Susanne Leist is a good friend and mutual supporter whose Dead Game is an innovative addition to the indie horror genre. A fellow native Brooklynite, Susanne brings her unique insights and lively personality to Center Stage for our interview…
The town of Oasis was the home of an upscale community in your novel. Did your current hometown of Woodmere, New York provide an inspiration for your story? Did you envision the same kind of people and places when describing Oasis?
The town of Oasis is the polar opposite of Woodmere, Long Island. In Woodmere, no one ever walks. People take their cars everywhere, even to the corner store. Most people don’t bother to say hello when they pass you on the street. Strollers aren’t pushed by mothers but by their housekeepers or maids.
In Oasis, Linda loves to walk each morning through town, waving hello to everyone she meets. Only Charles Wolf refuses to wave back, but that leads to another part of the story. Oasis is a friendly town, except for the supernatural element, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Dead Game was an innovative contribution to the vampire genre in incorporating the surrealistic hallucination angle. Was this your original game plan, or did you add the vampire to the concept of End House?
My books was originally going to be a simple murder mystery. A murder mystery in small town. It was to begin with End House and the mysterious party. Two of the young residents were to be murdered. The rest of the book was supposed to be the journey to find the murderer.
Instead, End House became alive to me with trap doors and deadly saws. This turned out to be only the beginning of the whole story. Dead bodies turn up on the beach. The reclusive residents don’t come out at night. The story snowballed into a supernatural thriller with a surprise ending.
Charles Wolf was undoubtedly the bad guy in this novel, but it seemed he took a back seat to Todd Morrison as the more sympathetic figure. Are we going to see more of Morrison, or are you planning a Dead Game II?
The Dead Game is the first book of two books. The first book resolves the murder mystery, but at the same time, opens a Pandora box of new mysteries. Its surprise ending will lead to more surprises.
I have just begun to work on the sequel. My outline and notes are ready. My writing often leads me in unknown directions, so I won’t know how the book will end until it does.
Todd Morrison will play an important role in the next book as his relationship with Linda becomes more complicated. That’s all I’m going to say for now.
The novel seemed to portray the guests at End House as being upwardly-mobile professionals who would be considered somewhat materialistic. Could the hallucinations at End House be perceived as an allegory of their self-delusuons and conceits?
No, please no. I left the world of finance to escape into the world of my imagination. My imagination doesn’t include allegories or self-righteousness.
This would be an extenuation of the last question. Could it be argued that the vampires were a further metaphor symbolizing what many feel is upper-class society, feeding on the working class, having the tables turned on them?
Vampires are the upper class. They’re the upper class of all creatures. That’s why they’re bad and have to be stopped. And now we’ve brought politics into my imagination.
Readers could be excused for perceiving a homosexual relationship between Mike and David. It seemed as if David played a feminine role throughout the novel.
If women are silly and scared all the time, then David played a feminine role. But not all women are silly and easily frightened. And not all men are heroes and act brave. And who wins the woman at the end? Not Mike.
Father John seems as if the stereotypical religious figure in the novel. Were you just going with the generic flow in the horror category, or was there a reason you didn’t choose an evangelical preacher or a rabbi?
I used a priest because that’s who I’ve usually seen in horror movies and read about in books. I can’t picture one of my rabbis running after a vampire or chanting spells.
The church and devil worship have a long-standing relationship. I was just continuing the myth.
Most of your Facebook friends would describe you as a religious person. Does it play an important part in your daily life? Do you feel that writing provides a platform for believers?
My religion guides me on all matters. It has taught me to be kind to others and never to embarrass anyone—ever. My religion has a lot of rules so it definitely affects my everyday life. I usually miss out on a lot of things. The Sabbath, each week, keeps me grounded.
Writing could be a very important platform if used properly. However, I’m not using my writing for this purpose. I’m writing to bring adventure and enjoyment to my readers, and a little escape from the humdrum of day to day living.
You moved from Brooklyn to Woodmere. As a fellow Brooklynite, I’ve seen it change enormously in my time. Do you still have family and friends in Brooklyn, and do you see it evolving when you visit?
After my parents passed away, I had no one left in Brooklyn to visit. All their friends are gone. Everyone my age has left the neighborhood behind. I do go back to see Sheepshead Bay. It was and still is a very beautiful area.
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