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Author James Carlson continues his guest interview series with author Michael R. Collins. We welcome them both to the Rusty Chair.
Did you miss an installment? Check the Archive page!
Meet Michael R. Collins
Michael R. Collins is one of those authors whose work truly surprises you with its quality and impact. I had the pleasure of hanging out with Michael during the PA Horror Sideshow Market back in October. Not only did I find him highly likable, but I also got a copy of his latest short story collection SOME SCARY STORIES. An appropriate title, let me tell you. I started reading that book the next day, and I couldn’t put it down. There is such insight and horror, emotion and wit, characters with depth and settings that readers can easily picture. His horror isn’t overly extreme, as he fills his stories with both substance and thrills. In reading them, you likely find yourself both engrossed and disturbed.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Collins. This is what we discussed…
To begin, how about an introduction to Michael R. Collins?
I was born, without first being consulted about it, and spent my youth in Southern Idaho. I spent a good chunk of my adulthood there as well. For the most part, I’m just your typical pagan, bisexual, bass playing, working stiff. I also co-host a podcast called the Bi+ Podcast.
I always loved to write and it wasn’t until I was living in Austin, Texas that I finally got serious about it. My first book, NIGHT SHALL OVERTAKE, was published with Black Bed Sheet Books. Now I’m living in PA, having published three novels (one on the way), scores of short stories, and a few alibis just in case. Most of my stuff tends towards the dark and creepy. But lately, I’ve been trying my hand at other genres.
Your stories often explore the infernal, the paranormal, and the fantastical. Do you have a specific area of the genre you prefer?
I’m generally a big slut for creepy. I love being creeped out more than shocked or outright scared. Paranormal tends to be my favorite for that reason. Give me a good ghost story and I’m happier than a werewolf dating a dog groomer. Not only is there so much that can be done with the paranormal, in terms of story, you can almost invent your own set of physics. Playing around with subtleties is another favorite of mine, with creepy and the paranormal you can really set moods and textures that help build up the narrative into something immersive to the reader.
The infernal is also fun just because I find the devil and hell such great metaphors to play around with. There is so much that has been placed on the devil’s back of our own hypocrisies and insecurities that I tend to go through spurts where a good infernal tale hits the spot.
Can you tell us about your most recent release and what it’s about?
My most recent one is a collection of some scary stories called SOME SCARY STORIES. It has a little bit for everybody: ghosts, devils, homicidal maniacs, eldritch gods, and feral ghost kids. Even a little sci-fi horror as a treat. It’s my first short story collection and I’m pretty happy with the reception it’s had. It’s a good mix of previously published material and new stuff. My favorite is “Rocks in the River,” inspired by a song from the band The Well. A little Early American colonial horror…because why not?
Of your books, do you have a favorite? And why?
The favorites question. This is always a tough one.
It’s hard to say which my favorite is. NIGHT SHALL OVERTAKE will always hold a special place in my heart because it is my first and it was the reason that my wife and I met. She read it, we started talking, and poof, she is now legal bound to deal with my weird ass. We had a ceremony and everything.
IN SHADOWS OF THE WICKED is also special to me because it took over a decade to write and I feel like this book and I went on quite a journey together before I finally finished it. Started in another time and place, it was always the one project I worked on when I thought I had given up writing. It’s also the most Clive Barkeresque of my works, of whom I take a lot of inspiration from as a writer.
How important is it to you to embrace diversity and use inclusive language in your stories?
Most of western literature has been penned by white guys, and usually straight. We live in a time where other voices are getting more exposure and space to be, and I’m definitely here for it. But as a white guy, I feel it’s important to not make the people in my story just the same as me. The world is way more interesting and colorful than that. Including diversity is something that can not only enhance your stories, but widen audiences, and touch more people (or scare them…depends on what you’re shooting for).
It’s not always easy, though, and writing diversity can be challenging. It’s one thing to be inclusive in a story, it’s another to do it right. It can take some research and good beta readers. And sometimes it takes a little self-reflection on how we see others different from ourselves. But because I have had so many diverse people in my life, some of which have been so important to me, I feel it would be negligent if I didn’t have some sort of proper representation in my work.
And it’s important to think a little outside of the box in terms of representation of diversity. Diversity is not just POC and queer folks. Disabilities, neurodivergance, mental health issues, different cultures; people live within more than just your standard ready-to-go characters. Of course this begs the inevitable question of how far out of your wheelhouse you should go and that answer comes from the community of folks you are writing about. And with social media now, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone who won’t mind giving it a read and helping out.
I really enjoy interviewing other authors that live in Pennsylvania. This state is a special place to me, and most of my stories take place here. Has Pennsylvania or the other states where you’ve lived had a major impact on your writing endeavors?
My home state of Idaho has had a big impact on me. A lot of my stuff has either been set there or makes a quick trip through it. Southern Idaho is mostly sagebrush and rattlesnakes, the landscape dotted with ancient black lava bubbles. I think that stark sort of beauty has flavored the way I approach writing in finding the complexity of simple things and vice versa.
My time in Austin helped me realize that if I want to do something, then I need to get off my can and do it. PA is such a fertile place for location and texture; the more I get to know it, the deeper I can dig into it.
You have released books on your own and through traditional publishers. What would you say are the pros and cons to each?
Self-pub is a lot of work, but it’s also more control of your vision. This is a pro and a con. Everything is up to you; editing, formatting, the cover, etc. Even the promotion. But, it allows you to shape it how you want and not wait around for a publisher. I feel that people are more critical of self-pubs based on the fact that anyone can do it, so you really need to be more critical of the final product before you hit the publish button.
Traditional publishing takes some of that out of your hands, but as I’ve only had experience with small publishers, it’s not that different. You still need to have strong editing in what you submit, and promotion will always need your participation. But it’s been through publishers that I have met a slew of amazing authors who have enhanced my writing and created some great friendships.
Having done both, I think I’m to a point that it depends on the project I’m working on. I’ve have some success with my story collection through self pub, where my novels seem to fare better through trad pub.
How do you personally measure success as an author?
I’ve tried to convince myself that the worse my imposter syndrome gets, the more success I’ve obtained. Hasn’t worked so far.
I don’t use the money as much of a measure because in this oversaturated market, it is not realistic. At least for me, at this point in my writing career. I do judge my success on sales though, but mostly as books are in someone’s hands. This is my art. I want people to experience my art. If a title has steady sales, even if it only one or two sold through the week but at a steady pace, that means people are interested and reading.
Another measure is talking with people who genuinely enjoy my work. I’m not writing text books here, I want a person to read it and enjoy it. It’s always a surprise and pleasure when someone tells me they liked a story and I can tell they mean it. Something that crawled around in my head has crawled in their head, and that’s what I want. On the flipside, I also mark success when someone reads it and said it disturbed them because, you know, horror.
Who are some of your favorite authors, indie and mainstream, past and present?
In the mainstream, I have to say that Clive Barker is right up there. He has a style with the grotesque and absurd that is oddly enticing and almost beautiful in its degradation. Neil Gaiman is another along the same lines, though less degradation and more dark whimsy. Kurt Vonnegut has to be on the list, as well as Poppy Z. Brite, for sentimental reasons. Then sometimes I go off on tangents of Victorian horror and mystery with Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker, and even G.K. Chesteron.
There are a lot of indie authors I dig, and I’m probably not going to remember a lot of them for this interview unfortunately. Jason Gehlert, who has a hell of a great catalog so far. Nick White is another fav. His SLY LAKE GANG is a fun read. G.S. Wright’s books are seriously underrated in my opinion. And, of course, James Carlson.
I have to add A.M. Leibowitz too, if for no other reason than their stuff is usually outside what I normally read, but get sucked in nonetheless.
What’s next for Michael R. Collins?
I currently have an upcoming novella, VERUM MALUM, being published by Terror Tract. It’s another infernal story with devils, metalhead Satanists, and the things we do for love. The classic tale of boy meets boy, boy meets other boy’s satanic past, boy goes to hell. I also just had a short story published in the Halloween anthology, HELL-O-WEEN. Other than that, I have the never-ending war against the ever-growing pile of WIPs and half-finished projects that I’ll complete someday (maybe).
Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it here. The floor is all yours.
Nope. I’m spent.
Meet Paul Tremblay
With his work in recent years, author Paul Tremblay has established himself as one of the current masters of the genre. This is in no small part owed to the favorable reception of books like A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World. In both, he proves himself a writer who knows how to draw upon very real human fears, introducing us to interesting characters, and then skillfully guiding us through the intense particulars of their stories. The same can be said for his 2020 novel, Survivor Song, which details the spread of an aggressive virus as it turns the quarantined state of Massachusetts upside-down. A book he wrote prior to the Covid outbreak and subsequent pandemic, but now seems oddly appropriate for the time. Eerily so, in fact.
As a fan of Tremblay’s work, I was delighted when he agreed to an interview. So, without further ado, this is what he and I discussed…
You’re an author that needs no introduction, as you’ve had a rather successful career thus far. But what are some things that you might share about yourself, things fans may not know?
I kind of give up all my secrets in next summer’s novel, The Pallbearers Club. But for now let’s say this: I’m a big sports fan and listen to way too much sports talk radio; I don’t like coffee; my fingers are freakily flexible; I’ve never watched Titanic.
If my information is correct, you have a master’s degree in mathematics. I must know, how does a man of numbers become a man of words?
I’m note quite sure, to be honest. My two years in graduate school, struggling to earn my master’s degree, coincided with my falling in love with reading.
When I got my first (and current) teaching job, I also had a weird itch to try writing a story. I was also teaching myself how to play guitar. There was clearly a want for some sort of creative outlet. After a few years, I figured out I was a better writer than a musician, and I began putting more of my energies into writing.
Writing is so obviously different—but also, more similar than one might think—than mathematics, or teaching math. At the higher levels of math there’s quite a bit of creative problem solving involved, which I think has helped me in novel plotting or planning, or in my analytical (or I like to pretend it’s analytical) approach to writing.
Your most recent release is No Sleep till Wonderland, the follow-up to The Little Sleep. Can you tell us a little about this book? And do you plan to write more in this series?
Both novels you mentioned were previously published and now reissued with my current publisher. The Little Sleep was originally published in 2009 and No Sleep Till Wonderland in 2010. For a variety of reasons beyond my control (I swear!), including Amazon pulling the book, along with all MacMillan titles from their site for my release week, hardly anyone read NSTW.
Both Sleep novels feature narcoleptic private detective Mark Genevich. Whereas the first novel focuses on the mystery of Mark (as his waking life is often intruded upon by sleep and hallucinations) and his past, No Sleep Till Wonderland focuses on his present and day-to-day life. The novel opens with him making an unexpected friend in group therapy. Of course, that friendship leads him down a rabbit hole into another case.
There are no current plans to write a third. Prior to signing my first book deal in 2007, I hadn’t planned on writing another Genevich story beyond The Little Sleep, but Henry Holt wanted a second. They did not want a third. I don’t really want a third either, but never say never.
To date, what are some of the highlights of your writing career, some of the important moments that will stay with you forever?
I’ve been lucky to have more than a few moments. In chronological order…
Getting a phone call from my agent Stephen for the sale of my first novel The Little Sleep to Henry Holt.
Eight years later, getting a text from Stephen that William Morrow made an offer on A Head Full of Ghosts. I learned I was getting a second chance with a big publisher during halftime of a JV basketball game I was coaching. We won.
Stephen King tweeting on August 19, 2015 that A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of him. I cried.
My son being assigned AHFoG for his AP Creative Writing Class and the discussion that he and I got to have about the book.
Having read some of your work, you strike me as more of a plotter than a pantser. Is that correct, or am I way off? What does your writing process entail?
I do both but I shade more toward the plotting side of things, particularly when it comes to novels. Typically, I jot down loose story and character bits in a notebook and then write 5-10 page plot summaries for my novels before I start the first page. It varies. I didn’t write a summary for AHFoG and the one I wrote for Survivor Song was only 3 pages, and I’d only summarized the first 120 or so pages. But for other books, like Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and the forthcoming The Pallbearers Club, I wrote ten pagers.
Short stories I don’t summarize first. I start with an end in mind and dive right in.
I aim for 300-500 words a day, writing-wise, and I edit as I go. I know, I’m a monster.
So far, I’ve read Cabin at the End of the World and only recently started A Head Full of Ghosts. Love the writing style and storytelling. As far as the former, what inspired that tale? I mean, the suspense was such that I had to resist the urge to flip to the end to see what happened to the family.
The story started with a random doodle in one of my notebooks. I was on a flight back home from LA fresh off having had my editor reject a novel proposal. Fishing for ideas, I noticed I’d drawn a cabin (really, a rectangle with a triangle on top). I instantly thought of the home invasion subgenre, one that is my least favorite. Then I thought, “Okay, smart guy, how would you write a home invasion story, then?”
My prior two novels employed ambiguous supernatural elements and families in distress, so I thought one more riff on that would make a nice three book arc. Really, it all hinged on that first chapter, which early on, I could see so clearly in my head, and went from there.
What’s next for Paul Tremblay?
At the answering of these questions, I await the copyedits for my next novel The Pallbearers Club, which will be published July 5, 2022. This book is a departure from the two most recent novels (Cabin and Survivor Song). Less thrillery and more introspective. I think the book is more like The Little Sleep mixed with A Head Full of Ghosts. So, some first-person fun (hopefully, fun). The book is presented as a memoir by someone who calls himself Art Barbara. In the late-80s he was a high school loser and started The Pallbearers Club (volunteering at funeral homes to serve people without any or many living relatives attending) because he was desperate to have an extracurricular activity. A strange, punk, slightly (maybe) older woman joins the club and becomes a looming figure throughout his life. She even comments on his memoir at the end of chapters and within the margins.
I’m also working on a novella now for a short story collection that is due to my publisher in May of 2022.
Since it’s October, the season of all things dark and scary, what are some of your favorite horror movies, books, music, etc?
Movies: Lake Mungo, Ravenous (1999), The Thing, Saint Maud, Take Shelter, Us, Housebound, Evil Dead II, It Follows.
Books: Come Closer by Sara Gran, House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez, and then anything from Victor LaValle, John Langan, Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson, Kelly Link, Nathan Ballingrud, Nadia Bulkin.
Music: ‘80s punk. But for scary music, the hip hop group clipping. has two records inspired by horror films, There Existed an Addiction to Blood and Visions of Bodies Being Burned.
Any advice for the new authors out there trying to make their marks in their chosen genres?
Read, read, read (widely, in and outside of your favored genre), and write, write, write, is the only advice worth anything. Otherwise, I think persistence and patience are the best attributes for a writer. Be persistent enough to keep moving forward as the rejections pile up; be patient enough to not expect overnight improvement and/or success. Writing is a long game. Or a long con!
Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it now. The floor is all yours.
Please support your libraries and indie bookstore. They are vital to community health. A special mention to Copper Dog Books in Beverly, MA. The store not only delivered books to my mother (who lives by herself) at the start of the pandemic, but the owner, Meg, offered to deliver groceries too.
Meet J. Hood
Meet J. Hood
Author of "My Friend Nick"
Hello and welcome to Uncomfortably Dark’s Rusty Chair interview! It’s a pleasure to have you with us today, first tell us a little about who J. Hood is.
My name is Joseph Hood. I was born in Goa, India, but raised in the United States. I am a part time editor, and stay at home dad, as well as an indie author. I have been writing almost my entire life, probably since I was 12 or 13 years old, and began playing music around the same time. Other than writing, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, playing guitar, spending time outside, watching movies, and playing video games.
Awesome, so great to have you with us today. At what point did you decide to begin writing professionally?
I have always wanted to write and publish a book. But I have thought about writing as a career since I was a teenager. During that time I would write scripts and stories with one of my friends. We did not always finish them. But they were always fun projects.
Being an author was my life-long dream as well. So what is it that most inspires you to write? And which author most influences your work or do you most admire, alive or dead?
I am mostly inspired by things I have experienced. But I am also inspired to write by things I hear about, read on the news, read about in books, or see in movies. Sometimes it is all those things rolled into one!
Inspiration does come from all sides, especially having a creative mind. Have you always been a horror fan? What was the first horror novel you remember reading and who are some of your favorite horror authors?
I was actually quite scared of anything creepy when I was little. But I slowly developed a taste for horror. My mom, strangely, got me into horror. We watched cable edited versions of ALIENS and PREDATOR when I was nine or ten. And eventually I saw JAWS, which are all still hugely influential to me.
R.L. STINE was very big when I was little. But I was too afraid to read most of his books. I do remember reading the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collection, however, and loved the artwork. I did not read a lot of horror until many years later when I began reading Steven King, which was sometime in my early 20's. The first book I read of his was The Shining, and have continued to read him ever since. My favorite King books are Cujo and Misery. I am also a fan of The Drawing of the Three, and hope to finish the Dark Tower Series eventually.
All great books to start out with. My first King was “The Stand” and it’s stayed with me throughout the years. So, tell us about your first book, My Friend Nick. I know it came out in October of 2019. What was that process like for you? Where did you get the concept for it?
I first got the idea for My Friend Nick back in 2016 after watching several movies about small towns, such as Children of the Corn, The Good Son, and even JAWS. I wanted to recreate that same kind of horror, though it took many drafts before I came up with a solid concept for the story. I worked on the book for two years while I was in school, and then started a third draft after I finished school. The third draft was written in about six months. And then I rewrote a refined version in about three months that was sent to my editor. She worked on it for a few months and then it was published in late October 2019.
Labor of love for sure, as many novels are for their authors. So, did you already have the idea for your second book, The Bride of Warren? This was released in October of 2020. Tell us a little about where that idea came from and if you did anything differently this time around, having been through the experience once before.
I did not get the idea for The Bride of Warren until some time in 2020. I believe it was around summer time and I was thinking about other stories I could tell in the same universe as My Friend Nick. Both books take place in the fictional state of Bonneville. The idea was somewhat inspired by some artwork I saw from an old horror movie. I don't think the movie did very well but I liked the design of the character. The book itself is inspired by some of my favorite “hostage stories” and incorporates themes that were inspired by personal experiences.
Interesting. I’ll be reading that one when I finish “My Friend Nick.” So, I understand you are working on a third book, Dead Around Midnight? Is this one connected to either of the other two or is this a stand-alone? What can readers expect from this third book?
Dead Around Midnight is (ambitiously) a sequel, a stand-alone, and a sort of spin off of “My Friend Nick.” The story in Dead Around Midnight picks up ten years after MFN but will focus, mostly, on a new cast of characters, and take place primarily in Bonneville City.
Dead Around Midnight is a Neo-noir thriller with horror elements and will feature themes of loneliness, isolationism, friendship, and loss. The book will be released Q2 of 2022. And future updates will be posted on my Instagram page.
So what’s next for J. Hood, after the third book? Is there a collection in the works or any anthology submissions? What is the next big thing for readers to look out for?
After book number three, which is the third book in my Bonneville Book Series, I plan on starting another series. My next series will be entirely different, but will still contain some horror elements. It is a post apocalyptic science fiction story that will span multiple books. And will, again, be entirely different from what I am working on now, or have been working on the past two years.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind, as an author and person of color? What advice would you give to the next generation of authors?
As an author I would like to leave behind a legacy of creating fantastic, although frequently flawed, characters. As well as introducing complex philosophical and anthropological themes into my writing. As a person of color, and an author, I would like to leave behind a legacy of being inclusive, and maintaining relationships with a diverse array of authors. Including other BIPOC authors, LGBTQ+ authors, and other under-represented groups and individuals.
It’s been so great having you here. I truly love to meet new authors. I am reading both of your books now and will have some reviews that will follow this interview in the coming weeks, but first, tell the readers how to find you.
Find me at jhood.author@instagram
Awesome! Thank you so much for joining us. Readers, click the link below to buy "My Friend Nick" on Amazon!
Meet Richard Chizmar!
Richard Chizmar is a fine example of aspiration realized. A wheel that started rolling and kept gaining momentum until it was unstoppable. These days, you would be hard-pressed to encounter someone in the genre, whether a fan or someone in the industry, that isn’t familiar with his name. He has won awards for his publishing efforts and received nominations and high praise for his stories. He has taken on screenwriting projects for major studios. He has collaborated with one of the best known and most admired names in horror, Stephen King himself. And his latest novel, an imaginative and chilling work of metafiction, has gotten a big stamp of approval from a great many readers.
Uncomfortably Dark recently invited Chizmar to be part of our Halloween special, and to chat with us about his new novel and upcoming projects. This is what he had to say…
Let’s begin by discussing your latest release, CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN. Can you tell us a little about this book and what inspired it?
I have long wanted to write a novel set in my hometown of Edgewood, Maryland. I always assumed it would be a big fat coming of age horror novel—in the vein of IT or SUMMER OF NIGHT—but that’s not how it worked out. I just couldn’t shake the idea of a small suburban town being held hostage by a monster of the human variety. A town on the verge of losing its innocence and never being able to gain it back. In the summer of 1988, after graduating from college, I was engaged and my fiancé and I decided it would be wise to save money until the wedding. Which meant not paying rent. So I moved back in with my parents for a period of nine months to work on the first issue of Cemetery Dance and write a bunch of new short stories. It was a strange and wonderful time. There I was standing on the threshold of full-fledged adulthood, yet I was living in the house I’d grown up in and eating dinner with my mother and father most nights. My writing desk overlooked the side yard where my friends and I had played when we were kids. Everywhere I turned, I was surrounded by ghosts of the past. It was an interesting period in my life, very fertile creatively, and it felt like the perfect setting for a novel about innocence and terror.
In the writing industry, you seem to do it all—writing, editing, publishing, etc. If I’m not mistaken, you started Cemetery Dance right out of college, and you’ve been writing just as long. First, how do you juggle it all? And second, do you enjoy all these things equally, or do you have a favorite?
I started working on the magazine when I was a senior at the University of Maryland. At that time, mid-1988, I’d been submitting short stories for publication for about nine months. It was a lot easier in the early years—no mortgage, no children to raise, no other real responsibilities. That, of course, changed over time. The publishing company has always been a whole lot of work—long hours spent performing a wide variety of work. Even now, for me, each day is different. And the workload still varies, as do the challenges. But that helps keep it fresh even after more than thirty years in the business. As for my favorite tasks: writing has always clocked in at #1, followed by publishing and then editing. A day spent reading and writing is a good day.
I’m a big fan of the Gwendy series. It’s one of those stories you can tell the authors were fully committed to, had a special relationship with, believed in. How did that project come about? And what was the collaborative process like?
Steve and I were emailing back and forth one afternoon and the subject of collaborations came up. Before I knew it he mentioned that he had a story that he’d been unable to finish. The next morning “Gwendy’s Button Box” showed up via email and off we went. The collaborative process was relatively simple. I picked up where he had left off, added about 10,000 words, and sent it back to Steve. He continued where I’d stopped and blasted it back to me. We had complete freedom to rewrite each other and as to where the story went. We essentially played a game of ping-pong with the manuscript until we were finished. Took us about a month.
What are your thoughts on the horror writing community now compared to how it was when you first started out?
I’m pretty much a recluse—and always have been—so I’m probably the wrong person to ask! What I can tell you is that thanks to modern technology and social media the genre is probably more close-knit than ever. I imagine that is both a positive and a negative, depending on whom you talk to. As for me, social media and emailing/texting has allowed me to become friends with and stay in regular contact with a wonderful and talented group of writers, readers, publishers, and artists. All without leaving the comfort of my own home. I’m very grateful for that.
What does your writing process entail?
When I’m working on a new book or story I tend to become fully absorbed with the story. My family and friends know when I’m deep into a new project because they have to ask me the same thing a half-dozen times in order to get an answer. I walk around for days or weeks on end with my head up in the clouds. Fortunately, I’m a pretty quick writer and eventually I reemerge into the world with a dazed look of “hey, what did I miss?” As for the nuts and bolts of my process, I can pretty much write any time of day and anywhere. Most things don’t distract me—the television on, background conversation, etc.—although I can’t write to music. I’ve tried but if the music is good, I tend to get lost in the “story of the song.”
What are some of the highlights of your career so far, some of the moments you’ll always remember?
Writing and publishing a novella called Widow’s Point with my oldest son, Billy. And then seeing the story turned into a feature film and visiting the set with my son. Nothing tops that! Close behind that are collaborating with my literary hero and good friend, Stephen King. Publishing a 25th anniversary limited edition of IT. I’ve been very blessed in my life and career.
What work of fiction has had the biggest impact on you? And why?
IT by Stephen King was published at precisely the right time for me. I had just stopped playing college lacrosse due to a serious injury, and I was lost and depressed and looking for some sort of direction. When I started reading IT, all of that went away. For two weeks, I was not limping around campus on crutches or locked inside my college apartment. Instead, I was in Derry, Maine, with the Losers Club, and everything felt like a dream. It was truly as if another door had been opened for me, and by the time I turned the last page of the novel, I had rediscovered my focus in life.
A couple of weeks later, I was writing for the college newspaper. The following semester, I was writing my own short stories and submitting them to small press magazines. The year after that, I started my own horror magazine, Cemetery Dance. I’ve never looked back, and Stephen King and IT are the primary reasons for that.
Because Halloween is right around the corner, I have to ask: What are some of your favorite horror movies and books?
Favorite movies include the original John Carpenter Halloween, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Session 9, The Descent, and about a thousand others. I’ve loved scary movies ever since I was a kid running home on Saturday afternoons to watch Creature Double Feature on television in my basement.
My top three books (at the moment) are IT by Stephen King, Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon, and Summer of Night by Dan Simmons.
What do you think it is about horror that appeals to people so much?
It’s an escape from everyday life and a safe thrill. Much like getting on a rollercoaster, it frightens and titillates you, but you know you’ll be okay when the journey is over.
What’s next for Richard Chizmar?
I’m about to start work on a new novel, which I’m too superstitious to say much about. In February of next year, GWENDY’S FINAL TASK, the third book in the Gwendy Trilogy, will be published in hardcover. As with the first book, I co-wrote this one with Stephen King and had a terrific time doing it. Hopefully, after that, there will be a new novel release, as well as a collection of novellas and maybe a film or two.
Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it now. The floor is all yours.
All good on my end! Maybe just send out the word that I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and really enjoy interacting with readers. Thanks!
Meet Eric LaRocca
We live in a time when people delight in taking to the internet to boldly express their opinions about art. In this endeavor, many tend to say things like, “I just read so-and-so’s new release, and it was just meh.” Then they proceed to explain, at length, why they made such a statement. Well, of all the ways readers regard the work of author Eric LaRocca, it’s seldom with indifference. To date, over a thousand people have weighed in on his latest novella, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. For every critical comment that borders on the negative, several claim the book to be a great offering from a talented author. This, I think, has only served to increase its controversial status and make it more popular.
Whether a person enjoys LaRocca’s brand of horror or not, that individual will undoubtedly find it hard to deny the impressive nature of his prose. Or his knack for storytelling, for that matter. Sure, he doesn’t shy away from the gross-out, but neither does he have a problem with disturbing our minds with psychological horror and dark insights about human nature. As such, this is an author who knows how to make his mark in the genre.
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric. What follows is the content of that interview in its entirety.
For those who aren’t yet familiar with you and your work, how about an introduction to Eric LaRocca?
For those who aren’t familiar with my work, I would recommend they check out my latest novella release, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. It’s become a controversial book among readers; however, I think it speaks to my sensibilities as a horror writer.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke has gotten a lot of attention in recent months. Would you mind telling us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Yes, the reaction to that book has been incredible. Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is set in the early 2000s and chronicles the relationship between two young women after they meet on an LGBTQ+ chat forum. Their relationship devolves into a "Master/Slave'' dynamic, and things begin to deteriorate at a rapid pace. I often struggle to describe the plot of the novella because it's such a short piece and I would like readers to go into the book with zero expectations.
I suppose my anxiety and my fear of navigating the internet really inspired the novella. I’ve always been frightened of coming upon something online that I wasn’t supposed to see. After all, the internet is a vast and unexplored territory. Moreover, the internet and social media are virulent and toxic spaces, and I usually try to fill my time with more meaningful activities than simply just scrolling on social media feeds.
A few months after the release of your novella, you followed it up with a collection of short stories, The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales. I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, but readers seem to be enjoying it. How did this project come about?
The project came about very organically. I had been writing a series of short stories over the course of two years and then Off Limits Press put out a call for submissions for short story collections. I looked over my catalog of finished, unpublished work and I decided to compile them as a collection and submit them to Samantha Kolesnik at Off Limits. The rest is history!
Authors tend to scour their minds and plunge the depths of their hearts and souls for the sake of penning authentic and affecting tales. While this can be therapeutic, it can be equally destructive. Has this been your experience? And how do you deal with it?
I agree that this can be destructive; however, writing, for me, has always been deeply therapeutic. I’ve always found myself centered and comforted when I begin writing any project. That said, there are, of course, moments when I find myself picking at a scab that I know full well I should probably leave alone to heal properly. But I know I owe it to readers to be as vulnerable and as exposed as possible.
Two-part question: What scares you in real life? And what scares you in fiction?
Abandonment frightens me in real life. I’m often fearful of being left behind or, even worse, surviving when everyone I love has perished. I’m also especially terrified of entropy and decay. I’m so uncomfortable in hospitals usually because, to me, they are fortresses of rot. I had to have my gallbladder removed in an emergency operation earlier this year and it was such a frightening experience. 0/10 I do not recommend.
I suppose what scares me most in fiction is when I know full well that the author doesn’t care about me as a reader. I admire that, of course, but it’s so unsettling to know that the author is fearlessly crafting this tale without paying mind to the reader’s wants and needs. I truly admire authors who are capable of this.
The horror community finally seems to be expanding beyond the perspective of straight, white, middle-aged men and becoming an increasingly diverse scene. Do you think the genre embraced these changes, or is there still a lot of progress to be made?
I think you’re right. I think the horror community has evolved considerably. However, I still think there’s a ton of progress to be made regarding stories from POC creators and trans creators. Moreover, there’s much work to be done about how the public receives transgressive work from marginalized communities. So many people are quick to renounce or slander a project because it doesn’t align with their myopic view of a certain community or how an entire community should be represented. I’ve seen this first-hand with Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, and it truly saddens me.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Clive Barker is one of my main literary idols. I think he’s influenced my writing the most out of all the authors I’ve read. I’m also mesmerized by the work of other literary giants such as Kathe Koja, JG Ballard, and Roald Dahl. I find myself especially inspired by contemporary voices in LGBTQ+ horror fiction like Hailey Piper, David Demchuk, and Joanna Koch.
What’s next for Eric LaRocca?
I have a book being released with Stygian Sky Media in late 2021/early 2022. The book is titled I Wait for You in the Dark and collects two novellas: Starving Ghosts in Every Thread and a new, unpublished piece titled Devilment. In June of 2022, I have a brand-new novella being released through Journalstone titled We Can Never Leave This Place. I’m especially excited about that release as that particular novella has been in development for several years and is very close to my heart.
What’s the most important piece of advice you can offer an aspiring writer?
Always be generating new content. Even when you’re convinced that things aren’t happening for you as a writer, always be writing no matter what. You never know when somebody is going to ask you: “What else you got?” My backlog of completed projects has saved me time and time again when I’ve been approached by editors and executives with a similar question.
Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it now. The floor is all yours.
I suppose I’d like to leave readers with this brief message: Kindness is key. Before you’re about to type that nasty reply or that hateful message, ask yourself if you’re being kind. You can’t ever take it back. Of course, you can delete your comment, but people often screenshot and then it exists forever.
Remember to be kind.
After all, what have you done today to deserve your eyes?
Meet Mark Zirbel
Interviewed for UDH by James Carlson
For me, the work of Mark Zirbel proved a lucky find. You know, the sort of book purchase you base on the badass cover, the cool title, the intriguing synopsis. Then, once you crack it open, you realize it’s as good as you’d hoped. It turns out that Zirbel isn’t just a skilled writer; he also possesses a keen intellect and wild imagination. At least that was my take on the material in Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad—a collection of interconnected stories that are equal parts sci-fi, horror, and bizarro. A journey through shifting perspectives in which the nightmare of their world is revealed, piece by piece. Zirbel is an engineer of weird fiction. He designs and builds these detailed places, then populates them with characters whose stories scream to be read.
Recently I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Mark Zirbel. This is what we discussed.
UD: To begin, how about an introduction to Mark Zirbel?
ZIRBEL: Well, I’ve been writing fiction and getting my stuff published for about 20 years. For most of that time, I focused on short stories—with some very nice results. I’ve been published in TOCs along with insanely talented writers like William F. Nolan, Poppy Z. Brite, John Shirley, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. I’ve gotten an honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror from St. Martin’s Press. I’ve self-published a couple of short story chapbooks. In recent years, I shifted my focus to longer works including my first book, Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad, which was published by NihilismRevised in 2019 and was nominated for a Wonderland Book Award in 2020.
UD: How did your life journey lead you to writing fiction?
ZIRBEL: When I was in third grade, I decided to write a chapter book—The Mystery of the Junk Yard Ghost. My Mom typed it up for me and stapled it together—old school zine style! I still have it and I pulled it out recently to reread. It’s pretty awful—a shameless rip-off of the Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. Still, how many third graders are attempting to write chapter books? So I think my path to writing fiction was set at a young age.
UD: I recently read your collection Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. You’re an outstanding writer with a killer imagination. I loved the subversive fiction meets punk rock sci-fi and dystopian horror of it. Can you tell us how these stories came about?
ZIRBEL: Thanks so much! One of my favorite books is Tales of Pain and Wonder by Caitlin R. Kiernan. It’s a collection where each story can stand alone but they also feature common characters and settings. When you read the entire book, a larger narrative emerges beyond the individual stories. I love that concept and always wanted to do something like that. I decided to give it a try with Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad, where the stories are all set in a fucked-up cyberpunk-bizarro dystopia. One reviewer said it reads more like a novel told from various perspectives than a short story collection, which I thought was a cool way of looking at it.
UD: Music seems to be a key part of your inspiration, or at the very least your writing process. How do these songs filter through you to be incorporated into your work?
ZIRBEL: I live about an hour from Chicago, which is pretty much the industrial music capital of the U.S. My wife and I travel down there from Milwaukee several times a year for shows—well, before COVID we did. We’re hoping to get back to doing that again soon. Anyway, Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad was in many ways my attempt to tap into the energy of that scene. The book involves members of a cyberpunk band who are railing against the U.S. military and its program of creating and weaponizing zombies to fight a holy war in the Middle East. The music and the attitude of electro-industrial bands like Skinny Puppy, Left Spine Down, Angelspit, and Rabbit Junk were a big inspiration. I even created Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad: The Soundtrack, a Spotify playlist of the bands and songs that had the biggest impact on my writing.
UD: Looks like your work has appeared in several anthologies. What are a few of the standout books that feature your work? And what about them do you like best?
ZIRBEL: Most of the stories in Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad are originals, but two of them were previously published in anthologies from WeirdPunk Books. The titular story, “Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad,” appeared in Zombie Punks Fuck Off, and “Slice-and-Grab” appeared in Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for those anthologies, since they helped lay the groundwork for my book. Plus they feature some great authors like Danger Slater, David W. Barbee, Brendan Vidito, and David Agranoff.
UD: What do you do when you’re not writing? You know, like doing an extensive tour of mini-golf courses in and around your area. Which is rad, by the way.
ZIRBEL: Ha! You’ve been looking at my Facebook page. Yes, this was the Year of Mini-Golf for me and my wife, Jennie. We played a lot of mini-golf when we were first dating, but we hadn’t done it for many years. We rectified that this year—big time! We’ve played 30 different courses in Wisconsin and Illinois, in some cases traveling more than 200 miles roundtrip. We’re always finding things to do, whether it’s mini-golfing, hiking, kayaking, or anything else that sounds like fun.
UD: What’s next for Mark Zirbel?
ZIRBEL: I’m working on my first novel. It combines a lot of the same elements as Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad, like cyberpunk, bizarro, horror, satire, and transgressive fiction. It’s not set in the same world as Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad—it’s more like the book’s spiritual successor. I haven’t revealed the title yet, but I’ve teased the book with the hashtag #cyberscat. There’s some pretty gross stuff in it, but we’re living in an ugly world right now, so it feels right. I had hoped to finish it this year, but 2021 threw me and my wife some curveballs, so it’s more likely I’ll finish it sometime in 2022. I’ll probably shop it around but may end up self-publishing. I’d kind of like to have total control like I did with my chapbooks. We’ll see.
UD: Being that it’s October, and therefore time for all things dark and scary, what are some of your favorite works of horror? Books, movies, music, etc.
ZIRBEL: There are some movies that I especially like to watch this time of year. A lot of them have a direct connection to the season, like Halloween (the 1979 version, of course), Trick r Treat, Tales of Halloween, and The Houses October Built. Then there are others that don’t have a Halloween setting but I always associate with watching around this time, like The Howling, The Funhouse, and House on Haunted Hill (the 1999 version, believe it or not). The old Universal horror films are a great choice too. The rest of the year, I’m more into stuff that has a weird, surreal vibe to it—David Cronenberg, David Lynch, that kind of thing. But for the month of October, I want movies that are just plain spooky!
UD: Speaking of favorites, who are some of your favorite authors? Past and/or present. Indie and/or mainstream.
ZIRBEL: God, there are so many! Let’s approach it this way. Here are some of the authors who I feel have had the most direct impact on my own writing: Bret Easton Ellis, Jim Thompson, John Shirley, Tim Lebbon, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Kathe Koja, Carlton Mellick III, and Hertzan Chimera.
UD: Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it now. The floor is all yours, Mark.
ZIRBEL: I’ll just mention that Cyberpunk Zombie Jihad is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. You can find some other books out there that have my stories in them, too. Other than that, thanks for your time and for reaching out to me for this interview. I really appreciate it!
Oct. 2, 2021
Meet Brian Asman
Interviewed by James Carlson
Author Brian Asman possesses a bold literary voice. It speaks loudly and clearly to any reader who bravely cracks open one of his books. That voice will tell you stories that might make you ask yourself, “What the hell am I reading right now?” But in a good way. You see, Asman seems like he’s in it to write a quality story, but above all to entertain. So he employs plenty of humor, weirdness, action, and some well-placed expletives in his endeavors. And in doing so, he proves he has the chops to pull it off.
Those are just a few of the observations I made while reading his latest novel, Nunchuck City. A book I chose not just because of its wild synopsis but because of its tagline: “You better nun-check yourself before you wreck yourself!” That alone put Nunchuck City at the top of my reading list. Then I proceeded to devour the story in only a few days, and I enjoyed every page immensely. But don’t take my word for it; instead, check out all the favorable reviews it has received so far. And while you’re at it, read the synopsis for yourself.
Nunchuck City is only one of Asman’s books. He has two others available, as well as a number of short stories. I, for one, very much look forward to moving on to his other work, starting with the bizarro sci-fi adventure Jailbroke.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Asman. This is what he had to say.
UD: To get the ball rolling, how about an introduction? I mean, just who is this Brian Asman guy?
Asman: I’m a writer, editor, producer and actor from San Diego, CA. I’m the author of I'm Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today from Eraserhead Press and Nunchuck City and Jailbroke from Mutated Media. My short stories have appeared in anthologies like Breaking Bizarro, Welcome to the Splatter Club and Lost Films, and comics in Tales of Horrorgasm.
I’m also very much obsessed with The Greasy Strangler, dig retro arcades, love a delicious barrel-aged beer, am locked in an ongoing battle of wits with my evil genius shepherd/husky mix Zag, and became an actual Rick & Morty fan after secretly posing as one.
UD: So, I recently read your sci-fi action comedy Nunchuck City, and I absolutely loved it. Laughed out loud a few times. Rooted for Nick and Kanna, and I booed Saru and his ninja henchmen. Overall, the book had a cinematic quality, and I could see the events you described play out in my mind as if I were watching a movie. What inspired this mad tale of badass martial arts and absurd humor?
Asman: Fantastic to hear! Nunchuck City was inspired by the side-scrolling beat ‘em up games I loved as a kid, like Double Dragon and Bad Dudes. I was also a big fan of Ninja Turtles, the ninja stuff in G.I. Joe, etc. Kind of blended up a bunch of stuff I dug and splattered it back onto the page. Based on the responses I’ve gotten, I think I really nailed what I was aiming for with this book.
UD: I haven’t had the chance to read your other books, Jailbroke and I’m Not Even Supposed to be Here Today, though I plan to. Can you tell us what they’re about and what inspired you to write them?
Asman: Yeah, I really like playing around with different genres and genre mash-ups. Jailbroke started life because I really wanted to write an SF/horror hybrid. I had a bunch of weird SF ideas I was playing around with, world-building and tech stuff, but wanted to incorporate that into more of a horror build. Lots of ways to die in space, so it seemed a natural fit.
I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today is basically a take on the “million monkeys, million typewriters' ' principle—provided a world existed where demons could be summoned via incantations, that’s got to happen ACCIDENTALLY sometimes, right? The idea really came from an experience I had when I was a kid, very young, where I was just making up random words and my grandmother heard me say “fuck.” I got in a lot of trouble, even though I had no idea the “F-word” existed and was just trying to find words that rhymed with “duck.”
Still mad about that, but the experience of the disconnection between mouth sounds and intention has always stuck with me, and I wanted to explore that.
UD: Your short stories have appeared in a handful of anthologies, including a couple from Sinister Smile Press and one from Death’s Head Press, etc. What are your thoughts on short stories versus long-form fiction?
Asman: They’re harder? Short fiction teaches you to be more economical with your prose, whereas novels and novellas give you space to, well, indulge yourself a little bit. Stephen King’s the prime example, all the folksy New England Our Town stuff is fun, but there’s a version of, say, Pet Sematary that excises the origin story of the beer in Louis Creed’s basement and isn’t much poorer for it.
While I like writing short stories, long-form stuff is really more my focus these days.
UD: What made you want to be a writer?
Asman: Ever since I was a kid, I always enjoyed making up stories. I’d play with my action figures and create new names, new powers, new scenarios for them. Wrote a bunch, too. I still have one of the first stories I wrote, a total rip-off of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure about two teen girls and ghost pirates.
UD: What does your creative process entail?
Asman: For me, creativity and exercise go hand-in-hand. I typically think about books I’m writing, or my next project, while I’m taking my dog for a long walk or going on a bike ride. I often like to be somewhere public when I’m writing, the buzz of energy in the background tends to help. Too, I often will go places I’ve never been before to write, the novelty excites me and helps ideas flow!
UD: Who are some of your favorite authors, past and present?
Asman: Oh man, this is one of those questions I struggle with, because there are so many! Sticking to people I’m reading now, a few favorites include Stephen Graham Jones, Carlton Mellick, Gemma Files, Adam Cesare, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Chandler Morrison, and Autumn Christian. Also having a great time with the Splatter Western series from Death’s Head Press—Christine Morgan’s The Night Silver River Run Red is a great introduction.
UD: As I understand it, you’re also into making films. How did that come about?
Asman: Kind of a natural extension of my prose work. When I did my MFA, I took some screenwriting classes and really enjoyed it—just a different way to think about story, and I’ve found things I learn from screenwriting translate to my prose and vice versa. Stretching yourself creatively definitely makes you a better writer!
UD: What are some of your favorite movies, especially in the horror genre? It’s that time of year, after all. Personally, I watch horror movies a lot more around Halloween.
Asman: I watch almost exclusively horror (or horror-adjacent) movies year-round—there’s just so many interesting releases out there—but I do try to be a little more intentional with my Halloween selections. There are a number of standbys I have every year—Halloween ’78, WNUF Halloween Special, Trick ‘R Treat, Hell House LLC, and Tales of Halloween. Sleepy Hollow is also a seasonal favorite, and I usually try to watch a couple new Halloween-related flicks. Last year The Barn and Hack-O-Lantern were both fun discoveries, for very different reasons (one is good, the other has Mac’s dad from It’s Always Sunny).
UD: So, what’s next for Brian Asman?
A whole bunch of stuff! I’ve got two short films in post-production, a feature I co-wrote shooting next month, and a few new novellas coming in the next couple months—Man, Fuck This House is coming in October. My agent is also shopping around a few novels I’ve written, fingers crossed something happens with those!
UD: Lastly, if there’s anything I failed to cover, please feel free to mention it here. The floor’s all yours.
Asman: Thanks for having me!
Classic Monsters Unleashed
Sept. 4 Feature
Meet James Aquilone
Editor for Classic Monsters Unleashed!
Hi James! Welcome to my Rusty Chair! It’s a pleasure to have you here. First, allow me to say thanks for your time in doing my interview. I really appreciate it. I know you have a lot going on with your series, Dead Jack, plus editing for Weird Tales and the Classic Monsters Unleashed anthology, which is the real reason we are here today! Before we dive in, tell us a little bit about you.
Thank you, Candace, for taking the time to do this interview. My name is James Aquilone. I’m an editor and writer from Staten Island, New York, and as you said, I’m the writer of the Dead Jack series as well as editor of Classic Monsters Unleashed and managing editor of Weird Tales.
Awesome, I see you always have your hands full. Now, while today is about Classic Monsters Unleashed, let’s talk a little about you first. What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
I’ve always been obsessed with books for as long as I can remember. I collected comics from at least the age of five. I loved when the book catalogs were given out at school. I always hung out in the bookstore or library. Even today, books can be found in every room of my house, even in my car! So, it only made sense to write and create more books.
I can relate to that, it sounds a lot like my childhood! So why horror, did you always want to write horror or do you write in other genres?
When I began seriously pursuing a fiction career, I wrote science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but over the past few years I’ve been shifting more toward horror.
I've found horror to be the best fit for the stories that I wanted to tell as well but you can say that my books do have some sci-fi and fantasy elements to them. So what most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
Ideas come from everywhere. It could be an overheard conversation, something you see on TV, reading a magazine article. If you’re looking for ideas, they’re all around. Often a writer has too many ideas, more than they’ll ever be able to realize. Sometimes it’s a matter of brainstorming. Once I sit down to write a story, that’s usually where my life and experiences come in to flesh out the story and characters.
That makes perfect sense, no better inspiration than our own experiences. I also love brainstorming sessions with other writers, no telling where those sessions can take you. I’ve got a list of several stories I plan to write, just from having some great brainstorming sessions.
So tell us about your Dead Jack series. I admit to not having read it yet, but I do plan to rectify that as soon as possible. Zombies and humor are both right up my alley so I’m excited for it. Where did this idea come from and where do you see it taking you?
The short answer: I like zombies and detectives, so I put them together. I wrote the first Dead Jack short story in 2006, but filed it away, thinking no one would be interested in publishing it.
Six years later, Weird Tales was doing a zombie-themed issue. I met the then-editor Marvin Kaye and told him I had a zombie detective story. He looked at me skeptically, but said he’d read it. The next day I had my first story acceptance.
A few years later, I wrote a Dead Jack novel, which I funded through a Kickstarter campaign. A few months after that, the series was optioned for TV and film. Since then, I’ve written two more Dead Jack novels, two short stories, and a TV pilot, which is currently being shopped around Hollywood. A spinoff series of novels and short stories is in the works, and there may also be a Dead Jack tabletop roleplaying game.
All of that sounds awesome. Kudos to you on having such exciting things going on. Always good to have several pans in the fire. So speaking of inspirations, which author has most inspired or influenced your writing style, alive or dead?
Though he’s not a speculative fiction writer, Elmore Leonard has been a big influence on me. I love that his characters are never completely bad or good. The good guys and bad guys all operate in a gray area of morality. Leonard’s prose is no nonsense. As he says, if it seems “writerly” he takes it out. Plus, he writes some of the best dialogue ever printed.
I can’t say that I am familiar with his work but I will be adding him to my list today. That's my favorite part of asking that question, sometimes I will get a new name to check out. I love discovering new-to-me authors, old or new industry-wise, doesn’t matter. If you are citing him as a major influence, then I know I will be pleased. So not only are you an accomplished author but you are also a sought after editor. At what point did you begin editing and how did that start for you?
I’ve been editing non-fiction for a long time and that began at my college newspaper and continued with jobs in newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and broadcast media. As for fiction, it began with Weird Tales a few years back.
Weird Tales is one of the longest running fiction magazines in the country. How did the editing position with them come about and what notable authors or artists have you had the opportunity to work with since then?
As I said earlier, I met Weird Tales editor Marvin Kaye in 2012. I learned that he was looking for help with the magazine and I volunteered.
I’ve copy-edited stories by Ramsey Campbell, Joe Landsdale, Tanith Lee, Jonathan Maberry, Michael Shea, and many others. I even got to copy-edit Victor LaValle’s short story “Up From Slavery,” which went on to win a Bram Stoker Award in 2020.
That’s a job I can only dream of, being a part of the behind the scenes process to bring a story to life. Helping to polish it and make it shine brighter is just the icing on the cake for me. I just started editing professionally this year and I absolutely love being part of the process and working with other authors.
So from editing Weird Tales to “Classic Monsters Unleashed.” Tell me everything. Where did the idea come from? How did you originally become involved with the anthology? What are you most excited for with this release?
I had the idea to do a classic monsters anthology for many years. Last fall, I took a chance and contacted Joe Mynhardt, the publisher of Crystal Lake Publishing, and asked him if he was interested in doing an anthology. He said he wasn’t doing anthologies anymore because they were too expensive. I said I was a big fan of Kickstarter and maybe we could fund a book that way. I said I’d pitch him a few ideas and he agreed to take a look. But when I went through my list of anthology ideas, I decided I’d pitch him only one anthology, the classic monsters one. I sent him the pitch and a breakdown of the crowdfunding campaign, and he agreed to it, I think, in less than an hour. And he was back in the anthology business. And I was editing my first anthology.
Awesome, sounds simple but I know putting together an anthology has a lot of moving pieces. I know it's a labor of love from start to finish. I know I am really excited to see the final product. I have been following the posts for the anthology and there have been some really incredible pieces of art that have been posted. Do you have any favorite pieces that stand out so far? Tell us a little more about the artists and will we be seeing any more sneak peeks?
We have an amazing group of artists in the book. The cover is by Colton Worley, who has done all my Dead Jack covers. The cover was designed by Shawn T. King, who also has done all my Dead Jack covers. He’s also doing the interior design of the book, too. Colton has four interior illustrations, plus we have three pieces of art from Frank Frazetta, including my favorite of his work, “Creatures of the Night.” And there’s a Frankenstin portrait by Mister Sam Shearon, which is based on Mary Shelley’s description of the monster.
Actually, we should have new art to show soon. I have someone working on little monster icons that we’ll use for section breaks. So, look for that.
I look forward to seeing more of the artwork. I know there are still a few art prints on sale in the shop on the Classic Monsters Unleashed website. Readers can pick those up while they last. I plan to grab one. So any favorites in this collection and can you tell us why it /they stand out to you?
I won’t pick any favorites but I will highlight a few. Gene Flynn’s story, which we selected from the open submissions period, blew me away. It was the perfect tone and exactly what we were looking for. I can’t tell which monster it’s about, because it’s a bit of a surprise, but it’s a good one. Jonathan Maberry has a really cool Dr. Moreau story that acts as a sequel to the classic H.G. Wells story. Simon Bestwick wrote about a real mummy and will have you guessing what is fact and fiction in the story.
Tim Waggoner wrote a hard-hitting werewolf story. Owl Goingback did a story about Dracula in the Old West and it lives up to the story’s awesome premise. John Palisano’s Creature From the Black Lagoon inspired story also perfectly captures the anthology’s nostalgic tone while adding something new to the classic monster canon.
I’m also really excited about having Kim Newman write the intro. I can’t wait to read his essay.
Those all sound really great. I’m really looking forward to reading them. So do you have a favorite monster, classic or otherwise?
Jaws. No other monster has better theme music.
I know this turned into the highest-funded kickstarter for a horror anthology in the history of the Kickstarter platform. What was your reaction to that news?
That was unbelievable. When I was promoting the Kickstarter, I could see that people were getting very excited about it. Hundreds of people signed up for the email alert for the campaign launch so I figured we’d have a big first day, but when the pledges kept coming and coming, it was still a surprise. It was a crazy launch and it never really let up. And we’ll be doing it again next summer!
That’s impressive! I can’t imagine your excitement at seeing the numbers. I’ll be looking for your new campaign next summer for sure. Do you have a favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
Every community has its bad apples, but the horror community has a lot of great people in it. The writers and artists are more close knit, I think, than other genres—maybe because it’s smaller and probably less-respected than sci-fi and fantasy among literary snobs.
I have found that sentiment to be true. The horror community is a really great community to be a part of. So nearing the end of our list here, what one piece of advice would you give to new authors?
The standard advice is to keep writing... it’s a process... don’t let the first drafts stop you. And that’s all true. I think one thing to keep in mind about a writing career is what you define as success. Is it just to be published, to make a living at it (which is very hard), win awards? You can drive yourself crazy chasing a career or accolades, when the only thing you can control is your writing. You may never make a living at writing fiction, or win an award, but that doesn’t mean you’re not successful.
That's a great piece of advice for any author out there. Know what your “why” is and remember it. Are there any other current projects that you would like to mention?
There are so many projects in the works. Most of them I can’t fully talk about yet. We’re going to announce the theme for the next Unleashed anthology, I think, in October. People are going to be surprised because it’s not what they’re expecting, but they’ll also see how much it makes sense. We’re going to do a Kickstarter for the second anthology in June or July 2022. And every month we’re publishing a story we couldn’t fit in the anthology on ClassicMonstersUnleashed.com and in our newsletter.
Before that, I’m launching a Kickstarter for a comic book anthology celebrating the 50th anniversary of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. We have an amazing lineup of writers and artists, who I’ll be revealing in the coming months.
Then, I’ll be releasing my first serious horror novel, and possibly a middle grade horror novel, and fantasy novella. I just need to forget about sleep for the next two years.
James Aquilone was raised on Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, sitcoms, and Cap'n Crunch. Amid the Cold War, he dreamed of being a jet fighter pilot but decided against military life after realizing it would require him to wake up early. He had further illusions of being a stand-up comedian, until a traumatic experience on stage forced him to seek a college education. Brief stints as an alternative rock singer/guitarist and child model also proved unsuccessful. Today, he battles a severe chess addiction while trying to churn out stories and anthologies.
His first novel, Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device, was optioned for film and TV by Tony Eldridge, producer of The Equalizer movies starring Denzel Washington and the upcoming War Magician starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
His short fiction has appeared in Nature: Futures, The Best of Galaxy’s Edge 2013-2014, Weird Tales, Flash Fiction Online and Unidentified Funny Objects 4.
He’s the managing editor of Weird Tales magazine and the editor of the upcoming anthologies Classic Monsters Unleashed (Crystal Lake Publishing and Black Spot Books) and Kolchak: The Night Stalker - 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel (Moonstone Books).
James was born in Brooklyn, New York and now lives in Staten Island.
Meet John Palisano
President of the HWA
Bram Stoker Award Winner
Hi John. Welcome to Uncomfortably Dark, so excited to have this opportunity to interview you. You have quite an impressive career behind you and I can only imagine what else is in store. I want to thank you for your time in doing this interview. I know you are the President of the HWA, which I am sure keeps you busy, along with your writing and editing.
Thank you! I’d love to talk more whenever you’d like!
Let’s just dive right into a few general questions before we get to Classic Monsters Unleashed and your story there. What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
Telling stories is something that always came naturally to me as far back as I remember. Even in kindergarten I drew pictures of creatures and had stories with them. It’s just something that’s in my DNA.
That’s so awesome. Writing came naturally to me as well. I spent a lot of time as a young child creating my own books from lined note paper and construction paper covers. I realized that I wanted to really be an author when I was about eleven. What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
Inspiration comes from all over. Sometimes it’s a turn of phrase I hear. Other times I may be in a situation and think, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if…?” Open calls and invites can also act as catalysts for stories. I will state that most of my personal favorite stories have come from night dreams and daydreams. I can’t say how many times I’ve woken with ideas, people, scenarios, and images ready to be transcribed.
I can relate. I have a lot of ideas that come from nightmares and dreams. Did you always want to write horror or do you write in other genres?
Dark stuff has always been the most intriguing to me, even when I was a kid. My dad took me to see ‘ALIEN’ when I was a kid and it had a huge impact on me. He also had an amazing collection of horror comics I devoured. I was a young teen in the 80s and I was really into Stephen King, Tom Savini, FANGORIA and that entire world. Not much has changed! I do write and read widely, though. My stuff has been published in horror, science fiction, literary, and many other places. A good story is a good story. If you only stick in one genre of anything, I’d say that’s pretty myopic and boring. There’s great stuff everywhere if you’re open to it.
My father introduced me to horror as well, which is kind of funny. That seems to be a recurring theme among horror authors. I agree with you as far as genre’s go, there are thousands of great stories waiting to be written. I read more than just horror, so why not write more than horror. So, over the years, which author has most inspired or influenced your writing style, alive or dead?
Early on, Stephen King was … well … King! Of course, his Danse Macabre book led me to Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbuy and so many more. Another huge influence on me to this day is John Steinbeck. I love the characters he’s created and how effective his writing can be while being so economical. On the flip side? Anne Rice’s lush, immersive works also had a huge effect on me. Same with Clive Barker, whose brave and imaginative works opened me up in ways I never knew possible. I could go on and on, but let’s stop there. So much for one!
I understand having more than one inspiration. I have a wide variety of influences, from Poe to King and beyond. So can you tell us a little about how being a Stoker award winner influenced your writing or career, if at all?
My awards are kept away. I don’t like to showcase them. Not that I don’t appreciate them all, but I lost my dad less than a week after the Stoker win, and it was so devastating to me that I packed the statue up and tried to forget about it. I still feel like I’ve got to prove myself and that I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. None of the awards ever had my metaphorical phone ringing or my receiving any more offers than usual. My philosophy has always been about the love of the actual writing and not about awards or anything like that. The best part is getting to the end of a project and knowing it’s come out more or less how I envisioned it.
I’m truly sorry to hear that and I understand. My father passed suddenly very soon after I finally published my first novel and I really lost my motivation for a long time. He was a big factor in my decision to write and his support meant the world to me.
I understand that your story in Classic Monsters Unleashed was inspired by the “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” I remember watching this movie with my dad when I was just a young girl. What was it that inspired you and can you tell us a little about your concept ?
Same here! Again, my dad showed it to
me one Saturday when I was a kid and just thought it was pure magic. I really felt for the creature. Misunderstood. There was just something so intriguing about the creature and the story that I connected with.
That is a great memory and a great reason for loving the movie so much. Is the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” one of your favorite monsters, if so, why? If not, then which monster is and why?
Absolutely. I relate to how he’s kind of an introvert and that he leads with his heart. There’s such an interesting world there that we never really get a lot of answers to in the movie, such as why is he the only one? Where or are there others? I think the sequels address that a little, but they also get really campy!
Campy can be fun! Alright, so if you could write one more story on a classic monster tale, what might it be and why?
I’d love to do something new with the Godzilla mythology. I think there’s a lot that has not been explored I’d be fascinated to explore.
Godzilla is another favorite of mine. I would love to see your take on it. Speaking of monsters, what was your reaction to the news that “Classic Monsters Unleashed” raised more money than any other horror anthology in the history of the Kickstarter platform? That was a huge deal within the community and it has more than 1000 backers, including myself. It was a monster of a campaign.
Thanks so much for backing the book! That means a great deal. Honestly? I thought the project would do well, but was not prepared for the outpouring of love and support. How wonderful? Classic Monsters obviously speak to a lot of people, just as the Creature spoke to me. That’s wonderful and very reassuring. Lots of travellers in the dark!
You are so welcome! I try to support projects like these as much as I can afford to. Speaking of travellers in the dark, what is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
The people in the horror and writing community have been and continue to be one of the most supportive and caring groups I’ve ever been involved with. Beyond business, the people are all just superb. For the most part! I think there’s a deep understanding between folks who are drawn to the darker side of creative works, you know? It’s great having lifelong bonds with likeminded people.
I couldn't agree more with you. It’s an excellent community to be a part of. So with regards to that community, what legacy would you like to leave behind?
This is a tough one as I try not to think about it too much! Too heavy! I will say that the creative horror gene has been born inside my teenage son. He writes and makes video games and draws. Almost all of it is horror and dark stuff, too. So, that’s pretty amazing to experience!
Sounds like your son might be your legacy and there is nothing better than that! Are there current projects that you would like to mention?
I’ve just self-published a novella GLASS HOUSE. It’s way out there and experimental, but has been getting some good notices. I’ve written three novels since NIGHT OF 1,000 BEASTS came out a few years back and I’m doing my best to get an agent and get some of those out there as soon as possible. I imagine something will move forward with one soon enough!
Congrats on the new novel, John. I am so honored that you took the time to join me today. I look forward to speaking with you again and I cannot wait to get my copy of Classic Monsters Unleashed!
ABOUT BRAM STOKER AWARD® WINNING AUTHOR JOHN PALISANO:
Author John Palisano has a pair of books with Samhain Publishing, DUST OF THE DEAD, and GHOST HEART. NERVES is available through Bad Moon. STARLIGHT DRIVE: FOUR HALLOWEEN TALES was released in time for Halloween, and his first short fiction collection ALL THAT WITHERS is available from Cycatrix press, celebrating over a decade of short story highlights. NIGHT OF 1,000 BEASTS is also now available.
He won the Bram Stoker Award© in short fiction in 2016 for “Happy Joe’s Rest Stop”. More short stories have appeared in anthologies from Cemetery Dance, Weird Tales, Space & Time, PS Publishing, Vasterien, Independent Legions, DarkFuse, Crystal Lake, Terror Tales, Lovecraft eZine, Horror Library, Bizarro Pulp, Written Backwards, Dark Continents, Big Time Books, McFarland Press, Darkscribe, Dark House, Omnium Gatherum, and more.
Non-fiction pieces have appeared in BLUMHOUSE, FANGORIA, BACKSTREETS, VASTERIEN and DARK DISCOVERIES magazines.
He is currently serving as the President of the Horror Writers Association and has been featured in the LOS ANGELES TIMES and VANITY FAIR magazine.
Meet Mercedes Yardley
Bram Stoker Award Winner
Hi Mercedes and welcome to Uncomfortably Dark. It’s such an honor to be interviewing you for my website. Thank you for making the time. I am sure you are very busy these days, with your writing career and your work with the Vegas chapter of the HWA.
MMY: Yes, thank you for having me! Things certainly are busy, but I like it best that way. The world felt like it slowed down due to Covid, but we soon filled our time back up. And yes! My colleague and I formed the Las Vegas chapter of the HWA. It’s wonderful to hang out with like-minded people in the city and discuss horror. Vegas is the perfect setting to discuss the dark and gritty.
So today is about Classic Monsters Unleashed and your part in that, but first, let’s start with a bit about you. What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
MMY: I always wanted to be a writer. Always. For Christmas I’d ask for notebooks and colored pens. I loved telling stories and I especially loved writing them down. I liked sitting down in a quiet place away from everyone and letting my imagination take over. I started submitting stories in about 2010, I think, and my first collection came out in 2012. It feels like I’ve been writing forever, but in the scheme of things, it really hasn’t been all that long.
I can relate, my fascination with becoming an author began in early childhood as well. Did you always want to write horror or do you write in other genres?
MMY: Oh, goodness, no. Horror had such a stigma to it. I didn’t write horror. I just happened to write things that turned dark quite quickly. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I fully embraced the horror genre after understanding what it is. Horror isn’t simply blood, guts, and slash. It’s dread. It’s a feeling. It’s something beautiful that we all experience. It’s that sharp, primal feeling like a knife in the gut. We all know what it feels like, but if you call something “horror,” then society immediately deems it as something tawdry. That isn’t the case at all.
I agree 100%, horror carries a very unfair stigma with it and most readers that shun it, don’t know how many truly beautiful stories they are missing out on. What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
MMY: I’m inspired by everything. The first novel I ever wrote, which I still haven’t published, was a surreal thing inspired by dreams. I wrote dreams, mostly nightmares, down in a book so I could remember them. I rifled through my dream book and pulled out what ended up being major scenes in that book. I’m inspired by things I see in the news or something that a person says. My short story “Big Man Ben” was inspired by a Dear Abby letter, of all things. My book DARLING, which is coming out next summer, was inspired by a song. While I was driving, I heard Placebo’s “Follow the Cops Back Home” on the radio, and something about that song struck me so deeply that I had to pull over. I saw a scene in my head and that’s where the book stemmed from.
That’s amazing, to be so deeply inspired by a moment like that. Along those same lines, which author has most inspired or influenced your writing style, alive or dead?
MMY: I’d say Gabriel Garcia Marquez because he was my introduction to magical surrealism. I didn’t know you could write like that, so dreamy and ephemeral and not completely tethered to reality. My favorite thing about magical surrealism is that you don’t have to explain everything; it just is. That acceptance of the bizarre is extraordinary.
That is one of the truly beautiful things about writing, some things can just be as the writer sees them, with no explanation. The power to create a new world from ink and a blank page. Speaking of influences, how has being a Stoker award winner influenced your writing or career since 2015, if at all?
MMY: Winning the Bram Stoker Award felt like validation from my peers. I was, and am, so grateful. As an author, you sit in your little corner, put your head down, and work. I write for myself, not for anyone else, and it can feel solitary at times. I was so happy to learn that my colleagues, people I love and respect, enjoyed my work. For about three months there was a slew of interview requests and invitations to different projects, but it all settled down quickly. I’m still very pleased with my award, but the award is currently hidden under paperwork and piles of clean laundry.
What was your inspiration behind your contributing story in “Classic Monsters Unleashed”? I understand that Dorian Gray was your monster of choice. The story of Dorian Gray has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I’m excited to read your take on such a classic tale.
MMY: I love The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s so elegant and sinister. My take is about a young influencer on social media and how her online persona is vibrant while her physical body breaks down. I’m fascinated by society and the way we react to things. With social media, people often live two completely separate lives. There’s your real tedious life with your meatsack body and then there’s this online persona that is basically performance art. I was intrigued by that idea.
Well, your entire story premise just accurately describes 99% of online personalities and could not come at a more relevant time. I’m anxious to read it now. So is Dorian Gray your favorite classic monster, if so, why? If not, then which monster is and why?
MMY: My favorite classic monster is probably Dracula. Again, it’s the sinister elegance of his character. He’s charming and exquisitely dressed. He sucks the blood from your body. How intimate, painful, and horrifying is that? I love monsters that don’t look like monsters, probably because they remind me of humans. We can look so ordinary, but we’re the ultimate monsters.
Another Dracula fan, as am I! I love the entire concept of Dracula, the era, the fashion, the idea of a being existing like that, the intelligence such a person might carry and acquire from centuries of living. I could go on, but it’s not my interview! Moving on, if you could write one more story on a classic monster tale, what might it be and why?
MMY: I’d like to write about the Bride of Frankenstein. She’s a character completely without a voice. She’s created as an intended mate, never given a name, and is murdered five minutes later. I’d love to explore what her life would look like if she escaped and was given a chance to make her own decisions.
That is a horrifying story, especially to hear it summed up so bluntly. I would love to read your version of it, if you ever write it.
What was your reaction to the news that “Classic Monsters Unleashed” raised more money than any other horror anthology in the history of the Kickstarter platform? I thought it was a huge achievement.
MMY: I was so happy to hear that! The team behind the anthology is amazing. James Aquilone is kind and professional. Not only did everybody work hard for the Kickstarter, but I love that horror is having this new renaissance right now. Society is really identifying with horror, and it’s getting a small bit of the appreciation it deserves.
I agree 100% and it’s long overdue. What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
MMY: The Horror industry is a very close-knit community. I didn’t expect that. People run in the same circles and most of the people are fabulous. They’re nice, they’re creative. They’re quirky. We openly discuss our fears, so most are well-adjusted and there’s an open camaraderie there. There are always outliers, of course, but most of my colleagues are empathetic, caring individuals.
Again, I agree 100%, the horror community is unlike any other and I am so glad to be a part of it. So, what piece of advice would you give to new authors?
MMY: Write for yourself and not somebody else. So many authors wilt if they get a rejection or a bad review. It’s fine. Print that rejection out and use it to light your cigarette. Keep your power and keep going.
Last question before I let you go, are there current projects that you would like to mention?
Yes! I’m part of the Black Mariah novella series coming out from Black Spot Books. It’s a very cool, epic conspiracy theory project that several different writers are involved in. You can find the books on Amazon. Also, my Southern Gothic novel DARLING is coming out during the summer of 2022. It’s emotional and quite dark. I love it dearly.
Mercedes M. Yardley is a dark fantasist who wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She is the author of Beautiful Sorrows, the Stabby Award-winning Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, Pretty Little Dead Girls, and Nameless. She won the Bram Stoker Award for her story Little Dead Red and was a Bram Stoker Award nominee for her short story “Loving You Darkly” and the Arterial Bloom anthology. Mercedes lives and works in Las Vegas with her family and strange menagerie. You can find her at mercedesmyardley.com.
Meet Owl Goingback
3 Time Bram Stoker Award Winner
Hello Owl. Welcome to Uncomfortably Dark, so excited to have this opportunity to interview you. I want to thank you for your time in doing this interview. I can’t imagine how busy you must be. You have a long career behind you and I can only hope to achieve a fraction of what you have done. Congratulations on such an inspiring career!
Let’s just dive right into a few general questions before we get to Classic Monsters Unleashed and your story there.
What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
I grew up in the rural Midwest, living in a mobile home on five wooded acres at the edge of a national forest. Friends and playmates were nonexistent, so I turned to reading books to alleviate the boredom. I read mostly horror, fantasy and science fiction, escape fiction that sent me on amazing adventures and helped me survive a very lonely childhood. Books were important to me, and I wanted to write my own stories in the hopes of entertaining others as I had been entertained.
My first professional sales actually occurred when I was still in high school. I was in several English classes that required students to write a five-page fiction story per semester. A lot of my classmates had no interest in doing the assignment, so I offered to write their stories for a fee. I made sure to change up my writing style for each story, so the teacher never realized they were written by the same author.
I stopped writing when I left high school to join the military, and didn’t take it up again until several years after I got out of the Air Force. And I only did it then because my wife challenged me to prove I could write after watching a Stephen King interview on television. My first published sales were self-defense articles for martial arts magazines, but I switched to fiction because it paid more and I didn’t have to worry about taking photos.
I can relate to a lonely childhood. I spent a lot of afternoons and weekends just reading for hours. I read more than I can remember doing anything else. So what most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life experiences, dreams that you have had or something else?
Sometimes it’s life experiences. My Nebula Award Nominated short story “Grass Dancer” was inspired by events that took place at a powwow during the beginning days of the Gulf War. But I do a lot of research into folklore, strange tales, history and the paranormal, and that is a great place for inspiration. A lot of my novels and short stories also draw upon the myths and culture of my Native American heritage.
I find that life experiences influence bits of my writing with the rest coming from dreams and nightmares. I think most authors are influenced by parts of their own lives more so than anything else. So did you always want to write horror or do you write in other genres?
I stick mostly to horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Those three genres allow me the freedom needed to write everything from children’s books to novels.
That makes perfect sense. Those were and still are the genres that I most often read. As life tends to influence our writing, so do the authors that we read. Which author/s has most inspired or influenced your writing style, alive or dead?
Growing up, I read a lot of Poe, Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Andre Norton, and Edgar Rice Burroughs and think they have probably influenced my writing style the most. I also read a lot of Ray Bradbury, but nobody can write like him. I don’t even try. His stories flow like poetry.
Poe is my favorite author and that began my love of horror novels and stories, but even more so, the era in which he wrote. I understand that your story in Classic Monsters Unleashed was inspired by “Dracula.” In my opinion, the most classic of all the classic monsters. I have had a long-standing love affair with all things Dracula. What can you tell us about your take on this classic tale?
Dracula is a fascinating character. Not only is he a vampire, but he’s also a shapeshifter. His ability to change into a wolf excited me the most, because it’s similar to Native American legends of shapeshifters and skinwalkers. I wanted to take Dracula out of the urban setting of 1800s Europe and put him on the American frontier, blending his legend with those of this country. I also wanted to put him up against two of the biggest names from that period of history, rugged individuals who were already seeing their way of life, and the things they cherished, coming to an end.
Your story sounds fascinating and I can't wait to read it for myself. Would you consider “Dracula '' one of your favorite monsters, if so, why? If not, then which monster is and why?
Dracula is definitely one of my favorites, but I don’t think of him as a monster. He’s more of a victim of circumstance, forced to drink the blood of others in order to survive. He is intelligent, well dressed, and can be quite charming--provided he’s not sinking his teeth into your neck. And I know a lot of people, myself included, who are creatures of the night and would probably fit right in with that lifestyle.
I would have to agree, if I could, I can honestly say that I would. If you could write one more story on a classic monster, what might it be and why?
I would like to do a Creature from the Black Lagoon story. I’ve always been a fan of the original movie because the backstory is very believable. I would set it here in Florida, where all the underwater scenes for the original movie were filmed, tying in Native American folklore and urban myths about the Lizard Man. That would be so much fun to write, I’m smiling just thinking about it.
That would be a great story to read. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is another one of my favorite tales. What was your reaction to the news that “Classic Monsters Unleashed'' raised more money than any other horror anthology in the history of the Kickstarter platform? I thought it was an incredible campaign with a lot of great perks for the backers, aside from the book itself.
Actually, I wasn’t too surprised. There are a lot of us “monster kids” out there who love the original Universal monsters, and are dying to read new stories featuring Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, and the rest of the gang.
I would have to agree. Everyone loves a good monster story. Aside from the monster tales, what is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
I love everything about being in the horror industry. I get to write stories that give readers chills, sometimes even causing them to sleep with the lights on, and I get to hang out with masters of the macabre. Best of all, it allows me to carry in my heart the love of all things spooky and the magic of Halloween.
Well said and what can be better than that? What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
My novels and stories are my legacy. And, as a writer, I really couldn’t ask for anything more than that.
And finally, before you go, are there current projects that you would like to mention?
I’m currently working on several short stories and a new novel, but don’t like to talk about works in progress for fear of jinxing the projects.
I can understand that. So we shall part ways here and I wish you all the best for the upcoming projects. I look forward to having you back at some point in the future and I look forward to more of your stories!
Conceived in Oklahoma, and born in St. Louis, Owl Goingback grew up in the rural Midwest. He has been writing professionally for over thirty years, and is the author of numerous novels, children’s books, screenplays, magazine articles, short stories, and comics. He is a three-time Bram Stoker Award Winner, receiving the award for Lifetime Achievement, Novel, and First Novel. He is also a Nebula Award Nominee, and a Storytelling World Awards Honor Recipient. His books include Crota, Darker Than Night, Evil Whispers, Breed, Shaman Moon, Coyote Rage, Tribal Screams, Eagle Feathers, and The Gift.
In addition to writing under his own name, Owl has ghostwritten for Hollywood celebrities. He has also lectured across the country on the customs and folklore of the American Indians, served in the military, owned a restaurant/lounge, and worked as a cemetery caretaker.
Owl’s lives in Winter Park, Florida, and is currently working on a new novel and several short stories. To find out more about the author, visit his website at www.owlgoingback.com.
Meet Michael Knost
Bram Stoker Award Winner
Hello Michael. So great to have you with us today. Thank you for taking the time out to answer a few questions. I am sure you are very busy with your writing career which is quite long and impressive, as a Bram Stoker nominee and award winner, Amazon best seller and a long list of books, both fiction and non-fiction under your name. Kudo’s on such excellent achievements!
Let’s just dive right in with a few general questions before we get to Classic Monsters Unleashed and your story there. What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
I started writing nonfiction articles and books for the broadcasting industry. I managed radio stations and had several magazines ask for particular pieces. When I caught the bug to write, I decided to try my hand at science fiction, fantasy, and horror—genres I loved reading since grade school.
I can relate. I grew up reading those genres as well. What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life experiences, dreams that you have had or something else?
Almost always real-life experiences when it comes to characterization. Also having a number of things bounce into my life at the same time, which triggers a “what if” moment.
Real-life influences seem to be a common thread for many authors. I know bits of my life cross over into some of my own writing. I understand that you write in several genres, is there one that you prefer over the others or do you go wherever the story needs you to?
Usually where the story leads, but I almost always end up writing horror. Horror is what fascinates me most.
I can relate. Horror seems to be where my talents take me as well, even though I do love reading other genres. Speaking of influences, do you have an author who has most inspired or influenced your writing style, alive or dead?
Theodore Sturgeon. At least that’s what I’d like to think.
I can see how he would be a big influence, he was a great voice in fiction, notably science fiction. So tell us about your contribution in “Classic Monsters Unleashed”? What inspired you to tell this particular story?
Mine is an origin story for Count Orlok, the Vampire from the 1922 silent film Nosferatu. And the reason I wanted to write this one is because I have another monster in the tale who I have written about before . . . and that monster becomes pivotal in the origin story,
I see. Nosferatu has always fascinated me. I’m excited to read your take on this story. Would you consider this monster to be your favorite classic monster, if so, why? If not, then which monster is and why?
I wouldn’t say Count Orlok was my favorite, one who always intrigued me. Frankenstein’s Monster is probably my favorite.
Frankenstein is always a great choice. Lots to explore there. If you could write one more story on a classic monster tale, what might it be and why?
Again, probably Frankenstein’s Monster. I’d love to have a mad doctor piecing sections of brains instead of body parts. Could you imagine the possible outcomes?
I can imagine some of those outcomes and I bet the resulting stories would be horrifying. Speaking of outcomes, what was your reaction to the news that “Classic Monsters Unleashed” raised more money than any other horror anthology in the history of the Kickstarter platform? I thought it certainly raised the bar for others that may follow.
Yes, it raises the bar. But, I also thought how great it is that we are still interested in these monsters we grew up with, and can’t seem to get enough of them.
I absolutely agree, nothing better than a great monster tale. What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
The people. The authors, editors, publishers are all like a huge family. And for the most part, everyone tries to help everyone else.
Everyone says the people. It’s a running theme with the horror authors that I interview and I have interviewed quite a few over this past year or so. I think that is an awesome tribute to the people in the community. They should be proud of that fact. What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
I’m not sure about a legacy, but I pride myself in helping a number of writers make their dreams come true through my writing books, classes, workshops, and speaking engagements.
I can see that as a legacy. The ability to take our experiences and help others achieve their goals is an incredible legacy to aspire to. Which brings us to our last, but not least, question. Are there current projects that you would like to mention?
Writers Workshop of Horror 2 is coming out even as we speak. It is a collection of essays and interviews focusing on the art and craft of writing horror and dark fantasy. From bestselling authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice, and R. L. Stine, to up-and-coming writers just making their mark, this anthology is chock-full of advice and information writers of any level will find valuable and useful.
Michael Knost is a Bram Stoker Award®-winning editor and author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and supernatural thrillers. He has written in various genres and helmed multiple anthologies. His Writers Workshop of Horror won the 2009 Bram Stoker Award® in England for superior achievement in non-fiction. His critically acclaimed Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy is an Amazon #1 bestseller. Return of the Mothman, Barbers and Beauties, and Author’s Guide to Marketing with Teeth were all finalists for the Bram Stoker Award®.
Michael received the Horror Writers Association’s Silver Hammer Award in 2015 for his work as the organization’s mentorship chair. He also received the prestigious J.U.G. (Just Uncommonly Good) Award from West Virginia Writers Inc. His Return of the Mothman is currently being filmed as a movie adaption. He has taught writing classes and workshops at several colleges, conventions, online, and currently resides in Chapmanville, West Virginia with his wife, daughter, and a zombie goldfish. www.MichaelKnost.com
Coming July 2022!!
Meet Ben Eads
Author of Hollow Heart
What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
It came to me as naturally as breathing. I wrote my first story when I was seven. Hard to remember what it was about, but I’m sure it wasn’t good. It’s that zone you’re in. It’s a compulsion. I don’t have a choice. I started submitting and selling my work in 2008.
What is your overall background with regards to writing, are you a creative writing graduate, an English major or do you just have a natural inclination and desire to write?
Just a natural inclination/compulsion. My school was books. The library. Reading a ton of books, constantly reading more, and writing. Reading and writing. Editing books for presses has really helped a lot over the years. You get to see how things work on the other side and what will get published and why. That and a lot of workshops. I’m always pushing myself to grow as a writer.
What drew you to the horror genre and is that the only genre you write in, or do you dabble in others as stories come to you?
I don’t know what drew me to the dark. The story I wrote when I was seven didn’t seem dark to me, despite it being about an entire neighborhood turning into zombies. When the teacher read it, she was appalled. That’s when I first heard the term “dark.” She called it other names, of course. I remember “Garbage!” was one of them. As I grew older, I realized horror went where no other genre could, and there was a sweet reality to it. I love writing dark S/F, but that’s a rarity for me. I’ve sold one dark S/F short story, so far. I also sold a—gasp!—literary short story too.
What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
The concepts hit me like diamond bullets between the eyes, and this usually happens when I’m walking, meditating or taking a shower. Always when I’m away from a computer or writing paper. I see it like a movie trailer. I sift through a lot of crap, or things that really don’t have the emotional weight I’m going for. But when I find gold, it’s like an addiction. Almost nothing from my real life enters my fiction. I’ve tried and the story said: No! I’m the boss! I did set my latest horror novella, Hollow Heart in the state I live in, Florida. But the town is completely fictional.
What was your first experience with the horror genre, a movie, a story, maybe a childhood nightmare?
The first book I read when I was six was, The Treasure of the Scroll by Valerie Redux. It was about these cats that were knights in a medieval landscape fighting off these ferocious Gore-Wolves. I had a lot of nightmares, too. A few years later I watched Hellraiser. That sealed the deal. Ha!
Which author has most inspired or impacted your writing style, alive or dead?
Stephen King, Dalton Trumbo, Clive Barker, John Steinbeck, H. P. Lovecraft and Joe Hill. There’s more, and the list continues to grow as I discover new fiction.
Do you have a favorite horror novel? If so, why is it a favorite?
IT, by Stephen King. It’s got everything. What it’s like to be young, what it’s like to be an adult, facing trauma and great adversity, and true evil in human form. And one of the best monsters ever written. All of that is tied together.
What was your idea or original concept for “Hollow Heart”?
The concept was a neighborhood on lockdown due to a being called The Architect creating a new god, as well as turning the people of Shady Hills into what they really are. I don’t write with an outline. But I had my main characters and their background firmly in that “movie-trailer.” It wasn’t until I finished that I realized it’s like The Twilight Zone and Clive Barker had a baby. There’s heart, hope and messages I tried to nail. I hope I’ve accomplished 98% of that.
Where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years?
Maybe it’s the Taoist in me, but I go with the flow. Wherever the future takes me. I hope to have more short fiction and another novella published by then. I’ve started work on a novel. You never know.
What legacy would you like to leave behind for future readers?
I would be happy with some people enjoying some of my work. My ego is out of it. I do it because I love writing. Everything else that may or may not come… I’m cool with that.
What advice would you give to your 18 year-old self and why?
Take ayahuasca sooner. It changed my life… literally.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring author, of any genre, today?
Write what your heart tells you and never give up. Keep your ego out of it. Do it for the joy of creating itself. Adhere to a ritual every day. Keep growing as a writer. You will get rejected. You will have your heart ripped out of your chest and stepped on. It’s happened to the best writers, and it will happen to you, so you’re not alone. However you may feel, even with imposter syndrome, you’re not alone. Avoid censorship in its myriad forms.
What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?
I usually don’t talk about works in progress, but here goes! I’m working on a horror novel now. I also have two short stories as well.
Ben Eads was born and lives within the semi-tropical suburbs of Central Florida. A true horror writer by heart, he wrote his first story at the tender age of seven. The look on the teacher's face when she read it was priceless. However, his classmates loved it!
Ben's short fiction has appeared in magazines or anthologies by: Crystal Lake Publishing, Shroud Magazine, Seventh Star Press and Corpus Press. His first novella, Cracked Sky, was published in 2015 by the Bram Stoker Award® Winning press Omnium Gatherum Media, helmed by the amazing Kate Jonez. His latest book, Hollow Heart, is now available from Crystal Lake Publishing, another Bram Stoker Award ® Winning press. To keep track of what Ben is up to, go to www.beneadsfiction.com.
A Review: Hollow Heart
Brief Synopsis: Harold Stoe, once proud Marine, now wheelchair bound, is only proud of two things: quitting alcohol and raising his sixteen-year-old son Dale. But there is something in the hollow behind his house, something monstrous being built by a being called “The Architect”. As the Architect nears the completion of his new god, the body count rises all around Harold. Can he, Dale, and two neighbors fend off the Architect and destroy the beast before it wakes?
Harold is faced with deep resentment towards his father, and trauma from his time at war, guilt over the deaths of his squad after he gave the all clear and is trying to raise a son that harbors his own resentment towards Harold. The love of his life, Mary, lives close by but gives up on their relationship because Harold is “no longer a full man.” Harold must battle all of his demons in order to help his son, and Mary, navigate the inner workings of this beast growing stronger right in their own backyard and destroy it before it takes over the world.
Eads creates a horror story with fantastic elements of cosmic horror and reaches deep into the human condition to make the reader face hard questions and harder truths. Can we break the cycle of abuse? Can we learn to forgive our pasts and others? Can people really unite for a common goal? With dynamic writing, relatable characters and heartbreaking emotion, Eads weaves an intriguing story that hides more than a monster at its core. Four stars for this fascinating take on terror, trials and tribulations.
Meet PJ Blakey-Novis
Author for Demons Never Die
What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
Hmm, I kind of fell into it accidentally. In 2016 I’d been writing a (non-horror) novel as a hobby, which took me around a year to complete. Suddenly it was written but I had no idea what to do with it. I learned all I could about self-publishing (with a lot of newbie mistakes!) and put it out on Amazon. I never expected anyone to actually read it but they did, and they even liked it! That pushed me to write more and I saw a call for submissions for a horror anthology. I’d seen a lot of movies but hadn’t written horror at that point. I subbed the story and sold it, much to my surprise. From then on I’ve concentrated mainly on short horror fiction and have been fortunate enough to appear in quite a few anthologies.
What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
I think there is an element of real-life in most of my stories, some more than others. I wrote a short body-horror piece (Opened Up) based on an operation I had on my foot, my debut novel is set in my hometown, one of my favourite stories (Embrace the Darkness) is set around a nightmare I had as a child. I use locations I’m familiar with quite regularly and snippets of past experiences.
Which author has most inspired or impacted your writing style, alive or dead?
I hate this question because it’s so difficult to choose just one. I seem to be a little different to most horror authors in that I didn’t read much horror before writing it. I was more into serial killer thrillers and police procedurals. But since starting to write short horror, I’ve been devouring anthologies and collections, mostly from independent authors. Ones that first come to mind are D.J. Doyle (her story Red was the first extreme story I’d read and it’s superb), Matthew V. Brockmeyer (his collection Under Rotting Sky is quite possibly my favourite), and the anthologies I’ve read from Kevin J. Kennedy and Crystal Lake Publishing have all been really impressive so I’d say these have motivated me to keep perfecting my stories.
What was your idea or original concept for “Demons Never Die”?
Demons Never Die was something David came to me with, originally to be published as an art book. I’d ‘met’ David through the charity anthology It Came From The Darkness, for which he provided the cover art. We tossed a few ideas around and decided that adding some stories to the artwork would make it more appealing to different readers.
Which came first, the artwork or the flash fiction?
The artwork was finished first and David sent all 64 images over to me. At first, I was planning to just dot a few pieces of short fiction throughout the book but as I went over and over the images, more ideas came to mind. Now, half the images have a story associated with them.
Why was flash fiction chosen for this collection over poetic verses or longer stories?
I didn’t want to take away from the fact that Demons Never Die is predominately an art book. It was David’s idea and his incredible talent that brought the book to life. We both felt that some text, just enough to fill a page, would compliment the images. I didn’t want to start adding full short stories and end up making the book about me! Writing the stories was actually quite scary in itself, hoping that I’d interpreted David’s artwork in a way that he would approve of (especially some of the more controversial parts such as The Preacher’s Private Time). Fortunately, he was very happy with what I came up with.
This collection was broken down into three categories; Creatures, Historical figures and Vices & Influences, why those three and do you plan on doing more books like this, maybe a series?
That’s a question for David, really. He had already put the artwork together and decided on the three categories. I think they work really well as different example of demons, whether that be literal or metaphorical. It also made writing the stories much more interesting than just adding another creature tale. The research on the historical figures was fascinating, and the vices and influences section was emotionally quite challenging.
And yes, there will be more to come. We are working on a limited-edition hardback, signed by both of us, which will include a few extra stories and some full colour artwork inside. David is busy working on a follow-up collection, and we have also been discussing a similar book but the other way around – a collection of flash fiction that I have written which David would then add artwork to. So, there is lots to look forward to.
Did you have a favorite piece in this collection? If so, what made it your favorite piece?
Another question that’s hard to answer! But I’ll pick a favourite from each section anyway…In the Creatures section, I’d say Hate in Silence is my favourite image. It was going to be the cover image but would have been a nightmare to advertise with the swastika on the cover so we changed that.
In Historical Figures, Amelia Dyer really stands out. She was horrific and someone I knew almost nothing about prior to writing this book. I actually saw a piece of her clothing at The True Crime Museum near us recently.
In Vices & Influences, A Mother’s Love seems to have hit hard with some readers and it has one of the most emotional stories alongside the artwork.
What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
There is a wonderful sense of community with the indie horror scene. I don’t know what it’s like for other genres but so many other writers and publishers have been nothing but supportive and, especially when I was starting out, always on hand with advice. I’m not all that active on social media as I find it takes up too much time but I’ve connected with a number of writers who have truly been inspirational.
What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?
For my own writing, I am (slowly) getting closer to finishing a few books that I’d been picking away at. I have a sequel to my horror novella coming, as well as my first full-length horror novel. There may well be a new short story collection by the end of the year as well.
P.J. Blakey-Novis resides in a small town on the south coast of England, a stone’s throw from the sea. He has published two novels, six collections of short stories, one novella, and three children’s books to date. In 2020, P.J. won the Indipenned Short Story Contest for his story Passing Through. He has had stories published in over 30 anthologies.
Twitter & Instagram: @pjbn_author
Exclusive Image from the Hardcover
Meet David Paul Harris
Ilustrator for Demons Never Die
When did you first begin to draw and when did you start drawing horror pieces?
When I was a child I used to illustrate my own stories. Nothing genius, but typical adventures from a little boy’s imaginary. The first horror movie I ever saw was Night of the Living Dead (think I was two!) and the next was The Exorcist. Both influenced me greatly. Some would have to admit that those films scarred them. But I found them hilarious. To this day The Exorcist makes me laugh. I’ve never been genuinely afraid when watching a horror film or reading a book. Well, that’s not exactly true.
For some reason the movie Humanoids From The Deep gave me and my little brother Dustin a good scare. And that’s a horrible movie! But the very first picture I drew as a child, according to my mother, was of a horse copied out of an encyclopedia. I don’t mean that it was traced. When I showed the drawing to my mother, who was with visiting friends at the time, no one believed I had drawn it freehand. They all thought it was a tracing. My mother had me show them the page in the encyclopedia and they were shocked that I had drawn it exactly as it was in the book, only larger. But that’s the story my mother tells. Parents are partial. For all I know it was awful.
Do you have formal art training or are you just naturally this incredibly talented?
I’m always moved when someone compliments me, so thank you. No, I have no formal training. That’s not to say it’s been easy. As with anything it’s all about the time you put into it.
What is your favorite thing about being an artist and what are your favorite mediums to work with?
I’m not sure I have a favorite thing about being an artist. It’s just who I am. But I do enjoy reading/hearing the reactions of those who view my work. Everyone has a worldview of their own. It’s fascinating how, if they find the work favorable, the work fits in with their way of thinking. Or, if it challenges their beliefs, they can equate it to evil, and therefore the artist must be an agent of the dark lord.
How did the concept for “Demons Never Die” come about? Was it your idea, Peter’s or a collaboration?
The original concept was mine, but the collaboration with Peter was essential in bringing the book to life.
Is there a favorite piece of art in this collection? Something that just stands out for you?
Hate in Silence. For me that piece speaks volumes about the human psyche. Add Peter’s flash and there’s no mistaking the message.
What is your favorite flash fiction piece for the collection?
Still have to go with Hate in Silence.
What advice would you give to other artists?
Don’t create for money. Don’t follow the trends because when you do you’re just adding to the noise. Take the time, do the work, to develop your own signature style. And have something to say.
Where do you hope to see yourself in three to five years, with regards to your artwork?
Continuing to create new works with several books under my belt, and illustrating cover art for books and magazines while making a fair living from it all.
What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Horror industry?
The people. The horror community is the best fandom there is.
What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?
I’m currently working on a side project for a future book titled Shadows of Death, but the next book is with Peter illustrating a collection of flash fiction.
David Paul Harris has previously been published under the name David Paul as the author of The Witness, Naked Vitality and From the Blood of Poetry, and has been published in magazines, including Heavy Metal. He was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky in the US where he resides.
Demons Never Die
Demons Never Die is an incredible collection of artwork created by David Paul Harris, joined with flash fiction pieces written by P.J. Blakey-Novis.
Unique collection of artwork and prose focusing on a range of subjects. Split into three categories; creatures, historical figures and vice and virtues.
The creatures section shines a spotlight on some truly nightmarish beings with a creepy piece of flash fiction to go along with each piece of art. The historical figures section portrays the people as the monsters they were with the flash fiction laying their sins bare. The vice & virtues section spotlight some of humanity's worst vices while the fiction tells us how they haunt us and impact us each day.
Overall, this is an intriguing collection of work with some absolutely striking pieces of art contained within. I have heard that a hardcover edition is coming and I plan on getting one to add to my bookshelves. This is sure to be a collectors edition.
4 solid gold stars for this stunning collection.
C. C. Adams
Joins UDH in The Rusty Chair
July 24, 2021
Meet C.C. Adams
What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
I’d dabbled in fanfic previously, as a member of Kelley Armstrong’s (now defunct) discussion forum. That fanfic was well received. I’d then signed up to her OWG (Online Writing Group) and started writing some stuff – and this was where I caught wind of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
I’d watched the other group members over the course of a year try and best NaNoWriMo before taking up the challenge myself in 2009. Beating the challenge with 52,000 words written in 29 days convinced me to write with professional intent. So, yeah, I’ve been running with it ever since.
Why do you write horror and do you write in any other genre?
In addition to villainy, horror has that sense of unpredictability. It’s not like a rom-com where you might get a Happy Ever After, or at least a Happy, For Now. Everything and everyone in horror is fair game and it doesn’t discriminate. The good die. The bad survive. The monster gets away – now, there's a trope I love. You can thank the first Halloween film for that one.
And the villainy? It goes beyond the likes of Snow White and the deadly apple, or Scar getting rid of Mufasa in The Lion King. Horror shows you new levels of threat. Villainy. Monsters. You get to craft something insidious and compelling.
What was your idea or original concept for “There Goes Pretty”?
Romantic I am, I wanted to do a love story. Of course, with it being horror, it wasn’t going to end well, and I wanted to do a story with that kind of antagonist that you see in the story; something that’s not apparent at first. At least, not to the characters. That’s very much a key thing for me: that something in a picture doesn’t look quite right. It’s only on closer inspection that you see how far the horror goes, or how deep. And revealing more of the horror and dragging it into the light can make it retaliate.
One thing which is key to me is to have those stories very much grounded in the real world. And the same goes for those fantastical elements; how do they sit in the real world? How do those characters, human and otherwise, react to them? With “There Goes Pretty”, it shows what happens when external forces weigh on a relationship. It also shows that one person’s experience isn't the same as someone else's.
What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
You know, I can honestly – and happily – say that my inspiration comes from any and everywhere. I’m blessed in the sense that I'm writing to keep up with the muse, so I've not run out of ideas yet. I don't have so many dreams or nightmares now, which is nice. But inspiration might be something I’ve seen in a news report. It might be a song that conjures an image or a scene. It could be a quote. Honestly, it could be anything. Forfeit Tissue, for example – the opening scene in the fire came because I saw the Jazz Café was closed a while ago for refurbishment. There I go, thinking, “hmmm, I wonder why?” Active imagination, present and accounted for.
Tell us about “But Worse Will Come” and “Downwind, Alice”, where did the inspiration for those stories come about?
But Worse Will Come is a personal favourite. I’d had an idea for a short story a few years back called Sunset Is Just The Beginning. And this was actually inspired by a job I had ages ago, where one guy in the office threw a spider at someone else. Sure, it was in one of those little clear plastic pouches (like the ones the spare buttons for a suit might come in) – but he still threw a spider at someone. Cue ‘the fuck is wrong with you?’ and ‘are you fucking mad?’ – etc. etc. etc. So that then begs the question: if someone throws a spider at you to scare you, how do you scare them back?
In the years since I wrote that story, I’d been honing my craft – business as usual. So when I’d seen an open call for novellas, I thought; hey, about a novella sequel to the short story Sunset Is Just The Beginning? Because at the end of the short story, the child’s life was spared. The novella picks up in that child’s adulthood where he forgets that warning, and puts himself back in harm’s way. Now the thing that lets the child live to see another day is coming after the man. The title of the two stories describe the story arc: “Sunset is just the beginning …but worse will come.” There’s also a prequel to the short story, Sanity Slips Through Your Fingers, which goes deeper into the mythos of that trilogy. But Worse Will Come is the story that makes me sleep with the light on. Yes, I’m being serious. It’s also one I can still lose myself in as a reader, which is great.
Downwind, Alice is another tale of the predator and prey dynamic, but hinges on an important truth: actions can have consequences. What I wanted to do here is show a character that’s arrogant and impulsive – only to have it come back to bite them. Bad enough if no one believes you, but that’s made worse if no one even likes you.
Neither the protagonist or the antagonist are particularly likeable; because that’s what villainy does for you. But this is a tale where the genie is well and truly let out of the bottle, and nobody’s prepared for that; least of all, the antagonist. The longer the genie is left out of the bottle, the more savagery there is. Pushing everyone to breaking point. Which showcases another motif; that some of the real horror comes in those moments of silence in the aftermath. That’s where the ramifications and dread can really weigh on a character.
I saw that you have quite a bit out there in short stories, what are some favorites that stand out and why?
Oh, man – those are a point of pride. There used to be an indie publisher way back when called DarkFuse. I remember one of the things they pitched was their interest in new(er) authors and how they promoted themselves: the look of their website, social media presence, body of work. So I figured it might be better all round trying to start (outside of the NaNoWriMo efforts) with short stories.
Quicker to write, quicker to edit, quicker to shop, quicker to sell, quicker to build a body of work.
Curious, If Anything – this one I wrote as part of 2017’s A Story A Week challenge (alongside authors like Kev Harrison, Brian Asman, Sarah Read, Dan Howarth, et al). A prime example of how horror might sit in the real world, where an old man finds a ghost in his bathtub. And he’s not scared, just …curious, if anything. Of course, there’s still something to be afraid of. I actually spoke to an older African brother I used to work with, who gave me some insight into his life history, so I crafted the narrative from that. Pacing, fluidity, visuals, all of it.
Sanity Slips Through Your Fingers – this one I wrote for the DeadSteam anthology, is the first in the But Worse Will Come trilogy. A friend that read this described it as ‘chilling’ and, to be fair, it’s one of the more …graphic short stories I’ve written. Even though it was for a horror anthology, it wasn’t as dark as it is now but Bryce (the editor) gave some good input. And the more I read through it, I was like, “Yeah, let’s push it here. This’ll be graphic, this’ll be nasty.” The title fits this one like a glove – the themes are macabre.
Back then, I used to write for a specific submission call; now, I write, period. That’s just one example of how the game has evolved; the more I write, the more work I have available to submit, the more likely I am to sell something quicker, the more likely I am to keep my audience engaged.
What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
If I had to pick one thing, it’d be the opportunity for hustle. Yes, there’s a sense of community and camaraderie – certainly in the indie horror community at large. But the readers at large will see little of that; they come for the stories, the work, the product.
This is why I’m ‘always’ writing – because I know and understand that the writing is the bottom line. It doesn’t matter what education you have or don’t have, or where you grew up, or how many Likes/followers you get on social media – no.
The bottom line is: can you write? Do people read your stories? Love them? Will they? Not your peers; your connections on social media, the go-to crowd at conventions, et al. I’m talking about the average person (if there is such a thing). Those outside of the genre; the 9 to 5-ers, housewives, teens, pensioners; I don’t care – the masses. Call them what you will. How do you reach them? How do you engage and entertain them?
And to that end, there’s no definitive methodology. Sure, you get your basic principles: write what moves you, get paid for your work, don’t be a dick on social media, etc. But it's how you do that which I love. It’s open to interpretation, and it can vary from one person in the genre to another.
For me, it’s about game: the savvy in how I do what I do. There’s nothing small-time in my mindset or approach. Marquee value (or lack of) doesn’t faze me. The bottom line is the writing – it’s that simple. If I’m bringing my A-game there, the rest will follow. All of this is Game 101.
Name your top 2 or 3 most admired horror authors and/or novels and explain why?
Hmmm. I’ll pick one of each.
For authors, I’ll go with Michael Crichton. From an author perspective, it’s how he’s woven fiction and fact to create a wholly suspenseful and engaging narrative. Jurassic Park and Timeline are solid examples of this. And here, like in much of his other work, there’s a sense of intrigue, along with action and imagery. The work is kinetic and moves at pace; action and violence peppered here and there for good measure.
For novels, I’ll have to pick Incubus by Joe Donnelly – which is, to date, the only novel I’ve read that made my skin crawl. Truly a masterclass in pacing and dread and partly responsible for how I write in terms of pace and nuance. The tagline ‘What kind of baby would steal a mother’ was intriguing, but it’s the answer to that question and how it’s revealed that makes it disturbing.
What would you most like your fans to know about you, who is C.C. Adams at the end of the day, behind closed doors?
I’m relatively private and low-key, same as always. That said, some things are common(ish) knowledge. London-based (UK); born and raised in the nation’s capital and proud of. Bona-fide Spider-Man fan, owning several hundred original-issue comics, including Harry Osborn on drugs, death of La Tarantula, and Venom’s first appearance. Seasoned lifter; not known to skip leg day.
As prolific/dedicated as I might be, I’m not slavish to being a writer. But I’d like to think I was regular, down-to-earth and just humble when people read my work and tell me things like “some of you motherfuckers need Jesus.” That one, I believe, was a compliment.
What legacy do you aspire to leave behind?
A wholly engaging body of work. The kind of stuff that horror fans, journalists, actors and film directors, et al. can buy into, discuss, read and lose themselves in. And hopefully scare the shit outta themselves with.
What one piece of advice would you offer to a new author?
Keep writing. The writing is the bottom line.
And it might sound trite, but I honestly believe that so many writers, new or not-so, fail to grasp this one simple thing. I mean, think about it. Supermarkets don’t stay in business because they sell a loaf of bread here, a bottle of milk there, and a frozen pizza a couple of days later. No. They have shelves, fridges and cabinets full of that shit. To keep writing is to evolve, to hone your craft and build a body of work.
What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention? What’s next for C.C. Adams?
Have already started the next project, which I’m eyeing for a release next year. As is, I’ve got two novels to clean up, and at least one novella to tidy up. Again, the muse continues to outrun me, so when the next idea hits me, I’ll have to see where it fits into the current schedule. Busy is as busy does.
London native C.C. Adams is the horror/dark fiction author behind books such as But Worse Will Come, Forfeit Tissue and There Goes Pretty. A member of the Horror Writers Association, he still lives in the capital. This is where he lifts weights, cooks - and looks for the perfect quote to set off the next dark delicacy. Visit him at www.ccadams.com, or on Twitter - @MrAdamsWrites
Review- "There Goes Pretty."
by C.C. Adams
“There Goes Pretty” completely changed my views on the standard haunting trope. That is not an easy feat to do, seeing as how I am pretty set in my ways and in what entertains, fascinates, intrigues and upsets me. That being said, CC Adams took one of my biggest pet peeves and utterly disregarded it. I know, the audacity of him for writing his story his own way! Allow me to explain.
There Goes Pretty is a lovely tale of newlyweds, just setting about their new life as a couple and getting ready for their honeymoon. Denny and Olivia are getting settled into their new home, settling into work/home life routines as they have a few weeks before the honeymoon. They are deeply in love, surrounded by good friends and family and seem to be everything that a new young couple should be.
As with any good haunting, good things cannot and do not last, and that remains the same in this tale. The beautiful Olivia is soon being plagued by cold spots, bad vibes and nightmares. Within days, a full-scale attack is being waged on Olivia that she is unable to explain. Something or someone is in their new house and it is trying to harm her. Denny has tried everything to reassure her and is very close to losing his own mind before he finds Olivia one night, cowering in their bathroom, having been half-drowned by something. She insists on a few days at her sisters and a new place to live. She will not go back there.
Denny goes home to clean-up, and to try to organize his own thoughts. Is his new wife crazy? Is she truly losing her mind or is something more sinister at work? Denny soon discovers the answer to his own question, although he is quite unaware of it. Things go from bad to worse in very short order. When I finished this book, I was pleased, and I was upset. I wanted more closure than what was given, but I also did not. It was perfect, exactly how it was. I was more disturbed that I so often look for more closure in a story, but CC Adams did not feel the need to give it to me and I just had to deal with that, so I did. So, thanks to CC, for changing my perspective and thanks for writing such an excellent tale of terror.
4 solid stars for “There Goes Pretty.”
June 26-Rowland Bercy, Jr.
Award Winning Author of Unbortion
We first spoke to Rowland back in February during Black History Month and wanted to bring him back on for a more in-depth interview and to find out more about what he has been working on since. Read on to discover more about this incredible author for yourself.
What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
Honestly, when I wrote my first book Unbortion, which is a story I had in the back of my mind to write for years before I did so, it was more a challenge to myself to see if I could actually get the story out of my head and get it published. I had never written anything before in my life and had no idea exactly what was involved in the process. When I sat down to begin writing, surprisingly the story came to me with ease. Nine months later I had finished my novella. I then had to figure out copyrighting, editing, formatting, cover art, and exactly where and how to get my book out to the public. I started doing Google searches, found editors & illustrators on Fiverr. I learned how to upload my book to Amazon and next thing I knew I had self-published my first book.
Why did you choose to write horror?
I grew up watching horror movies and reading horror stories, thanks to a mother and father who also loved horror. I’ve always enjoyed being scared so it was only appropriate that I write what I love.
What was your idea or original concept for “Payback is a Witch”?
In addition to loving horror, I love anything involving witches and witchcraft. Movies like The Craft, American Horror Story: Coven and TV shows like Charmed and The Witches of East are some of my favorites to watch. So, I wanted to incorporate my love of horror and my love of witches and write a horror story featuring witches as the main protagonist.
I noticed there was an awful lot of detail that went into the spell creation and I happen to know that you are an avid D&D player. Did your game play experience help you create and cast the spells?
Yes, All the spells featured in Payback is a Witch are actual spells from D&D. In D&D all of the character classes have certain spells they can cast; there are hundreds of spells which gain strength as the character levels up. The spell cards contain a brief description of what the spell does along with the necessary components needed to cast the desired spell. Quite often in stories about witches you see the witches using a Grimoire; a book of magic spells and invocations in their craft. I wanted to do something different and thought to myself how much smarter and easier it would be for my main protagonist to utilize “spell cards” in place of their Grimoire.
Did the card system come from D&D or was this just a random inspiration?
Yes, the card system came from D&D. I did tweak it a bit by having the witches incorporate the components needed for casting a desired spell into stunning pieces of jewelry they would accessorize themselves in. So long as the components required for casting a spell were on their person the casting would be successful.
How much research did you also do into Wiccan or Witchcraft?
I did a lot of research and wanted to hold true to the Wiccan Rule of Three; also called the Threefold Law or the Law of Return, which states that all good and harm a person does to another returns threefold in this life, but I had to keep in mind that PIAW is a fictional tale of revenge so the Rule of Three in this particular story is/was not applicable. I was able to stay true and utilize certain Wiccan symbolism throughout the story.
What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
I try to write about stories about subjects I find interesting or disturbing which I hope in turn comes across in my story telling.
Tell us about “Unbortion”, where did this idea originally come from?
Referencing the previous question. Little things like the baby from It’s Alive, or the Zuni Fetish Doll from Trilogy of Terror, or the Homunculus from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark are super creepy and disturbing to me. It’s Alive is one of my all-times favorite movies and I suppose Unbortion was loosely inspired/influenced by It’s Alive but the plot twist in Unbortion sets it as a stand-alone and is completely unique and unexpected.
I know you work in the medical field and I love how much of your medical knowledge that you apply to your stories. Was that a planned decision or does it just come through as you write?
It was not planned at all. I did not go into Unbortion or Payback is a Witch with the intention of implementing some of my medical knowledge into the story. What I’ve learned working in the medical field just came through in my story telling and just so happened to be an unexpected surprise in addition to being an integral part of the story.
What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
The camaraderie in the Indie horror community is one of my favorite things about the industry. I have met so many amazing authors and readers since becoming a part of the community. Each and every person I have met thus far has been nothing but loving, supportive and encouraging.
What would you most like your fans to know about you?
That I am just like them. Sometimes happy but I also have days when I feel down in the dumps. I am trying to find my way through the confusing, yet remarkable thing we call life as best I can, all while helping as many and hurting as few people as possible. Sometimes I feel like I am on the right track but then I look up and wonder where the hell I am, and how the hell did I get here but, be that as it may, for the most part I am happy, and hopeful that things will work out in my favor in the end. I am truly thankful for the love and support of my family and fans. The positive feedback I get from both sources honestly does inspire me and motivates me to keep my head held high and to push forward.
What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention? What’s next for Rowland Bercy, Jr.?
I have three WIP, one titled Pre-Thanksgiving Stress Disorder (PTSD) which was originally released in a collection titled The Distended Table that is currently being adapted into an enhanced audiobook, complete with background music and sound effects which I hope to release in early November. I am also working on a short story which will be included in a collection compiled by Matt Shaw titled Battered, Broken Bodies and Anthology of “Body Horror” which I am ecstatic and honored to be a part of. And lastly, I am working on another story which is still in the early stages of development but if all goes as planned hopefully, I will release it shortly after the new year. I will say that I get the heebie-jeebies each and every time I have to do research on the subject matter. It is disturbing and disgusting and should make for one hell of a story.
Author of Payback is a Witch, Pre-Thanksgiving Stress Disorder and Unbortion, winner of the 2020 American Fiction Awards and finalist in the 2019 International Fiction Awards. Born and raised in New Orleans, LA but currently reside in Houston, TX. My website is www.rowlandbercyjr.com
Payback is a Witch
By Rowland Bercy, Jr.
Long overdue, my apologies to Rowland Bercy, a new friend and fellow author. I had been planning to read this book for quite a while now and was finally able to get to it, by listening to it on audible, which was an incredible experience. If you have not yet listened to this audiobook, get it. I promise you will not be sorry. I’m sure reading it is great, but the audiobook is fully produced with a bit of music and some truly creepy effects that really set off the story. The narrator was perfect, his delivery, his tone, everything about the delivery of this tale was on point.
I’ll just start by saying I fully loved this story, every detail, every moment, kept me invested in the events that were unfolding. This story follows a high priestess Wiccan that lives deep in the New Orleans bayous with her daughter. Both women are extremely powerful witches, the mother much more so than the daughter, as the younger woman is still being trained by her mother. Nevertheless, she is already quite powerful in her own right, as well as athletic and feisty.
The ladies are also beautiful creatures of the night and nature and one day, five thugs decide the young girl is just beautiful enough to satisfy their carnal needs. As she returns to the bayou from a supply trip to town, the young thugs stalk her through the swamp, not realizing that her mother is waiting nearby for her return. Hearing her daughter's screams, the priestess gathers her powers and sends aid as quickly as she can, but not before some unfortunate events take place.
As the spell is cast and the daughter escapes, she swears vengeance upon the young men that disrobed and groped her so offensively. She returns to her mother where the pair begin to plan how to extract their revenge. Each thug meets a most vile and despicable end, properly befitting of their foul natures.
I found myself holding my breath in some parts, laughing a bit at others and fully gleefully cackling along as each spell was cast on those that sought to harm the witch's daughter. This book was well-planned, well-written and fully researched with regards to spell-casting, wiccan practices and medical knowledge. Rowland Bercy is quickly becoming an expert at his craft and I cannot wait for more of his tales to hit the bookshelves. Five stars for a super fun and immersive audible experience.
May 29, 2021:
Meet Paul Carro
Author of "The House" and "Roots of All Evil".
Thanks for joining me in my Rusty Chair. It’s been a while since our last chat. How’s life treating you? Out in LA, right?
Paul: Hi Candace. Great to talk to you! You might want to invest in some more comfortable furniture. Maybe some Ikea? (You know horror authors are collectively going to drive the jokes into the ground on this, right?) Yes, LA for quite some time. I grew up in Maine, made a post college stopover in Seattle then settled in LA and have never looked back.
Candace: Ha! I know, I really do need a trip to Horrorstor or um, Ikea. Yes, probably Ikea. Great to hear from you. I’m glad it’s going well….So you have a long career behind you in Tv and movies- what was that like?
Paul: Frustrating and rewarding. I think I have more sold but unproduced projects than anyone in Hollywood, but I am sure there are others who would argue that with me. Movies can take forever to be made if at all, which is strange when one collects a paycheck then does not see the results for years or a decade or more. I finally moved into reality TV at one point, and it felt great that what you worked on this week was on the air the following week. My time in this arena was not all writing. I did plenty of camera work, editing, lighting, and producing along the way. Whatever paid the bills as it were.
Like many things it is highs and lows which is why I also decided to move into novel writing. I can get the stories I wish out into the public in a timely manner and then can allow the slow movie process to follow without as much care if I am lucky enough to get the books set up with a producer somewhere. While that stuff is being negotiated, I am already onto the next book. I wish I had started writing novels sooner.
Candace: I can see how that would be frustrating, especially in today’s world of instant gratification. Reality TV sounds like an interesting venture as well. Did you have a favorite show or movie that you really enjoyed being a part of?
Paul: The first movie I ever sold was called Penance and it led to my first round of studio tours and meetings with invites to red carpet premieres and such. I think nothing matched the excitement that came with that time period, the purity of it all and my total ignorance of how things worked so I got to just have fun and enjoy the ride.
As I mentioned above however, I sold that one in the late nineties and it still has not been made. I get updates from time to time and whispers that something might be happening but that is the warning, you need to cherish a project but also need to move onto the next one.
Candace: Wow, so not always as glamorous as the tabloids make it seem. That is a good warning for others to heed. I do tend to get attached to projects, so that’s really good advice that I’ll have to remember. I’m sure you have lots of tales to tell about the industry but for tonight, let's get into writing. What made you want to become a writer and when did you first begin writing professionally?
Paul: I was in a weird position that I learned to read prior to kindergarten. Not certain how, mostly Sesame Street I imagine. But once that started, I could not read enough. I’m not lying that I would read the backs of cereal boxes at breakfast because I was obsessed with the written word. I used handheld video games as a light source to stay up at night and read rather than play the game. I loved reading and books from day one and have never stopped being passionate about it.
I was published in fifth grade (non-horror) in an anthology of otherwise adult writers from Maine. After that, I took a long break and went into the production side, starting with camera work on PBS and then into commercial productions. I would say my first screenplay sale in the 90’s made it all official. But book wise, that journey has only recently started, in 2018.
Candace: I see. I started reading really early also, and I also read the cereal boxes, and the back of any mix, or bread, or shampoo bottles, while I showered. LOL. So, why did you choose to write horror as a genre?
Paul: Same reason as the last question. Because I was so voracious a reader and had limited time, which meant short stories were my jam. My Dad handed me down his comic books but I burned through those quickly, I would get what I could find for cheap at yard sales. (Scoring a Conan the Barbarian #1 for .10! once!) Dad watched cool monster movies and all the Harryhausen stuff, so I liked that horror adjacency. Then, at a yard sale, I discovered some Eerie and Creepy magazines. They looked like bigger comic books and technically were, but holy shit were they scary!
There is the term ‘freezer book.’ My older sister started to read Koontz and she would put Phantoms in the freezer because it terrified her so much. The magazines I mentioned were my freezer comic books. There were images I was too young to handle so I would hide them away and pull them out when I felt brave enough to revisit them. I have watched every horror movie possible and read everything I could since an incredibly young age (I’d say by fifth grade I was all in.). My love has never waned into adulthood, I never took a time off period from horror reading and watching. It is my favorite genre and always has been.
Candace: That’s an awesome answer. I think I had gotten into horror around fifth grade. My dad loved scary movies and sci-fi and with one TV in the house, we watched what Dad watched. John Carpenter’s “The Thing” hooked me on horror and I never looked back. As I grew up, I did branch out into romance, mysteries, some drama but I loved fantasy and superhero type of stories, which brings me to my next question. You also have a young adult superhero series about Nolan Walker, tell us a little about that series and where do you see it going?
Paul: Thanks for mentioning this. The book starts with “This Nolan” where we see this kid who is a superhero fighting against a terrifying foe. The battle does not end well for him, by the end his super hearing can no longer pick up the beating of his own heart. We then cut to our time and world to visit “This Nolan.”
He looks identical but is a normal skateboarding, video gamer kid here, except his mom is dying of cancer. Well, these strange dudes arrive and tell him they can cure her, but he will need to go with them. He complies and is taken to another dimension.
This other world has only teens as superheroes and it was Superior Lad who kept them from being the world’s worst jackasses. He helped them assemble as heroes. When Superior Lad dies, they bring the other Nolan over to pretend to be the fallen hero to keep the peace and fill the leadership void. Now Nolan must navigate his teen years pretending he has powers and living in a world where the cultural touchstones are so different. He is a Star Wars geek, but Star Wars does not exist there, nor do superhero comics. Oh, and his childhood crush back home is five years older in the new dimension. Poor Nolan!
It could go on forever, stories involving this kid, but I have a trilogy in mind. It is taking a backseat for now while I get my horror on, but I have had meetings with producers on a possible movie adaptation.
Candace: That sounds awesome! I’m going to have to introduce my son to Nolan. He would really enjoy that storyline. I’m really excited to see the many adventures that you create for Nolan. So, getting back to horror. The first novel I read of yours was “The House” which I really enjoyed reading. What was your idea or original concept for “The House”?
Paul: Thank you. I urge writers to read Mile 81 from Stephen King. It is a lesson in riding out a concept. Once you have that concept, you need to treat it seriously and follow through on what would occur. So even if it is a mud-covered station wagon that eats people, like in his story, it is treated as real as a biography.
That is how I feel about my writing. I am a journalist, and I capture a story that truly happened, no matter how strange. What would it be like if this event occurred IRL? In the case of “The House”, it began with that image of the kids playing in a field like they always do but then one day this massive house appears. What is it? What is going on? Once that started, I simply documented the course of events.
Sequels for me will be way off as I have so many stories to write but I loved these characters and have great plans for a sequel and prequel which will answer more details about what “The House” truly is. You have not heard the last of Charlie “Thunder” Raines and crew.
Candace: That would be incredible. I’ll be looking forward to those books coming out. So where or how did inspiration strike for your new novel, “ Roots of All Evil”?
Paul: This was pandemic driven. I have a super creepy, scary novel called The Salem Legacy coming out, but as we all went into lockdown, I envisioned a glut of horror where we see so many tales of dystopia and pandemics. Don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff too, but at the same time I felt like looking at it in a different way. So I pushed Salem Legacy back and wrote Roots of All Evil. There is a body count in this book and there are grotesque monsters and Lovecraft adjacent otherworldly beings, but at its heart, I felt this was what I call: Hopeful Horror.
What happens when a family is in a much different lockdown situation? (I do not want to give spoilers.) And what if they are battling what I consider physical versions of a virus? Some will succumb, some will be lost, but maybe, just maybe some might survive the damn thing.
Much has been made of my opening line in The House. I am as proud as the closing line in Roots of All Evil. I hope it leaves people feeling uplifted. We could use that right now.
Candace: I agree. It has certainly been a trying time for us all. A little hope and a little uplifting can go a long way. Alright, so let’s continue with inspiration. Let’s go deeper into who Paul Carro is, what makes you tick? What most inspires your ideas for your stories, real-life, bits of dreams or something else?
Paul: I love nightmares! Love them if they are about monsters (not personal loss, etc.). I can control my dreams and I always beat the baddies. But no, some story beats might come to me in dreams, but I do not find my stories there.
I have always been a runner and walker and hiker. It is there where ideas strike me regularly. There is something about being outdoors and in new environments that spark ideas. I will never be able to write all my planned novels in my lifetime so part of me would be okay if that idea machine took a rest, decided to turn off for a hot minute, but no they keep coming. Super cool ones might jump the line a little but for now my next six in a row are planned out and we will see which are next after those.
That is the mechanics of idea gathering, but what inspires me is examining the human condition when faced with the most unique adversities imaginable. I believe the best of those situations exist in the realm of horror. Mostly, I author books I would love to read that just aren’t out there yet. I also love to scare and there is one story in the upcoming anthology that genuinely scares me every time I read it. I can’t wait to see people react to that type of scare in my work. I hope it gets them good, that one. The thought of providing that scare inspires me for sure.
Candace: Nightmares had a huge impact on my writing, but I can understand nature being an excellent catalyst for ideas too. Fresh air, blood circulating, the mind tends to wander more freely when outside. I’ve often gotten ideas while hiking or looking out across a lake just as the sun sets. So how about human inspiration, who do you draw from? Which author has most inspired or impacted your writing style, alive or dead? and why do you think they impacted you so much?
Paul: Ray Bradbury for sure. As I mentioned, I was a creature of short stories and he was so prolific. I must believe he inspired even Stephen King. I know he inspired many. Each story was so different and like Mile 81 that I mentioned earlier, Bradbury committed to the bit as comedians might say. To grow up in a small town and have access to other places and worlds and situations was freeing for someone of exceptionally limited means. His stories were the passport which allowed you to travel anywhere. They also cracked open my imagination so I could imagine things greater than any I ever had prior to reading his work. Drugs were never my thing (I don’t judge, knock yourself out) but absent that, writers like Bradbury were the way to open minds in a similar manner. His stories are timeless and fantastic.
Candace: Bradbury is amazing. He was one of my favorites as well. It’s interesting how similar you and I are in our writing inspirations and beginnings. So, here’s a fun question, name your top 3 most admired horror authors and/or novels and explain why?
Paul: Stephen King for some specific local reasons. As I mentioned earlier, I was published when my teacher submitted a story I wrote to a publisher. (Mine was not horror, nor was the theme of the anthology, it simply was authors from Maine.) It made it into an anthology of Maine Authors. Sadly, when the book came out, there were no free copies. My family was too poor to buy the overpriced hardback, but my library bought a copy, so I at least got to see myself in print and check out the book. The only author I recognized was one Stephen King. I was too young to appreciate that fully but now I sometimes wonder which story or reprint of his appeared. I have not seen it listed in his bibliography.
Cut to Mr. King coming to my high school and reading from one of his books. Thinner, I believe it was. Forgetting his being the master, he was one of us Mainers and it gave me the ability to believe anything was possible no matter where you were from. I appreciate him so much more than just his fabulously creepy tales. By sixth grade, the floor was given to me on any Friday I wished, to read graphic short horror stories to the entire class. These were stories I wrote on my own, not for school and not for the class I read them in. I was just known for loving and writing these types of things.
There is no way a teacher would have allowed Tom Savini style slasher stories to be read in class outside of an assignment except for the belief that if King could do it, others in Maine could too. Then my senior year, I created an independent study course for screenwriting, on top of my AP English class. No way would educators, so far removed from Hollywood, allow something like that except there was this Stephen King guy making them there Hollywood movies. Sometimes when you open a door, you find a monster, but other times you find opportunity thanks to someone like Stephen King. His whole talented family, wife to kids. Treasures of Maine, those folks.
Charles L Grant also helped turn me into the writer I am today. He was a modern-day Bradbury who penned so many horror tales. I always knew a book was quality if it had one of his stories in it. He was more subtle than I will ever be but boy, he could set a mood and leave you feeling eternally creeped out. But it was his editing of so many anthologies that I enjoyed the most. He put together some spectacular collections, many with the coolest covers. Check out the Shadows series for some great reading. Miss this man greatly.
Last and I cannot state this enough: Joe R Lansdale is one of the greatest living American writers today. It was his horror shorts that hooked me early on, but I have read so much more of his work over the years. With him, forget everything else, he is simply a fantastic writer. I will never be as good as him and I am okay with that. Most people never will be.
One of my (unproduced) screenplays about golden age Hollywood has a line where a best picture writer makes a toast to his peers along the lines of, “Everyone has access to the same 26 letters, the great ones know how to arrange them just right.” That toast was written with Joe in mind. Since this is horror, I will recommend a short story I feel has been underseen, but I treasure. “Dog” in Dark Delicacies 2 Anthology. He has other dog titles. This one is simply titled “Dog.” Holy shit does this thing move! Greatest damn American writer. My top list like many people could change on any given day, but this man will never drop off said list.
Candace: All great writers. I admit that I do not recall reading Joe Lansdale but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t. I have quite literally read thousands of horror short stories and novels since my teen years. That being said, I will be sure to seek out “Dog” and make sure I read it, just in case, I haven’t come across it yet. Stephen King would be my number one, so I love the story about him coming to your school.
My biggest dream would be meeting Mr. King, or finding out that he’s read something that I wrote. To me, that would be everything. I could die happy and never write another word. So many great people in this industry, what is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
Paul: Only now getting there since I never got the hall pass before. My time in film I was pigeonholed into thriller categories and humor. I wished to write comic book films (from before they were huge) and horror, but people wanted those thrillers from me. Even now, I know I could write thriller novels that would likely exceed the readership of my current books as it is a larger market, but sorry, I love horror, it is my jam and I am done being pigeon-holed, I am putting it out there.
What I do love already though is the quality and diversity of the people. So many cool women and dudes who would never otherwise end up in a room together except they know what you are talking about when you mention the movie Terrified. To all the tatted, the clean cut, the horror nerds (like myself), and the rebels, at their core, horror people are damn fine people. Nice too, as a lot.
A quick example and shout out to a sweet and talented woman. When I first came to LA and knew no one and could not afford to go home for Thanksgiving and feeling blue for the holidays, Dee Wallace invited my buddy Richard Abraham and some other acting mutts to her house for Thanksgiving so they would not be alone. I was one of them. She could not have been nicer, and it may be what allowed me to remain in LA versus running back home in the early days when homesickness was still a thing. Not everyone in the horror community is as nice as she but so many are, despite their fondness for gore.
Candace: That’s a really great memory. I’m so glad that you had that experience. In my short time, being an active member of the horror industry, I also have found that it is full of nice people. Some of the most tremendously talented people have gone out of their way to be kind to me, show me the ropes and to engage with me and I honestly would not be as far along as I am today without them.
That includes you, seeing as how you were one of the first authors to be a part of my Dark Dozen interview series last fall. It’s truly an honor to have you back.
So, what is your endgame? Where do you want to be in five years with your writing and what legacy would you like to leave behind?
Paul: Write as many of my stories as I can, in my time left here and have that obituary forget everything else, other than Horror Writer. (I am not married or a dad, so don’t hound me about wishing that, over best father or husband.) Then I hope some kid discovers my books and he or she goes on to be a great horror writer themselves.
Candace: That’s a good answer. No hounding from me. I truly cannot wait to see what you bring out next. so, naturally, what is next for you? What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?
Paul: Well, “Roots of All Evil” is still fresh, the body has not decomposed too much yet, so I urge people to check that out. There is a preview for my next novel at the end of that book but before Salem Legacy I have a super cool project coming out. There is an anthology/collection of horror short stories on its way from myself and an up-and-coming young writer named Joseph Carro. Yes, my nephew and I will be writing in a volume for a uniquely themed anthology.
I am unaware of any other uncle/nephew writing pairs. The theme is of a type I would have loved when I was younger, and I hope people check it out. Like all things Covid, the project was delayed initially but should finally be out by July or August.
Thank you, Candace. Always great talking to a fellow horror writer and fan!
Candace: The “Thanks” belongs to you, Paul. So wonderful of you to take time out for Uncomfortably Dark, once again. I look forward to your new books!
Readers-Check out Paul's Bio below and make sure to take note of his free book that he is offering for free. "The Hand Off" will be free on Amazon, from Sunday, May 30, through Thursday, June 3, 2021
I was born in Windham, Maine but now live in Santa Monica, CA.
Most of my work is sitting on studio shelves, awaiting the light of day. Unless you have seen the reality show Operation Repo, then you have seen many seasons of my work. (Worked under the pen name Paul Bennett if you are looking for me in the credits.)
The House is a great place to start. Each book previews my next, and there are many more on the way.
As for my socials, my most personal account is my Instagram, which chronicles my day in and day out writing journey, but was opened under the name of my YA main character so find me there at: https://www.instagram.com/theofficialnolanwalker
My horror page socials are Twitter: https://twitter.com/paulcarrohorror
And if you want to get in on the ground level for my new author page for Facebook find me there at: Paul Carro | Facebook
Free Gift for Readers of Uncomfortably Dark!
From Sunday to Thursday-you can head on over to Amazon and grab a free copy of his book “The Handoff”. He has set up a free promo for us for this week only. Do not miss this freebie as Paul recounts 3 true tales of haunting horror and tells us two short stories sure to chill. Click the link below to grab your copy now!
Roots of All Evil
by Paul Carro
A cult murder in a farming community sets off a chain of events that will forever change two families. The charismatic cult leader seemingly perished along with the sacrificial victim.
Decades later when sinkholes appear and a woman goes missing it becomes clear evil never left. The town quickly learns it only takes one bad seed to raise a little Hell. The cult sacrifice from yesteryear planted a secret garden, one where the farmhands hunger for human flesh.
Two families bonded by tragedy unite, planning to travel to the ends of the Earth to save one of their own. They just may have to, for when a doorway opens on their land it exposes a long hidden world. Will the underground passage lead them to their loved one or lead them to their doom?
Evil grows on this farm and its roots run deep.
Full Review Coming July 2, 2021
Free Book !
The Hand Off by Paul Carro
From May 30 through June 2-you can head on over to Amazon and grab a free copy of his book “The Handoff”. He has set up a free promo for us for this week only. Do not miss this freebie as Paul recounts 3 true tales of haunting horror and tells us two short stories sure to chill. Click the link below to grab your copy now!
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