Hailey Piper is joining us today to talk about her novel, A Light Most Hateful. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Three years after running away from home, Olivia is stuck with a dead-end job in nowhere town Chapel Hill, Pennsylvania. At least she has her best friend, Sunflower.
Olivia figures she’ll die in Chapel Hill, if not from boredom, then the summer night storm which crashes into town with a mind-bending monster in tow.
If Olivia’s going to escape Chapel Hill and someday reconcile with her parents, she’ll need to dodge residents enslaved by the storm’s otherworldly powers and find Sunflower.
But as the night strains friendships and reality itself, Olivia suspects the storm, and its monster, may have its eyes on Sunflower and everything she loves.
What’s Hailey’s favorite bit?
It begins with human nature. We’re contradictory creatures, craving peace when our lives get too exciting, bored when everything is too peaceful. My new book A Light Most Hateful takes place in the small town of Chapel Hill where little ever changes. The arrival of teenage runaway Olivia three years before the book’s beginning feels like the most exciting thing to have happened in Chapel Hill in some time, and little has happened since.
The trouble is, sometimes when there isn’t much to do, people find things to do, and they’re not always kind.
Olivia works at the Chapel Hill Drive-In, and amid the comings and goings of locals, many of whom she went to high school with before graduating a couple months back, a stranger arrives. She looks to have been living rough. And one thing Olivia has learned over the course of three years of being an outsider—this town isn’t too friendly with strangers.
Some of the local meatheads quit necking with their partners or watching the movie and instead take a cruel interest in the newcomer. Devin Shipley is the ringleader here, almost literally when his letter jacket crew forms a circle. As one of the only two working employees at the drive-in this Friday night, Olivia tries to break this up just as one of the letter jackets throws a soda can at the woman. At this point, Olivia’s point of view makes this observation:
“He didn’t seem out for blood tonight, just bored. Somehow, that was worse.”
This is my favorite part of the early book. Devin’s actions are awful no matter what, but what bothers Olivia on a deeper level is the pointlessness of it. This woman has done nothing to Devin or the letter jacket crew. She’s simply there. He doesn’t have a reason to bother her, only driven by a boredom that seeps into cruelty. He’s going to break the monotony of his life, and it’s not going to be through pining after a best friend the way Olivia does with her friend Sunflower, or through hoping for a chance encounter with an attractive passerby like Christmas, who shows up a little before this scene to talk with Olivia.
To poke the meme, Devin chooses violence. He doesn’t care about this stranger, and he doesn’t care what he does to her. She’s a source of potential amusement and relief from Chapel Hill’s stagnation. That’s enough for him.
Whether Olivia’s observation is accurate or not is up to the reader, especially once a genuine bloodlust rises up in the town. First there’s a people-eating monster, and soon after that, something in the storm drags the town residents under a powerful trance that leaves them mumbling and docile until they’re touched, at which point they fly into a collective rage and assault whoever’s dared make contact with them.
At that point, it’s possible Olivia might long for boredom. Devin, too. The situation isn’t going to get better for either of them as reality in Chapel Hill cracks apart, sending Olivia hunting for Sunflower, and sending Devin into a closer relationship with the stranger than he could ever dream.
Hailey Piper is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Queen of Teeth, A Light Most Hateful, The Worm and His Kings series, and other books of dark fiction. She is also the author of over one hundred short stories, appearing in Weird Tales, Pseudopod, Cosmic Horror Monthly, and many other publications. She lives with her wife in Maryland, where their occult rituals are secret. Find Hailey at haileypiper.com.
Hailey Piper is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Queen of Teeth, The Worm and His Kings, Your Mind Is a Terrible Thing, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy, Benny Rose, the Cannibal King, and The Possession of Natalie Glasgow. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association, with dozens of short stories appearing in various publications. She lives with her wife in Maryland, where their paranormal research is classified. Find her on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays