The story of a couple that meets at a support group for the possessed…
By Paul A. Destefano
Release Date: April 18, 2022
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Length: 292 pages
Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-1509241231; $16.99; E-Book, $4.99
Enrique Marin wants a quiet life after the death of his wife. Just one problem stands in the way–he’s possessed by the misanthropic English demon, Tzazin. A violent night under demonic influence accidentally leads Enrique to love, and it’s anything but quiet. Shy, autistic yoga instructor Elle thought allowing herself to be possessed by the very-not-shy sex demon Key would help her find love. She finds Enrique, but she didn’t count on coping with the anti-demon bigotry of society. Fate–and AA meetings for the possessed–brings them together, but hostile forces, demonic and human, fight to keep them apart. It might cost them everything to keep their love alive.
Enrique approached the church feeling more like a lost tourist from the Dominican Republic than someone on national watchlists. Peering up at the untended vines coating the wall, he ran a hand through his short black hair. He glanced back at the street and then followed Ebbs down the stairs to the basement side entrance.
“I don’t even think he’s a real priest,” came the familiar British tones in the back of Enrique’s mind. “He’s not wearing a collar. This is bollocks. He can’t teach you anything about controlling me you don’t already know, and I’m certainly not going to listen to some pudgy little unshaven monk or whatever he is. Don’t go in.” Enrique stopped halfway down the cracked steps and bent, turning his back to Ebbs to tie a shoe that wasn’t untied. Ebbs waited by the door, gently humming to himself. “Shut up, Taz,” Enrique said, barely above a whisper. “If you would behave in the first place, we wouldn’t have to be here.” “Still bollocks,” Taz said. Enrique stood and wiped his hands on his jeans before descending. At the base of the stairway, he stomped his work boot into the puddle that reflected a third figure only he could see pacing behind them. Ebbs fished for keys in the pocket of his beaten brown leather jacket. He unlocked a door barely held together by decades of flaking paint. It swung open smoothly and silently. Stepping aside, he extended a hand and indicated Enrique should enter before him. Enrique didn’t move. “It’s a safe place,” Ebbs said, scratching the mottled gray of his unshaven neck. Enrique had heard that before. “Sometimes, that first step through the doorway is the hardest.” Enrique looked to the source of the voice, a silhouette up the hallway that nearly reached the ceiling. “I’m Dante Serrano,” the deep calming voice continued. “I moderate the group. Father Clancy here told me you would be coming. Enrique, right?” Dante’s head nearly grazed the hanging fluorescents as he approached, extending a massive hand in greeting. Enrique nodded and stepped in, trying not to stare too obviously at Dante’s dark eyes, nearly a foot above his own. “Tell you what,” Dante said with a bright grin. “I’ll answer your questions first, make you more comfortable. Come on, follow me. The answer to your first question, seven-foot one. Second question, no, I never played pro, got some bum knees. You know everyone sees a black man a head and shoulders over them, and they think, damn, that guy shoot some hoops. What you don’t hear is how much a damn problem it can be being so tall. Sure—never need a step stool, get to help all the shorter folk reach that top shelf in the grocery store. I’m not saying there are no perks. I’m saying there’s sometimes a hidden price. Considering where you are, I’m guessing you know that all too well.” “You mean considering what I am?” Enrique said, following the giant man through a doorway. Dante turned, shaking his shaved head. “No, man, no. Who you are. You got a problem? Okay. But that does not define you. A man is a lot of things—a plumber, a mechanic, a husband, a father. But you are never less a person before that. You are always you. Good man. Bad man. That’s not my job to tell you. But you. No matter what your problem. You are a who. Never a what. Just because a taxi picks up a bad passenger, that does not make that taxi’s a bad taxi. You get me?” “Actually, you’re a pretty awful taxi,” Taz said. “I get you,” Enrique said, shrugging and looking around. He stepped into the center of the circle of empty chairs in the small room. Beyond a table of coffee and doughnuts, a young woman with long blonde hair over a tight-fitting outfit standing with her head down and her hands clasped by her waist. She pushed dark glasses farther up the bridge of her nose but didn’t speak. Enrique looked to the ceiling.The lights were no brighter where she stood, and certainly not bright enough to warrant sunglasses. “Well, hello, hello, what do we have here?” Taz said. “Perhaps this group isn’t complete bollocks after all.” “That’s Elle,” Dante said softly. “Yoga teacher. She’s one of our members. She’s on the autism spectrum and sometimes needs a little time to adjust to new people in the group. She’ll warm up to you.” “Hi, Elle,” Enrique said with a small wave. “I’m Enrique.” “The others will be by in just a few minutes,” Dante said, pouring coffee into a cardboard cup. “Just like Elle needs some time, we’d like to get to learn a bit about you. Me and our very own Father Clancy Ebbs to start. Just to, you know, get comfortable.” “Ex-Father,” Ebbs interjected. “In Coena Domini.” “Excommunicated,” Dante translated. “But still good enough for us. And still always Father to me.” “And there are two of you,” Enrique pointed out. “In case I’m more than one can handle.” Elle tilted her head in curiosity. “Can never be too careful at first encounter,” Dante said. “Coffee? It’s actually pretty good. Here, give it a try and grab a chair. Any.” Enrique pulled off his light jacket and hung it on the back of one of the folding chairs. He took the offered coffee and added a sugar cube from the table. If Dante weren’t in the room with him, he would be considered tall. Enrique sniffed the coffee, blew on it, and sat, one hand rubbing the worn knees of his jeans. “Want one?” Father Ebbs asked, helping himself to a powdered doughnut. Enrique shook his head. “You a talker or a listener?” Dante asked, leaving one empty chair between them when he sat. “Truthfully,” Enrique said, “I usually don’t shut up. But I’m not, I’m not really…” “Not comfortable talking about your passenger? I get it,” Dante said with a nod. “I don’t like it either,” Ebbs said. “You?” Enrique asked, turning to the ex-priest. “I would have thought—” “Occupational hazard,” Ebbs said. “Father Ebbs got his passenger right around when the rift opened, Dante said. “He’s an early adopter.” “No one had yet come to terms with…you know.” Ebbs brushed powdered sugar from his lips. “The whole ‘demons are coming to our world and are real’ thing. It was before anyone knew what was going on. It was an exorcism of one of the first. A little girl. I invited her in. My passenger, not the girl. She took the offer. Violastine. Viola. And, as a result, I got excommunicated from upstairs.”
1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
The book came to be while walking to the diner with my wife. We were talking about how some friends of ours met, and how so many people have strange meetup stories. We started talking about meeting people at literal meetings, and maybe finding someone at a support group isn’t the healthiest option. Then it just struck me that finding someone to date at a support group for possessed people would be a pretty big red flag. The whole concept grew from that image.
2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
Writing from a purely original concept, rather than the ghostwriting and IP writing I was used to, is a lot more fun. You’re allowed to derail your own train.
3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
How quickly it flowed. From concept to outline to draft to edit for submission was maybe two months. Mind you, this was in lockdown, so there wasn’t a lot else to do.
4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
Riftsiders is the PC word for what were commonly called demons. Unlawful Possession is a pun, working with what if possessed people were breaking the law. Each book in the series will have a twisted interpretation of a crime as the title. The second book is Riftsiders: Identity Theft. That has nothing to do with stolen credit cards, but you can start guessing.
5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
In the sequel, the character of Guidry the Technomancer, mentioned in the very ending of book one, is actually my son. He most definitely knows.
6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
Absolutely, and it was the driving force behind the character and plot design. It’s about the real world demonization of various minority groups, here literally represented as demons. Hopefully people begin to wonder why some people get treated as monsters just because they’re a bit different.
7. What is your favorite part of the book?
The strange love triangle of Enrique, Elle, and Key, the demon that possesses Elle.
8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Violastine. This is a horrible, disgusting demon inhabiting one of the protagonists, an ex-priest. I can’t go really deep into it without saying too much. Let’s just say demons don’t hold to human values or morals of what’s right or wrong, and I hope people question it in the case of this wretched creature.
9. What are your immediate future plans?
Keep the launch of book 1 active, get the edits on book 2 and work on that, and get chugging on book 3.
Paul A. DeStefano and his wife live on Long Island, NY, with a strange menagerie that includes a dog, a few cats, sugar gliders, a bearded dragon, and several grown children that have not left.
After graduating from Hofstra University with a split degree in English and Acting, he worked in the board gaming and roleplaying industry for decades, including officially licensed projects for Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. He did not win the Origins Award for Best Miniatures Rules in 2004 and has forgotten that bitter defeat. When not playing and working on games, he is sometimes found touring internationally, giving lectures on worldbuilding and character design.
Being a professional full-time blacksmith for several years made him realize how much less painful it was to go back to writing. He’s been lucky enough to hold the Top Humor Writer badge at Medium multiple times and has had his work narrated by James Cosmo (Lord Mormont from Game of Thrones) on multimillion-dollar Kickstarter projects.
It is also worth noting that having never taken any bassoon lessons, he still cannot play one.
His latest book is the urban fantasy/paranormal romance novel, RIFTSIDERS: UNLAWFUL POSSESSION.
Visit his website at www.PaulADeStefano.com or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram.