Welcome Back, Booklovers! The Taking of Jake Livingston releases July 13, 2021. You can check out my early review here. I follow Ryan on Twitter and he's hilarious, witty, and his hot takes are on point. And with horror on the rise and his book getting plenty of early buzz I was glad to get an interview with him.
What was the inspiration for The Taking of Jake Livingston?
I started writing it when I was getting more into horror reads in college. I’d already been a ghost story fan but hadn’t read a lot of horror, so I was reading horror novels and realizing how much the genre spoke to me, how it resonated differently in written form. When I gave it a try, it felt effortless. The genre made it easier for me to address personal traumas. I started thinking about what I needed to work through from my teen years, in addition to things I wanted to meditate on about the world, and how I could do all of that through a fun, scary story.
What would you like readers to take away from The Taking of Jake Livingston?
That toxic cycles can be broken, and that there is light to be found even when you feel like you’re in the pits of hell. But I also want readers to take whatever they feel the book supplies to them and not overthink those personal conclusions.
What made you decide to become a writer?
I started writing as a kid because I wasn’t much of a talker and it was a hobby I used to express myself. It also satisfied my need to space out and daydream, which I did a lot of in school. When I was a teen and started thinking about my future career, I knew I didn’t want to get into the corporate world, and that it would stifle my creativity. So I had no choice but to work hard enough to turn writing into a career.
Have you always been drawn to horror and the paranormal?
As a kid it used to freak me out because I was prone to nightmares. But I was as traumatized as I was fascinated. Fear and uncertainty was a big part of my internal world growing up, so seeing characters in fear made me feel understood. When I was really young I couldn’t handle seeing good characters face devastating fates, so stuff like Monster House and Coraline really spoke to me because they were scary but the good guys won.
What would you call your brand of storytelling?
My editor says it’s “utterly unapologetic” and I like that description because the style is very direct. I like using non-linear narratives that switch between the past and the present, and I like a combination of poetic and prosaic styles. There’s also a heavy emotional pulse to the writing and it’s very sensory.
Is it hard balancing writing, working, and having a social life?
Yes, and I usually choose writing at the expense of the other two things, which is probably why I don’t stay at day jobs for very long, and why it can be hard for family and friends to reach me. Novel writing is such an intellectually demanding exercise and the industry feels like it’s moving faster than my brain, so I have to make sacrifices so I can sustain my career.
What types of stories would you like to see more of on the shelves?
I want more stories that encompass current realities of Black life, including realistic examination of how ideological differences in the Black community stunt our capacity for liberation. Specifically how homophobia and transphobia work in our own communities and how differences between Black radicals and Black liberals show up today. I’m dying for stories that don’t focus on racism, and ones that aren’t concerned with convincing white people how Black people are human too. That always feels pretty shallow to me, conceiving of a Black story through a white voyeur.
What’s the last 5 star book you’ve read?
Luster by Raven Leilani. I always talk about it because it’s so daring, and it feels so radical. It’s exactly what I want more of in fiction.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
Montreal, Canada has been one of my favorite places to visit so probably there if not L.A.
Are there any upcoming projects that you’re able to discuss?
I’m working on a romantic comedy currently, and I’m enjoying the lightness and humor of that after working on Jake. I also have a series opener that’s similar to Jake in that it’s about kids who have unique powers, but it’s more of a science fantasy with grimdark infusions than horror. I probably shouldn’t reveal more than that, but I’m excited to continue writing about young people with powers who take down evil.