How the Slender Man Bullies Inspired My Novel by Gary Braver – Guest Post

How the Slender Man Bullies Inspired My Novel by Gary Braver – Guest Post

Today we welcome author Gary Braver with his guest post ‘How the Slender Man Bullies Inspired My Novel’. Check out his post below and his new book Rumor of Evil which was released today, 10th October 2023. This post contains affiliate links.

Gary Braver How the Slender Man Bullies Inspired My Novel

Gary Braver (pen name of Gary Goshgarian) is the award-winning and international bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed medical thrillers and mysteries. His novels have been celebrated for their high-concepts, careful craftsmanship, well-rounded characters, and page-turning momentum. His novel FLASHBACK (starred review in Publishers Weekly) is the only thriller to have won a Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction.

His latest book, CHOOSE ME (co-authored with Tess Gerritsen) was a #1 bestseller on Kindle and a bestseller in several foreign countries.

His next book, RUMOR OF EVIL, will be published on October 10, 2023 by Oceanview Publishing.

Gary Braver’s novels have been translated into 16 languages, and three have been optioned for movies, including ELIXIR by director Ridley Scott.

Under his own name, Gary Goshgarian, he is an award-winning Professor Emeritus of English at Northeastern University where he taught Fiction Writing, Science Fiction, Horror Fiction, and Bestsellers. He has also taught fiction-writing workshops throughout the United States and Europe and was founder of the London Writers Workshop. He is the author of six popular college writing textbooks.

He holds degrees in physics (WPI), a MA in English (UConn), and a Ph.D. in English (U. of Wisconsin). He lives in Arlington, MA with his family.

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How the Slender Man Bullies Inspired My Novel

Perhaps the most asked question of novelists is “Where do you get your ideas?” For RUMOR OF EVIL, my inspiration initially came from a tragedy that took place Waukesha, Wisconsin.

In 2014, two twelve-year-old girls there lured their 12-year-old friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times. Their motive was to appease an Internet cartoon character whom they believed would kill their families had they not sacrificed their friend. Luckily the victim survived; and the assailants are still in psychiatric institutions.

For years, that horrific story stuck in my mind, making me wonder why kids commit such senseless, horrific acts. So, I turned to research and discovered a scourge that threatens the emotional and physical health of school-age children: bullying.

My interest in the mindset of adolescents, and in-depth research I conducted to better understand it, inspired my idea for the cold case at the center of my new thriller, Rumor of Evil: adolescents committing a brutal crime.

From there, the character development process began. According to studies I read, the most common characteristic of bullied victims is that they’re “different.” In appearances, they might be overweight, small, gangly, disfigured, or unattractive. Also, their behavior is “odd”—they talk with a lisp or accent, they’re shy, insecure, and appear weak. Sometimes they’re from a different social, ethnic, religious or economic status; or as kids, they’re considered bad luck and friendless. In short, they’re outsiders to the accepted adolescent “norm.”

Based on this, I designed my bully-victim: A dark-complexioned 16-year-old Romany exchange student named Vadima Lupescu. Although she’s very attractive, she arrives in upscale Lexington, Massachusetts from a rural Slovakian pig farm in uncool outfits, traditional Eastern European braids, and speaking English with an accent. She also has strange customs, such as taking off her shoes when entering a home or standing up when the teacher enters a classroom.

Early on, her high school classmates have fun Americanizing Vadima—taking her to the mall to get her cool outfits, introducing her to hotdogs and backyard barbecues, and getting rid of those braids. They also treat her to a rock concert and give her a cool nickname, Lulu.

Given that this is a murder mystery, things needed to turn dark. So, I exploited some damning stereotypes of Romany people. At a teenage pizza party, Lulu does some palm-reading which starts off as fun but suddenly turns weird. Then bad things happen to her friends and their families which get the rumors flying: Romany people are really “gypsies” who put curses on people; in olden times they spread diseases like the Black Plague; they drink the blood of Christian babies; they worship Satan. And aren’t they witches in disguise?

Yes, these are damning myths that go back centuries, but my intent was to reflect the dangers of a superstitious mindset; so potent are these dangers, in fact, that it evoked the similar mindset that triggered the 1692 Salem witch trials. Centuries later, the dangerous phenomenon of bullying and scapegoating persists today, especially in some attitudes regarding outsiders, particularly immigrants.

As for the actual crime, the history of witches during the Middle Ages had one universal punishment— burning at the stake. And therein lay the “cold case” that haunts the present-day murder investigation.—a cold case in which our innocent exchange student Lulu becomes the victim of a Salem-inspired burning at the hands of superstitious, bullying teens – which I set on a cold, dark Halloween night.

Rumor of Evil Gary Braver

Rumor of Evil

Author – Gary Braver
Publisher – Oceanview Publishing
Pages – 320
Release Date – 10th October 2023
ISBN 13 – 978-1608095933
Format – Hardcover, audio

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A 16-year-old exchange student accused of witchcraft–dark circumstances and sick rumors lead to her brutal death, a cover-up, and more murders two decades later Detectives Kirk Lucian and Mandy Wing are charged with investigating a reported suicide of a Cambridge woman in her backyard. The death came as a shock–the woman was considered a pillar of her community and was well-liked by everyone. After further investigation, the hanging appears staged. Once Kirk and Mandy’s suspicions are confirmed, they make a list of suspects.

Clues begin to connect the recent murder to the decades-old mysterious death of a beautiful 16-year-old Romany exchange student who perished when a treehouse she was sleeping in caught fire. The girl, Vadima Lupescu, had done “odd” things among her American peers that stirred up prejudices and suspicions, leading to her brutal death–and cover-up.

As Kirk and Mandy investigate the bizarre rumors–that Vadima had “gypsy powers” and put curses on those around her–they discover a cauldron of dark secrets. Will they uncover the true cause of this tangled web of deaths and horrors before it spirals out of control?

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