Today, I'm pleased to bring you an interview I conducted with Alex Gulczynski about his new YA paranormal release, Eustice. Be sure to check out his book details as well as a great contest at the end of this post.
In your book, Eustice, Eustice P. Jennings awakens alone and confused on an ugly piece of office furniture in Purgatory. What about her surroundings tells her she’s in Purgatory?
Here’s the rub. She doesn’t know she’s in Purgatory. At least, not at first. You’ll have to find out with her about what her surroundings mean. I’ve always been fascinated by placing the fantastical into the mundane. So combining Purgatory with an ugly office was fun for me to write. And it’s mysterious.
How does Eustice determine she’s dead?
She meets others like herself, souls trapped in limbo. From there she figures it out. It is from one of these souls, Thayer, that she begins to learn the rules of the afterlife and her surroundings. An ally in an unknown and hostile world is a powerful thing. She just has to be sure she can trust the other souls she meets.
She is quickly drafted into the dangerous Reaper Corps. What dangers does Eustice face in that group?
The Reapers hunt down and destroy or capture rogue and lost souls. Purgatory has rules set up to handle mortal souls so they can be divided up for the angels and demons. But some souls refuse to obey. It is the Reapers task to make them obey. A cornered animal is the most dangerous, as the old saying goes. And just because you are in the afterlife doesn’t mean you can’t face a fate worse than death.
Briefly describe the magical systems of your world. How do those who are empowered gain their abilities?
The magic comes from the nature of Purgatory. Purgatory is a place of ordered chaos and exists only because angels and demons want it to. Because of this objects and surroundings can be altered and changed, created and destroyed, by force of will. Mortals are not used to such a world. They are used to the laws of nature and cause and effect. It is their own mind and preconceptions that limit them in this new world. But if you can let go of those shackles this world can be shaped into whatever you desire. You just have to have the strength of will to make it that way.
Eustice Reaper Corps Book 1
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Number of pages: 242
Word Count: 84000
Eustice P. Jennings awakens alone and confused on an ugly piece of office furniture in Purgatory. Being dead is the least of her problems as she is quickly drafted into the dangerous Reaper Corps and plunged headfirst into the endless conflict between Heaven and Hell. Friends and allies are few and far as Eustice struggles to find her place in a surreal world she never imagined could exist.
Light pours in from behind my eyelids. Through my eyelids. My head pounds and surges with pain. What good are eyelids when they are so thin they don’t even do their job, I think bitterly. I fling my arm over my face to block out the light.
In the darkness, with the reassuring slight pressure of my arm over my eyes, I find a few moments’ solace. Respite from the throbbing pain in my head. I sigh and try not to think of anything at all.
I have always held a strong fascination with meditation, with people who could clear their minds and sit for hours in peace. I marveled at that ability to embrace stillness. I marveled at it because it was something I could never do. Having a clear, pristine mind was such an alluring but alien concept to me.
My mind works continuously. I don’t want it to, it just does. I always felt like my brain and I were consistently at odds with each other. When I want rest and sleep, my brain constantly makes lists, reorders already existing lists, or looks for patterns in the world around me so it can make more lists. Subject doesn’t matter. It could be encounters with my friends, or a hyper fixation on a chance conversation with some new boy at school, or something altogether trivial, like why people toasted Pop-Tarts when they were so much better straight out of the package.
Oftentimes it was my homework mucking up my peacefulness. I have had it drilled into me numerous times from a young age how important education was to my future. I would stress about what paper I should write first. What reading chapter I should save for last. Would it be more efficient to do my math homework before my history?
The irony is that, in the end, it didn’t matter much, because I would spend so much time and energy thinking about how to do my homework in the best way possible that I wouldn’t allow ample time to actually do it. I would end up staying up half the night rushing through just those things that were due the next day, not doing my best work on them but still eking out a decent grade.
This is how my life had evolved, a neurotic girl with a hyperactive brain. It doesn’t help that the brain is housed atop a short and stocky frame, either.
My parents always disapproved of my way of doing things. They told me that I was forming bad habits. College would be much more difficult than high school, and that I couldn’t just skate by like I was doing in high school.
I didn’t doubt them, they were probably right, but I argued with them. You see, I am stubborn too.
A stubborn, procrastinating, perfectionist. Not the best combination of character traits.
I sigh quietly to myself. The light is gone, but now my mind found a new thing to preoccupy my thoughts, killing whatever slight peace of mind I had found in its infancy. All I can focus on now is a quiet but persistent hum of some electrical device.
I try thinking of clouds to distract myself, but they soon hum and buzz with lightning. I try thinking of flowers, but soon buzzing bees begin to fly into them.
It is no use. I am going to find no rest here.
Slowly, I move my arm from away from my face. I push myself up into a sitting position, feeling the hard, coarse fabric of the miserable little couch I was lying on. Eyes still closed, my head bent low almost to my knees, I run my hands through my dark, oily hair. I can’t remember the last time I took a shower. The prickling sensation of my fingertips dragging along my scalp eases some of the tension from my body.
I wonder at how long I have been lying on this horrid excuse for a piece of furniture. My back aches. My neck is tight. My legs have nearly gone numb, and still I hear that perpetual hum, now like a high-pitched whine of a belt sander against the temporal lobes of my brain.
Carefully, I open my eyes. I keep my head pointed down toward the floor to shield myself from the harsh lights above. My vision is filled with nondescript, pale beige carpet, ugly in its plainness. With my hands half cupped, half pressed against my forehead, I begin to raise my head.
A large, green potted plant and a dark, heavy oak desk materialize out of the haze, as my eyes adjust to the sickeningly unsympathetic white fluorescent lights of the room. One flickers just beyond my perception and etches the high-pitched hum into my eardrums. Across the room stands a blank, off-white, sterile wall.
The front of the room is frosted glass from ceiling to floor. One door stands in the middle of the glass wall. I can see another bank of fluorescent lights just outside the glass, and vaguely I can make out ghostly shadows moving farther out.
I have an intense sense of déjà vu, as well as complete confusion as to where I actually am.
This place reminds me of somewhere I’ve been. Somewhere I went to as a small child. Somewhere that must have left an impression, but, frustratingly, somewhere that I can’t seem to recall. My memory is fuzzy, like stale bread with green mold spotted on it. I close my eyes and try to scrap off the green fuzz as best I can.
I finally decide that this place reminds me of my father’s office, designed to be plain and boring, yet suitable for everyone’s tastes. Not taking any chances at picking a color or shape that might offend someone’s aesthetic palate, but simultaneously not appealing to anyone’s liking. Or at least, I think it reminds me of my father’s office. For some reason, I’m having a hard time bringing up an exact image of the office. The mold is still there blocking any recollections.
But it doesn’t matter, I suppose. I hate this place from the moment I see it.
I sit there for I don’t know how long analyzing the bland pattern in the floor below me, not knowing what to do or where I am. This place is eerily familiar, but I know I have never been here before. I try to force myself to remember how I got here, but, frustratingly, I can’t. I have odd sensations of a cold room, an orange light, and a sticky feeling oozing all over my skin. It doesn’t make any sense to me. So I just sit there in a dazed state.
Eventually, my curiosity gets the better of me. Ignoring the aches in my muscles and the throbbing in my head, I brave the intense buzzing lights of the room and scan over the desk as best I can. It is immaculate. A small singular stack of paper lies on the far end, neatly ordered with all the papers aligned. A white coffee mug stands near me with a handful of pens and pencils standing at attention in it. A nameplate stands absolutely centered near the front lip of the desk, but I can’t read what it says from my sideways angle. Dominating the desk is an old and heavy-looking black typewriter.
It occurs to me that I have not seen a typewriter before. I mean, I know what they are, and I’ve seen them in movies or TV shows. But I realize just then that I have never actually seen a real one. It looks intimidating and sturdy enough to survive a bomb blast. I have a strong desire to touch it, press one of the keys and hear the clack as the letter block slams some ink into the fresh, white sheet of paper rolled into it.
I don’t even know where I am, but I decide to give in to my urge. I figured, what the hell. It is only one letter on one sheet of paper. Plus, I want to get up anyway to read the name on the nameplate. I might as well know whose office I am in.
I move to stand up, but as soon as I push myself off the couch, the muscles in my legs protest, freezing in place, and a large rush of blood to my head makes me feel dizzy and nauseated.
Carefully, I gently lower myself back down and hang my head between my knees, breathing deeply, trying not to throw up. I note with some dry humor that my vomit would probably blend in with the carpet. Maybe no one could even tell it was there.
The thought of puking fills my mouth with copious amounts of salvia, and I can feel the tightening of my lower jaw as my stomach prepares to launch whatever was in my stomach out of my body. This is not good. I fight with every inch of my being not to vomit right then and there. Furiously I try to think of something else, and immediately I can hear that insidious buzzing again. Thankfully, my mind is distracted and annoyed enough that my stomach is quelled.
Sitting there, taking long, labored breathes, and gritting my teeth in frustration, I hear a latch turn, and I look up to see the door opening. And I think to myself, “God, what now?”
About the Author:
Eustice is Alex Gulczynski's debut novel. He is currently living in Seattle and teaching science to elementary students. He and his wife had their first child in December. He is using these sleepless nights to work on the next book to further the story of Eustice and Thayer. He hopes to have it out by March 2013.