Tell us about character traits that were fun or hard for you to include in the book.
My main character Seraphina was a pleasure to write. She’s witty and imaginative and sarcastic as hell. I also enjoyed the extra crunchy, woo-woo personalities of the cultists in my book. There are no mundane moments when you’re writing characters like this. When it comes to my cultists, a spoon is never merely a spoon. A spoon could be a bad omen, an object possessed by a maleficent spirit, a valued item you owned in a past life.
What special knowledge or research was required to write this book?
In a sense, I started my research for this novel long before I decided to write it. For years, I’ve devoured books and other media about Scientology, NXIVM, the Rajneeshees, Love Has Won, Jonestown, etc. In college, I took classes that covered mystery cults of the ancient world. I’m no cult expert, but my endless deep-dives into isolated, atypical groups definitely assisted me in the creation of this book.
Many horror tales do an excellent job portraying the negative aspects of cults. When reading The Merry Dredgers, I want people to also experience the aspects of a cult that draw people in. What is appealing about this group? Are the Merry Dredgers an insidious cult with sinister motivations, or are they a mind and body retreat devoted to spiritual growth? Would you, the reader, want to join?
Was there something major that happened in your personal life while writing this?
I’ve lost a few loved ones to illnesses and diseases since 2019, and so while writing this book, many of my more painful feelings funneled into the heart of my main character Seraphina. Our experiences with loss are different, of course. For example, I haven’t dealt with my feelings by going undercover at a dilapidated, goblin-themed amusement park populated by cultists. But despite our differences, writing about her grief has helped me process my own.
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5/5 Stars: This book is a ride, and I think Netflix should jump on this.
It’s right up their dark yet wonderous alley. It has Wednesday vibes, with a sprinkle of cult documentary mixed in. Do you ever read a book and feel like it would make the perfect movie? 100% this book. The imagery is perfection and plot has early twenties dark drama all over it.
I’ll be honest, I really felt the ending was unsatisfying and that is completely a “I’m a weirdo and want ALL the aftermath” thing. So if you are okay with endings that don’t give you all the details, and finish out all the threads to the final final version you’re going to adore this book.
Seraphina is weird, whimsical, and I love her. Her authentic self is well written, and following her on this journey left me on edge with each turn of the story. We all need siblings as dedicated to finding out the truth as she is.
I love that she goes on this journey for justice, but ends up also find out a lot about herself too. A bit ironic since that is the supposed point of the merry dredgers in the first place.
The abandon theme park setting is swoon worthy creepy, with all of the cast having various quirks, some of which are hard to place if they are drug induced, mental ailments, or just living their best life. It’s all surreal, yet life like, and each chapter builds to the ending in a comforting way that I relaxed into the cultists too and was shocked at the reveal.
You’ll enjoy this book if you love cults, and eccentric communities living alternative lifestyles. Superhero siblings to the rescue with a splash of personal growth and self discovery mixed in.Review by Sabetha Danes
Publication Date: 4.25.2023
Sub-Genres: Occult Horror, Dark Fantasy Horror
Page Count: 187 Pages
Blurb: Seraphina Ramon will stop at nothing to find out the truth about why her sister Eff is in a coma after a very suspicious “accident.” Even if it means infiltrating the last place Seraphina knows Eff was alive: a once-abandoned amusement park now populated by a community of cultists.
Follow Seraphina through the mouth of the Goblin: To the right, a wolf-themed roller coaster rests on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To the left, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself moments later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in a hall of mirrors. This is the last place in the world Seraphina wants to be, but the best way to investigate this bizarre cult, is to join them.
About the Author: Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of The Atrocities, Bedfellow, and Cursed. Their shorter tales have appeared in over 60 publications, including Cemetery Dance, Dark Moon Digest and Apex Magazine. Jeremy lives in Southern California in a moderately haunted Farmhouse. Their twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.