Next up in our line up of author profiles from Dead of Winter is Meredith Schindehette, author of the supernatural thriller "The Killers". Her story follows a woman who wakes to find she has no voice and no memory of how she got to "the garage". It's an excellent first person piece with twists and turns you won't see coming.
Read on to find out what makes Meredith tick as a writer and get an excerpt from "The Killers".
How did you get started with writing?
When I was little, my relatives used to say I must have "interesting thoughts" because I was so quiet. I enjoyed watching and listening to conversations much more than joining in them. But as I grew up, I started to understand that writing gave me a strong voice even if I didn't like to talk, so that's what I did. In grade school, I rewrote scenes from TV shows, and in high school, I delved into song lyrics and poetry. When I hit college and grad school, I majored in English and dissected everything from Shakespeare to Stanley Kubrick films, but most of my writing by that time focused on analysis of other people's creative works rather than writing my own.
In the summer of 2012, a mysterious illness knocked out my immune system and my 20 year career in marketing and communications. Writing stories became my escape from doctor appointments and medical tests. When I moved to Colorado, I joined a writer's group (which is now the Colorado Writing School) to meet new friends, and they not only helped me improve my skills, but also helped me realize that I could - and should - share my work with people who might enjoy it.
Do you tend to write in just one genre or do you like to write across multiple genres?
I write across genres, but I focus mainly in the darker corners of fiction. When I read, I gravitate toward apocalyptic or dystopian stories, and those definitely are easier for me to write in part because the characters automatically face such impossible situations. However, I also write stories that land somewhere between horror and psychological thriller, and at some point, I'd love to try writing some 'soft' science fiction (is that even a thing?).
What made you decide to write "The Killers"? Is there a particular backstory to it?
I have really bizarre dreams, and they provide great fodder for stories. The beginning of "The Killers" came from the end of a nightmare I had when I was about 13 years old. In the dream, I hid on the floor of a truck parked in my garage. Someone opened the door, and I couldn't see his face because it fell in the shadows. I couldn't move or speak as he put a gun to my head and pressed it hard into my temple. When he pulled the trigger, I woke up. When I think back on that nightmare, I can still feel the pressure of the gun barrel even after all these years. I wrote The Killers with that dream's setting in mind and then imagined what sort of disturbing and horrific things might have happened after the trigger was pulled.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I'm a big consumer of all kinds of media: books, magazines, TV, movies. I love to disappear into the worlds and lives of other people, and I particularly enjoy apocalyptic, dystopian, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and thrillers. Of course, I do have a husband, two kids, and an English Bulldog named Marshmallow, so I don't have a ton of time to curl into my favorite chair and read or watch. That fact may explain why I have piles of unread books and magazines sitting on my shelves that I'm desperate to crack open. When my health permits, I also enjoy walking the trails in Colorado especially the ones that lead to shops, baking desserts and eating them, and traveling around the world to visit friends.
Where is the best place for readers to find out more about your work?
I'm writing a lot at the moment, working on a novel set in a dystopian future, but I'll also continue to write short stories as I have time. At some point, I hope to make my website more interesting at www.meredithwho.com, and I'll have more updates about my work there. Until then, readers can see what I'm doing on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/meredithwho/ or on Twitter @meredithwho.
Thanks, Meredith! And now for an excerpt from "The Killers".
I thought it was the end. I felt a piano wire wrapping itself around my head, creeping inward and outward at the same time. Slowly. Intentionally. I’d never felt anything like it.
I closed my eyes and let the darkness wash over me. The pressure crushed me with its intensity. Just short of unbearable. Nothing stopped, though. In fact, everything vibrated. My heart pounded. My mind raced. My body hummed. But the end I thought was so near, wasn’t even close.
I woke up curled in a ball on the floor of some old-school Toyota pickup. The all-weather car mat indented my left thigh and a few strands of hair stuck to the glove box. I blinked and tried to figure out what happened.
The truck smelled of damp vinegar and looked about as clean as a truck that old could be. I shifted my weight to alleviate the pins and needles attacking my left foot, and to get a better view of my situation. I brushed some hair from my eyes and unwittingly ran my fingers through a sticky mat of bloody fringe glued to my forehead. I willed myself not to gag.
I took a deep breath and looked around from my vantage point on the floor. A tan cloth interior with the passenger seat covered in plastic, automatic transmission, and manually controlled windows, —not a speck of dirt on the floor mats, nor dust on the air vents— convinced me that whoever owned this beauty was practical, unassuming and maybe just a little anal.
All of a sudden, I heard a garage door shut and my natural light was replaced by fluorescent bulbs shining through the windows. I heard voices and strained to listen to their conversation.
“You shouldn’t have brought her here. We’re supposed to meet at the barn. You know that.”
“I know, but she’s awake, and the barn is too far away.”
The voices were low, but they sounded urgent. Troubled.