that situation, you are not seeing it the way everyone else is seeing it. You are dealing with a little circle around you as opposed to stepping back and taking a bigger view of things.
“People can get into all sorts of trouble simply by having that ability to cope and adapt. They can get used to terrible things because that is what they are experiencing.”
Schnarr’s novel was picked up by Severed Press out of Australia, with a specialty for pulp-style horror films.
“They do giant monster novels, they do zombies and apocalypse stuff. I was looking around to see what I was going to do with Living Dead. They had an open submission window and I thought, ‘What the heck,’ and I submitted it,” said Schnarr. “They got back to me quite quickly saying they were interested.
“Living Dead is a contrast to a lot of the zombies stories that you normally see. It’s usually about head shots, lots of guns and people mowing down zombies day after day. As much as there are zombies in this novel, the characters are also dealing with monsters within themselves.”
Living Dead is available on Amazon.

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