WiHM 2023: An Interview With T.L. Bodine about Neverest And More!

An Interview With T.L. Bodine

T.L. Bodine is the author of River of Souls, The Hound (the wattpad exclusive), The House of Lazarus and many other horror tales. She’s interested in the uncanny, and the way people interact with real problems. Her latest work, Neverest, crossed my path as a read that I just had to review for Horror Tree. It is a survival thriller with escalating dread as a widow follows her deceased husband’s footsteps up the treacherous Mount Everest. Neverest is T.L. Bodine’s first publication with Ghost Orchid Press and will be published in April 2023. After reviewing Neverest, I got in touch with Bodine (and thankfully she agreed) so I could ask some burning questions, but don’t worry, there’ll be no spoilers!

Corinne: Congratulations on your book, Neverest. I love the title especially. How did you decide on this title?


T.L: Well, it was major thanks to a friend actually. I am terrible with titles and tend to go with the usual ones. For Neverest, the working title was ‘Ghosts of Everest’, but one, it’s already a title for something else, and two, it just didn’t work, so my friend spitballed a load of options. My friend is Kiska Gray who writes steamy romances, which is about as far from my wheelhouse as it’s possible to get, but we’re always chatting about craft and she’s a title queen. 


Corinne: Why did you choose Mount Everest as your setting? Why not a lesser known mountain? I mean, Mount Everest is a huge undertaking.


T.L: Oh yeah, a massive undertaking. It is a well-known setting that it would be hard for any story to be original, but I stumbled across some photographs on the internet and it blew my mind about the bodies that get left on Mount Everest. I then went down a rabbit hole researching Mount Everest. I had so many questions. Why does this keep happening? 


The whole problem with the people dying and its cache is down to its name recognition and those climbing Mount Everest are more likely to be beginners and novices at climbing mountains. I learned though that it’s not actually down to the climbing part, but its endurance with the elevation. There’s no need for the typical ice climbing like with K2, so they get themselves into trouble more often on Mount Everest. I wondered why people would do this to themselves? I found it intriguing.


Corinne: Have you personally been to Mount Everest? 


T.L: Not even close. I’d say the closest I’ve been is watching documentaries on TV in my room. I would love to go, would love the adventure, but I think I’d stay at Base Camp once there.


Corinne: Like the character Sean, do you enjoy mountain climbing or any other dangerous activity?


T.L: I’m a couch potato, a vicarious adventurer, who’d look up what other people are doing. One thing I discovered was that trying to understand why people like Sean keep doing this activity was from reading memoirs of people into climbing and extreme sports. I kind of get it, but at the same time I don’t. It’s relatable as it’s about control, and you have your dangerous surroundings to focus on and it’s the only thing you have to worry about. The concept of it and the isolation is interesting. Focusing on one thing for a long length of time, I don’t think I have the prowess to achieve it. 


Corinne: Who is your favourite Neverest character? Why? 


T.L: I love them all in different ways. The story is split with a first person journal narrative, and Sean has a fun, old-fashioned narrative voice. He is an old fashioned type of dialogue dude which is great. Maya might be my favourite. She is the Sherpa guide. I like that there’s a lot underneath her character and you have to keep digging into her. Also, she has some of the best lines in her dialogue. She’s a scene stealer.


Corinne: There is a supernatural suggestion throughout Neverest, and I was wondering if you believe in ghosts, an afterlife etc and if you have any experience with this?


T.L: I’m a sceptic who wants to believe. I want to be proven wrong, but I’ve had no supernatural experience. I want to see something happen. I once went on a ghost tour, and it was fun from a historical perspective, but I just kept thinking about how it was getting cold outside.


Corinne: When it comes to your writing process, are you a pantser or plotter? 


T.L: A little bit of both. In my heart, I am a pantser who wants to be a plotter. I have ideas then an outline, but then the characters go do something else and then I’m having to follow it up. For Neverest, it was easier as the mountain gave the structure for the plot, which was very helpful. When I started writing, the beginning was clear, but the characters took me along for the ride in the middle. I roughly knew how it would end. The ending was the first thing I mapped, but I wasn’t sure on how we would get there though.


Corinne: Do you have any writing habits to get your creativity flowing like listening to music, eating certain snacks etc?


T.L: I’m a big music person as it filters everything else. Everything has its own soundtrack. It sets the mood and headspace, and I only listen to that soundtrack for the project but it would be only for when I do that project that I will listen to it. For Neverest, I listened to the theme song ‘O’Death’ from the game, Until Dawn. The song would begin, and I’d go ‘right, it’s time to go write Neverest’.


Corinne: How did you hear about Ghost Orchid Press, and what was it like working with them?


T.L: They’re a new publication, as I believe their press came out only a couple of years ago. I stumbled upon a short story submission, maybe on Horror Tree, and they had a collection call up. I was impressed with their previous publications and I started thinking that they might be a good home for Neverest. They got back to me and accepted it, and I was happy with my gut feeling that they’d appreciate what I’m trying to do. Antonia Rachel Ward especially has been amazing. She is super responsive, no matter what time of day it is. Ghost Orchid Press are certainly a big power player in the indie scene.


Corinne: Who is your inspiration when it comes to writing horror?


T.L: I try to read widely and my origin is that I read Stephen King when I was too young and still do now. My top authors include Grady Hendrix and Paul Tremblay, and I’m a huge fan of Hailey Piper. She wrote the blurb for Neverest, and when I found out and read it, I squealed like a fan girl the entire time. Also, I love Catherynne Valente and am currently reading Comfort Me with Apples which is beautifully written, and I am inspired by her and the huge community behind her. 


Corinne: What is your current work in progress? 


T.L: I have a couple of things at the moment. First I’m writing zombies, two more books for a trilogy. The first was House of Lazarus that was published a couple of years ago. I’m working on the third one for it, called Cage of Bones. Zombies are a hard seller, but I enjoy them.

Second, I’m working on a wim on wattpad for a community novella contest where they post prompts, word check-ins and it’s spread out over a couple of months. It’s a body-snatcher, stepford wife, AI terror type of story. 


Corinne: For Horror Tree, we are celebrating Women in Horror Month, what are your thoughts on this?


T.L: Love it! Horror is a genre overwhelmingly appealing to women, but people have always discounted them. Horror is seen as like for teenage boys, but there are strong female authors. It’s a great opportunity to hear new voices, adding depth to what’s not in the mainstream, and to people who are cool in the indie community. I try to stack books for WIHM to try and read new women horror authors who I haven’t come across before. For example, I’m currently reading Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi, which is a wild ride of a fairy tale. It’s all over the place with a sinister undertone. I’m eating it up, but I like the chapters to sink in, so it is taking forever to get through.


Corinne: Lastly, do you have any advice for female horror writers?


T.L: The best advice I would give is ‘don’t self reject’. Someone once said you should have ‘the confidence of a mediocre white man’, so be more like that dude, send the query letter, try to get in anthologies, and if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Go for it. You’ll succeed more than you think you will. 


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