Horror author Brian Keene told Tor.com that his latest novel, Castaways, was inspired, in part, by the TV show Survivor, and author Richard Laymon.
“In late 2001, I contributed a short story called ‘Castaways’ to an anthology called In Laymon’s Terms, which was a tribute to Richard Laymon, who had passed away earlier that year,” Keene said in an interview. “The story was inspired by Laymon’s ‘Beast House’ mythos, in which a race of repugnant, savage beings are brought to America from an island off the coast of Australia. ‘Castaways’ was a play on that—what if a reality show like Survivor was unknowingly set on an island inhabited by a sub-human race of creatures? Readers have often asked me to consider turning the short story into a full-length novel. So I did.”
The novel follows the cast of the survival reality series, Castaways, who face peril when it turns out that their uninhabited island isn’t so uninhabited after all. “Think Cannibal Holocaust meets Survivor with a dash of Cryptozoology Today,” Keene said.
Although the island is inhabited by sub-human creatures, Keene said that Castaways is firmly grounded in this world. “Indeed, the creatures themselves are the sort of thing you’d see featured on In Search Of or in a book by Loren Coleman,” he said. “They’re not so much monsters as they are a degenerate missing link.”
Much like any reality series, there is a rather large cast. “Our four main protagonists, however, are Jerry, a video store clerk, Becka, a college student, Troy, a mechanic, and Matthew, who unbeknownst to the rest of the contestants is really a domestic terrorist with an agenda of his own,” Keene said.
A novel is only as good as its characters, Keene said. “I tend to spend a lot of time building characters that the reader will believe in and sympathize with,” he said. “This time, with such a large cast, that was a real challenge. However, judging by reader feedback, I think I pulled it off.”
Although several of Keene’s novels, especially Ghoul and Dark Hollow, are deeply personal to him, this one wasn’t one of those. “But it was personal in that manner that I wrote it as a tribute to Laymon, who was a good friend and mentor, and I wanted to make sure it honored his memory,” Keene said. “I wanted to write something that I thought he’d dig.”
Next up for Keene is a new short story collection, Unhappy Endings, forthcoming from Delirium Books in May, and Marvel Comics will collect his Dead of Night: Devil Slayer mini-series into trade paperback this April.