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The Rusty Chair!

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The Rusty Chair-Interviews: Welcome

Michael Tyree

Author of Pale Horse & Potter's Field Blues

Tell me about the stories in your collections “Pale Horse” and “Potter’s Field Blues”.  
Both of those collections, like everything I write, exists in the same universe, and mostly within the same fictional city of San Dismas. They both reference each other with recurring characters and points in time. Potter’s Field Blues was my first collection, published in 2020. It’s an anthology of four novelettes and one novella, all centered in one way or another on the idea of isolation and what it means to be human. 

The Pale Horse, my second collection, is made up of two novellas, and four novelettes. In a nutshell, it’s an anthology based on the mythology of The Reaper, and the deconstruction of death. Some stories have characters who meet an unfortunate end, but rather than pearly gates or brimstone, they are offered another chance as vengeful avatars. Other stories have you question the weight of taking a life. In Necessity, a young man is car jacked on his way home and forced to drive to a remote location. He makes a split-second decision that will change his life forever, whatever is left of it. A Glimpse of the Last Hours, the last novella, dissects the barrier between the living world and whatever mirrors that. It’s a surreal head trip, and the first story to begin tackling my universe’s mythology. 

How would you pitch each of these collections to a new reader?  
They both have their moments of cringy body horror, but PFB is a little heavier handed with it. It comes out of the gate with a gritty story about a sex worker named Monica, who accepts a huge cash offer from a wealthy John looking for a plus one to a party. I pitch it as Pretty Woman x Eyes Wide Shut. I wanted to write something that made the reader feel like they needed a tetanus shot when they finished. 
TPH has some gruesome moments, but I leaned harder into the grief horror and social commentary with this one. I tell people, if they want to be emotionally wrecked, this is the one for them. 

Do you have a favorite story in each collection? Which one and why is it a favorite?
It’s hard choosing, but my favorite story in Potter’s Field Blues would probably be The Swansong of William Delacroix. I already had a few loose threads connecting the stories I had finished at the time, and an idea of where I wanted to go. But this was the first time I introduced a character who not only took on a life of its own, in terms of dialogue, but creating Delacroix gave me the first big picture milestones for my universe. I knew early on that he would be a character I’d come back to in one form or another. Which is weird, because chronologically, that story is the last chapter of The Sandman. It was interesting, writing that, and from there, telling his story in reverse. His story, from his crimes talked about by supporting characters, to the trial coverage mentioned in passing moments, were some of the first Easter eggs I scattered in PFB and TPH. I used his story like a series of mile markers to establish time in the other stories, and in doing so, built this boogeyman mythology around him. 

My favorite in The Pale Horse is Cherrywood Hearts. That was the most difficult story to write, but I feel like it was worth the heartache. I’m happy with the ending. Sometimes stories come to a close and I feel like I could have done more, but not this time. People messaged my after they read it, saying it gave them nightmares, brought them to tears, even rethink what they would do if they lost a loved one. My editor told me, even though he had already been through that story twice before, the third read through still gave him anxiety. As story tellers, all we could hope for is to get the desired emotional response from a complete stranger. It’s a rewarding feeling when it does happen. 

Which story was the hardest to write and why? 
Going back to the previous question, the hardest story to write was Cherrywood Hearts. For starters, this story is pulled from a deeply personal event that I didn’t speak about often. A little over ten years ag, my wife had a miscarriage, on Valentine’s Day as if it couldn’t be worse. If you take out the witches, golems, tree sex, and the fact that we’re both still alive, Cherrywood Hearts is the story of what happened to my wife and I. 
Just like with any important, and difficult topic, I wanted to write a story about infertility in order to maybe spark some of those difficult conversations. But, the problem I had was tip toeing around such a sensitive subject. I wanted to be respectful, but honest. My hang ups about the subject made me scrap and rewrite this story until I had worked through close to 5 different versions.

Originally, I thought it would be shitty to tackle the subject head on from my wife’s point of view, not sure if I could speak for her. I planned on telling the story from my experience in the situation and how that loss affected me. But I put a stop to that. I got cold feet and figured even though I’m trying to be honest, it’ll probably come off as mansplaining PCOS and ectopic pregnancy, despite my sincerity. The original draft had Sandra die and Damon struggling to live without her. I thought it might be kinda cheap to write about infertility and kill the one woman within the first ten pages. 
The next few versions were closer to the final story. Damon would die first, or Sandra does not die at all. I had an ending reminiscent of Midsommar, where Sandra inadvertently joined this Stepford Wives cult within Zelda’s support group. But I squashed that one when I realized Sandra was way too smart to pack up everything and move to the suburbs with all the sketchy white women. I had a version where the witch takes the form of a young twenty something and seduces Damon before later sacrificing him in the same “life for life” ritual. The first problem I had with that version came about once I really fleshed out Damon as a character.

I’ve killed a lot of horrible people in my stories and some not so horrible. Either way, I usually don’t put much after thought into them. But Damon felt different as a character. Not only did it feel like “he” wrote his own dialogue, but he dictated his own moral fiber. When I started hashing out scenes with him running around on Sandra with the witch, under spell or no spell, it never felt right. It almost felt like a character assassination. Even in the final version of the story, during the car crash scene, I actually felt remorse for that character, which is weird for me. 

Do you personally relate to any of the characters?  If so, which one and why?
I put a little bit of myself into most of my characters, good or bad. But I think I relate more to Marc, from the story, Daydreamers. I used him to talk about the anxiety and severe depression I had in high school. Describing him in that moment before walking across the stage, when he’s crippled with anxiety, that was me every day for an awfully long time. Even after school. So, it was cathartic and therapeutic to write that for the first time.

What has been the best thing that you have learned about the writing craft and/or the publishing industry itself?
The best thing I’ve learned about the writing craft is the importance of writing for yourself first. At the end of the day, I write stories I would want to read if I were on the other side. Let’s say, for whatever reason, the Twitter hivemind (assuming Twitter will still exist when this is published *insert frowny face*) decided one day, you know, that Mike Tyree guy is a jackass, and they collectively decided to no longer buy my books. If that happened, I would still write the same stories, give myself the same self-imposed deadlines, and publish them, even if I were the only reading. Because first and foremost, “I” want to know what Tobias Vandenbrook is really hiding. I want to know if Monica got out alive. I want to know what traumas shaped William Delacroix into the sociopath he is now.

If other people enjoy those stories, then cool. That’s always a bonus. It might sound weird or even conceited taken out of context, but being a fan of your own work, and only writing the things you love and echo your voice, as opposed to just putting out something because it’s popular for the time or fits a niche, is the first big step in defeating imposter syndrome. Maybe I’m full of shit, but I feel like if you can find that Zen love affair with your work, it’s harder for outside influences to creep in, and fill you with doubt.

What has been your proudest moment so far as an author? 
I’ve had a few proud moments over the last few years. This past year I saw my books make it more than one Barnes & Noble. That was a huge line on my bucket list. I was also enormously proud that The Pale Horse made it to a Tor Nightfire list for 2022. I think my proudest was participating in my first live reading earlier this year at Authorcon. I was paired with my friend, Michael Seidlinger. I read an excerpt from The Pale Horse to a group of maybe fifteen people. But what made me proud was seeing people’s reactions in real time. It’s one thing to have a reviewer say nice things about your book and speak with them after the fact. But it’s another thing to watch people process moments from your work, to see the emotional reactions form complete strangers made it all feel real for me. 

What is your favorite thing about being in the Horror industry?
The community. I fuckin love horror writers, readers, reviewers, and spooky people in general. I would not have gotten as far as I have without the help of the horror community. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Which author has most inspired or impacted your writing style, alive or dead? 
Oh, boy. I could write a whole essay on this. But I’ll try not to. Hands down, without a doubt my biggest inspiration is Clive Barker. I read other horror before him, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, etc. But nothing really resonated with me until I read him the first time. Not to say King isn’t scary, he is. But Clive’s work showed me a mastery of horror I didn’t think was possible. For starters, Clive’s command of the English Language is unfuckin real. No other author has the range of spoken word like him. He has this perfect sense of balance with his prose, to the effort of taking the first half of a paragraph and inspiring the blood to start pumping to all the right organs, then, like flipping a switch, take the last half of the paragraph and turn your stomach inside out. If anyone else tried to mimic that, it would just come off as gross. 
I talked about this a little in the foreword of Potter’s Field Blues, but I went through a phase where I didn’t read as much. I realized later it was because most nonfiction bored me to tears at the time. Not to mention I hadn’t found a favorite author yet. I was out of work for about a month, really down and depressed. So, my wife (girlfriend at the time) took me to B&N to cheer me up. I was just browsing, looking for something I inevitably wouldn’t read anyway, when I found The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. It was the small paperback with the reversible cover. Right side up is Frank meditating, upside down, his body forms this skinless face. Very cool edition wouldn’t trade it for anything. Anyway, she bought that for me to make me feel better. I didn’t read it at first. In fact, it sat on so many bookshelves in so many apartments, townhouses, and eventually our last actual house. We were packing one night to visit her uncle Kevin and his husband Brian in Ohio.

I thought, what the hell, I’ll check it out. Within the first few pages I was reeled in forever. I read that first chapter about Frank Cotton and the Lamenchard Puzzle Box, and I thought, where the fuck has this beautiful, nasty, surreal shit been all of my life? It was unlike anything I had ever read. I certainly didn’t get that vibe from King. I was infatuated. After that, I read The Books of Blood, then Mister B. Gone, then Cabal, then The Great and Secret Show, and so on and so on.  He not only made me fall in love with reading again, and finally appreciating literary horror, he inspired me to start writing again. I hadn’t picked up a pen because I wanted to since high school, but from that point on, that’s all I wanted to do with my spare time.
Another reason to respect him as a creator, his art is absolutely unfuckwithable. I was listening to a podcast interview about the time Sacrament almost didn’t happen with Harper Collins. Sacrament is one of my all-time favorites of his. It’s an absolute gut punch. So, the story centers on a gay man named Will Rabjohns, living during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Not that Clive hadn’t written a gay protagonist before or been very upfront about his orientation, at that point it was well known. But after he sent the manuscript in and didn’t hear much back for a while, he started to get a little worried. Then one day the head of Harper Collins called about flying out to see him so they could have lunch and talk about Sacrament. So, they did, and over lunch he told him they couldn’t publish it as is. The hero was gay and apparently, they were unwilling to go forward with it as is.

Clive looked at him and said, “Jesus, man, who am I?”. So, Clive told the then head of Harper Collins that he would take out his checkbook and give them back every cent of the roughly $350,000 advance for Sacrament and he would take it to another publisher. Then Jack told Clive their solution. They could publish it if he changed the pronouns of male characters interacting with Will. Then of course Clive, in so many words said something to the effect of, “Absolutely fucking not.”

Long story short, he held his ground, called their bluff, and Harper Collins backed down and published his version. The point of that, is, I would like to hope if someone tread on my work in that way, I would have the resolve to look them in the eye, call their bluff and say, ok, I’ll give you back every cent and go somewhere else. Which just to put it in perspective, $350,000 in mid nineties cash is somewhere around $684,410 now. I know money isn’t everything, but that’s send your child to any school, life changing money. But at the end of the day, Clive’s art is as much a part of him as the blood in his veins, and there is no dollar amount that can change that. I aspire to be that unfuckwithable.  

If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be and where are you going for dinner? 
I’m hitting a sushi bar with Michael Seidlinger. 

What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?    
I am currently working on my third book, and debut novel, Witness Marks. On the surface it’s a story about a death cult and its effect on three generations. I’m hoping to have it out sometime next year. 

Michael's Bio:
Michael Tyree is an American horror writer living in Amherst, Virginia. He is the author of the books, Potter’s Field Blues and The Pale Horse. He lives with his wife, son, their six cats, two dogs, dozen or so fish, and one sleep paralysis demon. 

The Rusty Chair-Interviews: Text
The Rusty Chair-Interviews: Pro Gallery

Dr. Chris McAuley

author - poet- artist- creator

Tell us who Dr. Chris McAuley is: 
•    Where are you from? 
I am from Ballymena, a small town in Northern Ireland. Its claim to fame is that its where the actor Liam Neeson is from!
    When did you start writing? 
I dabbled a little in comic books for a few years but I began to write professionally last year.
•    What are your hobbies? 
I’m a typical geek, reading, playing video games, drawing, programming, studying AI…
•    Do you have pets? 
A beautiful wee tuxedo cat called Isis whom I love very much!

How did the partnership with Dacre Stoker form and what has that experience been like for you? 
It came from a comic book called ‘Dracula: Lord of the Future’. It was a project I had been writing for a company called 123Go! I sent the script to the Bram Stoker Estate; I have long been a fan of Bram Stoker (a native Irishman and fellow Freemason) and wanted to be respectful to the family. Dacre read the script and enjoyed it; he reached out and asked if I would like to adapt some of Bram’s short stories in comic book format. It was a tremendous opportunity to bring Bram’s work into another media and generation. 
With the tremendous success of our first graphic novel ‘The Virgin’s Embrace’ (based on the unfortunately titled ‘The Squaw’ by Bram Stoker) we both became more ambitious. We decided to craft ‘The StokerVerse’ to continue Bram’s legacy.
Working with Dacre is a joyous experience. That’s not to say that sometimes we don’t have creative disagreements but combining our love of great story with the family insight and deep understanding of Bram’s work is powerful. We call each other, spitball ideas and become genuinely excited about what we are creating. He’s a great guy, empathic and passionate about our business. 

What is the StokerVerse, for anyone that may not know? 
It’s an interconnected series of narratives told in various media based on the works of Bram Stoker. We have crafted a timeline of stories in books, comics, short stories, audio drama, tabletop and video games. Its also a commitment to bring out educational product concerning Bram Stoker, his world and family. A mentor of mine called it a ‘Gothic Hellraiser’. As a writer I don’t pull any punches, it’s a dark, visceral world but also populated by heroes.

What has been your favorite creation from/for the StokerVerse so far?
I’m writing this at 4am, the chill winds are replacing the balmy Autumn early mornings in Alberta, Canada. I’m wondering how to answer this almost impossible question. I want to say everything because it’s allowed me to write in so many diverse media types. I’m going to cheat a little because there’s two projects that were very close to my heart.
Dracula’s Bedlam is a mixed media novel. It features graphic novel elements as well as traditional prose. Set in Dr. Seward’s asylum and between the events of the original Dracula novel it ties in some new characters and introduces Jack the Ripper into the StokerVerse. It enabled me to work with the renowned John Peel, a famous Doctor Who writer who has worked on over 200 books in his career. I used to read John’s books as a kid. Working with him on this (and other things in Dark Universes) has been a dream come true. He’s been a fantastic and gracious writing mentor.
Voices of Dracula was the first time that I had written an audio drama.

I remember waking up about midnight last February (2021) and just starting it. It came together over the course of a few hours, which sounds insane but I had a really good editor in the form of Barnaby Eaton-Jones and that was one of the keys to its success. I was able to write for heroes of mine such as Colin Baker, Jessica Martin, Terry Molloy and incredibly Hollywood’s Simon Templeman. That was a Hell of an experience. Having these famous actors wanting to voice my writing. It’s something I will cherish until the day I die.

I know you work closely with Claudia Christian of Babylon 5 fame. What are you currently on with her, if you can say, and where do you see that taking you? 
Claudia and I have been friends for a while now. She’s one of the treasures of my life. Deeply kind with a wisdom borne of experience and generous. She has created a foundation to help addicts (CThree Foundation) and provides counselling services through it. We came up with the concept of ‘Claudia Christian’s Universes’, tales in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror which are coming out in various media. We just signed a game deal with Iconiq (a well-known games and figurine manufacturer) and our first comic ‘Dark Legacies’ smashed through its Kickstarter and is hitting shelves mid-November. 
With Dark Legacies I also worked with Bruce Boxleitner (Tron, Babylon 5, Supergirl, The Orville) who is appearing as a guest star in the first issue. We crafted his character together, a Martian ranger/sheriff. Bruce is a big fan of the Western genre having starred in many of them. There are more guest stars to come from the worlds of popular Sci-Fi shows in the next issues.
Claudia and I have a perfect partnership. She loves a good story and understands narrative from the point of being an actress, a vocalist and having been in films, television series and video games. She can tell me what works and what doesn’t during our drafting stages.

There is a lot of franchise work in your background including Terminator, Doctor Who, and Star Wars. What can you tell about us about your work on those? Feel free to elaborate on each one and speak on your favorite experience from each. 
Yeah…It was something that I wasn’t looking for but just sort of happened. I have ongoing work within the Terminator franchise this year (some of which I can’t discuss yet). The main aspect of my work there was in the Official RPG game. I provided several stories which are now canon in the Terminator universe. For this I watched the films back-to-back, read the previous novels and comic books and played the video games. I immersed myself in the franchise and started to tie key threads together in new stories. I particularly liked Dr. Silberman and used him as a thread to tell stories of the emerging future war. He met Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor and John Connor so when he and John meet in the game…It provided an interesting interaction.
Doctor Who has been a lifelong love and I’ve written for several anthologies, audio dramas, magazines…There’s an upcoming project which I would love to talk about but can’t. It sees me work with a Doctor Who actor in exploring one of his iconic roles, extrapolating the character in ways which he imagined.

Writing Who has been another dream come true for me. I care deeply about the moral and social messages embedded in the franchise and it's so much fun to develop characters in its world. Working with Bill Baggs and Warren Green (from BBV) was one of the highlights of working in these universes.  Also, on a comic revolving around my favourite Third Doctor Story – ‘The Daemons’.

What has been the best thing that you have learned about the writing craft and/or the publishing industry itself?
Imagine the story, play the parts of the characters in your head and explore the visuals of the environments. It’s been said that I am a visual writer and I think that’s true. When I sit down to write, I write the things I ‘see’ or have experienced in those moments of imagining. Pat Mills (the creator of 2000AD) taught me this and many other valuable lessons about the craft. I’m very grateful for Pat’s guidance. 

What has been your proudest moment so far or experience? 
Providing experiences that people enjoy. Writing is always worth it if one person reaches out and says that they have been spirited away by your words. There was one occasion that I was told that someone couldn’t sleep for three nights after reading some of my stories. It’s a bit extreme and it made me consider what I was doing. I was proud of that at the time but my goal is always to entertain and not to traumatize. 

What is your favorite thing about being in this industry?
Being part of a community, the friendships. I am quite ill (in a physical sense) and sometimes I feel a little isolated by it. I was put in a wheelchair last year and the support of the writing community helped me feel a part of something. That what I was working on was worthwhile.

If you could hold a dinner party and invite five authors, living or dead, which five guests are you inviting and what are you serving? 
My wife would tell you I should never be allowed in the kitchen! I nearly set it on fire once trying to cook for her. However, I would invite Terrence Dicks and Terry Nation (Doctor Who writers), Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker and Christopher Hitchens. I would be serving McDonalds.

What current projects are in the works that you would like to mention?
The historic Dracula the Return: Cult of the White Worm graphic novel which is being released in November. It’s bringing the original Dracula from the novel back in a sequel story told directly after the novel and links Bram’s White Worm in there as well. Dark Legacies issue #1 is being released around that time as well. A science fiction tale told with the stars of Babylon 5. The audio drama ‘Whispers in the Darkness’ released by BBV which is out now which tells the story of how Bram met Dracula. An upcoming release of John Carpenter stories and New World Monsters, my first book of horror poetry which I collaborated on with Jeff Oliver and Dan Verkys.    

Bio for Dr. Chris McAuley:

A writer who specializes in the Horror, Science Fiction, fantasy and crime genre. Chris has been the lead writer in novels, comics, audio dramas and games. He is the co-creator of the popular StokerVerse, along with Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker. He has also created a science fiction and fantasy franchise with Babylon 5’s Claudia Christian called Dark Legacies. Chris has worked with some of the top names in Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who.

The Rusty Chair-Interviews: Text