ELORA – Pushing his foot to the gas pedal, local author Rio Youers says he has found his “thriller voice” with his upcoming novel No Second Chances.
The novel, set to debut on Feb. 22, follows wannabe actress Kitty Rae to Hollywood, where she encounters drugs, Vikings and movie stars in a world where fortune favours the ruthless.
In an interview with the Advertiser, Youers said the abstraction of the novel was influenced by his fascination with current-day “cancel culture” in the entertainment industry.
The Elora resident, who grew up in the UK, found himself drawn to the idea of an individual who essentially had done nothing wrong but was falsely vilified and suffered as a result.
In contrast, he also wanted to explore another social media personality who wasn’t necessarily innocent but was celebrated for all the wrong reasons.
“Just that dichotomy, that dynamic really appealed to me that you never truly know someone,” the author explained.
“We think we do because there’s an online personality or we see what’s presented to us through social media channels, but we don’t really know what that person is.”
At a time when people are speaking out and others are being held accountable for past actions, Youers decided to dive further into the topic.
“The question I ask in this book is really can that be taken too far and what sort of consequence will it have?” he explained.
“But it’s really just not really knowing someone until you really know them and not being able to judge someone because a lot of judgement’s passed around.
“It’s a delicate subject and it’s one that I’m definitely tuned into and that I want to shine a light on but at the same time … there are instances where people have been wrongly vilified, and this is just a story about that.”
Snapping back to reality
Youers often finds himself immersed in his writing.
“When I write a book, I totally get into it and I’m there, I’m walking the streets, I’m living with the characters,” he said.
“I’m walking the walk and talking the talk and that’s essential if you want to truly bring everything to life.”
When asked how he separates his everyday life from the dark nature of his stories as a thriller writer, Youers said it’s just something he’s always done.
“Having two young children will snap you back to reality very quickly,” he said with a laugh.
While most of his past work leans towards the dark fiction genre, Youers said his two most recent novels, Lola on Fire and No Second Chances, have veered more into the straight thriller category, which he loves.
“These are the sorts of books I really want to write, and I’ve had such a great time writing these books and getting to know these characters,” he explained.
“Are they dark? Yeah. There’s violence, there’s a lot of adult language, but at the same time, and this is true of even of my darkest fiction, there’s a breath of light throughout all of my fiction.”
Youers said for him, writing a novel is about the journey of travelling through the darkness and finding the light within characters and within the story.
Of the evolution of his writing, Youers said not only has his writing itself improved over the years, but the subjects and the characters are also more evolved.
“They’re deeper, they’re more real,” he said. “And I do believe as writers we have a certain obligation to reflect the world we live in.”
Youers noted what he writes now may not be remembered in 40 or 50 years, but there’s a chance it will be read by someone.
“So it’s incumbent upon me to reflect this point in history as accurately as possible and not shy away from anything,” he explained.
“A lot of things change, time has changed a lot over the last 10 years, not just with the internet but the way we think, social awareness, that sort of thing, and I’m really trying to represent that in my writing.”
Finding his voice
What attracts the author most to the thriller genre is the action.
“There’s that visceral rush, there’s that visceral thrill that keeps existing within the pages of my book and so when those pages are as full of action as they are in my novels, I feel that rush too,” he said.
Having started out his career with horror fiction, Youers said he always felt a pull to write something more grounded in reality.
“Within this book I totally found my thriller voice and my love for the genre has only grown,” he explained.
For the author, all the action on the pages is just him having fun.
“It’s basically me running through a story with a hammer smashing everything and laughing at the top of my voice and I think that fun, or at least I hope that fun, translates to the reader,” he said.
Youers said he just wants his readers to have a good time with his latest work.
“Every time I write a story, I just want my readers to have fun, I never set out to scare them or really even to thrill them – that sounds really strange – but to make them laugh, it’s just a ride,” he said.
“It’s just ‘hop in the car with me, we’re going for a ride’ and most of the time my foots all the way down, pushing the gas down the whole way and it’s a white-knuckled experience.”
Youers, who’s had a connection to the King family for over a decade through Joe Hill and Owen King, recently received a shoutout from their father, master of horror Stephen King, who called No Second Chances “a rip-roaring Hollywood noir that smashes the pedal to the metal and keeps it there.”
“I’m a huge Stephen King fan – massive Stephen King fan – and when he emailed me and said that he’d read my book I actually felt my feet just lift of the ground a little bit,” Youers said.
“The real thrill for me was just to have a writer that I’ve admired all my life pretty much to read and acknowledge my work and that was just a thrill beyond words.
“I still can’t quite get my head around it.”
Youers said not a day goes by that he’s not grateful to the people who have helped him get to where he is today.
He added he still feels he’s got a long way to go, but he’s making strides in the right direction.
“It’s crazy; I’m writing comic books for DC,” he said, referring to his most recent collaboration with author Joe Hill on Refrigerator Full of Heads.
“I’ve adapted a Stephen King book,” he added.
“If you’d said to me even five years ago this is where you’ll be in five years, I probably would’ve laughed you out of the room and said, ‘Ah, that’s never going to happen’ – but it’s happened.”
No Second Chances makes its debut to stores and online Feb. 22. Copies will also be available for purchase at Magic Pebble Books in Elora.
Years ago, as an aspiring author, Youers said he always had anxiety, thinking his work may never be published.
“I’m grateful that I kept at it when it would’ve been very easy to just give up and do something else, but that’s not who I am,” he said.
“I just love to write stories, so I could never give up any more than I could stop breathing. It’s who I am, it’s what I do.”
For more information on No Second Chances and the author, visit www.rioyouers.com.