Marc E Fitch writes dark, pulpy fiction, tackling subjects of mythology and morality. His writing clearly shows his intelligence, humor and a unique perspective on human nature. He joins me today to talk about his latest book Paradise Burns recently released by Damnation Books.
By Mav Skye.
MS: Do you believe in Bigfoot?
MEF: I’m a very difficult person when it comes to belief. Belief requires faith and faith requires that we admit that we ultimately do not know. One can have faith and belief in Bigfoot, but cannot actually say that one knows without a shadow of a doubt. I hope that Bigfoot exists, but am not willing to say I believe in him until he’s standing right in front of me. I’ve taken this idea to the point where I am not willing to admit that the sun will rise tomorrow and usually preface it with “probably the sun will rise tomorrow.” As long as something remains in the future or in the realm of probability it remains a matter of faith. Let’s just say that I hope he’s stomping around out there, but then, if it were to be proven all the mystery would be lost and it would become less interesting (to me, anyway).
MS: What value does believing in the paranormal offer society?
MEF: Humanity requires faith to exist because we ultimately cannot know some of the biggest questions: why are we here? What happens after we die? Is there a God? The search for the paranormal helps people in their search for answers, ways to confirm their beliefs. It is ultimately matters of faith which is why you see such dogged belief and searching from those who truly commit to it. It is also why you can see individuals go off the rails mentally and emotionally when they pursue it too deeply. The same goes with religious belief, which is often all too visible in the acts of terrorism and other atrocities committed in the name of religion. Like I said, faith requires admitting that you ultimately do not know. Our everyday lives require faith; it takes faith and belief that I will not get killed in a car crash when I drive to work, otherwise I probably wouldn’t leave the house. The paranormal is a method in which to couch our beliefs and our faith. Some choose religion, some choose ghosts, UFOs and Bigfoot, some choose atheism and skepticism. In the end, it’s all the same way of trying to answer the big questions and find a reason to continue on with our lives.
MS: Let’s move to mythology, you deal with this quite a bit of this in Paradise Burns. Can you give us insight as to the various myths you chose to explore?
MEF: I often turn to Biblical mythology because so much of Western society is built upon it and I since I grew up with it, I have a better understanding of its effects than other forms of myth. Specifically in Paradise Burns I incorporate the idea of fallen angels and the Nephilim mentioned in the book of Genesis. According to some paranormal researchers and theologians, the fallen angels procreated with human women breeding a race of evil giants known as the Nephilim. Some, such as Dr. I.D.E. Thomas – who I mention in the book – believe that Noah and his family were selected to survive the great flood, not because they were pure of heart, but because they were of a pure bloodline that had not been infected by the fallen angels. I really found this idea interesting. It’s one that exists today. I recently read Nick Redfern’s book, Final Events, which explores (supposedly) government research into the connection between fallen angels, demons, and UFOs. I find these things fascinating – the ideas of them. Reading Final Events was like reading a real life Laird Barron story. In my work I try to reach back into our shared mythology to offer an answer as to why we can be so cruel and awful to each other. That maybe there are forces at work greater than merely our psychology and greed. There might be something… other.
MS: What is the connection between mythology and morality?
MEF: Mythology was the means by which early societies and our own modern civilization created morality. The moral precepts that underlie our values and cultures were formed through the belief that there is something greater and more powerful to which we are responsible. Across all cultures there is religious belief created through mythology, which seeks to guide mankind as to how to act toward one another. I think this is important and not something to be discarded lightly. I’ve read a few books by Joseph Campbell who wrote about the impact of mythology on society and I believe his insights are invaluable to the way we understand how our world came to the point it is at today. Mythology also tries to explain the unknown; why are we so different from animals? What makes us different? Most mythologies incorporate god-like creatures such as angels or the gods of Greek and Roman mythology intermingling with mankind and guiding the course of humanity toward… something, who knows?
MS: Ancient good vs evil concepts weave through your storyline. Many modernists do not believe there is such a thing as evil. What are your thoughts?
MEF: One of the finest points that I’ve ever encountered on the existence of evil was when I interviewed Rev. Clive Calver for my book Paranormal Nation. He made the point that it’s not just the crime – say a murder, for instance – but rather it is the degree of obscenity. Many acts go beyond what could reasonably be conceived to be a mere aberration of psychology or just part of the human spectrum of behavior. Instead, it becomes obscene. My question to people who do not believe that there is evil is, what makes you think that there is such a thing as good? Evil is all too evident, you can read about it in the papers or watch it on television – it is true good that remains unreachable and difficult to find. It’s the good that requires faith and belief. Horror can be plumbed, explored and found; good on the other hand is far more difficult to touch. We all see nice stories on Facebook about somebody saving a puppy or something but, to me, this pales in comparison to the horror that underlies it all – the horror of life. Maybe I’m a pessimist. I also believe that evil is a spirit. Not necessarily a spirit in the sense of a ghost or demon, but in a shared consciousness between people. Its almost like a spirit the descends on individuals – often times in groups – that fuels them to push into realms of obscenity. Some may call it “mob mentality” but, to me, that doesn’t do enough to justify what we see on such a scale. This is part of the reason that Paradise Burns references real crimes and atrocities that have taken place recently – to show that this isn’t fiction, this is reality.
MS: PI Rudy Patchiss is a terribly intriguing and raw character. Reading the book, I felt I glimpsed both light and dark prisms of his soul. Sometimes, I hated him. Sometimes, I felt he revealed a certain ugly truth about myself, and by the end I loved him more than ever. What inspired his character?
MEF: I wanted someone that was torn between his ideas of true justice and political law; torn between his own base instincts and the idea that man could be better; someone who loved humanity so much as to hate it for what it is. I won’t deny that these are feelings I’ve harbored for some time. We are all paradoxes of emotions and beliefs and, for myself, I can often feel an overwhelming love of humanity combined with a hatred for what it is. It is easiest to become filled with rage at the ones you love rather than the ones you hate or just don’t care about. The other half of the inspiration for Rudy came from Harlan Ellison’s short story “Shattered Like a Glass Goblin,” in which the main character – Rudy – goes to find his girlfriend in a drug den and finds that the people in that drug den are changing, becoming something less than human. It was part of the inspiration for Paradise Burns in general. It’s someone who is trying to be good confronting the changing face of humanity that has dug itself too deep into its own base desires.
MS: The rejection the PI encounters from his mentally ill wife, his peers, from the town he’s investigating, from the very family he’s trying to help…it all feels very real and very raw. Have you personally dealt with (or encountered) this type of rejection?
MEF: I don’t know if has been rejection that I’ve dealt with as much as isolation. Isolation is something I both desire and hate and I tried to channel that into Rudy. I wanted him to feel alone in a world that was overwhelming. In the end, he has no one and, to a certain extent I feel that way. We are isolated in our own consciousness. We try to bridge it with love and community and religion but, in the end, we are isolated within ourselves. When you die, you do it alone, regardless of who is around you, it is still just you facing the void.
MS: As a writer, how important do you feel it is to balance plot with character?
MEF: I came to a certain realization as a writer when working on this novel, namely, that sometimes you have to use the well-worn trope – in this case, hardened private detective looking for beautiful missing girl – as a way to bridge into something more. I start the book with a somewhat typical opening and then use that stereotype to spiral into something greater and more original. It starts with plot and becomes character and exploration of life. The plot gets you there, it moves the narrative and so it is essential – if you want to get a wider scope of readership – to give people some of the things they expect and then use it to create your own view, your own reality. This, of course, is not the case with some great writers, writers who can truly begin from somewhere entirely new. It may just be my own limitations at this point, but as I keep working and developing, I hope to be able to move into that upper echelon of creativity.
MS: Quick! Switch places with one of your characters at a critical point in the story. How is the outcome different?
MEF: If Rudy had ignored Alby’s phone call from prison, he never would have been led to that place in the woods. If he had decided that he didn’t desire the truth – as painful and heartbreaking as it could be – his life would have remained largely unchanged, a kind of overcast gray death. But with what he finds when he decides to follow Alby’s instructions his life takes on new meaning and his character catches a glimpse of what lies behind the veil of reality. Without that, the story would have just been another crime caper that traverses the surface rather than taking that plunge into the horror.
MS: I thought the ending of your book one of the best I’ve read in a good long while. Will there be more books with PI Patchiss?
MEF: I really don’t know. Of course, when I was writing this I had no idea whether it would be picked up for publication or not so I focused on the single story and didn’t give much thought to continuance into other books. That being said, I’ve never really been into book series (with the exception of James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet and Underworld Trilogy, and Dan Simmons Hyperion trilogy) because I always want to move on to a new writer a new story line. I read in order to learn from people who are better and more accomplished than me and since I am not immortal I have a lot of authors to cover and a limited amount of time. While I loved Game of Thrones, I didn’t have the rest of my life to wade through the whole series so I moved on. Likewise, I’m always three books ahead in my mind of what I want to write and, with a limited amount of time, generally feel compelled to move on. That being said, my crime/noir novel, Dirty Water, which is coming from 280 Steps this October, is actually envisioned as a trilogy and I’m already pretty mapped out in my head what I want to accomplish with those works. I have thought about continuing Rudy Patchiss’ story and I certainly left an opening at the end to continue, but, as of now I’m not sure what direction I would take it in. I would want something new, so I’m kinda waiting for that epiphany to rear its ugly head.
Paradise Burns: Disgraced former detective, Rudy Patchiss, has reinvented himself as a private investigator specializing in missing persons. When he is asked to find college student Jennifer Acres, he travels to the mountains near the Canadian border to plumb an underground world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll but what he finds is a deeper, more ancient evil, one that claims lives without being noticed in our modern day world. His investigation brings him to an urban nightmare of a city, a club called Paradise, and into a relationship with a tattooed bartender, Stacy, who tries to point him in the right direction. Ultimately, his work leads him deep into the mountains to a place that can truly be called “Paradise;” a place where there are no boundaries, no rules, no limits. It is a place of ultimate freedom that can be one man’s heaven and another man’s hell.
Marc E. Fitch is the author of Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot (Praeger) and the novels Old Boone Blood and Paradise Burns, which is forth-coming from Damnation/Eternal Press. His fiction has appeared in such publications as ThugLit, The Big Click, eHorror, Horror Society, and Massacre. He recently won the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship for his upcoming work, Shmexperts: How Ideology and Power Politics are Disguised as Science. His nonfiction has appeared in the Federalist, World Net Daily, American Thinker and The Skeptical Inquirer. He currently lives in Harwinton, CT with his wife and four children and works in the field of mental health.