"Learning to write is like learning how to fix a sink. You wouldn't just start ripping out pipe, you'd study how everything works, watch a few master plumbers do their thing, and practice with them until you got the hang of it." - Nate Kenyon
The Horror! The Horror!
Law School's Kenyon crafting second career as a master of suspense
By Greg Frost
By day, Nate Kenyon is a mild-mannered administrator at the Boston College Law School. By night, well, let's just say this: You know those things that go bump in the night? Kenyon is on very close terms with them.
Kenyon, the Law School's communications and marketing director, is a budding horror/suspense writer whose first published novel, Bloodstone, hits bookstore shelves this month. A dark tale of a malevolent force that slowly consumes a small town in Maine, the book climaxes in a showdown between Good and Evil.
Critics and fellow authors have called the work "terrifying," "riveting," and "genuinely scary." But perhaps best of all, several have mentioned Kenyon in the same breath as that of New England's grand master of horror, Stephen King.
In its recent review of Bloodstone, Publisher's Weekly wrote: "King's influence is apparent in Kenyon's debut spooker...an impressive panoramic sweep that shows the horrors manifesting subtly and insidiously through the experiences of a large cast of characters." And fellow author Brian Keene likened Kenyon's style to a younger King.
Kenyon said his fascination with suspense and horror dates from his childhood in Maine, where he grew up about an hour from King's home.
He began devouring the Hardy Boys mysteries at age seven and within a year had churned out his first manuscript - a 25-page yarn called "The White Horse," which he banged out on an old typewriter and sold to relatives for a quarter each.
"I still have a copy buried in the attic - and, no, you can't read it," Kenyon said.
It was around the same time he began writing that Kenyon suffered the first of two major family traumas that would taint his worldview and feed his interest in the macabre: His father died in a car accident when Kenyon was eight years old, and his mother passed away from ovarian cancer five years later.
"My life became pretty complicated then, and I had to deal with a lot of serious emotions at a very early age," Kenyon said. "I think these experiences made me tend to look inward a bit more than usual, and made me see the dark side of things much earlier than most kids do."
It was only after he completed Bloodstone that Kenyon saw parallels between the plot and his mother's struggle with the disease that ultimately claimed her life.
"You can read this as a fun, scary book. But I also think there is a metaphor for cancer: this small, fictional New England town is slowly being overrun by this sickness," he said. "There are a lot of references to cancer in the book, and I think it reflects me trying to work out issues from my childhood."
Kenyon said he is already shopping around his next manuscript, "The Reach," which he describes as a "much more mainstream thriller" dealing with telekinesis.
For beginning writers, Kenyon's advice is to write as much as possible - every day, ideally - but also to study the work of other authors.
"Learning to write is like learning how to fix a sink. You wouldn't just start ripping out pipe, you'd study how everything works, watch a few master plumbers do their thing, and practice with them until you got the hang of it," he said. "Pick some of the best writers you can find, and study how they do it. Break down sentence and plot structure to learn how a good book works."
Kenyon will be touring in February and March in support of Bloodstone. He is scheduled to appear for a book launch event and reading Thursday, March 2, at Barat House on the Newton Campus. •