When three children in a Catholic group home are brutally murdered, the survivors are hurried into separate foster homes across Long Island. Robin Hills, a fifteen-year-old who has spent the past several years under religious care, is thrust into a new, dysfunctional family with no spiritual beliefs. No longer protected by the religion and the nun she had come to love, Robin is completely alone and enveloped in fear.
We sat down with ANGEL OF THE UNDERGROUND author, David Andreas, to discuss his new novel, inspiration, and writing process.
I noticed ANGEL OF THE UNDERGROUND is dedicated to Alice Cooper – could you tell us more about that?
I owe a lot of gratitude to Alice Cooper’s song, “Is Anyone Home?” However, I failed to recognize one of the single most important songs that helped shape this book, which is the orchestral version of “Love Me in Black” by Doro Pesch. As much as I draw inspiration from books and movies, I couldn’t survive without rock music.
How did you come up with the concept for this book?
The main character, Robin, came to me in a dream, which is a long story in itself. The easiest way to explain this is I had a dream of a girl I easily befriended during a time in my life when I was facing complete desolation. I spent years trying to figure out who that girl was, and eventually wrote her into ANGEL OF THE UNDERGROUND.
The horror plot surrounding Robin came to me in part due to an episode of Forensic Files, where a very young girl was murdered by a local hippie. The victim was survived by two older sisters, which made me wonder how horrible it must have been for those girls to lose a sibling. I wondered what would happen to a character who lost more than one sibling, and instead of giving Robin an immediate family that gets picked off, I put her in a group home where various children succumb to a violent predator.
As for the budding friendship between Robin and Dennis, which I believe is the core of the story, I owe some of that to the film Chopping Mall. In Chopping Mall, a group of mall employees party overnight while security robots go berserk and start killing them. Two characters are set up on a blind date and, while their friends are screwing in a mattress store, bond over a horror movie. I find that incredibly romantic. While Robin isn’t a fan of horror movies, they help her understand Dennis’s passion for life, which draws her closer to him.
Is there anything autobiographical about your work?
While the story itself is pure invention, the theme of loneliness is not. Throughout my life I’ve had failed friendships and relationships that have left me alone for extended periods. There have been plenty of times when I’ve clamored for a true friend, whether I was very young or even now. Robin and Dennis are reflections of my desire to have people I can share my thoughts and interests with, whereas the character Jeremy, who’s angry and self-absorbed, is a reflection of people I’ve encountered.
What inspired you to write this book?
This all began with the dream of having a true friend during a time when I was completely alone. Did you ever have a dream where you’d won the lottery only to wake up and find you’re still broke? That’s how I felt when I woke from that dream. I longed for someone who was not part of my reality, which is what Dennis represents in my story. He admits his only friend is a video store clerk he barely knows. Despite the reasons for Robin coming into his life, she is essentially Dennis’s dream come true.
Is this the same book you envisioned when you first started writing?
Not even close! In the first draft, Robin was a prostitute operating out of a truck stop. Before she turned to smut for a living, she was adopted by oil tycoons who needed her as a pawn for a shareholder’s grandson. I’m not ashamed to admit that draft was terrible.
I tried to shake things up by writing horror stories, but in trying too hard to shock people, my stories were essentially trash. However, I did find success in writing memoir. That first draft was awful for two reasons: 1) I was writing about rich people when I never knew any rich people and 2) I left out horror, which was a huge mistake, as I live and breathe horror.
What challenges did you encounter while writing this book and how did you overcome them?
The biggest mistake I made was taking that first failed draft and trying to salvage it by adding horror, which was pure laziness on my part. You see, in the second draft, they weren’t just oil tycoons who took Robin in, they were satanic oil tycoons! Needless to say, that draft was a mess. The whole story needed to be dismantled and restructured, which I ultimate did with the finalized version. Luckily, all the research I did regarding Satanism found its way into the published version, albeit briefly.
What surprised you about this book?
That I was able to survive two rotten drafts and ultimately find something I wanted to say. It wasn’t until I finished reading the final draft that I realized this story speaks on behalf of kids who live in a world where adults can’t be trusted, where religion can’t be trusted, and where promised protection can’t be trusted. Essentially, we’re all on our own, unless we’re lucky enough to find someone to get through this life with. The relationship between Robin and Dennis is that very condition, and I’m satisfied their relationship feels seamless as it grows amid the tension around them.
What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?
That horror matters. Horror movies and books do a great job keeping us all in tune with our inner demons by allowing us to release our angst in a safe manner. One of my favorite moments from this book is when Dennis is physically abused by his foster father and watches a horror movie to quell his anger. When Robin asks, “Why does this make you happy?” regarding a murdered character, Dennis replies, “Because I’m not her.” That’s what I love most about horror. No matter how bad my days and nights have been, someone in a horror movie/book is always having a worse experience. I believe this is why horror movies/books have been, and will always be, popular with audiences throughout the world.
Can readers look forward to seeing these characters in another book?
I’m not sure if I’ll continue this story. I’m afraid if I return to the surviving characters I’ll take them in a direction I don’t want them to go. I’m perfectly satisfied with the outcome of this book.
What are you working on now?
Whereas loneliness set the stage for ANGEL OF THE UNDERGROUND, the theme of my next novel is anger. We all have the need for people to take us seriously and to treat us like we matter, but too often we’re surrounded by people who long to see us fail because they’re failures themselves. I’m getting a lot off my chest when it comes to surviving a pissed off society filled with dream-dead citizens.