Murder, she wrote

Local author JJ Philips sheds light on new novel

By Gary Spencer

Photo: JJ Philips, author of “Parental Bloodshed”; photo: Chet King of Hexfyre Photography

Horror fiction, be it in cinematic or literary form, has been a popular form of entertainment since it first saw the light of day. However, over the years horror has become more graphic, gruesome and frightening to the point where almost nothing is shocking these days. Despite this trend, a local author, who goes by the pen name JJ Philips, has just unleashed her debut novel entitled “Parental Bloodshed” that could very well drop the jaws of even the most hardened horror fiction reader, perhaps because the events that unfold within could be happening in the house right next to yours.

“I call this work ‘sociological horror fiction,’” Philips says. “Sociological simply states that there are no science fiction, paranormal or supernatural elements. It is ‘the nightmare next door’ and based completely in reality.”

In the age of so-called “reality” TV and people basically living on social media where they are confronted with one human atrocity after another, one can forgive Philips’ rather dry, desensitized, matter-of-fact description of her work. And that detached description becomes even more intriguing given the often graphic details of murder, cannibalism, fetishism and other depravities described in glorified yet decidedly removed detail within the pages of Parental Bloodshed. But perhaps all the violence and deviance that makes up the story of her novel is the same sort of cathartic therapy that is employed by those who create conceptually dark and disturbing visual art or music—a way to cope with and exorcise their own personal demons.

“We all have our own personal struggles and I am no different,” Philips explains. “‘Parental Bloodshed’ came into existence as a form of self-therapy. The first draft was created about eight years ago. As the years went by, it evolved and changed with me. Oddly, I have written other things here and there in my past but nothing that would even compare.”

“Parental Bloodshed” is the story of the Rentlaw family, a self-described family of radical feminist extremists who move to a small Midwestern town and proceed to wreak all kinds of unpredictable havoc and crimes upon neighbors and others that they encounter, all in a manner that again seems strangely acceptable to them.

Sarah, the child of the family, seems oblivious that the bizarre rites of her family members are a menace to the new Midwestern town they call home until a schoolmate begins to suspect strange things about what goes on in the Rentlaw household. It’s a bold premise, but maybe not too surprising when considering the inspirations for such a tale.

“The spark was completely musical—I was listening to Rob Zombie’s ‘House of 1000 Corpses,’ Philips explains. “I (also) find Stephen King inspirational and I love his ‘Book on Writing’. I feel that it gave me permission to write ‘Parental Bloodshed,’ in a way.”

While the work of Stephen King and other horror fiction writers has an indelible impact on JJ Philips’ own compositional style, there are other influences at play within the pages of “Parental Bloodshed” as well. Contemporary murder mystery fiction elements sneak within the plot here and there, as well as a very keen and vivid way of describing every discernable detail within a scene so that the reader can actually visualize how each moment appears as if they were stills from a movie. Furthermore, a good majority of the story is driven by the dialogue between the story’s characters, similar to the way that dialogue substantiates the core of Quentin Tarantino’s films “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” adding to the overall cinematic vibe of the novel.

“I’ve been told quite a few times that [‘Parental Bloodshed’] reads like a movie,” Philips says. “I did not start or finish the work with that intention, [although] I take that as a compliment.”

While the final draft of “Parental Bloodshed” was completed three years ago, the novel didn’t become a tangible object with hardback cover and print until March 2015 via Mitchell-Flemming Printing in Knightstown, Indiana. As Philips explains, the journey of an independent author getting published isn’t an easy endeavor—especially when you’re as particular as this author is about her work is to be presented to the public, and given the obviously rousing content within the pages.

“Independent and self-published writers, in most cases, bear the complete brunt of their works,” Philips says. “I fronted all costs associated with the work in its entirety. I have always been quite specific in regard to how it would be presented. The hardest thing in all of this was finding a printer that not only understood my vision, but was able to help me turn it into a reality.”

As for JJ Philips’ future, she has already begun work on a sequel to “Parental Bloodshed” that could be ready for publishing as soon as next year. The current book is readily available for purchase at Clash Consignments in the Oregon District or on the author’s website, However, just be aware that the content of her novel isn’t for the faint of heart.

“I have not gotten any hate mail or negative responses”, Philips says. “However, I have friends that I talked to quite frequently before they got my book. Let’s just say that I have not heard from them recently.”

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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