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Dara Marqardt

What is JUDGMENT LAKE about?

On the surface, Judgment Lake is about a small town rocked by a spate of mishappenings as 17-year cicadas begin to rise from the ground. But beneath the surface, Judgment Lake is about the grit and gumption of three boys who aren’t so good at keeping their noses clean. Judgment Lake pokes at issues of rural isolation, being different in a small town, being weird, and growing up. If you ask Dicky or Claw, they’d say Judgment Lake is about trying to understand what being normal is. If you ask Mayor Thomolson, he’d say Judgment Lake is about defining the struggle of rural living in a rapidly gentrifying society. Of course, if you asked Shelly Elkner, she’d say Judgment Lake is all about ponying up for your sins- with interest.

What was your inspiration for this novel?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. When asked to describe my writing, I think analogies help. I imagine I’m just a gravedigger, scoping out plots, carrying a shovel, and disturbing the burial dirt. Sometimes I hit rock, but sometimes steel strikes bone. I think it’s near impossible for a writer not to leave a fingerprint on their stories. When I was very young, I attended an outdoor camp. In the Midwest. During the 17-year cicada Brood IV rise. We couldn’t play soccer or scavenger hunt, or do much of anything without bugs flying at us. It was horrid and aptly poor timing for a group of 100 plus kids to congregate outside for days on end. I suppose some of that was inspiration for this.

Who are your favorite writers? What makes them your favorite?

My literary tastes span a ton of genres. From James McBride to Sue Monk Kidd to Neil Gaiman to Stephen King to Peter Straub, I love getting so wrapped up in stories that I forget I brewed coffee, or I accidentally burn pancakes. Anything, whether it’s horror, literary, environmental literature, or even the works of Leslie Marmon Silko, that can take me from my preferred reading spot (on the floor near the fridge with a dog at my feet and something warm to drink) to the mental place in their head they have pored over and committed to ink, is a winner in my book (no pun intended).

What is your favorite horror story and why?

My favorite horror story (the ‘horror’ classification is arguable) is George Orwell’s 1984. I first read this book when I was around the age of 8. I was pretty sure it was fiction, but not 100% sure, so it freaked me out. As I grew older and saw many bits and pieces of Orwell’s dystopia play out in sound bytes and newsreels, I began to understand the looking glass that is fiction. Fiction allows anybody who can read to experience the woes, delights, and horrors of the world from a slightly-less-real perspective. I think Orwell did an excellent job of adjusting that looking glass just so. I also never went back to The Boxcar Children.

What other writing projects are you working on?

Currently, I’m working on some shorts as well as another novel. The novel, which I’m still tinkering with, features the boogeyman. He wears High Top shoes.

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