I know this blog is dedicated to the bizarre, but sometimes I feel I need to share an author with the world that doesn’t fit into that category. Hence my first (and probably my last) “Horror Profile.”
T.J. Tranchell is the author of the novel Cry Down Dark and two collections Asleep in the Nightmare Room and Elegy & Etude. His next novel Tell No Man comes out 9/23/20.
Along with an interview, I reviewed his debut novel. See below.
ZÉ BURNS: When did you start writing?
T.J. TRANCHELL: I was in the sixth grade when I wrote the first story I can remember finishing. We still got the Scholastic book order forms and R.L. Stine was huge at the time. He was making the switch from FEAR STREET to GOOSEBUMPS and Scholastic ran a “finish this GOOSEBUMPS story” contest. I didn’t win, but my English teacher nominated me for a young writers conference at the local university. That set me on the writing road.
ZB: What is your writing process? Do you outline your work beforehand (plotter) or start writing and see where it takes you (pantser)?
TJT: I’ve recently become more of a plotter than I used to be. I now sketch out scenes—story beats is one term—as a guide. I’ve generally known how things start and how things end. Filling in the middle is the fun part. I’m also not afraid to change something from my sketches if it doesn’t fit.
ZB: What drives you to write horror?
TJT: The world is a scary place that I don’t understand. There are also things in my life that I don’t understand or didn’t at the time I chose to write about them. Horror is a place that allows for all the elements of life to play a part: romance, comedy, drama can share the stage in horror in ways that don’t work in other genres. It’s my gateway into understanding other people and the world around me.
But I also enjoy trying to stir emotions in readers. Laughing, crying, and screaming are all so visceral. If I can cause them all, I will.
ZB: How did your novel Cry Down Dark come together? What was your inspiration?
TJT: A close friend of mine died from a brain tumor when she was 23. Two years after her death, I was able to write about it, but I also had to write it in a way that felt true to me, which meant turning it into horror. There is a lot of truth in the book and enough fabrication to make it a novel. Blackhawk and Bern, the two towns in the book, are based on real places in Utah where I grew up.
ZB: Your next novel Tell No Man is coming out in September. What can you tell us about it?
TJT: It’s a trip back to Blackhawk. I’ve been asked for a sequel or even a prequel to Cry Down Dark and while Tell No Man is neither of those things, it shares a world. You don’t need to have read the previous to enjoy the new one, but it would help.
More specifically, it’s about Mormon exorcists and a divorced mother who finds herself in need of such services. It’s not a topic that has been touched on much and definitely not in the way I’ve done it. For readers who enjoy The Exorcist or Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, they will see something familiar and just different enough to be interesting.
If it ruffles some feathers, that’s fine. If it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. I just hope people like it.
My Review of Cry Down Dark
In this slim volume, T.J. Tranchell gives us a spellbinding tale of loss and terror. We meet horror author Peter Toombs, obsessed with his deceased ex-girlfriend. When he moves into her childhood home, he finds himself in a conspiracy led by the mysterious townspeople of Bern, Utah. Tranchell takes a well-used concept: “a town with a secret” and breathes fresh life into it.
By the end of the first sentence, I was immersed. The book then took hold of me and did not let go until the last sentence. This, I believe, came from the well-constructed characters. Not once did my belief in them waver and they proved to be the strongest element of the book, from the main character to the least of the supporting cast.
The prose itself was well-written, though not especially profound. The transition of point-of-view felt awkward at times and the ending could have been more. Regardless, it was an addictive and riveting tale.
Also check out these awesome books: