I first learned about Emma Berquist’s book DEVILS INTO DUST via Twitter, and I immediately fell in love with the premise. If you’re looking for an horror story that takes place in the old west, you should definitely pick this one up.
Ten years ago, a horrifying disease began spreading across the West Texas desert. Infected people—shakes—attacked the living and created havoc and destruction. No one has ever survived the infection. Daisy Wilcox, known as Willie, has been protecting her siblings within the relatively safe walls of Glory, Texas. When Willie’s good-for-nothing father steals a fortune from one of the most dangerous shake-hunters in town, she finds herself on the hook for his debt. With two hunters, including the gruff and handsome Ben, to accompany her, she sets out across the desert in search of her father. But the desert is not kind to travelers, and not everyone will pass through alive.
According to your website bio, you currently live in New Zealand and you avoid the beach. What do you love most about New Zealand, and why no beaches?
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Just driving to the grocery store there are views that would make you gasp, and I haven’t even explored the South Island yet. (Plus, publicly funded healthcare is great!)
I have a long-standing aversion to the beach. Not only do I hate sand, but I get sunburned in about 10 minutes unless I’ve slathered every exposed inch of me in sunscreen. NOT A FAN.
And now I’m more of a fan of the grocery store than the beach! DEVILS UNTO DUST is set in the West Texas desert during the post-Civil War era. In what ways, if any, did this setting shape the story, and what was most challenging about bringing it to life?
This story actually started with the setting. I was in Palm Springs, a small desert town in southern California, and the scenery was making me nostalgic for the hiking trips I took as a kid in Texas. I started thinking about what a beautiful but harsh landscape the desert is, and how it’s the last place you want to be if there was something chasing you, because there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. I was able to draw on a lot of my memories for the descriptions of Glory, but it was more challenging to get the details of the time period right. I had to read up on the Reconstruction Era and the realities of the old west to make sure everything was as accurate as I could make it.
What a beautiful way to shape a setting. In your interview with BookPeople, you said the hardest thing about writing was, “Having to actually sit down and get the words on the page. It’s easy to come up with an idea but a lot harder to turn that idea into an entire book.” What helps you keep motivated when the process of creating a book from an idea becomes challenging?
I’m not a fast writer, so I put up a whiteboard to keep track of my word count. Even if I only write a little bit every day, seeing the physical progress of a book taking shape (albeit slowly) helps to keep me motivated to push forward. If I start to get too discouraged or feel creatively drained, it always helps to read books that inspire me, or watch movies that remind me of the power of storytelling.
Huzzah to the power of storytelling! What are some of your current projects?
I’m starting edits on my second book, which is a contemporary ghost story. I also have a few new story ideas that I’ve been bouncing between, trying to figure out which one has the most potential. I keep switching back and forth, but hopefully I’ll narrow it down soon!
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