Fantasy author Terry Goodkind delves into dark places in ‘Nest’

It’s a great first paragraph, the kind that’s intriguing, a bit unbalanced, even kind of funny:

“For the past three weeks, John Allen Bishop had been keeping the devil chained in the basement. What, exactly, the devil had been doing in Chicago, John didn’t know and the devil wasn’t saying. What John did know was that over the past several days, the situation had been getting increasingly worrisome.”

Terry Goodkind wrote that paragraph years ago. But in the crush of other things, and the necessity to finish several other books, he hadn’t had time to unreel just what that odd little scenario was about.

Now, the Southern Nevada-based, best-selling author has, in “Nest,” his latest novel (Skyhorse Publishing, $29.99). And it’s no spoiler to say that the story involves a woman either blessed or cursed with an initially cool-sounding but ultimately dangerous gift, a group of really nasty killers and the darkest reaches of the online world.

“Nest” is a departure for Goodkind, who spent more than 20 years creating his best-selling “Sword of Truth” fantasy series. Now, with “Nest,” Goodkind enters the ranks of thrillerdom for what he plans to be a very long stay.

“Nest” isn’t Goodkind’s first contemporary thriller. “The Law of Nines” also was set in the real world. But the novel seemed to confuse both fans and marketers, who didn’t know if it was a thriller or a fantasy. Goodkind concedes that including Easter eggs of sorts for his fantasy fans confused things.

“The last one, it was a step away from fantasy,” he says, but “I was still giving a wink and nod to my fantasy (fans).”

So, some readers “kind of took it wrong and embraced it as part of the fantasy series,” Goodkind says.

“This is an entirely new genre,” Goodkind notes. “This is where I’m at home now. This is where my heart is.”

Goodkind calls “Nest” the sort of book he’s wanted to write since he was a kid. Because Goodkind had dyslexia, “I didn’t really read a lot,” he says. “The main source of my inspiration was internal. I liked making up stories for myself, I think because I had a hard time reading.

“So I just made it up. I’d go to sleep at night dreaming up stories about characters that were in trouble, and I’d imagine what they were afraid of and how they got out of trouble, how they’d solve whatever the problem was. ‘Nest’ is a story that’s really in the origins of my storytelling as a child.”

The novel’s main character is a woman who finds that she can identify killers by looking into their eyes. Pursued by a network of predators who want to kill her, she meets an author who helps her, uncertain of whether he’s a bad guy, too. Along the way, they delve into the Darknet, the underground, anonymous, deeply hidden portion of the internet where just about anything — guns, drugs and more — can be bought or sold by unsavory users.

“A lot of the book explores the Darknet, how the Darknet functions and how evil uses the Darknet to spread throughout the world,” Goodkind says.

With the help of a consultant, Goodkind poked around the Darknet in researching the book.

“It’s shocking to see the corruption that takes place beneath the surface, and most people don’t have any clue this is going on,” he says.

Goodkind also researched genetics in writing the book, which touches on why his main character has her special ability and how, from a forensic and genetic standpoint, “murderers are connected.”

While his main character “has to confront who’s trying to kill her along the way, she discovers why killings happen and what the connection is between a person walking into a movie theater killing a bunch of random people to a 12-year-old girl on the internet encouraging another 12-year-old girl to commit suicide. How are those people connected?”

“Nest” is a book that was years in the making. “I wrote the first few chapters seven years ago, then I had to bail out on it and write the rest of the ‘Sword of Truth’ series,” Goodkind says.

“The funny thing is,” he adds, that during the intervening years, “technology kind of caught up with the story.”

Goodkind notes that writing a complicated, contemporary, reality-based thriller is much harder than writing a fantasy because, in a fantasy novel, “you make it up.”

Here, in contrast, “people in the tech business and geeks who know a lot about computers, when I say something wrong in the book, they’re going to jump up and down,” he says. “Everything has to be dead accurate.”

While Goodkind isn’t abandoning fantasy — a limited series about Nicci, a character from “The Sword of Truth,” begins in January — he envisions thrillers as his new, primary literary home.

Writing “The Sword of Truth” series was “tremendously rewarding,” Goodkind says. “I’m immensely proud of it. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, writing a series over two decades and 18 books and bringing hundreds of different subplots together. It’s hugely gratifying to be able to do that.

“But I’m just tickled to death to be able to write books now in our world. It’s like getting to become an author all over again.”

Read more from John Przybys at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com and follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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