It is a new year and I would love to present you with a new author interview from one of my favorites, Ken Stark. I just love how he describes himself on Twitter…Horror writer, questionable painter, unapologetic nerd, and committed beer enthusiast. Author of the award-winning Stage 3 series of books.
As a fellow nerd I so enjoy his attention to detail and meticulous crafting of each novel. Exceptional characters, provocative scenarios, and fast-paced reading that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. I encourage you to give him a read, but in the meantime get to know a little more about him here.
Where did you get your love of horror?
The books and movies and TV shows I remember from my childhood are almost always the ones that scared me. I can remember those scenes in perfect detail decades later while I’ve already forgotten a movie I might have watched only days ago. I’m not into gore for the sake of gore, but I’ve always loved any story that drops a normal, average person into a nightmare, because it’s just so easy to imagine myself in that spot.
As a writer, the prospect of having that same effect on a reader just thrills me to no end. If I can make someone hesitate for a fraction of a second before they throw back the shower curtain, or if I can send a chill down someone’s spine as they come home to a dark house and reach into the shadows for the light switch…. well hell, what writer wouldn’t want that superpower?
Favorite disaster films?
The Day After. It was a made-for-TV movie from 1983, and it was probably the first movie that accurately depicted the devastation of a nuclear war. Despite the subject matter, it was actually very subdued. Just real-life people struggling to keep their loved ones alive. It was chilling because it was plausible, and I’m afraid to say, it still is. Most disaster movie take place in one building or one city or one state, and it usually ends with our heroes making it out of that location to safety, but when the whole planet’s involved, it becomes a fight for survival in a microcosm. Powerful stuff indeed.
What scares you or just gives you nightmares?
Well, I do have one phobia, but come on, you don’t expect me to tell the world my Kryptonite, do you? As for nightmares, they are so few and far between that I honestly don’t remember what any of them were about. The only exception is one that I had after Stage 3 came out, and I found myself in the very world I’d created. It was certainly scary, but it was awesome! After all, here I am trying to give other people nightmares, and I gave one to myself. But I love that nightmare. Recalling the sensations I’d felt being plunged into that world helps me convey that sense of dread as I continue the series.
Favorite horror/ science fiction novels?
Oh, I fell in love with science fiction early on. I’m sure I’ve read every Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke book ever written. It’s tough to pick a favorite, but I’d have to go with the Asimov’s Foundation series. It astounds me that he was able to pack so much imagination into those books that spanned galaxies and centuries and still have it make perfect sense.
As for horror, I always fall back on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The man wrote not only a great book with a brand new monster, but look at what’s followed since. I can’t think of any other piece of literature that’s had that kind of effect on modern culture.
What inspires you?
My inspiration to write it simply the number of years I spent keeping my passion on the back burner. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but after a few disappointments in my younger days, I abandoned the dream. Of course I kept writing, but from then on, it was only for myself. Now that I’m doing it for real and can actually call myself a writer, I need zero inspiration. Give me a pen or a keyboard and I’ll write ’til I drop.
As for what inspires a particular story, those can quite simply come from anywhere. All it takes it a dark little tweak on reality and following it to its most horrifying end. Stuck in traffic? Look at the mousey little guy in the next car over and wonder what he might get up to in his spare time. Stopped-up drain? Just what horrible thing is down there, and why? Dining out? What if that chicken isn’t really chicken? Honestly, if you give your imagination free rein, anything and everything can provide inspiration.
What do you like to paint?
I taught myself to paint by watching Bob Ross wield that big ol’ brush of his, so most of my stuff is landscapes. I’ll throw in an elephant here or a deer there, and once in a while I’ll add a person, but I don’t paint people well. I did a few zombie pieces for an online promotion recently, and they were a lot of fun, so I’ll definitely be doing more of those. What do you think, would Bob Ross approve? ‘And let’s put a happy little reanimated corpse right here….’
Does music influence your writing?
No, not at all. I love music and I usually have something on while I write, but I’m barely even aware of it. You could fire a gun next to my ear when I’m writing and I probably wouldn’t hear it.
You have a lot of technological/ scientific information in your books, is this learned or researched?
A little of both, actually. I studied sciences through high school and into University, so some of that will naturally creep into my stories. Sadly, school taught me nothing about zombies, so coming up with a mechanism for getting the dead to walk was tricky, and it required a ton of research. What I came up with might stretch science to the limits, but my background made me want to at least try to make it plausible, and I think it works. Most of my research now is a quick Google search for the kinds of things that can get a person on an NSA watch list. Bullet velocities. Rate of decay of human flesh. Effects of blunt force trauma. You know, casual bedtime reading material.
What do you like to do when not writing?
Pat answer alert! When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Honestly, though, it depends on the weather. For most of the year, I’ll do anything that gets me out in the sun. In winter, I tend to hibernate, so I’m always either reading, writing or throwing paint at a canvas.
Do you have a mantra or philosophy that you live by?
I believe that everything happens the way it’s supposed to. That belief doesn’t help one iota when things go bad, but I do believe that it all happens exactly how it had to happen. There is a scientific theory that suggests that everything we know is really just information spread across the surface of the universe, in which case, time is an illusion and everything we think we experience is simply information stored in a 2D hologram. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s good to know that there are a few physicists out there who’ve got my back.
What can we expect from you next?
My plan this year is to write two books. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, but I’m going to try. I will keep the Stage 3 books coming as long as someone out there likes them (including me!) but I want to alternate between those books and other books entirely unrelated and non-zombie. I think you’ll like what I’m working on now. I can’t tell you what it’s about yet, but it’s good and creepy!
Until then, I always have several short stories on my website that anyone can download for free and share around, and I plan on posting another every month or two. It’s just my way of thanking people for stopping by. The latest is ‘Killing Joe Prince’, about a writer who take hero worship a little too far. Make of that what you will;)
I want to thank Ken so much for agreeing to this interview and for giving such fabulous answers! I cannot recommend enough that you read his wonderful work. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope by reading such engaging responses from Ken that you will go check his work out as well.
Ken Stark’s Website: https://kenstark.ca/
Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ken-Stark/e/B01D911QC2