by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
October 30, 2012
$9.44 (Barnes & Noble)
Don’t forget to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for your chance to win a free copy of this book! Contest closes December 15, 2012
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Full Disclosure: I organized this blog tour for Benjamin Kane Ethridge and arranged the other blog tour stops.
June Nilman is a woman with thousands of personalities in her head and none of them are her own. Stricken with amnesia and trapped in a room in an abandoned hospital, her caretaker, Nurse Maggie, wants her to remain captive forever. At night June hears creatures patrolling in and out of the hospital, and in time discovers Maggie has mental control over them. In planning her escape, June has an extensive catalogue of minds to probe for help, but dipping into the minds of her mental prisoners is often a practice in psychological endurance. Escape seems impossible until June discovers a rat hole in the wall– the starting point of her freedom.
But freedom in this war-torn world may be more dreadful than she ever imagined.
Dungeon Brain is a locked room mystery of the body and mind that expands across the realms of science fiction and horror.
How did you come up with the concept behind this novel that multiple people could be taken into one person’s head?
At first I wanted to tell a story about a schizophrenic person with amnesia. What if you had different personalities in your mind, but none were your own? Then I started thinking about these different personalities. Did they have their own memories? What if they did? What if they weren’t imaginary people at all? Perhaps they’d been real people at one time and now found themselves trapped in this person’s head. From there, I just had to find a way for that to happen. Enter the Dungeon Brain.
Maggie Swanson is one of the most screwed up, frightening characters I can recall. Did you model her after other fictional nurses? Where did you draw the inspiration for her character?
A photo of Bettie Page at a friend’s house set me off. This was the photo of her in the sexy nurse outfit—but in the shadows under my friend’s coffee table, I didn’t find anything sexy about the image. She looked harsh, brutal even, and something about how she leered (or appeared to leer) conjured up a character that had a borderline, obsessive personality.
Mental health is such a hot button issue these days, with conditions like bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety, addictions to prescription pills and suicides because of bullying gaining a lot of media attention, but despite that, people are still not willing to discuss suffering from these things publicly or even among friends. Why do you think there’s still such a stigma attached to mental health issues?
As with all illnesses, those involving the mind tend to be cause for embarrassment or shame. Normality is something most people want, from superficial reasons all the way up to survival reasons. People don’t want attention for their defects or the defects of people related to them. Covering it up is easier, since these types of illness aren’t always clearly detected anyway. If nobody mentions them, perhaps nobody will ever be the wiser and the facade of normality won’t be cracked.
The book is set in a bleak, dystopian sci-fi universe with talk of wars on different plants, there are aliens, people having eye implants to watch TV, etc. Did you intentionally make the foray into science fiction deliberately for this story, or did it start out in your head as something you always knew was a sci-fi tale?
Sci-Fi was always in mind for this novel, but the extent of it in the beginning draft was lesser. I originally wanted the story to take place on a devastated Earth in the future, but as the story evolved I desired more isolation from humanity’s origins. I wanted a planet that was in the thrall of war, but at the same time untouched by history. To me, the setting represents the main character better this way. She has inner turmoil, but she’s also a blank slate. She can retreat to who she was in the past, or she can be a different person moving on. Same with the planet.
Are there any passages that you found to be the most challenging to write, or perhaps the most rewarding?
There is a scene in the second act of the book that deals with the duplication of the Dungeon Brain’s prisoners. I knew why and how it had happened, but it took me a bit to form it into a narrative that I found to sufficiently explain the phenomenon. This book had many moments like that, when I’d say to myself, I wonder if the reader will follow this? Not that I felt my ideas were beyond most readers, but because I was attempting a level of descriptive complexity I’d never attempted before. In the end, I was happy with the results because I hadn’t gone too scientific or too esoteric. I don’t enjoy reading tales that suffer under those conditions; to me a story shouldn’t be as rigid as a physics text book, nor should it be as undisciplined as a drug-induced hallucination. In-between the two is where I try to find myself.
Many thanks to Ben for taking the time out of his jam-packed schedule to drop by for this interview on my blog! Be sure to follow Ben’s blog tour, which continues on November 1 and 3 with posts from Carl Alves. For a full list of the other blog tour stops, click here.