Max E. Stone has just released THE BLEEDING in audio format narrated by Noah Michael Levine. Reviewers describe the novel, which is the second in his New England series, as a “psychological thriller with more than a touch of horror” and "well drawn" characters. Stone claims that he pens the characters and stories that are “already in his head.”
Stone, who’s been writing since he was nine, is currently working on a new novel, Black Roses, which is his fifth book but the fourth story in the series. When he’s not writing, he likes to spend time with family and friends, do yoga, and watch the funniest shows he can on TV – to help relax.
Don’t miss the excerpt from THE BLEEDING following his interview.
Q: Reviewers claim that THE BLEEDING “is a whole new level of horror!” about “how evil begets evil.” What drives you to write in this genre? Would you compare your books to those of Stephen King?
Max E. Stone: I’m always so honored to hear things like that. I honestly didn’t even know that what I was writing was a whole new level of anything, horror or otherwise. The characters and stories already in my head drive me to write and I just keep the pen and paper handy. And, though I love his books, I wouldn’t compare myself to the amazing Stephen King. He has his lane and level and I have mine and I think I’m pretty good for where I am. I’m still growing. But I do hope to get there.
Q: “Plot was brilliant,” says a reviewer. How did you conceive of your plot?
Max E. Stone: This plot was something that started when I was 9 years old with my first book, August to Life. It started as a story about a family. Then, over the course of about a few more years or so, I added more characters. Suddenly, there were three families in total. But there was one character that both intrigued and frightened me and others who I let read pieces of the work. His name was Derek Warren. Absolutely the most heinous character I’d ever put together. So I asked myself “why does this person do what they do?” and “what will they do next?” That was how THE BLEEDING came about. I just thought of how bad he could possibly be in addition to how bad he already was as well as the reasons why.
Q: How do you create a “full cast of strange and wonderful characters” that will engage readers? Do you base your characters on people you know, or are they entirely drawn from your imagination? Are they heroes or villains?
Max E. Stone: I combine the two processes. The characters’ names and a few characteristics start out solely from my imagination while the rest of their profiles are combinations of different people that I know, good and bad. In that way, I try my best to make them as human as possible. For example, Derek Warren has some of the traits of the most loveable people in my life. Yet, he’s been warped and, in turn, has warped those good things about himself into hurting those around him.
Q: What makes a “thriller?” How do you create “one hell of a thrill ride,” as one reviewer describes THE BLEEDING?
Max E. Stone: The mind games that happen all throughout the story. You’ll think it’s going one way and then you’ll end up on a totally different path of exploration toward the end.
Q: What makes your story credible? How important is plausibility to engaging readers? What will make a reader stop reading thriller fiction?
Max E. Stone: Despite the thrills and craziness that go on, at its core, THE BLEEDING is a story of normal characters and how they cope with the worst of times in their pasts, how they live life, how they fall in love, etc. That’s everyone, no matter where they come from. That is what, I believe, makes the story credible.
As far as engaging readers, it is absolutely important to do so. In thriller fiction, even with the on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments that make up the genre, I think it’s most important for a reader to have a character or situation within the book that they can identify with. Otherwise, they’ll stop reading.
Q: Do you use setting to help tell your story? Are your characters a product of their surroundings?
Max E. Stone: I do look up settings and I’ll use the characteristics of those settings in a given place. And, for the most part, the characters aren’t products of their surroundings. For some of them, it’s upbringing that they have to push past in order to be better and do better. Some of them do that, some of them don’t.
Q: How helpful is humor to creating your characters? Is humor useful in a horror thriller?
Max E. Stone: Extremely helpful. Humor makes them more real because people make jokes especially in horrible situations. That’s what makes them human and, for some, that’s what helps them cope with the situation.
You have to have some relief from the horrible; some humor despite the horror to truly grasp that horror and appreciate the relief for however long it may be.
Q: Did you write THE BLEEDING to entertain your readers or did you embed a few messages along the way?
Max E. Stone: I think the point of any story, movie, or artistic creation should be to draw the reader, listener, or viewer into a world that they may not be aware of. That’s what art does. I would like to think that I did embed a few messages along the way as that was definitely my attempt.
Q: What’s next?
Max E. Stone: I’m working on Black Roses, which is the fifth book I’ve written but the fourth story in the series. The synopsis is still in the works, but much of the characters will be the same with a new case for Detective Bennett that will be be absolutely a shake-up.
Q: Tell us about Max E. Stone. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?
Max E. Stone: I like to hang out with my friends and family and also do yoga. It’s very relaxing and does the brain very well. Also, I like to watch the funniest things I can find on TV or in the movies. Writing serious situations takes a lot out of me so periodically I like to just laugh and get all of that out of my system for a bit.
About Max E. Stone
Max doesn’t remember ever not creating a story, pen or no pen.
A writer and lover of books since the age of nine, Max first set pen to page as a hobby, constructing stories that were anything but fit for children. Entertaining classmates while simultaneously concerning surrounding adults with blood-ridden tales of gory mysteries and heavy suspense that “just came to mind,” Max, with the help of family and the encouraging words of an inspiring fifth grade teacher, continue to develop this gift.
Little was it known at the time, but said gift would become a lifeline.
From horrific trauma in Max’s teen years, writing played an instrumental part in the difficult recovery and the Warrens, Bennetts, and Johnsons, three interconnected families all with issues, mysteries, and secrets that threaten their livelihood and lives, were born.
Max reads everything and everyone and relishes the journey, learning something new each day.
About THE BLEEDING
How does a maximum-security inmate commit a murder on the outside? The answer is more terrifying than you think.
Mark my words....
Derek Warren is smooth, charming, and a master manipulator.
But is he a killer?
If so, how is the former businessman committing murder from a maximum-security prison cell?
And what, if anything, does he have planned next?
You'll never see it coming....
Detective Stephen Bennett is sure he has the answers to these questions.
But the path of dead bodies leads him to a truth far more disturbing than he suspected....
You will bleed....
"Mom...Mommy?" the trembling boy whimpered in jagged breaths.
His blonde head popped to the surface of blue bed sheets at the tormented wails that broke through his fitful rest on a freezing October night.
And then, silence.
He swallowed hard.
"Mommy?" he bawled this time, pushing covers aside and preparing to leave his bed to investigate the noise.
Again, the deafening and disturbing quiet.
The youngster eased toward his room's door, turned the knob, and inched the opening wider until he beheld the source of the racket.
"Mommy!" he screamed.
Supported by the wall facing her son's room, his mother attempted to straighten her body and a mane of matted blonde curls with unstable hands.
Tender blue eyes, warm as a spring evening, waxed ice cold when she saw him watching her.
"Derek!" she fired, tremulous, from lips that swelled and seeped blood.
At the tears in her boy's baby blues, she softened.
"Daddy and I got a little loud. That's all. We're sorry we woke you. Go on back to bed, sweetie."
Without question, the child obeyed and feigned belief of her lie.
The scar above his own left eye reminded him of the consequences if he didn't.
Barreling footsteps rocked the floorboards and Derek stopped in his tracks. The red tint in his plump cheeks faded to a sick pale.
"Kim, baby?" a man drawled in a wicked singsong. "Where are you?"
"Derek, shut the damn door!" the mother howled, fear setting her ablaze. "Do it
In seconds, with the end of a brownish gold mullet clinging to the back of his damp neck and venomous blue-‐gray eyes, David Warren appeared and overtook Kim in three strides of his powerful legs.
He snatched a handful of her hair and shoved her into the wall face-‐first.
She slid to the floor when he unhanded her.
Blood dripped in the crack where her face landed and followed her body to the ground.
"Daddy, stop!" Derek cried.
"Honey, please!" Kim begged David, crawling while covering an eye. "Not in front of Derek!"
Dark red liquid wept through her fingers.
She cowered to a fetal position, not knowing when, where, or how he would strike next.
Wait for the blow...
Be somewhere else...
Dealt as predicted, strike one landed at her nose; the bone's split audible.
"This is my house," David told her in all sincerity, catching Kim's wounded face in his hands and thumbing the deep red juices that oozed from her nose and eye.
"You are my wife and you must do as you're told. If you continue to disobey, this will keep happening. Understand?"
He didn't wait for her classic quivering nod.
They had this talk before.
It took years for her to get the message.
But, nonetheless, she got it.
She knew her place.
He freed her, straightened, and turned to the eight-‐year-‐old who made no move to leave the scene.
"Go to bed, sport," the father ordered then directed a playful smirk to the boy's mother; the same masculine grin that won her heart at a church picnic years ago.
The one that had later been accompanied by a large diamond ring and a heartwarming marriage proposal.
"Mom and I need some time alone."
With those calm words, David lifted his wife from the floor, dragged her to himself, and crashed his mouth down on hers; his tongue lapping up her blood.
When he finished the unwilling invasion of her mouth, she shuddered and addressed a crippled "I'm fine, sweetie" to her son before both parents vanished around a corner, leaving Derek alone and frightened in a puddle of his own urine.
Nothing out of the ordinary for a night at the Warren house.
His mother spent years asking for help.
She beseeched relatives, friends, and the church.
The kids in Sunday School loved David Warren and wished to God they'd had the same stroke of good fortune in managing "the coolest pastor in the world" for a dad.
The women at the church talked of his mom's "luck" in having landed the minister for a husband.
The police rendered no help either.
Most of them knew David from his work in the community.
But Derek knew the truth.
And eight years of age would not stop him from saving the life of the woman who gave him his.
Audible site for THE BLEEDING