Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Death Trip! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what (or who) was its inspiration?
P. J. Thorndyke: Thank you! Death Trip is a high-action thrill ride set in a post-apocalyptic 1960s California. It is inspired by the low-budget grindhouse movies of the period that capitalized on contemporary trends like biker gangs and hippies. Set in 1968 (the year Night of the Living Dead was released), Death Trip is something of a zombie story, too, but that is more of a backdrop. The main character – Alice – flees the chaos of a quarantined Los Angeles and ends up in a commune in the desert peopled with the refugees of the crisis. The book delves into the counterculture movement of the period; the music, the drugs, the alternate lifestyles and the political upheaval. The horrific Manson Family murders (which were just around the corner) provide some darker inspiration too.
BD: What can you tell us about the creative process of bringing this story to life?
PJ: Watching lots of movies from the period! It sounds like an easy job, but it’s always important to me to get the feel of the period right down to cultural references and speech patterns. Nothing beats primary sources.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that your book will connect with and impact readers?
PJ: Even though it is a sci-fi horror story set in an alternate timeline, there are many parallels with our own era, particularly in the wake of the Covid pandemic. That wasn’t my intention as I started writing this before the outbreak, but it is interesting to see how little humanity changes despite the passing of time. People will always be people whatever the era. Readers might find this encouraging or maybe a little frightening.
BD: Do you foresee expanding the story into subsequent books (or into other entertainment mediums if given the opportunity)?
PJ: Yes. Death Trip is the third book in a series of standalone novels under the banner, ‘Celluloid Terrors.’ The idea was to write a book for each decade that was inspired by the movies popular at the time. For example, the first one is set in the 1940s and takes it cue from Universal Studios monster movies and Film Noir. The second one is set in the 1950s and is a riff on alien invasion movies, as well as juvenile delinquent dramas like Rebel without a Cause.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
PJ: I’m currently starting on the fourth book in the Celluloid Terrors series which is set in the 1970s. I’m not giving away too much about the plot (as I haven’t written it yet) but the horror movies of the ‘70s took a decided turn for the occult …
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Death Trip and your other work?
PJ: You can check it out on Goodreads and Amazon along with all of my other novels. The best way to keep up to date with my work is to join my mailing list, and you can bag a free Celluloid Terrors double feature novella in the process!