Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with J.R. Klein, author of The Ostermann House
FQ: In The Ostermann House, Michael discovers what appears to be a nonagram in their basement and others randomly appear throughout the story. Can you explain to potential readers what is the significance of a nonagram?
KLEIN: The nonagrams are the connection between Herman Ostermann, who once owned the house, and the power source that is focused on the property. The number nine, which is part of the nonagram itself and is a number that reappears many times in the book, has historical connections to the occult, the paranormal, and the supernatural. As the reader will see, the significance of those to the nonagrams becomes apparent at the end of the book.
FQ: It is often said that science and the paranormal don’t mix. As a person who has a PhD in Immunology, do you believe in the paranormal?
KLEIN: As a scientist with a PhD, I think that there are many things in the universe about which we know little. Some of these even border on seemingly paranormal events that may be connected in perfectly ordinary ways, though we don’t know how or why this is as yet. When I am not in the laboratory, it is fun to let my mind go and create alternate universes that come out in books like The Ostermann House.
FQ: Over the years you’ve written for many scholarly journals and magazines. How has the writing process been different for you now that you’ve been writing novels?
KLEIN: It is really quite different. In writing about science for scholarly journals, it is important to stick to what we know, to stick to the facts. The beauty, and the fun, of writing fiction is that you can let your mind wander, particularly when it comes to fantasy, sci-fi, or the paranormal. You can create your own world-view that straight science doesn’t permit.
FQ: Are any of your characters based on anyone in your life?
KLEIN: Probably all of my characters are drawn to some degree from various people I have known, though not from just one person. Often, a character in a book is an amalgam of these people. But then, too, the beauty of writing fiction is that you can go beyond what you have known and add personal features and characteristics that make a character become completely unique. It is like painting a picture of a scene in the city or the countryside and then adding or subtracting from it in order to give the new image a special and different essence.
FQ: Why did you choose to write a thriller novel primarily based on the paranormal?
KLEIN: The idea for the story came while my wife and I were traveling in central Texas from Houston where we lived. We had gone down a dirt road out in the country and came upon an old farmhouse. On the property was a barn and a pond and a small graveyard out on the back of the pasture. For some reason, an old abandoned school bus was out there as well. I incorporated all of those into the story. The house was on the outskirts of a small town that in the book became Krivac.
When I got home, I kept thinking about how perfect this would be as a setting for a thriller – something spooky and weird – all connected to the house, the property, and the town. The paranormal part grew naturally into to the book as events transpired. Having just published a book of literary fiction (Frankie Jones), I was looking for a different kind of a challenge. I have always enjoyed thrillers of all kinds.
FQ: Who are some of your favorite authors?
KLEIN: I like a range of authors. For horror, thrillers, and suspense, Stephen King and Dean Koontz are on the top of the list, of course. But I also love good literary fiction. Probably one of my favorite authors is Patrick Modiano. His work is almost surrealistic. It floats back and forth between the past and the present in the most elegant sort of way.
FQ: I really appreciate the cover design on The Ostermann House. Though it is simply a picture of the farmhouse depicted in the story, it gives readers a great sense of foreboding and creepiness that you feel throughout the book. Is this cover based on a real-life house?
KLEIN: Yes, it is very similar to the house we came across while we were traveling through central Texas. It was weather-worn but inhabited, and fairly-well kept up for its age. It looked like it had a multitude of stories, good and bad, hidden somewhere inside – the perfect place to begin the journey into the book.
FQ: Are there any future novels in the works that your fans can look forward to reading?
KLEIN: I have a novel that I recently completed that would certainly fall into the horror/suspense category. It takes place at a college in a small town in Vermont. In the centuries-old library building, a pair of students inadvertently stumble upon a passage that leads to an ancient ceremonial altar chamber deep underground, where medieval occult rituals are being performed. All is fine until something very dark and very dangerous is unleashed.