Ghostland: Duncan Ralston
Reviewed/Interviewed by Steve Stred
- Paperback: 414 pages
- Publisher: Shadow Work Publishing (1 Nov. 2019)
Duncan Ralston decided to go big with his latest release, ‘Ghostland.’ Following a promotional campaign that may be the best single campaign for a book launch I’ve ever seen – indie and traditional, I can resoundingly say that ‘Ghostland’ absolutely delivers.
The build-up for this book was palpable. Starting with some blog posts about an author who Ralston remembered reading when he was younger, who nobody else appeared to know. Then a Wikipedia page was found – Rex Garrote, this seemingly lost to history author had resurfaced.
All of this leads into the final details of Rex’s life being discovered. After self-immolation, his final wishes were for the world’s largest park dedicated too and featuring ghost’s to be created in his name.
The book opens up introducing us to teen friends Ben and Lilian. They love to online game together and as they are playing, Lilian notices a strange occurrence outside her window. Ralston gives us an emotional opening that really helped me connect to these two characters.
We then get a short jump ahead in time, some details get filled in, but everything leads down one path – opening day at ‘Ghostland.’ Ben and Lilian, now not the best of friends they used to be, meet up, with Lilian’s therapist, Allison in tow.
From here, Ralston really delivers the core concept of Jurassic Park but with Ghosts.
We get the details of the science behind how the park works and operates as well as a few new characters get added into the mix. At one point, I even found myself equating certain characters with specific Jurassic Park characters in the hopes that I’d get a sneak peek at how things might play out.
I think two things with this story really make it stand above a lot of the other ghostly tales that get put out.
The first is clear immediately – on the Kindle version of this, Duncan has made an interactive Ghostland experience. Whenever the characters arrived at a new attraction or specific feature, the book would have an underlined number. By pressing on the number the history/back story of that particular thing would pop up. I’d then read it and close it and continue on my way. Not completely sure how this will work with the physical stuff, but the digital version – this was fantastic.
The second is the level of attachment Ralston created to his characters. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to Lilian or Ben and even grew to want to protect Allison.
When the ending rolls around and Ralston brings it all together, I was so impressed. Just a stunning work of art.
The entire package along, from early promo to the book to the interactive feature – staggering. Ralston really went above and beyond with this release and I think this will be one that many people will be talking about for years to come.
KR: As a special bonus, here is an interview between Duncan Ralston and Steve Stred where we find out a little more about the exciting new novel Ghostland!
SS: Congrats on the release of Ghostland! It was a really amazing ghost story/action-adventure. At one point I’d messaged you and said “Ah, its Jurassic Park but with GHOSTS!” Which you replied and said yup! How did that idea come about?
DR: I wish I could remember the exact circumstances that brought this idea to mind. I do recall that I was at work (my previous job in TV master control), probably watching the Discovery Channel. Something triggered me to say to my co-worker, “How about Jurassic Park but with ghosts instead of dinosaurs?” My co-worker, a huge movie buff, said he thought it was a great idea. While I was writing it I really wanted it to feel like the illicit love child of Stephen King and Michael Crichton. I’m not sure if it came out that way, or whose DNA is more prominent. But I had a lot of fun writing it.
SS: In the afterword, you said you’d spent time re-reading Crichton. Has his work been influential on you previously?
DR: I hadn’t read a ton of Crichton until then. Congo, Jurassic Park, a few others when I was a teen. I think Blake Crouch’s writing probably influenced Ghostland more initially. But I really wanted to delve deep into the “science” behind the park and still create a thrilling experience for the reader, and I could only think of one author who does that probably better than anyone.
SS: Your promo lead up with the Mandela Effect and Rex Garrote was fantastic. Really, a stunning job of grabbing people’s attention but also not really creating an annoying “oh great, Duncan’s posting again” feeling. I think the only one I’ve seen lately of any similar degree of execution was Brian Kirk’s launch for ‘Will Haunt You.’ What possessed you to do that?
DR: Actually, it was Kirk’s Will Haunt You that got me thinking of different ways to market books. It seems like you really have to do something dynamic as an indie to get noticed these days. Brian’s campaign was great and really a short story in itself. But I didn’t want to copy it, so I decided to take a different route. I’ve always been fascinated by the Mandela Effect and the post just kind of grew out of “what if there was a famous dead horror author who disappeared from reality?” Sort of like Sutter Cane from one of my favorite horror flicks, In the Mouth of Madness.
I’ve also created a website (www.ghostlandpark.com) which is a sort of blog/research project of someone who was meant to be at Ghostland but missed it by a few hours before the park went into meltdown. She’s trying to uncover the mystery of what happened that day, one of America’s biggest non-natural disasters, when the authorities have been keeping it under wraps. The blog acts as a short story and the rest of the site is sort of an immersive “Ghostland experience.”
SS: You and one author from the past get into Sumo Suits to kick each other around. Who you fighting and why? Also, who wins?
DR: Ernest Hemmingway. Mostly because I would like to see him humiliate himself in a sumo suit. He would probably win, unless he was dead drunk.
SS: Canadian writers seem to be becoming more and more prominent in the dark fiction scene. Do you think that’s because the Leafs haven’t won a cup since ’67? On a serious note – why do you think that is? (Authors – not the Leafs not winning!)
DR: I can’t speak to the Leafs as I’m a bad Canadian who doesn’t like hockey. As to Canadian horror writers, I’m not sure exactly. Is it because there are more of us now? It does seem like Canadians have been light in the horror genre prior to now. Maybe it’s the weather?
SS: You mentioned you did a ton of back research for Ghostland. Any paranormal occurrences you read about that unsettled you?
DR: I’ve never really been unsettled by research into the paranormal, outside of childhood. I love the idea of ghosts, and the thought of them creeps me out more than any other horror trope – maybe because if they are real, like in Ghostland, I could end up trapped in a self-imposed limbo after death, or maybe because they are the most likely of the standard horror creatures to exist, aside from aliens.
SS: Speaking of research – did you do a similar deep dive into specifics while writing Woom?
DR: I did a far deeper dive than I’d wanted, that’s for sure. There are certain things you can’t unsee, let’s just put it that way.
SS: Lastly – is there a book from another author coming out that you are really excited for?
DR: I’ve got the hardcover of Stephen King’s If It Bleeds on pre-order from Cemetery Dance! Other than that, I’m looking forward to delving back into some indie books that I’ve missed while doing beta reads and rereading the King.
SS: Thanks for doing this and all the best with Ghostland. I really think this will be a book that continues to gain and grow as word really gets out there!
DR: Thanks, Steve! P.S. I dug your novella Ritual a fair bit. Looking forward to reading more within that story universe, if you plan on it!
People are dying to get in. The ghosts will kill to get out.
Be first in line for the most haunted theme park in the park in the world – GHOSTLAND! Discover and explore hundreds of haunted buildings and cursed objects! Witness spectral beings of all kinds with our patented Augmented Reality glasses! Experience all the terror and thrills the afterlife has to offer, safely protected by our Recurrence Field technology! Visit Ghostland today – it’s the hauntedest place on earth!
After a near-death experience caused by the park’s star haunted attraction, Ben has come to Ghostland seeking to reconnect with his former best friend Lilian, whose post-traumatic stress won’t let her live life to the fullest. She’s come at the behest of her therapist, Dr. Allison Wexler, who tags along out of professional curiosity, eager to study the new tech’s psychological effect on the user.
But when a computer virus sets the ghosts free and the park goes into lockdown, the trio find themselves trapped in an endless nightmare.
With time running short and the dead quickly outnumbering the living, the survivors must tap into their knowledge of horror and video games to escape… or become Ghostland’s newest exhibits.
Featuring an interactive “Know Your Ghosts” guide and much more, Ghostland is over 400 pages of thrills and terror!
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.
On September 1st, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the 1st Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here