Please welcome Brendan Duffy to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. House of Echoes is published on April 14th by Ballantine Books.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Brendan: It’s great to be here—thanks for inviting me!
Unintentionally abstract picture books in elementary school, ghastly poetry in high school, short stories in college: in one form or another I’ve been writing for nearly as long as I can remember. As for why I started writing…I guess there are things inside me that want to come out.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Brendan: I’m a pantser in deep denial. I start out with every hope of sticking to an outline and it never works for me. Events and characters always take on a life of their own. Watching me work is a study in inefficiency. I have hundreds of thousands of discarded words to prove this!
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? You have been an editor. How does this affect (or not) your own writing?
Brendan: Revising is hardest for me. God, it’s so tough: trying to be objective while poring over hundreds of pages representing months or years of work. Forcing myself to be ruthless in determining what works and what doesn’t is a kind of torture. But being an editor does help a bit with this. Years of wrestling unwieldy pages into something cohesive and consistent and focused removes some of the preciousness from the writing process. While revising, you need to accept that characters and events are going to change as the book evolves into what it’s supposed to be. It’s a painful process and hard work, but absolutely essential.
TQ: Describe House of Echoes in 140 characters or less.
Brendan: A young family in trouble. An old mansion with secrets. A terrible winter is on its way, but there's much more to fear than the weather.
TQ: Tell us something about House of Echoes that is not in the book description.
Brendan: In many ways, House is a classic Gothic setup, but with modern characters with modern problems. This is where the meat of the book is for me. There are external factors involved, but the driving conflict in the novel is the relationship among the Tierneys, the family at the center of the book. The tension and history between them. The differences between what they say and what they mean. This is very much a story of a young family under extreme stress. Their situation becomes more strained as the narrative progresses, and their survival depends on whether they’ll be able to reconnect with each other by the end.
TQ: What inspired you to write House of Echoes. What appealed to you about writing a psychological thriller?
Brendan: My inspiration for House was to write the kind of book that I most enjoy reading. I read very widely and very enthusiastically, but the kinds of stories I get most excited about are the type that straddle several categories at once. House is a psychological thriller, so it has suspense, but it also has features of crime and horror along with some historical elements. It has roots in the Gothic tradition, but it takes some surprising turns along the way. Something I love about many psychological thrillers is the way they play with POV and unreliable narrators. Sometimes readers don’t know exactly what kind of book they’re reading until they get close to the end. I loved assembling the components of the novel for the reader in such a way that, by the climax, they all come together like the pieces of a puzzle box. Only then are you able to see the full story.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Brendan: Charlie, the Tierney’s eight-year-old son, was both the easiest and most fun for me to write. With its shifting POVs, complicated narrators, and atmospheric setting, House pushes right up against the line between reality and fantasy. This line becomes deliciously blurred from Charlie’s POV. He’s at this great age where imagination and reality overlap. The rules of his world haven’t yet solidified, and this was wonderful territory to play in.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from House of Echoes.
Brendan: Two of my favorites are:
“Caroline wanted to believe that this was a whole new life, but it wasn’t. Not really. Ben knew that no matter how far you run, you’re still yourself when you get there.”
“Charlie had learn things about the dark during that long night...He knew that the dark was not one thing but many.”
TQ: What's next?
Brendan: I’m in the process of revising a novel that I’m very excited about. Like House, it’s a blend of categories, and presses the confines of reality to its breaking point. It’s structurally complicated and several of the characters have evolved in thrilling and unexpected ways. It’s about friendship and love and secrets and revenge.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Brendan: It’s been my pleasure!
House of Echoes
Ballantine Books, April 14, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
In this enthralling and atmospheric thriller, one young family’s dream of a better life is about to become a nightmare.
Ben and Caroline Tierney and their two young boys are hoping to start over. Ben has hit a dead end with his new novel, Caroline has lost her banking job, and eight-year-old Charlie is being bullied at his Manhattan school.
When Ben inherits land in the village of Swannhaven, in a remote corner of upstate New York, the Tierneys believe it’s just the break they need, and they leave behind all they know to restore a sprawling estate. But as Ben uncovers Swannhaven’s chilling secrets and Charlie ventures deeper into the surrounding forest, strange things begin to happen. The Tierneys realize that their new home isn’t the fresh start they needed . . . and that the village’s haunting saga is far from over.
House of Echoes is a novel that shows how sometimes the ties that bind us are the only things that can keep us whole.
BRENDAN DUFFY is a talented young author with a background in publishing. Before writing HOUSE OF ECHOES, he was an editor at both Putnam and Hyperion. He lives in New York, where he is at work on his second novel.