Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Guest Post: Jason Bovberg the author of the Blood trilogy
By Jason Bovberg
So, it turns out I authored an entire horror trilogy—the Blood saga, encompassing Blood Red, Draw Blood, and Blood Dawn—before I realized I had written the entire thing as a metaphor for my battle with cancer thirty years ago.
How dense am I?
It’s true: Not long after I typed “The End” on Blood Dawn, the final chapter, I started to reflect on the series as a whole. I felt a sense of accomplishment, sure, and I knew that the series grew stronger as it went along. I also felt that I’d done the characters justice and sent them off properly. Not a bad collection of thoughts after finishing a whacko, blood-drenched horror trilogy! But I also realized something else as I sat there reflecting: The word Blood in all three of my titles—and particularly in Draw Blood—means more than the plot device it springs from. Much more than that, it harkens back to my days of oncology and chemotherapy, a painful time in my life that I now understand will remain a part of me until I kick.
When I was 19, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Shellshocked, I absorbed the diagnosis numbly and lived through it day by day, attending my freshman college courses, gradually becoming a writer. Meanwhile, I was enduring brutal blood and radiation treatments that played hell with my body, leaving me with all kinds of enduring scars. And yet I was young and immortal. I knew the cancer wouldn’t kill me. It might maim me, it might hobble me, but it wouldn’t kill me. That optimism got me through it, and when I was finally declared cured, I tried to shove it all behind me, wanting—needing—the whole experience to be a part of my past. Part of a different me.
Easier said than done. But it worked for years, despite daily reminders that it had happened. Things like hair loss and reduced lung capacity and other heinous internal stuff.
Guess who else is 19? My main character Rachel.
Yeah, I just recently made that connection. She’s a young woman who awakens to unspeakable horror and runs—also shellshocked—through what remains of her world, yearning for answers, grasping at what matters most, relying on those around her for support. She’s innocent, and she’s new to the horrors of the world, and she’s reckless. But she faces it. Strong. Resilient. She makes mistakes, but she also finds the “hero” inside her. And I’m not spoiling much when I tell you that the ending of her story is a happy one. (She lives.)
I used to say that Clive Barker’s Books of Blood was an inspiration for the title of my saga, but now I know that’s not entirely true. Yes, Barker’s books were influential around the time I was going through my cancer episode, but the word Blood suddenly has a more visceral meaning that I had tamped down over the years. Shortly after finishing that final volume, I stared at my three covers side by side, all emblazoned with that word, and the connection was obvious. Coming to this realization was akin to the first time I watched The Sixth Sense—that goosebump-raising moment of “Gaaah!”
Clive Barker is famous for dabbling in what he calls “body horror”—and that is a concept that I definitely explored in my Blood trilogy, albeit unconsciously, through the prism of my experience. The monsters in my novels are wrenched-back monstrosities, humans who have been painfully inhabited by a malevolent presence, wreaking havoc on their tissues, bones, and organs. They are gasping, crooked, and increasingly deformed, and above all they are infected. And it is discovered that these afflicted “monsters” can be turned back to humanity with a “blood cure.”
Stop me when this sounds familiar!
Since coming to these multi-layered realizations, I’ve pondered the power of the subconscious mind and marveled at how the Blood saga poured out of me—a full-on, multifaceted metaphor for my experience, utterly beyond my awareness. I even have a character in Rachel’s past who went through her own cancer ordeal (and lost)! I don’t think of my realization as a blindness, or a cluelessness, but rather a revelation for how much my cancer episode has defined my persona. The truth is, no matter how much I want it to be otherwise, cancer is an integral piece of who I am. It was folly to try to bury the past.
So, I’m left studying the weight of this revelation. Thirty years after my own cancer diagnosis, I have put the final touches on a saga all about the aftermath of my diagnosis. Like it or not, the Blood saga has been a far more personal work than I understood while writing it—a reminder that our experiences, good or bad, remain a part of us for the long haul, and even if we don’t feed them any conscious energy, they’ll be there waiting, feeding off our darker parts.
As you read Blood Red, you can sense the innocence of the protagonist—the shocked recoil and the desperation as she faces a terror entirely new to her. Denial and despair give way to fearlessness. In Draw Blood, Rachel is humbled by her experiences but comes to term with her new reality—in essence, beginning to grow up. And in Blood Dawn—an even more appropriate title, now that I see if for what it is!—she comes of age, overcoming her inner and outer challenges. From the pit of darkness, she rises to find her future bright.
https://www.amazon.com/Jason-Bovberg/e/B00JJ36NNW. Check out my website at www.jasonbovberg.com. Follow me on Amazon at https://www.facebook.com/jasonbovberg.author/. Jason Bovberg is the author of the BLOOD trilogy--Blood Red, Draw Blood, and Blood Dawn--as well as The Naked Dame, a throwback pulp noir novel. He is editor/publisher of Dark Highway Press and he lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife Barb and his daughters Harper and Sophie.