Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Welcome, Toni V. Sweeney

Serpent’s Tooth is my own variation on the Faust legend, a meshing of a romance with slowly-encroaching horror, but Travis Brandt is no scholar bargaining his soul to the devil for power alone. He’s a naïve young Nebraskan, marrying early and orphaned earlier, talented and intelligent but having nothing to look forward to but a poorly-paid teaching position in an incorporated town on the Great Plains. And then his Big Break comes and he’s whisked away to Hollywood… and its contingent dangers, swept into the maelstrom of sex, drugs, rock and roll…and demon worship. Too late seeing the danger, and the only escape is to die, he spends the next quarter century in oblivion…until he meets a former fan, a woman who loves him not for the man he was, but for the man he has become. In her he sees his salvation, but his past rears its deadly head.
Serpent’s Tooth was the result of a dream, only one word remaining when I awakened: the name Hildebrand. Two days later, I heard the name again in a late night TV movie and knew I had to write a story using it. Perhaps there was a lingering taste of composer Paul Williams’ rock-horror-opera The Phantom of the Paradise. All I know is that the story of the young man from Nebraska, so determined to be a success he dares risk his immortal soul to gain what he wished, only to have it all explode in his face, came easily to the keyboard. It’s a horror story, yes, but it’s also a love story, the story of a man’s love for a woman which is so strong he dares risk his already-jeopardized soul to protect her.
I tried to make my description of the era as accurate as possible, and haunted the local libraries for weeks, researching the ’80, especially regarding the music, and current events and I also wanted to combine the Southern atmosphere of my younger days with the place I now reside, Nebraska. This, however, is no story of young love, reckless and unheeding. Both the hero and heroine are mature in that respect, adults who’ve already lived a good part of their lives before they meet. Melissa is a Southerner, a woman in her early 40’s who goes on a cruise to ease the memories of her mother’s death. Travis is in his 50’s, a man who fled to his Nebraska roots in order to hide, a man once ready to do whatever was necessary to become a success, but now finds himself afraid to love again because of a drug-induced promise he made two decades before. They are opposites—one a sheltered old maid, the other an orphan who’s always taken care of himself—each seeing something in the other to fulfill a need. Two lonely people thrown together by Fate and a love which is going to be tested in the worse way imaginable.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks which mirror events taking place in the present.

Opening with singer Hildebrandt’s decision to quit Hollywood forever, the story weaves back and forth between 2009 and the Eighties, reflecting how Hildebrandt, the most successful rock star of that era and an actor who had brought to life one of the most famous horror characters ever created, disappears from his beachhouse, never to be heard of again, only to surface twenty years later as Travis Brandt, rancher and lover of Melissa Powers, a sheltered librarian from Savannah. (An interesting aside, Travis is the great-great-grandson of Will Brandt, hero of Walk the Shadow Trail, a Western I wrote a dozen years ago.)

What should have been a happy ending, with two people starting a new life together, is only the beginning, as the horror Travis left behind when he fled Hollywood is now awakened to once more reach out and threaten the former movie star and his new bride.
It’s a different type of story for me. I hope readers of romance will be charmed by Travis’ love for Melissa. Though they may not like the ending, they might be moved to admit it was the logical one. I know readers of horror will appreciate its suitable irony.

1 comment:

Mary Ricksen said...

Sounds like a great read! Good luck with sales!!