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Rented Souls by Eirik Dahll-Larssøn (Guest Post) @eirikmdl

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Welcome to another brilliant guest post here on Always Trust In Books. Today I have Eirik Dahll-Larssøn sharing his experience with combining horror and comedy into his newest novel Rented Souls. I loved this post, horror and comedy are my two favourite genres and it was interesting to see how Eirik used them both to create an awesome novel experience. I will share a few details about Eirik and Rented Souls, then I will share his post with you all. Thank you for stopping by and show your support for Eirik’s work in the comments below.

4About Eirik Dahll-Larssøn

(Bio and Synopsis taken from Eirik’s own website: eirikmdl.com/rented-souls/)

Eirik Moe Dahll-Larssøn was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1987. He grew up reading, watching and playing anything he could get his hands on.As a child he delighted in creating week-long story arcs for his toys, which inevitably ended with everyone performing equally heroic sacrifices, and then magically being brought back to life. There were only so many toys to go around, after all, and only so many ‘evil twin’-plotlines to wring out of them.This eventually spilled over into creating his own lengthy series of comic books, using sketch books he took from school. It was about dinosaurs.

Before long, the bubbles of dialogue grew too big to accommodate drawings on the same page, and so he cut those silly pictures out entirely and began writing short stories instead. They, too, were often about dinosaurs. After this, he fell down the slippery slope words so often provide, getting addicted to writing increasingly larger and more complex plotlines with more and more characters, until finally a novel just sort of fell into his lap. Eirik is still not sure how it got there.

The novel, begun in 2011 and finished in early 2012, was the convoluted time travel-centric drama called In Time. He billed it as a ‘practice-novel’, and then promptly hoped to forget it ever existed. He began his next project immediately after; a fantasy-novel in the vein of Lord of the Rings called Storm. He finished it in late 2013. It wasn’t half-bad. The following January, Eirik found he was sick of writing things he didn’t feel people could read. So he set out to write a novel that might actually be publishable, using a combination of ideas. After a year of writing and six months of editing and proofreading, he published In the Seraphim City, a futuristic crime/thriller. The book quickly garnered a host of excellent reviews.

In December 2016, Eirik released his second novel; a horror/comedy called Rented Souls, which was also well received among critics. Rented Souls is the first book in a series, and Eirik is currently working on the second book in the series, Reaper Town, planned for release in December of this year.

Official Synopsis for Rented Souls

Rented Souls is a horror/comedy, set in a world not entirely unlike ours – albeit, with one key difference.
The supernatural is real. It’s coming for all of us. Demonic forces, vampires, little brown men with hooves for feet – it’s all there. Coming at us from a place beyond our own little corner of existence. A place called the Ether, where other, weirder planes of reality stretch into forever. There’s no war. Not yet. But there’s skirmishes – little insurrections from out of our bounds; Ethereal creatures that come crawling at us in the night, out of the safe spaces of our homes and hearths.
But we’ve been fighting back. We’ve established an agency; a great, interconnected web of people from all walks of life, all of whom are fighting back against the paranormal menace. They are here to explore. To learn. To protect. Brave women and men, fighting to keep our world safe from the harms of Ethereal infestation. Rented Souls centres on one such agent. A man named Dwarf – a very common man; short, balding, chubby – who gets thrown into this world of the bizarre. Now, alongside the oddly-named agents Swayze, Book, Lamp and Dove, and their mysterious director, King, he must find his way in the maze of the otherworldly… or be lost to it forever.

Pick up a copy of Rented Souls here: Amazon UK / Goodreads

Comedy and Horror by Eirik Dahll-Larssøn

For being two very disparate genres – almost directly opposing, in fact, in terms of the feeling they’re trying to elicit – structurally speaking, comedy and horror are strangely similar.

Typically, comedy comes in two forms. Either you’re telling a joke; a mini-narrative of sorts, structured, essentially as ‘context -> narrative -> punchline’; or it’s simply a funny thing, a random non-sequitur or image. For example, a random funny thing might be poorly photoshopping a penis onto a bird; making a joke out of it might mean putting that picture into the context of an elaborate daydream, the first image to pop into someone’s head when they’re learning, for the first time, that there’s such a thing as woodpeckers.

Following this, there’s also typically two kinds of horror – or two ways horror will elicit fear. There’s either a slow boil, a deliberate increase in tension that may or may not be resolved by a sudden scare – pretty much the entirety of The Shining is a good example; Jack Torrance starting out only slightly unhinged, and growing madder by the minute – or a simple jump-scare, like a loud noise or a cat jumping out of the shadows, without build-up or warning.

Of course, being structurally similar doesn’t mean these two genres will naturally mesh well. One aiming to scare you or to ratchet up tension, the other to make you laugh – hardly a natural fit to put into one story. But that opposition, or tension between the two genres, is also what attracted me to it. I tend to like a challenge, and having read John Dies at the End by David Wong many years ago, I also knew it was a challenge that could be overcome (for all its flaws, JDatE does manage to balance the frightening with the funny extremely well).

Fast forward a decade or so, and I’ve written Rented Souls – the first in a series of four books (or, as I’ve come to think of it, a trilogy-plus-one) that try balancing horror and comedy.

It’s a delicate act. At worst, the two will trip each other up; leaving you too close to laughter during a moment meant to scare, or too fresh from something frightening to laugh at a joke. That being the case, I decided to write the novel from a first-person perspective. To weave it into the main character that he is, essentially, a deeply insecure person, and as a result feels the need to make light of most things. It gave me an excuse to keep a joking tone for the majority of the text, but also to let certain more severe moments land – as part of his character development, the main character slowly comes to terms with the fact that there are some things he simply can’t make light of, and it’s reflected in his arc throughout all the books; a set-up for things to come, as well as giving him some development in each individual part of the series.
And this solves – or at least lessens – the problem with adding levity to what is meant to be a story about cosmic horrors, about the grotesque and the absurd; it’s ingrained in the main character to make jokes, basically about everything. Which means that when he comes to a point where he’s no longer able to joke, that moment will land all the harder – and carry, ideally, every bit the weight it’s meant to.

It’s easy to lose sight of that, I think, when dealing with both comedy and horror – that in the end, what you’re trying to do is elicit an honest feeling. Getting too glib, wandering too far into the territory of self-parody, will rob your story of gravity, and leave you with a novel that just feels disingenuous – as if you’re not buying into your own world, your own characters, or your own narrative. Poking fun at the absurd is fine, poking fun at your story or characters is fine, as long as you do it in moderation – as long as you can still let a serious moment land after having your fun.

For example; you can laugh at the absurdity of, say, a stupid-looking car that someone designed, built, and sold without once thinking that hey, this thing looks like a submarine made of bread – but if that same car comes bearing down on you at top speed, you’re probably not laughing. And striking just that balance – recognizing that something can be stupid or absurd, but still be a real threat – is possibly the most important thing I strived for when writing Rented Souls.

The same rules tend to apply to the horror-genre – if you’re losing sight of the fact that what you’re trying to do is frighten people (not repulse them, not make them jump); to elicit a reaction of honest fear, or trepidation, through words alone – then you’ll too easily fall into the slasher-trap. Subtlety is everything in horror, but there’s a lot of ways to be subtle, too. The tools you use – the monsters, the threat – don’t have to be understated. It’s less about the monsters themselves, and more about what the monsters mean, what they represent, what the underlying theme is you’re trying to present – and then presenting it in a subtle way. Throwing machete-wielding maniacs into the mix won’t scare anyone unless the machetes stand for something, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with machete-wielding maniacs.

I haven’t written a tagline for the Rented Souls-series, but I did have a few notes written down for one, should I ever feel like it needed one. And my favourite by far is one of the first I thought up: Dumb shit can still kill you.

It’s a well-known fact that cows kill more people in a year than sharks do. And if you put a cow in a birthday hat, it’s probably worth a laugh – at least, until it tries to stomp on your head. I doubt you’ll be laughing then.

Thank you for stopping by to check out Eirik’s post on combining two of the most common book genres to create a funny but scary novel series. I am excited to read Rented Souls as soon as I can. I am sure it is going to be a hilariously horrific tale. Show your support for Eirik’s work in the comments below and until next time, happy reading!

4 thoughts on “Rented Souls by Eirik Dahll-Larssøn (Guest Post) @eirikmdl

  1. I think that horror and comedy can work well together – this post reminded me of the Dead Funny collection of short stories from Salt Publishing, in which various comedians write a short horror story. Not quite the same, but that’s where it took me.
    I’ll interested to see your review of this – it sounds interesting 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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