by Devon McCormack
Publication date: June 19th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Eight years ago, Luke Retter witnessed the brutal murder of his mother and sister at the hands of his demon-possessed father. He survived but lost a hand and an eye. The demon also burned its emblem into his skin, marking him as a cursed. Those who bear this mark are at risk of becoming possessed themselves, so they are monitored and enslaved by the state-run UCIS. Working as a slave is hard, but Luke prefers it to the possibility of being controlled by a demon.
One night, Luke wakes to find his worst nightmare coming true. His father’s demon has returned. In a panic, he runs to the only person who might be able to help: Zack, a cursed who ran away from the state and created an underground community to protect other fugitive curseds. Zack helps him suppress the demon. But the city’s become a time bomb, and Luke’s demon itches to escape.
With the UCIS closing in on Zack’s underground operation and Luke’s demon crafting its own, nefarious plot, Luke realizes that he must take a stand.
THE AUTHOR TALKS...
Where did you get the idea for the book?
“The Handless Maiden” has always been one of my favorite of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. I wanted to find a way to write a modernized version of it. A major component to the fairy tale is this idea that demons are a common and known threat to the world. I liked the idea of bringing that to a contemporary setting. How would society react? What kind of precautions would we have to take? I modeled society’s reaction based on actual reactions to various epidemics (polio, HIV, syphilis). Demons are viewed as a disease, and those who are possessed are even referred to as “infected.”
The main character, Luke, struggles with this world, because he is what is referred to as a “cursed.” Those who are cursed are more likely to become possessed than most, so they are enslaved by the state so they can be monitored. There are a lot of stigmas around being cursed, and Luke also has the physical deformity that not only looks visually unappealing, but reminds people of the very thing they wish they could forget—that the world is plagued with demons.
What do you want readers to take away from this book?
There are two major threads that I see as the most important ones. The first is that body image is a terrible way of defining your self worth. I know, it seems like a trivial message, and it’s something that is stated over and over again, but the reason we keep saying it is because it’s true. How you look has nothing to do with how good of a person you are…or how worthy of a person you are. The main character, Luke, having grown up with his handicap, is wildly insecure about his physical appearance, and he constantly feels inadequate and unworthy. He ends up meeting a character, Zack, who sees him for the amazing person that he really is.
The other major thread is about rising up and fighting for what is right. In the beginning of the story, we see a very apathetic Luke. He’s been a slave of the state for years. He’s done what he’s told. He doesn’t fight. He just tries to survive. There are those like him who protest, but there are major consequences for that, so he just plays by the rules. But the rules have never helped him any. They’re just there to keep him in line. When he meets Zack, a cursed who’s run away from the state and helps others do the same, he starts to realize that he doesn’t have to be confined to the life he’s been told he must live. Although, it takes a demon possessing him before he really wakes up to see how ridiculous this all is.
What age range would you say this book is for?
Definitely Upper YA. Because the main character is possessed by a demon, the book contains some graphic violence and explicit language. I would say sixteen and up, but it’s hard to pin down what kind of content people are ready for at different points in their lives. Anyone who reads it should just know that it deals with a very dark subject matter, and I don’t gloss over details or fade to black before violence. This book is for mature readers.
Do you plan on publishing anymore YA novels?
I just signed another YA book with Harmony Ink Press. It’s called When Ryan Came Back, and it’s set for release in October of 2014. It’s more of a mystery/ghost story. Steven finds out that his friend Ryan committed suicide, but one day, he finds Ryan sitting in his room. Ryan says he didn’t kill himself, and he believes his death had something to do with a story he was working on for the school paper. He asks Steven to help him find out how he died, and the story progresses from there. I’m very excited about its release. It’s definitely different from the tone of Hideous, but there’s a lot more to it.
Why do you think some critics look down on books that are labeled Young Adult?
Because they need something to look down on, and books that are perceived as juvenile are easy victims. That’s the short answer, but the truth is, anything labeled genre fiction is looked down by literature snobs. That’s the way it’s always been. I remember having a creative writing teacher who told the class that we couldn’t write about vampires, monsters, ghosts, or other such “nonsense” in our stories for the class. He said that wasn’t considered “literary.” So in a moment, he cast Shakespeare, Dickens, Stoker, Melville, and Shelley into the wastebasket—surely without even realizing it. I dropped the class the next day. I ended up taking my creative writing course with someone far more suited for the job.
It’s a big topic, though, and it’s never going to end. The Romance genre has it the worst, I think. To some, it’s seen as the lowest sort of fiction imaginable. Of course, if Jane Austen was alive today, God knows that’s what her work would be classified. There are plenty of great romance novels. But people need something to look down on. Even Romance authors look down at Erotica authors. It just goes on and on and on. I think what everyone is really bothered about is formulaic writing. That’s the real enemy. We’re bothered when we notice that no one is innovating—no one is taking art to another level. And yet, while we look down on it, there are parts of the formula we crave, which is why it even exists. In other countries, there isn’t this stigma against the formula. There’s a reverence for it.
Is that too long of an answer? Sorry. The best answer is that it doesn’t really matter. Stigmas against YA books won’t keep them from selling, and it won’t keep people from enjoying them.
Devon McCormack spends most of his time hiding in his lair, adventuring in paranormal worlds with his island of misfit characters. A good ole Southern boy, McCormack grew up in the Georgian suburbs with his two younger brothers and an older sister. At a very young age, he spun tales the old fashioned way, lying to anyone and everyone he encountered. He claimed he was an orphan. He claimed to be a king from another planet. He claimed to have supernatural powers. He has since harnessed this penchant for tall tales by crafting whole worlds where he can live out whatever fantasy he chooses.A gay man himself, McCormack focuses on gay male characters, adding to the immense body of literature that chooses to represent and advocate gay men's presence in media. His body of work ranges from erotica to young adult, so readers should check the synopses of his books before purchasing so that they know what they're getting into.