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Feature Author – Tan Van Huizen

Uncaged welcomes Tan Van Huizen

Welcome to Uncaged! Can you tell readers more about The Keepers that will be releasing May 19th?

The Keepers is a work of fiction born from this question: How have the events of a town’s dark past continued to have influence over people and places in the present? The King Philip’s War, 1675, was per capita the bloodiest war in America’s history, which saw the rise of one people and the demise of another. Native American tribes, feared as godless pagans by the early settlers, were annihilated. Many believe that the spirits of those who died in the swamps and surrounding territories have haunted the area for over 300 years. The Keepers is the story that followed.

What is the most difficult scenes for you to write? What is the easiest?

I think the most difficult scene to write is one involving female characters, specifically younger ones who are caught up in boyfriends, cliques, and being popular. Gag me with a spoon.

My favorite and perhaps easiest scene to write, probably because I enjoy it, are about deeply trouble characters facing moral dilemmas that test their strength, often times failing and the consequences thereafter. I enjoy diving into the base motivations of people and the scenes that ensue.

Do you have a favorite character you’ve written? Has there been a character that’s been hard to write about?

Like being asked who your favorite child is? But seriously, I think my favorite character in The Keepers is Chief of Police, Elias Hicks. He is motivated by a biblical sense of purpose, and by the oath he and The Keepers swore: to appease the warring spirits in the realm of the dead and to protect God’s faithful. He believes God is watching and testing his resolve to keep the faith, but his modus operandi would be considered by most readers, pure evil.

The hardest character to write about is when a dog or pet of some kind is suffering. I don’t really have any taboo subjects that I wouldn’t write about, if the subject matter was not gratuitous and it is essential to the story, but if I did have a rule, it would be not to injure or neglect an animal. It’s hard to write a scene where a family pet or animal of any kind is suffering.

How do you come up with the title to your books?

Organically, is the answer I think, and not until the book is nearing finish or finished does a title pop in my head. It kind of just appears. Because I generally have no idea where the story is going, if I did think of a title at the beginning, it would change perhaps a hundred times by the end. No kidding.

Read the rest of the interview in the issue below

Chris Burns writes under his pen name, Tan Van Huizen. Van Huizen is a phonetic variation of the name “Van Husum” his 8th times great-grandfather’s name. Van Husum was a sailor for the Dutch West India Co., and the first of Tan’s maternal line to arrive in America, 1639. When Tan’s not writing, he enjoys researching family history, hiking, travel, driving “The Beast” his souped-up F-150 truck, and hanging out with his best friend and wife, Ann Stewart Burns. He and Ann live in Southeastern Massachusetts.

The Keepers
Tan Van Huizen

Everyone in Titicut Township knew Carl Jenkins suffered from paranoid delusions, but what truly haunted him was far darker in nature. Whatever the small-town talk, only Carl and the shadow force of keepers (headed by Chief of Police, Elias Hicks) knew the truth. There is evil in the swamp-the place where spirits dwell.

When outsider and city reporter, Don Williams, arrives to investigate a 1973 cold case involving Carl Jenkins and the disappearance of three men, Hicks knew time was running out. The secret order he swore to protect was under threat of exposure. As chief of police and head of The Keepers, his charge was two-fold: appease the warring spirits in the realm of the dead and protect the faithful against God’s adversary.

Hicks ordered Titicut locked down and called a meeting beneath the old meeting house, but something went wrong. It was the first time in the order’s dark history a member would violate their oath of secrecy placing all within the township at risk. What only Hicks and the order knew is there were some secrets so grave, that if ever unearthed, not even God himself could save them.



Carl Jenkins woke before the alarm and stared listlessly at the ceiling. But for his eyes flitting along the exposed attic beams and drifting toward the gables, he remained lifeless as a corpse. It was a rarity on such nights, especially after heavy drinking, he would even stir in bed, and usually found himself comatose straight through the alarm; but tonight, he knew why he woke so early as his eyes settled on the rafters. They were here and there was no escape.

The once-terrifying, dark shadows, the ones that came for him at night, were no longer feared as they once were. The long nights of hauntings and the foreshadowing of evils yet to come, were over. It was here, and it was now. There would be no escaping or hiding or negotiating. And even if there was a way out, Carl Jenkins no longer cared. He wanted it all to end.

Like the sun rising in the east, or the force of gravity, or the immutable truth that all that lives must surely die, there were certain unbreakable scientific laws that governed the planet. There were also rogue laws that governed the underworld. As dark and incomprehensible as these laws may be, they exist and have always existed. They have cast their long shadow of condemnation since the beginning of time and have wielded enormous influence over mankind. And although not fully understood, the laws of demonic possession have been practiced over the millennia and were as sound today as Newton’s laws themselves: when the realm of darkness stakes a claim of ownership on a poor soul, a thousand holy men the world over are powerless to stop it.

There are no miracles. There is no salvation. There are only immutable truths governing the realm of the living and the realm of the dead and the cheating of such truths are an impossibility. In the end, all that remains are unpaid debts and prayer offerings for the departed.    Carl lifted slowly and sat on the edge of the bed. His breathing was slow and deep, almost unconscious. As he looked blankly at the floor, a sense of amenable nonresistance took hold, melding with the thick cloud of despondency hanging over him. He lifted his head and peered through the blackening window. The moon’s light which had watched him to bed had been swallowed in a pit of darkness. As the creature’s enormous shadow came to settle over the house, he sat there quiet a moment in the heavy pitch and weighed his final thoughts.


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