“FURY” by Elizabeth Miles, August 2011, Simon Pulse, 370 pages, ages 14 and up, hardcover $17.99, ebook $9.99.
A blood-red orchid lies on freshly fallen snow, eerily beautiful. In the lull between storms, a biting wind whispers through the pines. Things are going awry in Ascension, Maine, where a teen suicide snowballs into an unstoppable force of revenge, as dark as the town’s frozen forest at dusk.
“Fury,” the first novel by Elizabeth Miles of Portland, is a spine-tingling tale that throws the reader into a flurry of fear and passion, alongside a group of doomed teens, residents of a fictional Maine town.
Published at the end of August, “Fury” has enjoyed excellent reviews by well-known fiction authors such as Lauren Kate and Nancy Holder, and CBS Films has scooped up the film rights to the action-packed story. “Stephen King-meets-Twilight in this new sexy series,” according to the book’s official website, thefuryseries.com.
“It may get turned into a movie, and I’m very hopeful it will,” said Miles in a recent interview at a Portland coffee shop. “In [Los Angeles] a few weeks ago, I met one of the producers, and they want to stay true to the story while amping up the scare factor.”
In “Fury,” Miles melds contemporary Maine with the most ruthless beings in Greek mythology — the Furies, three beautiful female entities called on to avenge the wronged. There is Tisiphone, avenger of murder, Megaera, the jealous, and Alecto, punisher of moral crimes.
“The Furies are so sinister,” said Miles, pulling her wavy brown hair up into a messy bun. “I wanted the book to have a truly evil message … the point is that they aren’t fair. They are the embodiment of real darkness.
“I’ve always loved fables and folklore, the stories that last through generations. Myth is so tragic and melodramatic, a fertile ground for the imagination to play in. I wanted hyperbolic characters, though the teens in ‘Fury’ ground it in reality.”
Miles, 28, grew up in Chappaqua, N.Y., and graduated from Boston University in 2004. Five years ago, she moved to downtown Portland to accept a reporting position at The Portland Phoenix, an alternative newsweekly where she still works full time. On nights and weekends, she switches to writing fiction. It started as an experiment encouraged by her childhood best friend, young adult fiction writer Lauren Oliver.
“It’s just so crazy,” said Miles of her instant success (and recently seeing an ad for her novel in People magazine). “When I see my book in bookstores, my jaw drops. I’m still such a nerd about it.”
If the novel is translated to film, it will have a stunning star cast, from willowy, dark-haired Emily and tall, lion-hearted JD, to Chase and Zach — the handsome football stars — and Ty, the mysterious new girl with fiery red locks.
The story is told in alternating perspectives of Emily (Em) and Chase.
Em has had a crush on Zach — her best friend’s boyfriend — for years, and she’s starting to catch hints that he feels the same way about her. But she doesn’t want to ruin her friendship with his girlfriend Gabby, the cheerful blonde who is an expert at stealing the spotlight.
On the other side of town, Chase lives in a trailer park with his single mother. His status at school is only due to his success on the football field and his friendship with Zach, the guy who seems to have everything but is actually scarred by the recent loss of his father. To top it off, Chase has a dark secret, a cruel mistake that he can’t take back.
“All of us feel that we are heroes and victims in our own tragic stories — especially in high school,” said Miles.
Clever dialogue and intense interactions — in particular the flirtatious dialogue between Em and Zach — keep readers on their toes, offering passionate excitement as a reprieve from the story’s darkness.
Miles, an actress in local theater, used her knowledge in character development onstage to create dynamic characters on paper.
Since the release of “Fury,” readers have been emailing Miles and leaving her messages on Facebook and Twitter about their love for the book, and often about their love for JD, Em’s disheveled and often overlooked next-door neighbor.
“All of this just goes to show how teenage readers have such an enormous pull on the market,” said Miles, who has visited schools in California and will visit schools in Toronto at the end of the month while on a book tour. Miles would love to visit every school in Maine, she said.
Typical teen drama morphs into a life-and-death situation when three stunning young women enter the equation and cast merciless judgment.
“I’m totally a scaredy-cat. I’m even still a little afraid of the dark,” said Miles, though she sits through a fair amount of horror films with her boyfriend. “Whenever I felt myself getting scared, I knew I was on the right track. I didn’t hold myself back when writing. I wrote the scariest thing I could think of.”
Miles’ family, in particular her father, take the credit for some of the novel’s terrifying scenes, which may have been influenced by Miles’ childhood memories of the Halloween “Scare Fest” that her family celebrated annually.
While writing, she envisioned a town like South Berwick, far enough south to travel easily to Portland but away from the coast, deep in the woods.
“There is nothing creepier than a Maine winter,” said Miles. “And there’s so much history in Maine. Everything is just so beautiful and raw. I feel like it’s just a natural breeding ground for spirits.”
The novel’s sequel, “Envy,” will be released in summer 2012. The third installment is titled “Eternity.” For information, visit thefuryseries.com. Follow Elizabeth Miles on her blog at elizabethmilesbooks.com.