Law director takes stab at horror
Published: Friday, January 27, 2006
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Each weekday morning for almost seven years, Nate Kenyon has gone to work with essentially one goal in mind: to make everyone else around him look good.
As director of marketing and communications at BC Law School, he's the man behind the flattering brochures and admissions packets that attract bright students and faculty members to Newton each year. But his latest publication, the one he is most proud of, takes place in a far less glamorous setting, and the picture he paints is far more sinister.
Unbeknownst to many of his colleagues at the law school, at least until recently, Kenyon is a prolific writer of horror and suspense novels and has been tipped among some of his peers as the next Stephen King or Dean Koontz. His debut novel, Bloodstone, hits shelves this spring and has already garnered critical acclaim within the publishing community.
Unfolding in the fictional Maine hamlet of White Falls, Bloodstone tells the tale of an ex-con named Billy who finds himself compelled to commit acts of evil he does not understand, including kidnapping a troubled prostitute named Angel. The unlikely duo struggles to understand the bizarre circumstances that have brought them together in order to uproot the madness eating away at the small town before it's too late.
Midwest Book Review describes Bloodstone as "the kind of horror novel that will make readers want to sleep with all the lights in the neighborhood shining brightly."
A few years ago, Kenyon would never have anticipated such fanfare, he says. He pursued writing full-time after graduating from college in 1993. Out of that extended sabbatical emerged several novels and short stories, the most promising of which was Bloodstone.
After moving to the Boston area to take a job at the Brookline Public Library, Kenyon shopped the novel around to about a dozen agents.
"I was trying hard to break through," he said. There were a "few close calls and some correspondence back and forth," but the publishing world is a crapshoot, especially for young writers, and like many other promising manuscripts, Bloodstone was shelved indefinitely.
Each agent who read the original manuscript had the same opinion, said Kenyon: "strong overall, well-written, but too long and complex for a first novel."
And so Bloodstone sat on the back burner while Kenyon juggled advancing his career and raising a family. As he began his new position at the law school, his wife Nicole thrived at a similar post over on Main Campus as director for marketing and communications for the Graduate School of Social Work and as an adjunct faculty member teaching Web design.
Free time is hard to come by for a father of three, but new-found professional and family stability encouraged Kenyon to make one final attempt at finding Bloodstone a publisher. Bearing in mind the strict word counts imposed by publishers, especially for debut novels, he undertook a major overhaul.
"At first I didn't want to perform major surgery. But this time I went through the book ruthlessly, just to see what would happen," he said.
Much to Kenyon's dismay, entire characters and scenes had to be cut from the novel. But he acknowledges that the end result was far tighter and crisper. While shopping around the revised manuscript, Kenyon received the lucky break he had been waiting for.
He sent an e-mail to a fellow horror writer and publisher named Ed Gorman asking for advice. Kenyon hadn't corresponded with Gorman in years, but Gorman encouraged him to send over a manuscript.
Impressed by what he saw, Gorman passed on Bloodstone to Five Star Press, a publisher he had co-founded. Eight months later, a bewildered Kenyon had a prized contract and was left speculating why he hadn't been so aggressive earlier.
"I had a couple of great connections, and I let them slip away," he said. "My advice to aspiring writers would be don't give up, just keep pushing. I have no doubt that the road of the history of literature is littered with bestselling writers that will never be because they didn't follow though."
Ironically, Kenyon's second passion for marketing seems to have paid dividends for his career as a novelist.
The release of Bloodstone has been coordinated with an impressive Web site, free giveaways, and fan mailing lists.
Kenyon is currently negotiating the publication of his second novel, a more "mainstream thriller" on telekinesis, he says, which falls more under the umbrella of suspense writing than horror.
"I took a more scientific approach," he said. "I want it to seem realistic."
Kenyon describes his approach to writing as "literary horror." In other words, he doesn't shy away from gore, but also won't use it gratuitously.
"I didn't set out to write a gross-out book," he said. "The most important thing is always going to be character development, mood, and atmosphere. You have to make your readers care about the people they are going to invest this time in."
Mild-mannered and sociable, Kenyon doesn't conform to preconceived notions of what horror writers look like. Now that his secret is out, one wonders if Kenyon has endured nervous glances at the water cooler. But so far, he said he has yet to encounter any backlash. In fact, his colleagues have been "incredibly supportive."
"I guess I've been lucky in my life in that my family has always supported me," said Kenyon. "Families of horror writers often have a great deal of trouble accepting what it is being written."
Kenyon also credits his parents for his literary success. Although they both died tragically during his youth, they instilled in him many of the values he draws upon today, including a deep appreciation for the arts. "I was an avid reader from a young age," he said.
When he wasn't tackling Stephen King novels, Kenyon would spend childhood afternoons listening to tape recordings of classic Disney films.