This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Daniel P. Coughlin, whose new novel is Satanic Panic. Here is the publisher’s description:
Satanic Panic, a mass hysteria created in the nineteen-eighties, has returned to a small college town in the Midwest. Ritualistic murders and the presence of the occult have bled below the surface of the town in the form of icy accidents and other coincidences. And when three lifelong friends find themselves on the radar of a killer — and leader of a satanic cult — they must fight for what’s good without being seduced by the evil that possesses their campus.
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Daniel P. Coughlin:
Satanic Panic is a book about the progression and lineage of sin from inception to seduction to destruction. The scariest part about this book was presenting characters that make a steep departure from morality, but that a reader can still sympathize with and follow along their journey. Creating protagonists that need to be quickly connectable before being presented with moral conflict is not easy. The perception of Satanic Panic’s characters is left to you, dear reader, but know that many frustrating hours went into the “what if’s” of creating compelling characters that are flawed by age, new freedoms and basic biology.
The central characters are three friends who grew up together, Brock, Lance, and Brianna. Since an early age they’ve shared just about everything and are now budding into adulthood. Their bond is tight, but their bodies are developing sexually and they know each other too well to ignore their lustful thoughts. Honesty is something that they honor deeply and therefore, as maturing young adults, they will initiate the topic of lust and romantic feelings for each other. Quickly, they concede that attraction exists. Can they experiment without cracking the foundation of their bond, or should they suppress their secret desires?
The layering and complexities of pulling off a three-way sexual experience without insulting the reader’s sensibilities was a challenge especially since the conflict is presented very early in the book. Translating my vision into an effective experience for the reader was daunting. Good people conducting extraordinarily bad behavior is the basis of much storytelling, but crafting the complex nature of a relationship into a violent story needed finesse and precision. Wanting the reader to understand the devolving morality was key in understanding the voice of this piece. Evil is real. Evil is hungry. Evil will take everything. Before this evil devours the soul it shows its innocent attributes. “Its just sex, we’re being mature about it” segues into “who said this was wrong?” Once the characters lose their sense of morality their souls become subject to attack, both metaphorical and literal. Designing this kind of a relationship into the structure of a story about a murderous satanic cult was another terrifying strain.
College age loss of innocence paired with satanic sacrifice is a pretty blunt story idea so the book needed forms of relief at times. Dark humor seemed to fit. Flawed human beings self-destructing can be comedic.
So long as it’s you we’re talking about and not me.
After graduating from high school in Watertown, Wisconsin, Daniel P. Coughlin joined the United States Marine Corps and served four and half years as an infantry Machinegunner in an Amphibious Raider Unit (Fox 2/4). After being Honorably discharged, Daniel attended and graduated from California State University at Long Beach. While studying screenwriting under the mentorship of acclaimed writer Brian Alan Lane, he also interned and served as a script analyst for his favorite director, Wes Craven. Daniel is the author of six novels and an anthology of short fiction. Daniel is a proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association (Los Angeles chapter). He holds a professional certificate in Technical and Professional Writing from Cal State Dominguez Hills and a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Full Sail University.