Published by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 5, 2019
Genres: Gothic, Horror
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (February 5, 2019)
Praise for BREAK THE BODIES, HAUNT THE BONES
“A tour-de-force of the imagination. Hicks has created a world that is beautifully and brutally surreal and yet, at the same time, BREAK THE BODIES, HAUNT THE BONES stands as a hyper-realistic psychological portrait of the death of the American factory town. My own identity as an American was disturbed and changed by this novel; some dormant understanding was shaken awake. This is a stunning and profound debut.” ―Julianna Baggott, bestselling author of New York Times Notable Book Pure
“Hicks’ debut novel is a thoughtful tour of the rotted and haunted heart of America. Highly recommended.” ―Jeremiah Tolbert, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author
“I can’t stop thinking about this book. It’s a haunting story that burrows under your skin like an insect laying eggs that hatch within you in the middle of the night. Hicks’ mesmerizing imagery kept me turning the pages and asking myself ‘How is this book happening? What sort of literary witchcraft am I witnessing?’” ―Maurice Broaddus, author of Buffalo Soldier and The Usual Suspects
“BREAK THE BODIES, HAUNT THE BONES is a breathless wonder of a debut novel… Hicks is a magician with words and has written a spellbinding, haunting and necessary book.” ―Anne Valente, author of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down
“Hicks has crafted a haunting story with multi-generational appeal, where the very real horror of poverty meets supernatural horror, and social issues like xenophobia, racism and economic anxiety are addressed organically through allegory and gripping storytelling.” ―Chris L. Terry, author of Black Card and Zero Fade
Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms . . . They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.
Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.
When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.
Micah Dean Hicks is the author of the novel Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones. He is also the author of Electricity and Other Dreams, a collection of dark fairy tales and bizarre fables. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Hicks grew up in rural southwest Arkansas and now lives in Orlando. He teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.
- What is on your nightstand?
A teal lamp my wife bought me, glasses wipes, a tube of lip balm because my lips are always chapped, and a notebook for writing down any weird ideas I get in the middle of the night (usually things like, “What if rabbits?”).
- What author would you totally fan?
There are so many!
Definitely Ann Leckie. I was feeling really burnt out after finishing my PhD and having a hard time enjoying books again. Then I started an audiobook version of her novel Ancillary Justice on a trip, and I just couldn’t stop reading. Her book is told from the point of view of a sentient warship that controls the modified bodies of the dead, corpse soldiers called ancillaries. It’s fantastic.
Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s fantasy comics series Monstress has the most unbelievably rich, complicated, and original setting in any fantasy series I have ever read. The art is jaw-dropping. I love the characters. I can’t recommend it enough.
Also, Lauren Groff is the writer I most often assign to my fiction students. She’s just a master at telling stories. I love how big and ambitious her work is in Delicate Edible Birds. She manages to pack as much into a short story as most people can fit in a novel. And her stories move me in a way that almost nothing else does.
- What makes you cringe?
- Do you obsessively plot out each point or just go with the flow?
I love to plan my work before I begin. The outline for my novel was a big, messy Excel spreadsheet with one axis for all the subplots and another axis for all the chapters. Even when writing a short story, I like to have a list of all the major scenes before I begin.
I still end up changing things as I’m drafting. And when I revise, I’ll make a new outline and might drastically change the major plot points. But having that roadmap at the beginning makes things much easier for me.
- Is there a word you love to use?
I love natural imagery, the kind that evokes danger, inhumanity, and magic. Winter-dark forests with their frost-caked leaves. Sleet hissing down on snarls of grass. The black sky breathing over a hilltop tree. I love “brackish,” “murk,” and “briars.” I love “hollow” in all its definitions. Tonight, the word I love is “winter.”
Here’s a picture of his majesty Raffy, the gumdrop prince of the candy cane forest.