Keith Pyeatt is an engineer turned novelist who writes paranormal thrillers with a psychological twist that he calls “horror with heart.” Living for ten years in an isolated cabin in Vermont may have influenced his choice of genre, but his empathetic nature is what helps him create a variety of characters — “likeable, despicable, tortured, and those ‘gray’ characters you can’t quite decide whether to love or hate.” Keith has four published standalone novels including Struck, Dark Knowledge, and Above Haldis Notch, with Daeva (October, 2015) being his most recent. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and his website KeithPyeatt.com.
Your latest novel Daeva “pits supernatural manipulation against human devotion when a powerful demon with a grudge against mankind stands ready to gain access to the world.” What makes this novel unique in the paranormal market?
I think a lot of an author’s storytelling style is revealed in how he or she develops characters. Character development and the heavy use of psychological tension are what make Daeva unique.
Your main character in this novel is Chris, an inherently good guy who was raised to host a demon in his head. Tell us about your other main protagonists.
Sharon, Chris’s sister, was largely ignored and ridiculed as a child, but because of her inner strength, she matures into a confident, well-loved character. Her biggest weakness is her blind devotion to those she loves, and that trait makes for an interesting twist late in the novel. Her initial goal is to free her brother from the demon’s influence, but she ends up trying to save her brother’s life and spare the world from the demon.
Rick is a childhood bully turned nerd turned hero. He’s meek, insecure, and not particularly bright or capable, but he loves deeply and has great focus. He is madly in love with a woman who will always love him only as a friend, and he inherits a big chunk of the responsibility for saving mankind.
Which point of view did you enjoy writing the most, the protagonist’s or the antagonist’s?
I have the most fun when I’m writing from the point of view of a character with interesting motivations. In Daeva, I used multiple point of view characters, but I didn’t really have a favorite. The protagonists are all working on their own agendas, and they keep dark secrets, often from each other. That aspect made writing from each point of view very fun for me.
Is there a scene in your book that you’d love to see play out in a movie?
I visualize heavily as I write and edit, so I’m always “seeing” the scenes playing out in my mind. I’d particularly love to see any of the scenes involving Minnie’s cabin and the surrounding woods (portraying beauty and eeriness, isolation and loneliness). Many big moments that trigger a wide range of emotions and turning points happen there.
I’d also love to see the ending climax that’s set on a small bridge during a winter storm. There’s a lot of turmoil going on inside the head of each character, and there are many questions hanging in the reader’s mind. It was a fun but complicated scene to write. I never revealed exactly where the rarely-used bridge led, by the way, not even to the characters. I decided that defining a destination wouldn’t add as much atmosphere as leaving it unknown. I like that they’re all on the bridge for the climax, and no one knows what’s on the other side.
My last pick may sound like a strange scene to want to watch because there’s almost no action in it. It’s a scene two-thirds of the way into the novel where the psychological tension really ramps up. Rowena, an older, eccentric woman, comes up from her basement. She’s highly emotional as she tries to accept something horrible that she must do, and as the last light of a fading winter’s day angles in through the window, she studies the heroine Sharon standing in her kitchen. I love the contrast between all the inner turmoil and emotion surging through Rowena and the peaceful kitchen in the magic light of dusk. The last light of day fades, and the kitchen darkens as Rowena looks through loving eyes at Sharon.
When readers turn the last page of Daeva, what do you hope they will take away from it?
The ending is emotional with big twists and a firm resolution. I hope readers will be completely satisfied and happy that they spent time reading Daeva. That’s really what I shoot for, creating a novel that’s a temporary and satisfying escape from real life. If there’s a takeaway beyond good entertainment and a strenuous exercise for your emotions, I guess I’d like it to be the high value of loving and being loved.
Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
All my novels have themes and messages that help bind the story together. Daeva has a power-corrupts theme. Above Haldis Notch has a vengeance-is-poison theme and a family strength/family burden message. Struck has an acceptance theme. Dark Knowledge has a theme about every life being equally important and a very obvious theme that good and bad can’t always be separated, especially when it comes to people. You’d better learn to accept the whole package, because you’re not getting sunshine without darkness. I do have a recurring message about the value and power of friendship that someone pointed out to me once. The main characters in all of my novels have a very strong friendship, and that bond is critical to the main character and to the plot.
How do you come up with your titles? Your character names?
Sometimes names and titles just pop into my head and feel right. Other times, I use a baby naming website, either to peruse for inspiration or to look up names that have a certain meaning. For example, Barry, the name of the protagonist in Struck, is based on a name that means warrior. The word “haldis” in the title of my afterlife thriller, Above Haldis Notch, is based on a word that means stone spirit.
What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
Internal struggles that take place with little physical activity or dialogue are hard for me to write. That sounds like a weird difficulty for someone who writes novels that depend on creating lots of psychological tension, but those types of scenes are always my biggest challenge. Like with any good challenge, it feels great when I finally get it right, so there’s a reward for hanging tough through the process.
How has the Paranormal market changed in the last 10 years?
Trends come and go (vampire, zombie, etc.), but the market seems to have changed, too. The lion’s share of paranormal novels now seems to be romance and/or erotica. I’ve had two publishers publish a novel of mine and then stop publishing (or supporting) paranormal novels that don’t have a strong romantic or erotic focus, so it hasn’t been a welcome or kind change for me.
When did you know you were a writer?
I lived for a decade in a log cabin in rural Vermont on twenty-five acres of wooded land with an amazing view. I had a wood stove for heat and a dog at my feet. How could I NOT end up writing novels? I knew I was a writer when I finished writing the first draft of my first novel. I was certain I’d do it again and again.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m plunking away in a stop-and-go manner that’s definitely not my usual writing style. It’s an alternate world, paranormal novel that I call Sirens of Sayhurn. The alternate world lets me stretch my imagination, and it’s very dark with lots of addiction, lust, danger, and heart. I really like what I have (about a third of a novel). I need to lay out a block of time to devote to nothing but writing so I can finish the first draft.
To learn more about Keith and his writing, go to Part 1 of “An Interview with Author Keith Pyeatt” on SouthWestWriters.com.