Author Q&A: Freeing Linhurst II

Some quick questions for local author Al Cassidy, who just released “Freeing Linhurst II: Into The Tunnels,” a sequel to his first book “Freeing Linhurst.”

Coolest or most memorable reaction you’ve had from fans to Freeing Linhurst?

I was at a book signing when I saw a woman with a young boy walk up to the nearby information counter and ask a question. Suddenly she looked at me and said, “Oh my god, it’s you!” She learned about the book through a friend and brought her grandson to buy copies for him, her daughter…and herself. An instant fan. She’s been following the book ever since and is thrilled about the second edition. It shows that when you start to lose heart in the sea of other authors pushing their books, little moments like that help you plug away at your passion.

Since you began Freeing Linhurst as a graphic novel, any thoughts about making it into a short film or translate it into a more visual medium?

I’ve considered both ideas. I think it would make a great movie, a place like Linhurst—something that isn’t all gore and maligned ghost stories that overplay the realities of institutions like that. The truth behind places like these are much scarier and more maddening than one could imagine. The best (and simultaneously worst) part? The buildings at Pennhurst are still standing today and could serve as exterior shots for a really great film.

Why did you decide to write a second installment? Any changes in your writing approach? Is it harder to write the second installment or easier?

I keep asking myself, “Why did I pick such a historically sensitive and taboo topic for my first book?” It reminds me of when I began to play guitar when I was 15 years old. I learned on a clunky piece of junk that was decades old and had huge nylon strings I could barely hold down. My fingers were raw for months. A year after I first picked up the relic, I got a “real” guitar, and playing became 100% smoother overnight. I have found over and over again this same scenario to be true with so many challenges in my life. I now sometimes intentionally (sometimes coincidentally) seek out this type of experience. In the case of “Freeing Linhurst,” I think it was a mix of both.

Like that first guitar I was really challenged to learn the ropes, once I had a second guitar and my skills were refined, playing became more fluid. With the book, I had already done my homework to create the foundation of the story, I had the scenes and the characters. Once I created the basic outline and the sequence of events for the sequel, the words just flowed. “Into the Tunnels” was a far more natural and fluid writing experience. In fact, the words came so easily I was terrified it would be garbage, but it felt good.

Do you plan to write more books?

I’m already thinking of what’s next. I may come back to Linhurst again one day down the road, but for now I have a cloud of new ideas (not based in facts) raining down on me daily. I am excited to let the process of a new story happen naturally and have some ideas on how I will go about bringing it to paper (from sketching on giant sketch pads, to acting out scenes in my backyard like a crazy person, to writing in unique and unfamiliar places). I am looking to push the boundaries of my own creativity and am inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman. I’m a long way from their level, but everyone has to start somewhere—I’m just glad I started.

Order your copy of “Into the Tunnels” — and subscribe to Al’s mailing list — at freeinglinhurst.com

SNOOP EXCLUSIVE: Explore the creepy setting that inspired both books! Al Cassidy takes us on a photo tour of the abandoned Pennhurst State School and Hosptial. Click here for Al’s moody pics of crumbling, historic architecture and eerie hallways strewn with the discarded trappings of institutional life from another generation.

Al Cassidy has been interested in characters and stories from a very young age. Growing up, his father’s work in sales and marketing took the family of six all over the US—from Florida to California, Minnesota to Utah, and everywhere in between. Having to adapt to new places and relationships on the fly made him a talented observer, and he learned to quickly hone in on the defining characteristics that make each person, place, and situation unique. By age three, Cassidy was learning to draw animals, people and materials. This began a great enthusiasm for crafting characters based on observations gleaned throughout his travels and using them to tell stories. He pursued the arts through high school and college, graduating second in class from The Art Institute of Philadelphia then diving into the working world, merging his skills as an artist with communication in business. Like the characters in his childhood comics, Al Cassidy believes each person has a certain something that sets us apart, and that we all have something valuable to contribute to society. This belief was the drive behind the creation of the Freeing Linhurst series. Having witnessed firsthand the prejudice those with intellectual disabilities face, he observed the many conflicting lenses people view the crumbling remnants of institutions like Linhurst through and wanted to tell a tale that would give voice to those whose side of the story often goes untold.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.