One of the most exciting things about horror conventions is that you never know who you'll meet or what new horror-themed treasures you'll discover at the vendor tables. Back in 2014 at Crypticon Minnesota, I had the great pleasure of meeting local author Patrick W. Marsh, and I've been hooked on his book series The Greenland Diaries ever since. Set just outside the Twin Cities in a world that's been ravaged by a myriad of monsters, the fourth novel in The Greenland Diaries (which also includes a short story collection) has just been released, and with Marsh appearing at this weekend's Crypticon, I caught up with the author to discuss his personal connection to his post-apocalyptic series, the unique monsters that lurk through the pages of his books, and how many more novels he plans to write before the series comes to its conclusion.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us once again, Patrick, and congratulations on your latest addition to The Greenland Diaries series! What can you tell us about Days 201–260?
Patrick W. Marsh: Thank you for interviewing me, Derek. I love Daily Dead. My new novel and entry in the series, The Greenland Diaries: Days 201 – 260, is the fourth book in the collection. This book is perhaps the most intense and frenetic yet, specifically because the main character, Richard, is no longer hiding from the Unnamed in areas that were vaguely familiar to him. In the new book, every journal entry is someplace foreign and new. Also, as he gets closer to the drum, the monsters change, the landscape is even more obliterated, and new challenges arise. Also, based on my own struggles with mental illness, Richard’s sanity begins to erode slightly, causing waves of anxiety and depression, which would be typical of anyone surviving such a dire apocalyptic situation.
You’ve spent years expanding the post-apocalyptic world of The Greenland Diaries through four books and a short story collection. Did you ever envision taking this story as far as you have?
Patrick W. Marsh: I did not. I published the first book as sort of a lark because I needed a new item to sell at Crypticon, MN back in 2014. It originally started out as this blog that I would write in my spare time to practice a past tense voice, something the journal format is perfect for. Nobody read the thing at the onset, in fact, my friends and family out of pity would click on the links I would share, but not actually read the content. Because I had no audience I felt compelled to do whatever I wanted with the monsters in the story, so I poured every nuance and detail I wanted into my abominations. The more I did this, the more people started to read it, and after 90,000 views I decided to close down the blog and hastily publish the book a week before the convention.
What has surprised you the most throughout this multi-year journey of writing The Greenland Diaries? Has the story and its characters ever taken a path that you didn’t expect?
Patrick W. Marsh: What has surprised me the most about it is how much I can relate to the main character’s perspective, and how much my own struggle coming to grips with my own mental illness is reflected in Richard’s journey to figure out what the Unnamed are and what they look like. At first, because the writing was so casual, I didn’t buy into the idea of there being some sort of subconscious undercurrent weighing down the voice of my story. The more and more I examined my content, especially with this new book, I could see that the desperation in Richard’s voice was identical to my own when it comes to dealing with my personal demons.
While it encompasses one story, each entry in The Greenland Diaries has its own flavor and unique horrors. Were there any particular influences that inspired you while writing the latest book?
Patrick W. Marsh: For my latest book, it had some of the same influences as my previous books, like Silent Hill, The Martian Chronicles, I Am Legend, and Iria. One thing I love about the narrative that I devour as a fan is that each chapter, episode, and section of the story can stand alone as its own tale, but be tied into a greater plot. I try to accomplish this with The Greenland Diaries, especially in the new book. One inspiration for the new novel I think might be different than other books in the series is the feeling of isolation. Because Richard is in a new environment, he’s alone more often, and he doesn’t have memory to sort of keep his sanity upright.
The Greenland Diaries is particularly special to Minnesota readers, as its post-apocalyptic story is set right outside of the Twin Cities. How important was it for you to tell this story in a place where you have a personal connection?
Patrick W. Marsh: Hugely important, because at the time I wasn’t a good enough writer to BS my way through non-existent sensory details. I had to write what I knew, which was the Twin Cities. I wrote about places I lived, travelled, and experienced on a daily basis. When I went through creative writing workshops and studied at the U of M Twin Cities, fiction writers would create these grand settings that would lack footing in reality. Because I’m asking my audience to wholly commit to a fictional monster, I knew I had to ground the setting in realism. Plus, I wanted to share details about my real life. I love the Twin Cities. It is my home.
We’ve seen many different types of monsters lurking through the pages of The Greenland Diaries series. What can readers expect to see haunting survivors in the new journal entries?
Patrick W. Marsh: My favorite question thus far. I love monsters. They’re a passion of mine, a real motif to my writing, and something that I take pride in as a storyteller. There are new monsters in the fourth book, but I can’t reveal too many of the details. I will say that things appear to get reversed with the Unnamed versus what we’ve seen thus far in how they work. Also, the flying Unnamed that appears in random parts throughout the first three books become a central character. Perhaps the two biggest monster appearances is the visual confirmation of the drum in one entry, and the appearance of the Builders as well.
The Greenland Diaries: Days 141–200 ended on a game-changing cliffhanger, and it seems like nothing will ever be quite the same after what happened on the final page. Can readers expect the new book to pick up where the last one left off?
Patrick W. Marsh: Oh yes. They certainly can. I know I sort of turned the corner when it comes to the complexity of the monsters, and the new book delivers plenty of answers while creating new questions. Because the realism of the story is important to me as a writer, there is always vagueness to what is happening and the theories Richard has about them. Logically, in this apocalyptic situation, there would be no scientist wandering down the road to describe what is happening or form a hypothesis. You would be left to your own deductive reasoning, which in our society isn’t a muscle that exactly gets a ton of exercise.
Where can readers go to pick up a copy of The Greenland Diaries: Days 201 – 260?
Patrick W. Marsh: The easiest place is on my website www.patrickwmarsh.com and click on “store” to buy yourself a copy. I offer steep discounts compared to other retailers, plus I still sign and personalize the books. I’ll also be appearing at Crypticon, MN, and doing other various events throughout the Twin Cities. Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and the Kindle are other places to purchase my books. They’re in some brick and mortar stores as well. The Source Comics and Games also carry my entire collection.
How many more books do you have planned for The Greenland Diaries series? Do you have an endgame in mind for the series? Also, can readers look forward to another short story collection set in that universe?
Patrick W. Marsh: There are going to be two more books in the main narrative of The Greenland Diaries. It’ll end at 365 days. I’m going to release another collection of short stories in the same universe next fall in 2019 at Crypticon Minnesota. There will be some short stories included in this anthology that take place 100 years after the drum in a section of the United States called “The Jade,” where the Unnamed are confined and monitored by a security force. My final book in the series overall will be featuring this setting. I’m not sure when I’ll get to it.
In addition to The Greenland Diaries, you’ve written a lot of original short stories and another novel, Beware the Ills. Can readers look forward to more stories from you that are set outside of The Greenland Diaries universe?
Patrick W. Marsh: When I started out writing, I wanted to write three big trilogies in the popular genre fiction I grew up exploring: horror, science fiction, and fantasy. In each trilogy I wanted to have my version of a monster be featured in the narrative. I have accomplished this horror genre with the apocalyptic Greenland Diaries, but I still have to do science fiction and fantasy. I’m not sure when I’ll get around to those stories in the future, but I’ve certainly got them percolating. They’re my dreams. It is my job to make them reality.
What advice would you give to writers who are just starting out and looking for the best way to get their work in front of readers?
Patrick W. Marsh: Write. I know that sounds simplistic, but you need to write. Everyone can have great ideas for stories, however, to learn the craft of writing you need to actually write and not sit on your thoughts. Write poems, stories, blogs, scripts, and even if they never see the light of day, or you submit it to every publisher under the sun, you need to write. Practicing your craft, revising it, all of it can be beneficial to producing a story that resonates with people. To get your work out there, like in terms of marketing, make sure to share why you decided to do it, or what personally inspired you.
Where can readers go online to learn more about you and your work?
Patrick W. Marsh: My website has plenty of free samples of all my work, plus content produced specifically for my blog. You can visit it at www.patrickwmarsh.com