Nick Cutter is the pseudonym for an established author, and his first novel (under Nick Cutter), is The Troop. He originally wanted to be called Lemondrop Pennyfeather, but that didn’t quite work out.
Nick stopped by to talk about The Troop, and more!
Kristin Centorcelli: Congratulations on your new novel, THE TROOP! It’s gotten lots of great buzz (from Stephen King, no less!). Will you tell us a bit about it?
NC: Well, sure. It’s a pretty simple story. Five Boy Scouts and their troop leader find themselves quarantined on an isolated, un-populated island off the coast of Prince Edward Island, in Canada. It’s their misfortune that some rather nasty critters are sharing the island with them, which makes things rather miserable for the boys.
KC: What inspired the idea behind THE TROOP?
NC: I was at the Royal Ontario Museum here in Toronto. My fiancée and I walked through an exhibit called “Water”—y’know, how humans use water throughout the world, that kind of thing. There was a darkened room set off the side of the exhibit, with a video playing on a loop. The subjects of that video ended up being the de-facto villains in my book.
KC: Will you tell us a little more about Dr. Tim Riggs? What makes him a character worth rooting for?
NC: Well, he’s a decent human being. That’s a worthy trait. I think readers will find themselves rooting for or actively against certain characters in the book; it was written to inspire that kind of reaction. Tim’s definitely one of the good guys—flawed, like all of us, but essentially good.
NC: Y’know, I wrote it fast. The first draft probably poured out of me in six weeks. I’ve never had a writing experience quite like it—that kind of velocity to the writing process. It was great to take great big bites out of it every day, instead of nibbling at it over a year or whatever to get it done. And I like writing about boys at that age, on the cusp of understanding the adult world and realizing that it’s not always so rosy. And yeah, I like pushing things to the edge in terms of a reader’s tolerance sometimes, too. So there were a lot of elements of the writing itself that gave me real joy.
KC: THE TROOP has some strong horror elements. What are a few of your favorite scary novels or films?
NC: Ooooh, there are many. The Exorcist. Jaws. The Thing. David Cronenberg’s films. Dead Alive by Peter Jackson. A lot of the J-Horror stuff, especially when I first discovered it. Some of the nihilistic Korean stuff, too. As for books, the authors I go to for scares are the same ones everyone gravitates to, really: King, Barker, McCammon, Koontz, Straub, Herbert, Blatty. Joe Hill’s writing some kickass stuff. House of Leaves blew me away. ChiZine, a press based here in Toronto, puts out great dark-fiction books. There’s tons of great stuff.
KC: What authors have been especially influential on your writing?
NC: For The Troop specifically, my influences are pretty clear: William Golding, Stephen King, Scott Smith, Koushun Takami, a dash of Suzanne Collins. A few others might’ve dropped into the broth, too, but those are the most obvious influences.
KC: What do you hope readers will take away from THE TROOP?
NC: Well, weird as it might sound, I hope they get a kick out of it. I had fun writing it; as I said, it just kinda poured out of me. I had a blast writing it, and so in a perfect world I’d like to see people have a blast reading it. Get a little spooked, sure, maybe creeped out, icked out, and then go on with their lives. It’s supposed to be a fun book, like the horror novels I grew up on. I think Stephen King put it best in his blurb: it’s “old school” horror. A throwback. I wasn’t trying to be meta or ironic or anything that might’ve spoken down even subtly to the genre I loved and grew up with—I wanted to write a skull-splitting, straight-ahead, fireballing horror book. Ride the lightning, y’know?
KC: There’s this persistent rumor that Nick Cutter is the pseudonym for a certain established Canadian author…don’t suppose you’d like to quell those rumors?
NC: I know this other writer you’re talking about. He’s a punk. A weirdo. He lives around my neighborhood. I see him from time to time. He’s pathetic and he makes me sick. Don’t even mention him, please!
KC: What’s next for you?
NC: A new novel, The Deep, set in Challenger Deep, the deepest point in any of our world’s oceans. Should be out next year.