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The Sirens of Suspense




Aric Davis is married with one daughter and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked for sixteen years as a body piercer; he now writes full time. A punk rock aficionado, Davis does anything he can to increase awareness of a good band. He likes weather cold enough to need a sweatshirt but not a coat, and friends who wear their hearts on their sleeves. In addition to reading and writing, he also enjoys roller coasters, hockey, and a good cigar.

Aric is the author of seven books: From Ashes Rise: A Novel of Michigan, Nickel Plated, A Good and Useful Hurt, The Black Death: A Dead Man Novella, Rough Men, Breaking Point, and The Fort.


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In my years of crafting fiction, I have written works about teenage drug dealers, monsters dressed like respectable adults, rapists in the guise of war heroes, and frightening and murderous rollercoasters. That said, there is one thing I have managed to avoid thus far, a thing that has made many a male author weak at the knees: I have never published a work with a female protagonist.

I have written from a female perspective before. Two unpublished manuscripts molder with badass females, their badassness heretofore unrevealed to the world at large. Then last summer, in the swirling weirdness of two rejected novels, and with my novel The Fort achieving the greatest success I’ve seen in my career, I decided to give the fairer sex another whirl. The trick, in my view, was to make the lady in question more tough than fair, and of course to give her a voice that would ring true. To further damn myself on this quest, I settled on the most volatile of all roles, the American teenager. I named her Betty, and please believe me when I tell you that I love this girl.

Betty is a mixture of a lot of different people that I’ve known, but what I wanted to fuel her with was the same teenage angst that I had when I was growing up. Back then, all I wanted in the world was a van full of friends and a few months full of punk rock shows to play. It didn’t matter if we made money, all I wanted was to see the world. Betty wants this too, but what she discovers shortly into Tunnel Vision is that what she’s really craving is an adventure.

That fit well with her personality. Betty is loud, vivacious in her own pierced and dyed-hair sort of way, and is certainly not the sort of young woman to shy away from danger. Now that I had a picture of her in my head it was time to give her a world, friends, and most chilling of all, realistic dialogue. Luckily, I had some real world assistance in the matter.

My wife and daughter played an integral role in the creation of Betty’s dialogue with her parents. Listening to them argue, then become best friends again, just to rinse and repeat was like taking a class and my ears were open. In addition, the nearly two decades I spent working in a tattoo shop played an important role when it came time to write about Betty and her best friend June. Males, in my experience, are all too ready to bag on one another’s virility or failings, while females tend to be both sweeter and crueler. Call your best friend a slut? No problem, but you better be ready for her to recount some awful thing that you’ve done. I’ll admit, once I got rolling it was fun, and certainly felt more important than a lot of the discussions I had as a real American teen.

One thing that I knew I wanted to stay away from was the idea that Betty needed to find a prince-in-shining-armor in order to survive in the dangerous new world of old bones and buried secrets that she was wandering into, and yet I wanted a tough boy character as well. Halfway through the first draft the idea hit me like a ton of bricks. I had already written about a boy who would be a perfect complement to Betty: Nickel, the teenage drug-dealing PI from my earlier novel, Nickel Plated. He can be a loud character, but I wanted this to be Betty’s story first and foremost, and it was fun tempering his normal voice to allow Betty to live on the pages.

Things came together in the first draft swiftly from there, and it was a joy writing about Nickel’s interactions with the increasingly dangerous lives of Betty and June. A murdered aunt, a fifteen-year-old mystery, and a very grown up spate of boy trouble make up some of my favorite parts of the book, and I hope my readers agree that Betty stands out as a character. It was scary to write with a feminine voice, but I loved doing it, and bringing Betty to life was just as joyous as finding a voice for a male character had ever been.

I have no idea when I’ll write with another female protagonist, but I do know that I won’t be nearly as scared to the next go round, and I also know that it will likely be sooner rather than later. There’s always pleasure in jumping into a new character and discovering what they have to say and how they view the world, but it’s especially wonderful when you realize that your imaginary friend is the one actually making all the decisions, and that you’re just there to work the keys. Writing about Betty’s world was an absolute riot, and I hope my readers have as much fun with it as I did.


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