In Shockadelica, two horror podcasters–drag artist Kendall Akande and best friend Jenna Chen–share a passion for art, fashion, and horror. When they learn their apartment building might be haunted, they see an opportunity for a podcast episode. But as they investigate further with the help of their quirky neighbors, they uncover something far more sinister. Kendall and Jenna must use their creativity to confront the evil force that threatens them all.
I should start, obviously, with the title. “Shockadelica” is a song by Prince, which first appeared as the B side for the single “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” The song describes a woman who is so seductive she must be a witch, and the singer can’t tell if things are real or a mirage. Witches and the tension between reality and fiction form the heart of my story. Kendall’s mother, a huge Prince fan, used to play the song when Kendall was a toddler. Kendall suggests to Jenna that they name their podcast “Shockadelica” because it fits perfectly: something shocking, horror-related, and a little retro.
Inspiration from Fiction
I knew I wanted to set the story in Toronto. The city offered the perfect vehicle to showcase diversity and did not have as high a profile as it deserved. The idea of using folk horror came to me after reading Experimental Film by Gemma Files, which is also set in Toronto. In her novel, a film history teacher discovers a lost film by a female pioneer of Canadian cinema. The film evokes a Wendish folktale about the fearsome supernatural being known as Lady Midday. But the teacher’s pursuit of the project invites these supernatural forces into her own life. Shockadelica uses an Irish folk legend about a shape-shifting trickster often associated with autumn and Samhain (the roots of Halloween). The trickster’s characteristics worked perfectly with my plot.
We Sold Our Souls
Each chapter of my novel opens with an excerpt from the Shockadelica podcast. Grady Hendrix uses a similar approach in We Sold Our Souls. Each of his chapters begins with a radio broadcast or news item that relates to the plot. His story follows heavy metal guitarist Kris (who now runs the reception desk at a Best Western). When she learns that her ex-band’s front man sold the souls of the band members for fame and fortune, she embarks on a mission to stop the devilish outcome.
Hendrix also titles each chapter after a heavy metal song, which gave me the concept for titling my subchapters after horror films, books, and songs. The titles relate to something that occurs in the narrative. Readers can have fun deciphering the source for the title and how it relates to the section. As one reviewer said, “I recognized a fair bit but some I had to look up; doing so made me smile each time it brought up a result.” These titles and the podcast excerpts lend a meta-horror quality to the novel.
Kendall and Jenna are fans of American Horror Story (as am I). They review a fictional season titled Cairo in one of their podcasts. But something that happens in AHS’s second season, Asylum, gave me the idea for a plot development in Shockadelica. I can’t reveal more without spoiling the plot, but suffice to say it involves trying to escape from being imprisoned.
Inspiration from Real Life
The horror podcast Books in the Freezer inspired me to orient the story around two horror podcasters. Just as Books in the Freezer sometimes invites guests on the show, Kendall and Jenna sometimes have guests on Shockadelica. These guests appear in some of the excerpts that open each chapter.
Rue Morgue is a well-respected magazine dedicated to all things horror. Not only do its journalists discuss movies and books, but the magazine features horror comics, video games, music, art, merchandise and collectibles, and other interesting odds and ends. A profile on a tattoo artist inspired me to create the character of the Bone Man, whose arms are covered with tattoos of serial killers. I enjoy linking my writing projects to music, so the Bone Man has an album of horror-themed songs, Box of Bones, available on streaming platforms.
These are just some of my inspirations, of course, especially as they relate to horror. If you are not familiar with any of the sources I mentioned, hopefully I’ve intrigued you to check them out.