A while back, I developed a crush on bad-boy musician and ghost hunter, Kane Pryce.
And without examining the psychology behind that statement too closely, let me clarify that technically speaking, my crush is actually focused on Kane’s creator and storyteller extraordinaire, Mr. F. J. Lennon, author of Soul Trapper and Devil’s Gate.
Normally the object of my obsessive stalking behavior that is part and parcel of the season simply becomes the center of a little shrine in the underground offices of Goth Chick News, where the blender generally sits. They remain blissfully unaware of their elevated state until sometime around mid-November when the shrine comes down, the blender goes back up and my attention returns to annoying former child stars who are trying to stay “former.”
A shrine to anyone located in any basement can be a little off-putting; which is why it doesn’t get discussed much.
So you can imagine (or maybe you shouldn’t) that I was as giddy as a Twilight fan at a flannel shirt sale when Mr. Lennon actually agreed to a little chat with me about his personal experiences which gave birth to such an intriguing and haunted character as Kane Pryce.
However, the creep-factor goes way beyond Mr. Lennon’s imagination and spills right over into reality, as you will soon see.
Mr. Lennon, meet everyone.
Everyone, meet author, game designer, and the paranormally tuned-in Mr. Lennon.
You’re about to find out what the attraction is…
An Interview with F. J. Lennon
Conducted by Sue Granquist, September, 2012
FJL: If it had been about girls all those years ago, I would have definitely focused on the guitar instead of library books and primitive word processing software. Musicians — even bad ones — get all the chicks. It just ain’t fair.
I liked to read and write at an early age. I seemed to have some early ability and was encouraged by those around me to develop it. But it wasn’t until I read the novel Lonesome Dove in the late 1980s that I understood the true power of great fiction and saw the light. That book set me on the path to becoming a published fiction writer.
You’ve also done some writing for the screen. Where would we have seen your work?
Computer screen for sure. I’ve been involved in the creation of over 50 published computer games and educational software titles. I’ve been the lead writer of at least 20 games going back to the late 1980s. I have also written many screenplays and teleplays, and while some have been optioned or purchased, I’m still waiting for one of them to actually make it through the Hollywood gauntlet all the way to a television or movie screen.
I started my career in video games while I was still in college and was a co-owner of a game company in my early twenties (that’s the basis of my non-fiction book, Every Mistake in the Book). Those were the very early days of computer games — Apple II and Commodore 64 were the leading game platforms.
The first game I ever wrote, way back in 1987, was called Guardians of Infinity: To Save Kennedy. It was a text adventure — an interactive story — about a team of time travelers going back in time to save JFK. Interesting side note is that was the premise of Stephen King’s recent novel 11/22/63.
One of my biggest accomplishments was landing the first license to produce Marvel Comics computer games. I designed and wrote the very first Spider-Man and X-Men computer games ever.
Some notable story-based games I worked on include Ripper, which starred Christopher Walken and Hell, which starred Dennis Hopper.
Probably the best game I ever designed was Star Crusader, an outer space flight sim and space opera that came out in the early 1990s. I’m still actively involved in the game industry today. Just finished up working on a Facebook game called Retro World. Games are in my DNA.
How did you become interested in the paranormal?
The house I grew up in was paranormally active, so I began experiencing unexplained phenomena when I was just a young kid. My brothers and sisters and I all had experiences in that house and discussed it openly as matters of fact. Ghosts were my norm.
I also grew up near St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. It’s where I ended up going to college. It’s a small, century-and-a-half old college and Benedictine Monastery.
There are countless ghost stories associated with St. Vincent. So when I grew up hearing the local priests talk about ghosts, it piqued my curiosity.
Also, the first office I worked in was an old converted schoolhouse from the 1920s. Many of us could hear a little girl singing Christmas songs in the basement of that building. No wonder the subject of a child ghost is a major story thread in Soul Trapper.
Is Kane Pryce based on any person in particular and if so, do they know who they are?
Nope. Kane is a complete figment of my imagination.
There are a few aspects of Kane that are me, but largely he’s his own beast. He began as a character in an early iPhone game (Soul Trapper, 2008) and evolved into a much richer, darker character when I began to develop him on the written page.
As many people like to remind me, Kane is a bit of a prick. It’s been fun and challenging writing about a character that has serious flaws and issues, a character that makes some readers uncomfortable. Kane feels like a real person to me. Sometimes when I’m wandering through Hollywood Boulevard after a few drinks, I look around for him. When I get in a writing groove, I slip into Kane’s skin very easily, but as soon as I walk away from my desk, I’m me again and Kane disappears into the Hollywood ether.
I’m very psyched that you picked up on the Tesla connection. Tesla’s inventions and experiments played a big inspirational role in my vision of the soul trap. Some of Edison’s experimental devices also served as inspirations. Blend the ghost trap from Ghostbusters with a futuristic energy gun and sprinkle it a bit of Tesla, Edison, meditation, and astral projection and voila! — you have the soul trap.
Your portrayal of the seedy side of the music industry is detailed enough to make us think you have first-hand knowledge. Were you ever close to landing a recording contract and if not, was someone you know?
I am not, nor have I ever been, a musician. I have no musical talent whatsoever. I mean, I suck. I took guitar lessons several times. But it’s not in my bone marrow, as Kane often says. So I live my rock and roll fantasies through Kane. I am, however, a rabid music fan. Kane and I share a deep obsession with classic rock. So music, itself, is definitely a passion.
And I do know a couple of people who have walked in Kane’s shoes, who have been at the cusp of a record deal and all that entails. L.A. is a great town to collect stories like those — tales from the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
The Colorado Street Bridge is a real place with a real past that is nearly its own character in Devil’s Gate. What made you decide to feature it?
I knew going into the book that I was going to center the plot on a suicide bridge. I chose the Colorado Street Bridge for three reasons:
- It’s nearby and I’d have easy access to it and to the research material I’d need to tell an accurate tale;
- It’s positioned in the midst of several paranormal and occult hotspots in and around Pasadena; and
- It’s genuinely haunted as hell.
You had your own paranormal encounters with the bridge while researching Devil’s Gate. Can you tell us about the spirits you encountered?
I got into a lot of detail on this very subject on my blog, but to give you a brief summary: during a visit beneath the bridge, accompanied by two psychics, I picked up an EVP of a woman who sounds very sad and distressed. The psychics told me it was the voice of a woman who had jumped to her death just a week before.
That same day, when I climbed an old stone staircase from the ruins of a structure that stood decades before the bridge was constructed, I came upon a very dense thicket of sagebrush. Twenty feet away, a man sat up from behind the thicket, looked directly at me, and laid back down (GC: Okay, I’m seriously creeped out now…). He was late twenties/early thirties, blonde crew cut, goatee, wearing a white sleeveless shirt, a sunburst tattoo on his right shoulder.
He looked mean. There are homeless people living under the bridge, so it never occurred to me that this was anything but a flesh and blood person. He was that real. There was something about the way he laid back down that unnerved me. I thought he might be injured.
I approached the thicket cautiously. There was no one there. Then I got dizzy and nauseous. It was the most intense paranormal experience I’ve ever had. I don’t know who he was, but I made him a character in the novel. Both he and sage (GC: “sage” the plant) play important parts in the story.
John (Jack) Whiteside Parsons, the real founder of the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab which evolved from the start-up company Aerojet (which figures large in the Devil’s Gate story), really was into the occult in a big way and I had nearly as much fun researching the historical elements of Devil’s Gate as I had reading the book. What made you decide to include Jack and his background into the story?
Jack Parsons grew up, lived, and died in a mysterious explosion all within a mile of the bridge. NASA JPL, which he founded long before the days of NASA, is visible from the bridge, as is Devil’s Gate Dam, where Parsons was known to conduct occult rituals alongside L. Ron Hubbard (GC: Insert Tom Cruise comment here), under the tutelage of Aleister Crowley. Parsons is such a huge part of Pasadena occult folklore. I absolutely had to work him into my story. His is a tale too fascinating to keep under wraps.
Have your daughters read your books and what is Halloween like in the Lennon household?
My daughter Olivia just started kindergarten and my daughter Clara is only a toddler, so Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin is about as scary as we get during reading time. Halloween, though, is a big deal in our neighborhood. We trick or treat as a family. This Halloween, Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein will be accompanying Monster High’s Frankie Stein, with our baby vampire in tow. I’ll post photos.
As Black Gate’s resident goth chick, you’d think I wouldn’t be skeeved out by the idea of Aleister Crowley, but I am. Can you tell us what happened when you decided to write about him?
A psychic warned me that if I was going to write about Crowley, I had to protect myself psychically and spiritually, as Crowley is known to be a very strong and nasty spirit.
Three months later, I was driving on the 210 freeway through La Tuna Canyon, not far from where I live in L.A. I was talking to my friend on the speakerphone in my car when a big rig directly in front of me blew a tire. A huge piece of metal gauged my hood, smashed my windshield, and sent my rear view hurtling into the back window. I was hauling ass at the time.
It all happened so fast, I didn’t even have time to react or panic. I just kept driving steadily, thank God, because if I had lost control and gone through the guard rail I would have driven down into the canyon, about a 300-foot drop straight down. I pulled off at the next exit and drove into a strip mall parking lot to assess the damage. The car was drivable. I turned around, went home, and called the insurance company.
About a month later, I was approaching the section of the book where Kane tracks down where Crowley’s O.T.O. cult is operating from in Los Angeles. I hadn’t yet researched if and where Crowley’s cult, which originated in Pasadena near the bridge, was located today.
It didn’t take long to confirm the O.T.O. was still indeed operating. I got an address off the web. It was not far from where I lived. I tracked down the address. The O.T.O. operates today out of the very strip mall I pulled over in the month before to assess the damage to my car. That wasn’t a coincidence. I think Mr. Crowley was definitely firing a warning shot across my bow.
When can we expect the next installment of Kane Pryce’s adventures and can you give us any sneaky inside info?
Hellfire, the next installment, will be released sometime in 2013, probably summer. No official release date yet. But I’m happy to give you an exclusive preview:
Soon-to-be father Kane Pryce is coping with a double-dose of anxiety — impending parenthood and demons on his tail — the only way he knows how, with plenty of alcohol and prescription drugs. As Kane battles his demons — literally and figuratively — he discovers an age-old crystal skull in Mexico that leads him on a dangerous expedition to the haunted Hellfire Caves in England.
As Kane begins to unravel the mysteries of the legendary Hellfire Club through codes and clues left behind by Benjamin Franklin, the many unanswered questions that have haunted him are finally answered. When will the demons stalking Kane strike? What happened to Kane’s father? Who is Karl the Nowhere Man? What shadowy organization is behind the creation of the soul trap and what is the device’s true purpose? Can Kane survive his addictions?
All will be revealed and resolved in the fictional flames of Hellfire.
See what I mean?
Soul Trapper and Devil’s Gate make the perfect October reads to get you in the mood for the season. And while you wait for Hellfire, do a little Internet research on the Colorado Street Bridge, Jack Parsons, and the Devil’s Gate Dam.
It’s well worth the dig.