Athul DeMarco calls his fiction a simple, dark entertainer
One of the things Athul DeMarco wants to do with his writing is to create something he would love to read himself. His other goal is far more straightforward, to make readers squirm.
The author of An.Al – The Origins, a dark and bloody thriller, Athul comes across as surprisingly lucid for a man whose book begins its journey with a switchblade wielding woman and some mutilation. The book draws readers in with a chilling premise, dropping hints about a man with two heads and going on to describe a variety of gory scenes that are a staple of the genre the book finds itself in, splatterpunk. For those not familiar with the genre, suffice to say graphic depictions of violence, sex and gore abound.
“To be honest I did not know what kind of book I had written when I finished it, but I realised it bore some similarities to Rex Miller’s Iceman, and on researching further, realised that splatterpunk was the best category for my work,” says Athul, over the phone from Bangalore.
An.Al features conjoined twins with a love for mystery and a mysterious young woman named Anita, semi-deranged and armed with a switchblade. The twins Andy and Alfie are vastly different in appearance and personality, with the only common point being a shared love for adventure. Athul attributes his fascination with twins to his own star sign, Gemini. “From the beginning I wanted to have twins in the book, but since I wanted to make the book stranger, I decided making them conjoined was the way to go. As for Anita, she is a character from a short story of mine, and a lot of people suggested I write more of her, so I went ahead,” he says.
The Army brat
Athul, who describes himself as a 28-29 year old (he’s not quite sure anymore) part-time consultant and full-time writer, believes the dark and ambiguous setting for the book is a result of his own upbringing as an “Army brat”. “I spent my entire childhood in cantonments, and I find it difficult connecting with civilian life. For example, every city has its own spirit, and since I haven’t been able to soak in this spirit, I find it hard to write them convincingly,” says Athul.
An.Al – The Origins has received favourable reviews, particularly from online reviewers, with some going so far as to suggest turning it into a franchise. However, Athul believes the possibility of more books will depend on how well this one does. “The book is a simple entertainer; it’s a ride like the one Keanu Reeves takes in Speed. So if enough people like it, maybe there will be more,” he says.
His next projects are an Inglorious Basterds style interpretation of the 1949 setting of Lord Ram’s idol in the Babri mosque, and a cop and robber story with Hannibal Lecter influences. Despite the works being different in tone, he is sure they will follow the horror and violence line.
It appears splatterpunk is here to stay, and it is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.