Today, horror author Whitney Miller is chatting with Olivia from YA Mag about THE VIOLET HOUR!
Some call VisionCrest the pinnacle of religious enlightenment. Others call it a powerful cult. For seventeen years, Harlow Wintergreen has called it her life.
As the daughter of VisionCrest’s patriarch, Harlow is expected to be perfect at all times. She must be considered a paragon of integrity by the other Ministry teens and a future leader in the eyes of the world.
Despite the constant scrutiny Harlow is keeping a dark and dangerous secret, even from her best friend and the boy she loves. She hears a voice in her head that seems to have a mind of its own, plaguing her with violent and bloody visions. It commands her to kill. And the urge to obey is getting harder and harder to control.
Olivia with YA-Mag: Whitney, welcome to the Young Adult Magazine! We’re happy to have you hear to chat about your debut novel, THE VIOLET HOUR.
Whitney Miller: Thank you so much, Olivia. I’ve been a fan of Young Adult Magazine since the very first issue–I’m so excited to be featured!
YA: Aww, thank you so much! So! Let’s talk about Harlow Wintergreen. How did you two meet? What made her the perfect character for this story?
Whitney Miller: We bumped into each other at a convention for disenchanted religious royalty. Okay, not really (but she would totally be like, the keynote speaker at that event). Harlow popped into my mind one day, this lightning bolt of inspiration. Punk rock princess. Dubious heir to a cult-like religion. Beautiful badass with a mysterious provenance. She intrigued me with her clever wit, vulnerability, and bravery in the face of some seriously sinister shenanigans. I had to sit down right away and start writing so I could find out more!
YA: What sets Harlow’s story apart from other YA horror novels, like THE UNSPOKEN by Thomas Fahy or Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie’s CREED? What will readers find that is uniquely yours?
WM: Big shout out to Trisha and Lindsay who are fellow Flux authors–CREED is going to be terrifyingly awesome. And THE UNSPOKEN is a classic!
THE VIOLET HOUR is unique in several respects. It’s set all over Asia: Japan, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The reader gets to experience these lush, vibrant locales even as Harlow is being tormented and harangued–bonus! There’s also this dark, pop-culture edge to the novel. It’s dripping with punk rock, Harajuku girls, tattooed boys, and completely original mythology. Oh, and there’s lots of eyeballs in various states of being ripped out, stomped on, and eaten. Don’t ask.
Overall, I think Booklist’s review summed it up the best : “Miller’s debut (which is not without a sense of humor) comes out of nowhere packed with wild gore, unusual settings, and characters way off the YA beaten path… wow, what will Miller do next?”
YA: What non-book influences helped spark Harlow’s story? Any specific songs or shows?
WM: Absolutely. Lots of punk rock musical influences: Bad Religion, Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Dead Kennedys. In fact, I have a pretty killer Spotify playlist (lame pun completely intended). It features music that either inspired the book or inspired me while writing it. As far as other media, the Japanese movie RINGU (which was later remade in the U.S. into THE RING) was absolutely an inspiration–the Japanese own psychological horror.
YA: What is the story behind the title THE VIOLET HOUR?
WM: I am notoriously awful at titling my own books (but weirdly awesome at titling other people’s!). The novel sold under its original title THE TERROR. However, the Violet Hour is a key part of the cult mythology woven throughout the story and a central element of Harlow’s “origin story.” It was right in front of me all along, but it took the hand of a genius editor to help me see it. The title is one of my favorite things about the book. It’s absolutely perfect!
YA: If you could cast the Dream Film of THE VIOLET HOUR, who would we see as Harlow, her adopted father, her tattooed love interest?
WM: Ooooh. This is my favorite question!
First up, Harlow Wintergreen, our fearless heroine. I always imagined her looking similar to Kristin Kreuk. I mean, KK is like thirty, and playing a teen when you’re thirty only works if you’re Luke Perry on 90210. So she would be played by KK in a world where time travel is not off the table.
Adam Fitz, our tortured and tattooed loverboy, would be played by some hottie newcomer along the lines of any of several smoking hot boys from my Violet Hour Pinterest board.
The Patriarch (aka the General) would be played by John Travolta because… cleft chin, icy glare, and ability to rock an eyepatch. Check, check, and check.
YA: Harlow’s story takes place in Beijing and Tokyo. What research did you have to do to make sure that her experiences were authentic to and respectful of Chinese and Japanese cultures? How do these locations add to the story as more than just setting flavor?
WM: I’ve traveled to China and Japan a lot for work, and have also spent time in Vietnam and Cambodia. I would say that Harlow’s experiences are described from the point of view of an observer, which is the only way she’s able to experience the world. As “cult royalty” she is shut out from normal life and completely isolated from “authentic” experiences. I tried to convey the sights, sounds, and culture of each locale in the way I thought Harlow would experience them, while making each feel visceral and real for the reader.
YA: Religious cults are a huge part of the horror genre, especially in movies. What are some of your favorite horror films featuring cults or demonic possession?
WM: Four words: CHILDREN. OF. THE. CORN. That movie is freaking terrifying–I didn’t eat corn on the cob for a year. CARRIE also has super creepy religious undertones (the original is a masterpiece and I also loved the recent remake with Chloe Grace Moretz!). THE STAND mini-series rocked my world 1994 style (I mean, hello… Rob Lowe and Molly Ringwald?) I guess it’s fair to say I’m a Stephen King fan…
YA: What’s coming up next for you in the land of YA storytelling? Do you have any pet projects you’re working on?
WM: <<rubs hands together>> Yes! First and most important, I’m finishing up the second book in Harlow’s adventure, THE CRIMSON GATE. For those who’ve read THE VIOLET HOUR, well, all I can say is I can’t wait to show you what happens after “the thing that shall not be named.”
I’m also playing around with two other projects, both in completely different genres. I think that after this series you’ll see something completely different (and hopefully even more awesome) from me!
YA: Last one! If you could spend one day with Harlow, what would you do together? What would you want to tell Harlow about her past and her future while you visited?
WM: Oh my gosh. Scratch my previous comment. THIS is my new favorite question! If I could spend one day with Harlow I think I’d take her somewhere normal like the mall or a One Direction concert (jk!), so she could get the experience of being a regular person. I would tell her that her past doesn’t define her, possibly while we braided each other’s hair. I’d apologize for all that awful stuff I did to her in THE VIOLET HOUR and in advance for everything coming her way in THE CRIMSON GATE. At that point she would probably burst into tears, wondering why I took her to the mall if I was just planning to make her cry. So we’d likely wrap things up at Cinnabon. Nothing says “sorry” like Cinnabon.
YA: Thank you very much, Whitney! And once more from all of us at YA Mag, congratulations on your debut, THE VIOLET HOUR!
WM: Thank you for having me! I hope you enjoy it.
Readers, be sure to check out Whitney Miller at her website www.whitneyamiller.com. Or follow her on Twitter @WhitneyMiller.
THE VIOLET HOUR, published by Flux, is now available at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!
Olivia Hennis is a transplanted New England girl dropped by a tornado into the magical Land of Jersey. For more info, follow her on Twitter.