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St. Paul novelist is a finalist for Bram Stoker Award

Just another telemarketer, thought David Oppegaard, and the St. Paul novelist didn’t even bother to answer his phone. Only later did he discover that it had been his editor at St. Martin’s Press calling to let him know his first book, "The Suicide Collectors," was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award.

Oh, and employers take note: He also didn’t want to be interrupted at work; Oppegaard is a temporary receptionist at the University of Minnesota. Who claimed the writing life is one of glamour and fortune? Nonetheless, things are quickly looking up for the 29-year-old novelist, whose second book, "Wormwood, Nevada," will come out this fall.

Oppegaard didn’t set out to write a horror novel; it just reads that way. In "The Suicide Collectors," despair becomes a global epidemic, decimating the world population and inspiring a group of body snatchers to plunder the dead and traumatize the living.

"[It’s] a new type of plague, a plague of ennui, basically, and I think it’s an idea most people haven’t seen or thought about much before," says the writer. "As a side note, I didn’t actually think of 'The Suicide Collectors' as a horror novel while I worked on it. To me it’s just a novel that happens to cover horrific events."

In mid-June Oppegaard will find out if he scared off the competition, when the Horror Writers Association announces the winner. (Incidentally, the Bram Stoker award takes the form of a statue of a haunted house.) In the meantime, the writer sticks to a dedicated schedule of five pages or 1,200 words a day.

"I’ve been writing novels -- 'The Suicide Collectors' is my fifth, and first published novel -- since I was 15, and have become convinced writing is about 80 percent pure work and 20 percent talent," says Oppegaard, who listens to the Current online as he writes, and puts each manuscript through three full revisions before he sends anything to his agent.

For now, he’s also sticking with his day job, although someday he plans to give up that particular glory. "As soon as I can pay off this bounty on my head. Call off your dogs, student loan officer!"

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