The King of Evil
by Josh Stricklin
Date of Publication: September 1st 2016
Publisher: Silver Leaf Books
Cover Artist: Paul Tynes
Genre: Horror, Occult, Voodoo
After a horrific accident, graphic artist Jack Simmons and his wife, Cindy, have lost all sense of a normal life. With their marriage in pieces, their only hope in setting things back is by starting over. The two pack their lives in boxes and migrate to the Big Easy. Upon arrival, Jack and Cindy fall into the jobs of their dreams. The new start they were hoping for seemed to have been waiting for them in New Orleans, after all. But something followed them. Something Evil.
Jack is commissioned to create the artwork for a graphic novel about a voodoo king, The King of Evil. As Jack works diligently to create a masterpiece, drawing the images back and forth between paper and his computer, he starts seeing things. Images of his King appear in the corners of his vision. They spring up just as Jack falls asleep. Always only inches out of plain sight.
The King grows more powerful, and soon he unleashes his power on Jack, Cindy, and the people in their lives. The King slowly destroys everyone around them, showing the newly rekindled couple what it's like to be evil for evil's sake. Jack and Cindy will need help from the King's past victims to stop him.
The King of Evil is a heart-pounding, supernatural thriller. Its vibrant characters and intense action is certain to keep its audience reading well into the night.
In the 1940s there was a hospital on the back way out of town where the poor people had their children. It was far enough out of the way that the city was only a murmur, and the trees surrounding the building threatened to break in through the windows. The red brick building was small, and there were only a few rooms. At the edge of the tall grass where the trees stopped, a chipmunk stared in wonder at the marvelous brick structure built by man. She had spent a long day trudging through the swampy Louisiana woods, which was much harder now that she was carrying a litter. The faraway sky bruised with the arrival of an oncoming storm.
Bars guarded the glass, but the chipmunk had no problem watching the commotion inside. She didn’t see the brownish-orange, diamond-shaped head easing through the tall grass. She watched as the big people picked up the small people from tiny beds and walked out of view. Then a big person would return and lay the small one back in the bed. No one but the chipmunk seemed to notice when the black smoke rose from the center of the room. None of the people reacted whatsoever, because only the chipmunk saw the ashy gray person materialize in the center of the nursery. The head crept closer. The life inside the chipmunk’s belly stirred. They were hungry, too.
The gray person stood above the tiny bed with wide eyes fixed on the small person. He looked back and forth between the one in front of him and the one just to his right. Then he turned to the one on his right as if suddenly more intrigued with that one. The chipmunk had no idea what to make of this. She just wanted food, and there was the feint smell of something sweet coming from that building. The chipmunk stood on her hind legs. She stopped, tilting her head. The new person, the one no one else seemed to notice, lifted an arm above his head. The copperhead sprung forward, sinking its teeth and venom into her back. The arm descended. As life drained from the chipmunk, the ashy gray person vanished, and the other people in the building seemed to panic.
Josh Stricklin is an American author and musician with degrees in English literature and advertising from the University of Southern Mississippi. His first novel, Those Who Are Left, is available online and in person. The King of Evil is his first terrifying novel with Silver Leaf Books. He's currently hard at work finishing his first series…or more likely reading comic books and wearing a Seahawks jersey.
INTERVIEW WITH JOSH STRICKLIN
How would you describe you style of writing to someone that has never read your work?
I would say my writing style is one of the most polarizing aspects about my stories. It’s very colloquial, and I try my best to stick as close to real life as possible. I want to be relatable to the everyday person. I like to show the weird idiosyncrasies people actually do. When you sit in a waiting room, it’s quiet (a little too quite) until you really start paying attention. People are coughing and squirming. You’ll hear tapping on a cell phone screen. A chair creaks. Someone swears under his breath about how long he’s been waiting. Then you look over and see the wrinkles cracking his skin like asphalt that hasn’t been repaved in decades. Now, my writing isn’t quite that hyperaware of the things in the stories. But my characters stumble. They scratch themselves when they itch. When they talk to each other they meander from the direct purpose of the conversation. I feel like it makes my stories more believable, more relatable for those who don’t regularly encounter zombies or voodoo spirits.
What mindset or routine do you feel the need to set when preparing to write (in general whether you are working on a project or just free writing)?
Unfortunately I don’t get into any other mindset than my everyday life. I do what I can to eliminate as many distractions as possible—no TV, no music, no Internet—but that’s really the only thing I change when I step up to the keyboard. You know how Bruce Banner “stays angry” to put a leash on the Hulk? That’s kind of how I live with my writing mindset. It’s like a monster. When I’m driving or working or reading, it’s constantly distracting me. It’s constantly asking, “Well what if Jack did this?” or “What if Mark said the ‘f-word’ here?” It’s always on, even when I don’t want it to be. I really think it builds without me too. I had this one story in my head all through college, for years and years. When I finally got a chance to concentrate solely on that story, I wrote 400+ pages in a three-week span. It really makes me appreciate the Bruce Banner method, because if you never turn it off you don’t have to worry about when it comes back on. But to answer the question, no. There’s no real mood I have to set. I just have to actually do it.
Do you take your character prep to heart? Do you nurture the growth of each character all the way through to the page? Do you people watch to help with development? Or do you build upon your character during story creation?
Honestly some of them I don’t really have to do that. There are a few characters in each book I have that are based close enough on people in my life at the time I was writing that I didn’t have to worry about them. I could trust where they go on their own. The character that shows up in both books for example is one of those. Jack’s agent in The King of Evil if another. Then there are Jack and Cindy, the main characters in The King of Evil. Those two characters were born and raised in my mind. Those guys I had to keep a close eye on. There’s a deliberate blending of their characters in the story so I couldn’t let them do too much without guiding them a little.
Have you found yourself bonding with any particular character? If so which one(s)?
There is definitely one character I connect more with than others. His name is Mark. He is a patient of Cindy’s in The King of Evil. He was in an accident eerily similar to the one I was in when I was starting his story in Those Who Are Left. Huge Coincidence. But Mark is very immature and swears too much. He’s very impulsive and basically demands justice. He’s definitely a wild car. My mom hates him. But because he’s fiction he kind of acts as someone I can live vicariously through. He can do things I can’t. He’s braver than I am, and taller. So he isn’t me, but he is pretty similar.
Do you have a character that you have been working on that you can't wait to put to paper?
I actually have a character that I have started in on, but I can’t wait to finish her story. I’ve finished part of if, but she’s got two or three more parts before I’m ready to show her off. She’s incredibly powerful in many ways. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll just play coy. But I promise, when her story comes along, it’ll be worth the wait.
Have you ever felt that there was something inside of you that you couldn't control? If so what? If no what spurs you to reach for the unexperienced?
I don’t think I control this very well, writing I mean. I’m constantly putting off remotely important things and stopping midsentence to deal with that it wants me to do. To me it really is like the Hulk. Only for me when I’m Bruce Banner, it’s inside me pounding on the walls trying to get out. It’s everything I can do to cook dinner before it’s coming up with these really good ideas, or heinous things to put my character through. Sometimes when I stop mowing the yard or riding my bike to write something down or text myself, it’ll let me get that out and I can continue what I’m doing. But sometimes it’s like a cork, you know? It just pours out and I can’t stop it. Then I’m late for work or I ride off into a ditch. But I’ll gladly take its baggage. It does so much more for me than it prevents. Who cares if I miss a meal if I get the story out?