This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is author Mark Sheldon, whose new novel is Sarah Killian: The Mullets of Madness. Here is the publisher’s description:
Have you ever woken one morning with a burning, insatiable desire to go out and kill someone?
Sarah Killian, notorious serial killer for hire, and cohort assassin, Mary Sue Keller, are back on assignment for the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.) After receiving an ominous warning from a mark-gone-wrong, it becomes clear that Nick Jin — Sarah’s former nemesis — is still at large and singling Sarah out.
Sarah and Mary Sue are dispatched to Tennessee to discreetly kill off an accused family of KKK organizers, but their true mission is to lure Nick Jin into a trap. But will Nick Jin — who always seems several steps of T.H.E.M. — see their bait for what it is? Either way, one thing is guaranteed: blood will be shed.
In the spirit of Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz, and Joss Whedon, The Mullets of Madness is a truly unique blend of horror, suspense, and espionage.
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Mark Sheldon:
When I wrote the first book of the Sarah Killian series, Sarah Killian: Serial Killer for Hire, it was not an easy headspace to get into. Being a violent sociopath, Sarah is not exactly a pleasant corner of my psyche to explore. And the fact that it was written in first-person narrative made it even harder to disassociate myself from the character and her point of view. I had to take frequent breaks from writing the first book to work on other projects just to clear my head and get into a healthier head-space, so to speak.
The second Sarah Killianbook, The Mullets of Madness, went much smoother — I wrote it in one go without taking any breaks — probably partly because Sarah’s targets in this book were alleged KKK members as opposed to high school students, so her moral justification was slightly easier to swallow.
So, for my own sanity if nothing else, I tend to try to steer away from the introspective analysis of where Sarah comes from in my mind. It’s also why I gave her such a snarky edge — she had to be someone that you hate to love, otherwise she just wouldn’t be readable.
That said, Mullets of Madness lent itself some nice opportunities for gore as I expanded on the world that Sarah lives in, and one in particular comes immediately to mind.
In the first book, we learned that Sarah works for a secret organization of professional killers for hire — the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.) T.H.E.M. contracts Professional Serial Killers (P.S.K.’s) such as Sarah to perform covert contractual killings. When on assignment, Sarah will be placed into a community for months — sometimes years — at a time establishing two separate personalities: the “dupe” persona, the everyday person she pretends to be while on assignment, and the profile of the “killer,” who will commit the murders and then disappear at the end of the mission, to be forever labeled an unsolved crime. The covert necessity of Sarah’s assignments makes the Sarah Killian books a unique blend of slasher horror and espionage.
In The Mullets of Madness, I got to explore what happens when T.H.E.M. needs to dispose of a body that they don’t want to be found. While on assignment, Sarah gets attacked in her hotel room by an agent of her nemesis, excommunicated T.H.E.M. assassin Nick Jin. Sarah manages to thwart the attempt on her life but is left with the inconvenience of a corpse that the hotel’s housekeepers undoubtedly would have some questions about.
Fortunately, T.H.E.M. is always prepared. I admit I took an unhealthy macabre delight with inventing the Bond-esque gadgets that T.H.E.M.’s extraction team utilized to dispose of the inconvenient hotel room corpse — in fact it’s one of my favorite examples from both books of how horror and espionage can be blended together.
The morning after Sarah’s attempted assassination, two inconspicuous, blond-haired, blue-eyed, business-suited men with briefcases arrive at Sarah’s hotel room — the Yuppy Aryan Twins, as Sarah refers to them. While Sarah nonchalantly watches Saw on pay-per-view, the Yuppy Aryan Twins proceed to remove various tools and gadgets out of their briefcases, which they then use to dismantle the corpse, piece by piece. After each body part is removed the Yuppy Aryan Twins place the appendage into a device similar to those vacuum-suck-storage bags you can buy on infomercials, except these are a little more heavy-duty than the as-seen-on-TV models. With the T.H.E.M. model, you place an average-sized foot into the bag, and the vacuum compresses it down to the size of a tennis ball, which can be easily transported off of the hotel property without raising suspicion and properly disposed of elsewhere. Then all that’s needed is a bit of cleanup, and not even a Dateline blacklight would yield any clue that anything had happened in that hotel room.
Despite the difficulties with getting into the right headspace for Sarah, writing these books has been a rewarding experience and I look forward to further exploring how horror and espionage can be merged in the next book.
Mark Sheldon is the author of the Sarah Killian series, Sarah Killian: Serial Killer for Hire! and Sarah Killian: The Mullets of Madness. Prior to Sarah Killian, Mr. Sheldon has self-published Mores of the Maelstrom, a collection of short stories, and The Noricin Chronicles, a twelve-part sci-fi novel series that could be best described as a combination of Harry Potter, The X-Men, and The Da Vinci Code. Mr. Sheldon lives in Southern California with his wife, Betsy.