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From Nightmare to Narrative: The Birth of ‘The Litter’ by Kevin R. Doyle

When Nightmares Inspire

by Kevin R. Doyle

“It was all a dream” is about the lamest clichéd ending to a story, TV show, or movie that one can find. In terms of inspiration for composing a story, song, or other creative work, “it came to me in a dream” sounds almost as trite. Yet, when it comes to The Litter, that’s exactly what happened.

            When the basic idea for this story appeared to me, the last notion I had in mind was to begin writing another book. I had just written, and found a publisher for, my fifth novel, The Group. Fifth, that is, in terms of writing. In terms of publication, Group was my first. Best not to ask me about those first four.

            The issue was that for years I had considered myself exclusively a short-story writer and had only recently begun tackling larger works. Considering I had to write five in order to get one released, you can see how much of a learning curve I had.

            It took about eleven months to write The Group and another month or so to find a publisher. When it comes to the writing, I don’t want to sound like a whiner but I was working, both before and after, as a high-school English teacher. So having just expended almost a year writing three drafts of an 80,000 word novel, in between running classes all day, lesson planning, and grading papers, beginning another novel was not even remotely on my to-do list.

Then came the dream.

Scratch that.

Then came the nightmare.

Late one weeknight, I jerked awake, gasping, having pulled myself out of a really frightening vision. As I sat in bed and got myself oriented, I thought back over the dream so I could remember it as much as possible. I’d seen a room in an old, abandoned building, with a woman backed up against a wall, surrounded by . . . well, if I told you by what it would kind of spoil things. Let’s just say surrounded.

It was one of those dreams where the details are scored into the brain, and though I went back to sleep and got a few more hours of rest, when I woke up in the morning it was still with me.

My work commute went forty-five miles one way, giving me lots of time to think and ponder while either going to or from work. Driving in that morning, I kept replaying the scene from the night before. It felt as if it could be plucked from the middle of a really creepy story.

By the time I arrived at work, I knew I wasn’t going to be taking that break from writing that I’d planned.

The story was already gyrating inside me.

When I got home that night, before beginning my nightly grading, I sat down at the keyboard and pumped out the details and emotion of that wrenching nightmare. Once I had that completed, the beginning and end of the story were already beginning to take place in my head.

It took a lot of work, but starting from the night of that really awful, trembling nightmare, The Litter was born.

Yeah, I know. That’s a really bad pun, but it’s what happened.

Click here to hear the excerpt

Meet Kevin R. Doyle

A retired high-school teacher and former college instructor, Kevin R. Doyle is the author of four novels in the Sam Quinton mystery series, all published by Camel Press. He’s also written four crime thrillers, including And the Devil Walks Away and The Anchor, and one horror novel, The Litter, along with numerous short horror stories published in small magazines over the years. The first Quinton book, Squatter’s Rights, was nominated for the 2021 Shamus award for Best First PI Novel. A lifelong Midwesterner, Doyle currently resides in Missouri and has loosely based the city of Providence in the Quinton books on Columbia.




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