Young-Adult fantasy author Andrew Auseon told Tor.com this his new novel, Jo-Jo and the Fiendish Lot, was inspired, in part, by his interest in the intersection between life and death.
“This is especially true when it comes to adolescence, when people often suffer from the misperception of invulnerability,” Auseon said in an interview. “A result of this indestructible feeling is a weird obsession with death, gloom, and the act of self-destruction.”
The initial setup for the novel came about years ago. “It was the scene of kid bent on suicide being interrupted in the act by someone who’d seen the other side of the situation, the death side,” Auseon said. “I found this funny. A young person caught up in the melodrama of the moment suddenly faced with a stranger telling him, ‘Yeah, you don’t want to do that.’ It’s a comment on suicide. Anyone who thinks taking their own life is going to bring them and their loved ones anything but trouble is probably kidding himself. You don’t get away from anguish that easily.”
The novel tells the story of a Baltimore teen that has recently lost his girlfriend, who he believes is the only person gave his life any meaning. “She was murdered, most likely because of her relationship with him,” Auseon said. “After wallowing for a period of time and realizing that he’s unable to recover from the tragedy, he decides to take his own life. Only when he’s on the verge of committing suicide he encounters a young woman who seemingly appears out of nowhere. She claims to be from the Afterlife, the land of the dead. She convinces him that ‘Death is overrated.'”
Jo-Jo and the girl, Max, eventually cross over to the Afterlife and go on tour with her band, the Fiendish Lot, a famous act known for its perspective-altering concerts. “As Jo-Jo searches for his deceased girlfriend among the crowds of lost souls, he begins to realize the flaws in his point of view, and wonders if perhaps he would live life differently if he had another shot at it,” Auseon said. “Whether he does or not is something you need to read the novel to find out.”
The music part of the book was born out of the writing. “I was working on an early draft of the book and desperately searching for the specific feature that made my novel’s version of the afterlife unique,” Auseon said. “I sought to make the main characters, which are the protagonist’s social circle, a product of the drab, empty, lifeless setting I’d created. ‘What epitomizes the act of living?’ I asked myself. What experience would I look back on and say, ‘I really did it all?’ The obvious answer, at least for me, was music. They’d be a band. The sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is a celebration of the human experience, despite its occasional grotesqueries. It just so happened that the death of Joe Strummer of the Clash coincided with my work on this draft. I remember hearing the news on the radio. I knew right then that the Fiendish Lot would be a force for life in the land of the dead.”
This October will see the publication of Auseon’s first science fiction novel. “[It’s] a comedy adventure for young people that I wrote in collaboration with filmmaker David O. Russell,” Auseon said. “It’s called Alienated and it’s going to be a lot of fun. So if you know any rambunctious ten-year-old boys, give them a heads-up.”