Blog Tour: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix + Interview

Welcome to the first stop on My Best Friend's Exorcism tour for Grady Hendrix. This tour is hosted by Quirk Books. We are honored to have Grady today! Make sure to read the interview below and to follow the tour.

My Best Friend's Exorcism
Author: Grady Hendrix
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Released: May 17 2016
Review Source: Quirk Books

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act . . . different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since Abby's fated 10th birthday party when things were a disaster, but everything turned out fine in the end. Until they're 16 and something happens to Gretchen. Unsure of what actually happened to her, Abby must figure out on her own how to get her best friend back; even if that means dancing with the Devil.

One of my favorite things about this book was the simple fact that every chapter was a title of a song that was popular in the 80's. I always wanted to figure out why certain chapters were titled after the songs, and sometimes it was apparent while other times it wasn't. This book is littered with 80's pop culture - including sayings that were used back then. Anyone who grew up in the 80's would really appreciate this book.

The first half of this book was exactly what I wanted it to be. It started to get scary as you pick up on the certain things happening to Gretchen that are caused by her possession. And when she describes what it's like to have the demon trying to get into her body - it was enough to give me the hee-bee-jee-bee's. But once Gretchen and Abby start to pull away from each other the book takes on a different tone. It's not as scary as it once was. And that was disappointing for me. I wanted to be filled with fright from the moment she's explaining about how it feels having a demon sitting on her chest up until the very end. Which was not what happened.

Q&A with Grady Hendrix

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your book?
I’m way less interesting than my book. The title popped into my head one day and I wanted to use it, but I didn’t want to write an exorcism book because most of them revolve around a young girl tied to a bed while a bunch of old men shout at her. I realized that what was missing was the experience of the demoniac – the possessed person. In The Exorcist, Regan MacNeil is just a vessel for the demon to demonstrate its evil, or for the priests to test their faith, and I decided I wanted to write a book about that girl and what being possessed was like for her and her best friend.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?
I wrote about 60,000 words of my first draft and I was really proud of it. I gave it to my wife to read, expecting her to be blown away by my genius. Instead, she informed me that it was hot garbage. After I got over my wounded ego, I realized she was right. I’d written a shallow, facile book full of other people’s ideas about what high school was like in the Eighties, what friendship felt like, what possession was like. So I sat down with all her diaries and letters from high school, and all my journals and letters from high school, and for three weeks I just read them. And after a while, I had a real, actual, authentic memory — just one — of what it felt like to be in high school in 1988. And that led to another, and another, and another, and soon I was off and writing. But that was the hardest thing: getting away from all the clichés and stereotypes from high school movies and books that had replaced my actual memories of what it was like.

Authors always say that they hear voices in their heads. Which character speaks the loudest, Abby or Gretchen?
I hate to give the cop-out answer, but both of them. That feeling I had in high school of being completely out of control is still deeply present for me. Everything I did went wrong. I tried so hard to do the right thing, and it always turned out to be exactly the wrong thing. I felt like I was disappointing everyone around me every second I was alive and I so desperately wanted to start all over and try again because I knew I had screwed my life up beyond repair. Later, I realized that’s just what it feels like to be a teenager, but that didn’t make it any easier to survive. The only thing that got me through were my friends.

Your 1980s references were spot on and I love your picks for some songs. Would you mind sharing some of your favorite songs?
The Eighties were phenomenal for music. Metal wasn’t angry and ugly yet, hip hop and goth were taking off, pop was totally omnivorous: Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, the Talking Heads, and Public Enemy were all releasing albums. My songs in 1988 were Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” to get pumped up to, Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” for lighting candles and crying, “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner for power balladry, “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats was my sing along song, although that had to share the slot with “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.  And I will go to my grave saying that Starship’s  “We Built This City” is a truly great song about gentrification and the misuse of corporate power, even though it’s consistently voted one of the worst songs ever written.

What’s the most interesting/exciting thing you’ve done in the name of research?
I write books so I can do research — that’s my addiction. For My Best Friend’s Exorcism I had 1988 calendars on the wall plotting out every event with the cycles of the moon and the weather, I had 1988 TV schedules, I flew back home to Charleston to drive and walk every single route the characters took, and I think I read every issue of my hometown paper for the five months the book covers. But the biggest blast I ever had doing research was going to a machine gun collector’s convention in Kentucky (twice!) when I was working on a documentary back in 2000. Everyone let me shoot their Uzis, and at night the flamethrower collectors would come out on the range and set the whole thing on fire with napalm. It was beautiful.

Are you working on any new projects?
Right now I’ve just started on my next novel, and I’m in the research phase so I don’t want to say too much, but it’s really tough this time around. I’m going to the town where it’s set and tracking down old hardcore clubs that have long since closed down, talking to a lot of musicians, and listening to a lot of heavy metal.

Grady Hendrix writes fiction, also called "lies," and he writes non-fiction, which people sometimes accidentally pay him for. He is the author of Horrorstör, the only novel about a haunted Scandinavian furniture store you'll ever need. It has been translated into 14 languages and is being turned into a television show by Gail Berman (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl). They have never met Grady, but that is their loss. His next novel is called My Best Friend's Exorcism, about demonic possession, friendship, exorcism, and the Eighties, out from Quirk Books in May, 2016.

Grady Hendrix used to be a journalist, which means that he was completely irrelevant and could be killed and turned into food at any time. He is one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival, but he is not responsible for the bad parts of it. He is also not Asian. For years he was a regular film critic for the New York Sun but then it went out of business. He has written for Playboy Magazine, Slate, The Village Voice, the New York Post, Film Comment, and Variety.

Follow the TOUR
May 18th - Great Imaginations

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