Author Spotlight: Amelinda Bérubé talks The Dark Beneath the Ice
I'm so happy to be featuring Amelinda Bérubé on the blog! Her first novel, THE DARK BENEATH THE ICE (described as Black Swan meets Carrie!) is available now from Sourcebooks Fire, and her sophomore book, HERE THERE ARE MONSTERS is scheduled to hit shelves in 2019.
And now, here's my chat with Amelinda!
Hi, Amelinda! Welcome and congrats on the release of The Dark Beneath the Ice. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks so much! The Dark Beneath the Ice combines ghosts and possession with a splash of ballet and awful fairy tales. It’s about a former dancer who starts to think she’s being stalked by something supernatural—either that or she’s losing her grip on reality, and she’s not sure which possibility is scarier.
The original inspiration came from a famous Canadian poltergeist case and the nighttime spookiness of my own riverside neighborhood, but it was my parents’ sudden separation that really made it crystallize. The scenario in the novel is quite different from my family’s, but still, writing it gave me an outlet for a lot of fear and anger I couldn’t figure out how to safely express in real life.
Kirkus calls The Dark Beneath the Ice ‘Black Swan meets Carrie’, which is a pretty amazing combo! What’s one way you like to evoke fear in readers?
I was pretty stoked about that comparison myself! For me, spookiness starts with setting. There’s so much mood and atmosphere there, and I adore that gothic idea of a landscape that reflects the inner turmoil of its inhabitants. What’s going on in our own heads always colors our perception of our surroundings, too, so seeing setting through a character’s eyes can be a really powerful way to express emotion—such as, for the purposes of this book, a creeping, persistent, pervasive dread.
Did you always want to write a ghost story? And have you ever had a ghostly encounter?
It didn’t really occur to me to try one until this project, but I love ghost stories so much as a reader that when I sat down thinking “hmm, what do I write next,” it was the obvious choice. I’ve never spied any ghosts myself, though!
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing The Dark Beneath the Ice teach you?
Oh man, so much. What “finished” actually looks like for a book-shaped project. Where the threshold is between intriguingly under-explained and plain confusing. How to build romantic tension (I will never, ever disrespect romance writers again—that one was hard!)
I think the biggest one, though, was how to actually get some little piece of my heart on the page. As a teenager, I got to hear Timothy Findley talk about writing through pain to reach truth; at the time, my reaction was sort of “WELL, I don’t need to worry about that, I write genre fiction.” The Dark Beneath the Ice was the first time that maybe, in a small, sideways sort of way, I gave it a shot, and it was a surprisingly scary and vulnerable experience.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Drafting. Always. Sitting down to face that blank page is about as appealing as a poke in the eye, especially right at the beginning of a project and about 2/3 of the way through. My strategy is to scrawl through short chunks at a time (250-500 words per day), surround myself with people who will cheer me on, and whine a lot online. My mantra for this stage is “you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it!” Every now and again I give myself permission to shove my work in progress in a drawer and forget about it for a month or two to recharge. Once it’s drafted and actually, vaguely resembling a real book, I can get to work on fixing it with a much better attitude.
What's your favorite thing about writing (or reading) unreliable narrators?
There’s just something about them that feels very real and human to me. They’re wrong about important things; they don’t necessarily know their own hearts; they deliberately look away from painful truths. Isn’t that all of us? The narrative surprises that can spring from that are fun, but they’re cathartic, too.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
My fellow 2018 debuts have totally been killing it with spooky books that are also lyrical, moving, or hilarious. I loved The Wicked Deep, The Hazel Wood, Devils Unto Dust, The Land of Yesterday, What You Left Me, Scream All Night, and Not Even Bones so much I’m tempted to go around leaving copies on people’s doorsteps by night. And there are so many more fabulous picks I could mention. It’s a great year for books!
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
I think I’ve built up a certain bloody-minded persistence, combined with—maybe, kinda, sorta—a glimmer of faith in myself as a writer. You have to keep throwing the zombie guts at the wall until they stick...and you have to trust that they will stick eventually. I’ve also learned the lifesaving value of writing buddies. I felt really isolated and alone as a writer when I started working on this book five years ago, but between Twitter and conferences and workshops, I’ve accumulated a really wonderful community. Every adventurer needs a party.
Many thanks go out to Amelinda for taking the time to talk more about THE DARK BENEATH THE ICE, as well as digging into her writing process. Add Amelinda's spooky paranormal to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Or you can always request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,