Book Talk: Haunting image of lighthouse inspires thriller

Thu Sep 22, 2011 8:43am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Michael Koryta was working on a completely different book when he became haunted by the image of a lighthouse built in the woods, despite the fact that he didn't have a story for it.

But the image persisted, eventually leading Koryta through numerous drafts to the book that became "The Ridge," a supernatural thriller that mixes elements of folklore with reality to create a Midwestern ghost story.

The 29-year-old Koryta, who has published eight novels -- the first written when he was 20 -- first thought he wanted to write detective novels and even interned with a private investigator during high school to gain practical experience.

In a telephone interview, Koryta spoke about his determination to be a writer and how he works.

Q: The idea for this came from an image of a lighthouse?

A: "I just had the image, I didn't have much of a story to go with it. 'The Ridge' is really about an eccentric person who's dismissed by others in his area as being crazy, and he builds this lighthouse in the woods. And once he's gone, the question arises, what if there really was a method to the madness? I liked that idea because I think it resonates with every one of us -- we all choose to hear certain people, certain theories on a daily basis, whether it's political or religious or merely ignoring that raving drunk in the corner. You're making that selection constantly. The question that fascinated me was, what if you tuned out the one voice you should hear?"

Q: You say this was an unusual experience. Did that make it harder to write?

A: "Absolutely. It took I think 2,500 pages -- how long's the book, I think 350 pages? I threw out more than 2,000 pages, and that's not standard. I originally thought the newspaper reporter was the protagonist, I thought that through about five drafts, and then Kevin Kimble steps forward on his way to visit the woman who shot him. I was well into the book before I realized that the heart of the book appeared to be with Kevin.   Continued...