Hey readers! Just your Horrormadam here to bring you another amazing author Jeremy C Shipp! He is a writer of weird horror, adventurous fantasy, and idiosyncratic science fiction all combined into this wildly visceral and blood-curdling works of fiction. I was so glad he introduced himself and his works to me will always be a fan. Now let’s get to the questions!
Can you please tell my readers little about yourself?
My name’s Jeremy C. Shipp, and I’m an author of weird horror tales. My short stories have appeared in various publications such as ChiZine, Cemetery Dance, and Apex Magazine. My books include the Bram Stoker-nominated novel Cursed and the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated novella The Atrocities.
When I’m not writing, I’m butlering for cats in a semi-haunted Victorian farmhouse. The ghosts took the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” to heart, so they spend much of their time napping and rarely perform.
The main question I always want to know about, why horror? What drew you to the genre?
I have always been a fiend for horror. As a kid, I would play pretend with my brothers, and we would imagine ourselves as vampires and werewolves and grim reapers. I grew up watching dark and bizarre films like The Dark Crystal, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and House II. I’ve always been fascinated by monsters and magic and the darker mysteries of the universe. I can’t say why exactly. But, for me, writing horror feels right.
What are some of your favorite horror films and or books?
As far as horror and gothic books go, I love The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, Hell House by Richard Matheson, Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. And some of my favorite horror films are The Witch, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, A Dark Song, The Love Witch, The Shining, The House of the Devil, Evil Dead II, Dead Alive, Audition, Trick ‘r Treat, Psycho, Ringu, Ju-on, The Happiness of the Katakuris, The Funhouse, The Thing, The Descent. I could probably go on forever, but I suppose I shouldn’t. Eternity is a long time.
What actually scares you?
I’m afraid of sadism and bigotry and death. I’m afraid that humans won’t do enough to stop climate change. I’m afraid of heights. I’m afraid of mimes with sharpened teeth. I’m afraid of the man with translucent skin who lives under my floorboards because he keeps spoiling the ending of movies that I haven’t seen yet.
If you could have a dinner or poker game with your favorite authors alive or dead, who would it be and what would you like to discuss with them?
For my dinner guests, I would invite Charlotte Brontë, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kurt Vonnegut, Arundhati Roy, and Shirley Jackson. At first, we would discuss world events, and the writing process, and the human soul. But rather quickly I’d realize that we were all a bit stressed about the state of the world and our fast-approaching deadlines. And so, during dinner, we would decide to play Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on the TV, and we would make fun of the film MST3K-style while we ate. It would be a good night.
As an author, do you have a writer‘s kryptonite?
The entire writing process feels a bit like kryptonite to me. Everything is hard and frustrating, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I suppose my most potent kryptonite is my tendency to hyperfocus on one particular sentence or word. I can spend way too much time trying to compose the perfect sentence when I should simply move forward with the story and come back later. When will I ever learn? Probably never.
How much of yourself do you include in your writings?
I tend to only include some small bits of myself here and there. Perhaps a fingernail clipping or a pint of blood or a chunk of the spleen. In Bedfellow, for example, Tomas likes to hang out in a secret, leafy, magical space that exists between his neighbors’ fences. In reality, my brothers and I truly did play in such a gap. Vampires and werewolves and grim reapers crept among those fallen leaves.
What would you tell your younger self as a writer?
I first started writing short stories in 4th grade, so I would tell my elementary school self to invest all his birthday and yard work money in Apple stock.
When I was a teenager, I first started getting stories published, and I would tell my teenage self not to sell the Apple stocks, no matter how tempted he was to buy an electric guitar and a car with air conditioning.
I would also tell him that rejection letters are a normal part of a writer’s life and not to take them too personally. I would tell him that he shouldn’t stop himself from reaching out to other writers for advice and for help
When they make the movie of your life, would it be drama/comedy/horror and who would star as you?
I’d like a Jeremy C. Shipp character to appear in a Bill & Ted reboot in the distant future. In the movie, monsters overrun the Earth, and Bill and Ted travel back in time to get a monster expert to help them. They assume that I, as a horror writer, would somehow be able to deal with the vampires, werewolves, and other creatures. Ultimately, we end up befriending the monsters, and the world is saved. Jeremy C. Shipp would be played by a descendent of Sam Rockwell, because he’s an amazing actor, and he looks a bit like me, I think.
What do you do for fun or relaxation?
I enjoy watching great movies and excruciatingly terrible movies. I’m not much interested in mediocre films that exist somewhere in between.
I read books as if my life depended on it, and it probably does.
I like trivia games, even though I don’t have the mind for it. Ask me when the War of 1812 started, and I’d probably get it wrong.
One of my favorite things in the world to do is to watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette or Bachelor in Paradise with my partner. Hard as I try, I still haven’t written a horror story as terrifying as those shows
What are you working on next or whatever other projects you are on that we should look out for?
I’m working on a currently untitled novel that will be published by Meerkat Press in 2021. Here are some details:
In Shipp’s newest novel, we will follow Seraphina Ramon into a once-abandoned amusement park now populated by a community of cultists. To our left, a dragon-themed roller coaster rests on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To our right, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself moments later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in a hall of cracked mirrors. This is the last place in the world Seraphina wants to be, but at the same time, she will stop at nothing to investigate the cult that almost killed her sister. And the best way to find out the truth about this bizarre cult is to join them.
Also, I finished writing a horror screenplay a couple of weeks ago, and I’m hard at work on another.
In addition to all this, in my secret lab, I’m genetically engineering a miniature version of Cthulhu about the size of a dachshund. I’m hoping to create a couple hundred of them in my first batch. Gods, goddesses, and various other ethereal beings keep warning me not to do it, but I’m sure they’re just overreacting.
I would like to thank Jeremy very much for taking the time to answer my questions and for his amazing storytelling talent! If you want to learn more I have included some links for you to check out!
Hello readers! Just your Horrormadam here bringing you another fabulous author to read and get to know about, Sarah Blair. Her book Darkness Shifting: Tides of Darkness Book One is an engaging and effective inter-weaving of the paranormal, a detective, thriller, and Arthurian legend. I am also a huge fan of King Arthur lore and found the idea very intriguing so wanted to introduce her work to all of you and let you get to know the woman herself! Let’s get to the questions…
First can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m an X-Phile for life. My Hogwarts house is Gryffindor. I definitely believe ghosts are real. I’m a wife and mommy. Happy to be a Southern heathen who also loves sweet tea and porch sitting. Why thrillers/horror/monsters?
Ever since I was little, I’ve enjoyed mysteries and the macabre. One of my earliest memories is snuggling up with my aunt in her big bed to watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Clue is my favorite board game. Who knew murder could be so much fun? I’m also obsessed with The X-Files. It’s scary sometimes, but also has a few light-hearted monsters of the week. I don’t believe for a second that all monstrous creatures are bad. Sometimes humans can be quite monstrous themselves. That blurry line is what I find most intriguing. When did you fall in love with Arthurian legend?
The ideals of chivalry are romantic, but I don’t think I truly fell in love with Arthurian legends until I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. I’d never heard the story from the perspective of the women in the legends before and it really sucked me in. It’s an enormous book, and I read it before kindle and smartphones, so I lugged it all around New York City where I was living at the time. I literally couldn’t put it down. Then, a few years later, I had the opportunity to study in Wales as an exchange student. Of course, I had to visit Glastonbury and Bath. It quickly became my favorite place, and I went back several times over the course of my stay. It’s not an exaggeration to say it truly feels magical there. What made you want to write?
The fact that Chris Carter insisted on keeping Mulder and Scully’s relationship purely platonic for so long drove me to write X-Files fanfiction, just so I could get them to kiss. Even from the time I was young, I would act out elaborate stories with my Barbie dolls, so I suppose I was telling stories from a very early age, I just didn’t realize I could write them down for other people to read. When I was 11 years old, I read The Giver by Lois Lowry. The second I finished the book and turned the page wanting more and realized there wasn’t any, (I refuse to read any further books in the series that have come out since, because I value that ending so dearly.) I remember very distinctly thinking that was the kind of story I could, and very much wanted to write myself. When I got to university and found out that I could major in Creative Writing, there was no other choice for me. What authors and or books influenced you?
In addition to Bradley and Lowry, probably the biggest influence on my genre of writing was Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake vampire hunter series. I deeply value Anita’s evolution as a character and how she’s changed over the years. Hamilton never held back, choosing to always include everything her characters experienced, both good and bad. That definitely had an influence on me, since I’d never read a book that captured such a wide range of experiences so well. Usually either the sex or the gore gets glossed over in order to appeal to a certain audience, but Hamilton brought all of it to the page. What new projects are you working on?
Currently, I’m working on completing the Tides of Darkness Series. There are three more books planned, a prequel that takes place three years before Darkness Shifting, plus two more books that occur directly after the events in Darkness Shifting. There is also a new series I’m mulling over, but I don’t know enough details to share just yet.
In addition to writing, I’m also a producer and co-host of The X-Cast: An X-Files Podcast, so if you’re a fan of The X-Files, you definitely don’t want to miss out on that!
It brings me great pleasure to introduce a new book out called The Vampire and the Black of Night by my pal Blackie. We met in the horror community on Twitter and he has fast become a great influencer. It was really great to find out about his book and wanted to make sure other people got to know him and his writing. The book is evocative, bringing back stories reminiscent of Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight and A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest with a great blending of fear, intrigue, and romance. So let us get to his illuminating answers to my questions:
1. When did you first realize that you were a fan of horror?
When I was five-years-old. The Blob played on Creature Feature, put on by the Acri Company in the Quad Cities, then years later I worked for the Acri Company in Peoria, Illinois: meant to be. My love of horror grew from there as I continued to watch brutal horror as a little boy—my sick parents let me—Trilogy of Terror with the killer voodoo doll, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Carrie, Salem’s Lot. I can still remember jumping when Carrie’s hand came out of the grave, what a rush! It just grew from there.
2. What are some of your favorite horror films?
All Hallow’s Eve with Art the Clown, which went there with extreme horror—SPOILER ALERT!—beheading the kids. Hereditary, which revived American horror (for the longest time only other countries were doing horror), and the usuals: The Exorcist, The Shining, Jaws.
3. When did you get the writing bug?
I knew when I watched The Ring that I wanted my first monster to be a little girl. I was up half the night thinking that creepy kid was going to come out of my TV. I came up with the idea for a Wiccan horror novel with a sadistic little girl who’d been through the mill, losing her parents who were killed gorily, and she was becoming a Hedge Wiccan—Hedgers can hurt people, no “harm none, do what thou wilt”—and going after a man, this Christian at her church. It demanded to be written. Of course, I gave it the ax because it was my first novel, so I put it under the bed and wrote another one, a horror novella called Under the Bed, in the Closet, Dread, which was a little better. I’ll provide that at the end of one of my novels, for the other two are around 50,000 words, not 90,000 like my current one. From there it just infested me and took over my life.
4. Favorite authors and or books that inspire you?
Everything from Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, to The Vampire Diaries by L. J. Smith and iZombie by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, the latter a series of graphic novels. It just has to interest me and not have sparkling vampires or other twinkly monsters. Then I can put up with the romance.
5. This book is a little different themed, what made you want to write about it?
I don’t consider it different themed at all. Dracula by Bram Stoker had romance as well as terror. For me, it’s just natural. In real life, we have fears, but we also fall in love, have sex, get married. Also, it was a challenge to write about romance as a guy, and I rose to it.
6. What is it about vampire lore that you think find so interesting?
Honestly, I think it’s because Nosferatu lore and vampire-and-human hookups are sexy. I saw this vampire skin flick on Skinemax, and it was just so fucking hot I can’t tell you. Just burnt me up on my couch. The Hammer films knew this.
7. What did you find difficult about the writing and publishing aspects of this book?
I embraced everything difficult. I think it’s better to rise to the occasion then bitch and whine that it’s too hard. The hardest was writing 80,000 words of this stuff. I had to go through things too quickly, the protagonist’s marriage and child, which shouldn’t have happened till the sequels, but it’s also cool that there’s so much going on. Vampire ancients from other countries were tricky too. I had to learn other languages. No agents would touch it, but that doesn’t bother me. So many great books had to be self-published. I’m thinking of Ania Ahlborn and Seed, as well as her other novels. I’m going to see the challenges though.
8. What are some of your hobbies?
Fitness: eating right, martial arts, weightlifting, jogging. I just became a black belt in Kung Fu, and I’ve been taking Karate forever. Extreme metal. Right now, I’m listening to tons of Malevolent Creation and God Dethroned. I’m a musician too, a one-man band. I have guitars, a bass and drums.
9. What are your next projects we should look out for?
I wrote a rough draft of a werewolf novel and another one of a zombie novel. The zombie book is the best, in my opinion. Both have plenty of romance and agony. I’m going to take on sci-fi at NANO in November, and I’m reading sci-fi right now to learn how to do it. Next year at NANO, fantasy. I have two erotica short stories I’m going to put out as eBooks.
I want to thank Blackie so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I hope you will enjoy his work and keep a look out for new projects. Have included the link to his site and his Twitter handle so you can explore and learn more!
Hey everyone! Just your Horrormadam here bringing you another amazing author Nick Stead! When reading most literature on werewolves, it becomes apparent that most authors follow the same banal, over-worked imagery. A human is cursed with a wolflike appearance and then they generally kill indiscriminately. Nick Stead has written a very refreshing story arc, where a person has a supernatural lycanthropic event but actually takes on all the aspects of a real wolf. Their social aspects and pack mentality, alpha vs beta, communication and scenting behaviors. Nick’s books are such a joy for me to read because they are such a divergence from the norm. I wanted to introduce you to his work and asked him a few questions so that you may better understand this talented writer! Let’s get to it:
My first obvious question, is why horror? When did you first fall in love with it and what made you want to write in the genre?
I think I’ve always had a love of monsters and things with big fangs and claws so it probably started there. Ghosts and skeletons fascinated me as well–I’m struggling to remember a time when I wasn’t into anything horror! I can’t think of a specific moment from my childhood that started my love of the genre–I know I used to enjoy cartoons like Scooby Doo and would watch them religiously. But my first real taste as a kid was probably the Goosebumps series. Those books probably deepened my attraction to the creepy and the macabre and my love of the genre only grew from there.
It was actually my cousin, ‘Lady’ Sarah, who got me started writing. She’d done a few short stories and got sick of me nagging her to write more so she suggested I start my own and helped brainstorm the first three chapters of what would eventually become Hybrid. I’ve always had a love of fantasy as well but I was getting more and more into horror as I developed into a young adult and started to discover all the classics like Nightmare on Elm Street and Hellraiser. The more I found to watch and read, the more of my own horror stories I wanted to write. My first book was always going to be a werewolf horror though–I’m too obsessed with them for it to ever have been anything else!
Why did you go with werewolves?
I’ve always been obsessed with wolves and werewolves for as far back as I can remember. There’s just something about the idea of turning into a wolfish creature that really appealed to me when I was younger and it’s something I never grew out of! In many ways Hybrid started out as my own personal werewolf fantasy. The lore I used in the series is a mix of my favourite myths and my own ideas–I like to put my own spin on existing mythology where I can.
What are some of your favorite books and who are some of your favorite authors?
Horror wise, Graeme Reynolds’ High Moor trilogy ranks among my all-time favourite werewolf horror stories and I’m really enjoying S.L. Mewse’s Primal Progeny werewolf series as well. I did used to enjoy Darren Shan when I was younger but I’ve not read any of his stuff in years, and I was enjoying the Anita Blake vampire hunter series till it got a bit too much in the relationship’s wayside of things and not enough of the horror for my tastes. I think the last one of them I read was book 12 or 13 so I must be well behind on those by now.
Fantasy wise, I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan–love his Discworld series! Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle is awesome as well, reread all four books a few times and I never tire of them. I also love G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series and am still mourning the end of the TV adaptation–hope we get the next book soon! I have to mention Harry Potter as well even though I haven’t revisited that world since the last book came out which must have been in my late teens/early twenties (I’m 31 now). And Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files!
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein needs mentioning too. We studied the original novel for GCSE English Literature and I really connected with that story and the character of the creature in particular. In fact, there are parts of Hybrid heavily inspired by Shelley’s novel, including the prologue–I love how she starts with the letters Captain Walton writes to his sister, as for me it gave it a sense of reading about real events that had actually happened rather than just the usual narrative prose of fiction. So I wanted to bring that same feeling into my own story, but instead of letters I went with the second person opening as a way of bringing the reader directly into the story. I really wanted to give that feel of being there with the character as he tells you about his ‘real’ life as a werewolf.
What are some of your favorite horror films and influences?
I love the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Hellraiser 1 and 2–both Freddy and the Cenobites definitely inspired some of the more creative deaths I’ve written. American Werewolf in London still has the best transformation scene to date, in my opinion, and I never tire of watching that. In fact, it’s more or less how I imagined and described my own character’s transformation in Hybrid and I still remember my excitement at seeing that being brought to life on screen for the first time. The look of the fully transformed wolf doesn’t quite do it for me though. I’m very fussy with my werewolves and if they don’t live up to the right mix of wolf and man I end up being disappointed. Van Helsing still comes in first place for my favourite movie werewolves–those are almost perfect, if only they had tails!
I also love the werewolves in Dog Soldiers and The Howling of course. The prequel to Underworld is another fav–it’s the historical setting in that one that does it for me, probably because of my love of fantasy. And Ginger Snaps is great for its humour and the slightly different take on werewolves with the way they permanently shift into a wolfish creature rather than just under the full moon.
And of course, there’s the 90s adaptation of Frankenstein. This one is the closest I’ve seen to the original book and was a huge influence on my teen self, along with the novel as mentioned above. Seeing Shelley’s story brought to life in a way which I feel really does the book justice (and it’s rarely I say that about a book to screen adaptations!) was almost magical.
In your Hybrid series, like the author Darren Shan you chose to use your own name as the main character, how much of yourself is reflected in the character?
There’s a lot of my teenage self in the first book, particularly in the earlier chapters before the character starts to change and grow darker as a result of his curse. Hybrid is actually a really personal story on a lot of levels and there’s probably more in there than fans realise which mirrors what my real teen self was going through in school. I was bullied, and I did suffer with severe depression, partly because of the bullying and partly because of the way things were at home, so the chapters where the character sinks into a similar state were written straight from the heart and much of that raw pain of my teen self survived through to the final edit.
Hunted and Vengeance are more or less pure fiction, and the character is much darker in those books and more adult. We all have those dark urges from time to time, the things we fantasise about doing to people who anger us for whatever reason, and I think a lot of that inner darkness comes out in my fictional self. It’s the perfect place to channel it without actually killing anyone!
In your writing, the specificity of the wolfs thoughts and actions astonished me. How did you get into that mindset?
I used to watch tons of nature documentaries on wolves and other predators so I think a lot of it probably comes from that, plus my own beliefs and passion for animal rights. All the stuff I learnt on real wolf behaviour I was able to bring in to his character, but I wanted to make it clear the monstrous side to him is purely down to the werewolf curse and the darkness of his humanity–wolves have been given a bad enough reputation as it is!
When I first started writing I actually found it easier to do the wolf’s character than the humans. Not sure what that says about my teen self!
Why do you think people are so interested in lycanthrope mythology?
I think it speaks to that primal part of us we’ve tried to separate ourselves from over the millennia but can never quite escape. We all have a favourite animal and things about that particular species we admire. I think for earlier civilisations who lived in much greater harmony with the natural world, the idea of shifting into other creatures and taking on their traits to become better hunters or fighters captured their imaginations, and it’s something that has stayed with us as we’ve continued to evolve. Lycanthropy as a curse came much later and historically was always as the result of witchcraft rather than the modern idea of a bite or a scratch passing it on. I think that horror side of things was a way of rationalising human monsters at times, before we came to understand more about the human mind and all that can go wrong with it. And in the modern day I think werewolves are a way for people to continue exploring all that remains uncivilised in our species and the wilder side to our natures.
The Hybrid series was a long journey for you, can you explain your process and how it led you to being published?
It certainly was, and to think at 15 I was young and naïve enough to believe when it was ready for publishing it would just happen!
After my cousin helped with brainstorming those first three chapters, the scenes we’d come up with started writing themselves in my head and it wasn’t long before I started working on them, amid my last year of school and exams and moving up to college. I would be in lessons daydreaming and my imagination would be going places in the Hybrid universe and coming up with all these scenes till I realised it wasn’t just a short story I had on my hands or even a novel, but an entire series! I’d also get narrative writing itself in my head and would have to commit it to memory if I couldn’t get away with making notes mid-lesson. Then the day would finally finish, I’d go home and get any homework out of the way and write for the rest of the evening (well, not quite the entire evening, every evening–some nights I’d want to read another author’s work or catch up on TV or enjoy some time on the PlayStation 2!). On weekends once homework was done, I’d devote some time to writing and some time to my other hobbies. I think it took me about a year to finish the first draft of Hybrid so I’d have been 16 when I finished writing it, then it ended up being sat on my PC for the next few years virtually untouched because I was too busy enjoying student life.
I got serious about being published again once I finished my studies–it was the only career that really interested me, despite doing a couple of different courses in my college years to try and find a back-up plan in case making a living as a published author never happened for me. But when I went back to this ‘masterpiece’ my younger self believed would be an instant bestseller, it was something of a reality check. I soon realised it needed a good rewrite, so I then spent an intensive year doing just that.
I’d not heard of beta reading at that point but a few friends begged me to let them read it so I did do, and two of those I still use for beta reading now. They say you should never use friends and family as beta readers because they never give you honest feedback, but I’m lucky that the friends who beta read for me are very good at picking up on any issues and feeding that back to me. So once I’d tested it on those brave guinea pigs and acted on the feedback I was given, I then started sending out submissions to all the big agencies I could find who would accept supernatural horror.
This was probably the hardest part of the whole process. It’s always disappointing to get a rejection letter–that’s one thing you have to learn to deal with as a writer. But so many places just don’t bother to acknowledge they’ve received your submission at all and it’s so soul destroying to go through weeks or even months of waiting and hoping you’ll receive a reply expressing interest and asking to see the full manuscript (as the initial submission is only ever a sample of your work, usually of the first three chapters, and a synopsis), only to finally accept, it’s probably another no. I did try chasing up one or two who never replied but didn’t even get an answer to my email asking if they’d received it!
I must have spent three years submitting to agencies (as it’s frowned upon to do a big blanket submission so I was restricting myself to sending out to a handful of places at a time) before I finally found Wild Wolf Publishing. They thought the story showed promise, but they felt the manuscript needed more work before it was ready for publishing, so I then did another major rewrite to fix what they felt was the main issue–namely that some parts read too YA while others were more adult, and it needed to be consistent for one or the other. I’d always intended it to be for adults so I edited out a lot of the really YA stuff, though the first one still ended up in the teen/YA section on Amazon, anyway! But Wild Wolf loved the new edited version I sent them and didn’t take long to write back asking to see the full manuscript. Things happened really quickly after that–it took only a month to hear back on the final decision once they’d read the full thing and it was the good news I’d been dreaming of all those years–they wanted to publish it for me.
Wild Wolf has been very fair with things like royalties and giving me a say in the cover design. It’s been much harder than I ever anticipated to try to make a name for myself though! As Wild Wolf are only a small publisher, I have to do 99% of the work marketing myself and chasing opportunities for doing readings and signings. Sometimes it feels like the world is against indie authors and publishers but I live in hope that someday I’ll be one of the big names in horror, even if it takes years of hard work to get there.
I have read that you are also going to be working in the dark fantasy genre, what themes are you going to be exploring?
The premise is basically immortal beings playing a game, using the fantasy world like a chessboard and mortals as pawns, which I touched on in my short story, Immortal Game. I wrote that one for a competition and when I shared it with the other members of Huddersfield Author’s Circle they all enjoyed it and told me to carry on with that world, then when I got into live action roleplay it really inspired me to write a short piece based on my experiences at my first larp event. The character in the piece is essentially the same one I play at larp but the world it’s set in is my own. So that then led to a load of ideas for developing the concept I’d got in Immortal Game and the two immortal characters in that story but set in the fantasy world of the larp inspired piece rather than modern day earth like Immortal Game. I’ve got tons of ideas for the gods and demons attached to that world, as well as the mortal main characters caught up in the game they’re playing, but it’s going to be a big project with all the world building so I haven’t done much with it yet.
I’d say one of the recurring themes across my work is the damage we’re doing to the planet and animal rights and there is going to be a sense of that in this one as well, but the corruption in that world will mostly come from the demons. It’s hard to say for certain before I’ve really started working on it (as I don’t do too much planning in advance – I’m more the type of writer who has an idea and just runs with it and sees where it goes!) but I think there’ll be themes of loyalty and betrayal like with my Hybrid series. It will be the kind of fantasy world that has magic and dragons but I much prefer writing anti-heroes and villains to out and out good guys; conflicted characters who have their own inner struggles which impacts the decisions they make, rather than just doing something because it’s right all the time. So it will definitely be dark fantasy rather than high fantasy, and there will probably be a good dose of my trademark gore in there.
What new projects should we be on the lookout for?
I’m currently in the process of moving my Hybrid series over from Wild Wolf Publishing to Miami Fox Publishing after the success of The Complete History of the Howling. The move will see a re-release of the first three books with brand new cover designs and they’ve had another edit for these second editions, plus there’s going to be just over 19,000 words of never before seen bonus content. This will take the form of a short story from a different character’s perspective to my fictional werewolf self. I had a lot of fun with that piece, building on the character’s backstory and exploring more of the history of the Hybrid universe, as well as doing a bit of a crossover with Vengeance and hinting at things to come in book 4.
Book 4 is now drafted and has been through a round of editing and is now going through the beta reading phase so I would hope to have that out later this year as well. And Hybrid fans can also look forward to another short piece in an upcoming werewolf anthology by Graeme Reynolds called Leaders of the Pack. My contribution is a prequel piece from the point of view of the werewolf who bites my character at the start of Hybrid. I’d written that one before doing the bonus piece for the second editions so there’s a little bit of a crossover with two of the characters from the prequel appearing in the second edition bonus story. I think fans are going to love it.
And finally (for now), in 2017 after finishing Vengeance I announced I was going to take a little break from the Hybrid series to work on my own take on the Pendle witch trials of 1612. It took a lot longer to write than anticipated due to the amount of research I had to put in–not just reading up on the trials and what we know of the people involved but into the time period in general to make sure all the little details were as accurate as I could get them when it comes to setting and things. I finally finished the first draft early autumn 2018 then went back to the Hybrid universe to do book 4 while the witches went through beta reading. I’m now about to start the next round of editing based on the feedback I’ve had and I’m hoping this one will also be out later this year, but it depends how much more work needs doing.
Many stories have been written about the Pendle trials but in my take on it I’ve really tried to put my own unique spin on the tale, weaving the supernatural into the historical setting and combining the horrors of the time with my twisted imagination. The feedback from beta readers has overall been very positive and is hopefully a good sign I’ve succeeded in doing the story justice. If anyone wants a little taster, this is another that started out as a short piece, though this one was written for a competition category ‘opening for a novel’ so it was written with the intention of being carried on with rather than a one off short story. It’s one of the free to read pieces I’ve published on my site and is currently titled The Reckoning. (Which works for this short opening but not the novel it grew into–I’ve still to settle on a title for the full novel.)
Hello everyone this is Jaye your Horrormadam bringing you an amazing new paperback called The Complete History of the Howling by Bryn Curt James Hammond. Bryn is a British-based best-selling author, journalist, TV personality and inductee into the 2018 Hall of Horror. Known for his thought provoking and in-depth books A Case For Murder: Brittany Murphy Files, and A Case For Murder: Anna Nicole Smith Files.
He now brings us the most complete and penetrating look at the History of the 1981 film The Howling and all of its sequels. The only book that takes the reader into the making of all eight feature films, with new interviews from the series cast and crew and takes a thorough look at the film’s creation inspired by Gary Brandner, who started The Howling Books in 1977 and developed them into a trilogy. If you consider yourself a hardcore fan of The Howling, then this is the book for you!
So let us get to the questions for Bryn and find out more about The Complete History of the Howling…
Why The Howling?
My decision to cover The Howling saga was partly down to my love of the fourth instalment in the long running franchise. It’s a movie that can be chalked up as being very ‘Marmite’, creating debates among genre fans, and I’m of the half that got a kick out of how bad it was.Steve Johnson (XFX) really made the most of what he had and developed some interesting transformations. I’m not sure how much was his own imagination or how much was the Diet Coke; whatever it was, it blew my mind on my first viewing. So, as in “Why The Howling”, I guess that’s my reasoning.
Why did you take a step away from writing true crime to write a compendium of The Howling History?
Writing true crime is extremely heavy going. You’re dealing with a sensitive topic that needs you to be in a headspace that is exuberantly depressing. The case files are often draining to read because of the level of detail about the deceased; whether it be the full autopsy report or the police interrogations in the aftermath, it makes the individual extremely human once more because of the way the case files are fleshed out. At times I found myself in a state of mourning and I needed a separate project to allow me space to breathe, so a compendium was the perfect fit for me to escape.
Why do you think the public has such a fascination with lycanthrope lore?
That’s an interesting one. I really don’t know why there is such a fascination with
lycanthrope lore; psychologically maybe the explanation lies somewhere between our
connection to our own dark side, which is ingrained into our very DNA, or our lust at times to escape and be someone entirely different, and/or the union of havoc once the man becomes the beast. We have all been in a situation where we’ve seen red and had the capability of walking away but find ourselves acting like a bull in a china shop, leaving only mess and destruction behind. Psychoanalysis aside for one moment though, it might just be down to the often outrageous FX these kinds of films serve up.
You were extremely thorough in your research and writing. Did you encounter any problems obtaining information or any troubles with interviews?
Any written work comes with such problems. Often it was that the performers had moved on and no longer wished to be a part of or be known for that earlier project, or in some cases time scheduling conflicts caused issues between the talent and my deadline.
I did have the occasional artist get upset when publicity was fairly rampant and they were not involved in the project. This occurred with one artist who basically stated it was his projects I was writing about and he’d not been contacted, when in fact I had approached him three or four times and although he read my emails he continued to ghost me. Eventually we spoke, and he was less than impressed that I didn’t kiss his butt. I said I could accommodate various ways we could do the interview but there was always something that cropped up, so I dropped him so he could focus on walking his dog or whatever else he used as an excuse I also clashed with two female leads from the series who will remain nameless. One actress, who gained a Golden Raspberry Award for the Worst Supporting Actress, demanded a five-figure sum for contributing to the book, so I graciously told her to find the nearest fire exit. Another was dismissive of her involvement in one of the films and basically wasn’t very pleasant, but we later worked it out and I drew a line under the experience and we ended on good terms. What I found frustrating was how dismissive and pretentious specific talent was about their involvement. The former lead, who’s made a living from her role as a lambasted sex bomb whose breast assets blew her the lucky curved ball in the right direction, continues to take, take, take without giving much back unless it involves the green stuff. I guess it’s just her way of escaping awkward moments, And hey, she’s paying her own way by making various unmemorable impromptu appearances, so I guess she doesn’t need to be involved in my Howling History companion book.
The Howling was released the same year as An American Werewolf in London. Did you learn anything about the duality of these films coming out together?
Each project was promoted to movie-goers in a very different manner, so they didn’t really compete with each other at the time. The Howling was sold as a slasher to cash in on the popularity of Friday the 13th, while An American Werewolf in London was a much more generic campaign. AAWIL was additionally released later than The Howling and Wolfen and had time to fix the problems The Howling and Wolfen faced when trying to find their target audience. So in terms of duality to get bums on seats that wasn’t really a thing. There were a few issues when it came to the hiring of Rick Baker, and Baker eventually signed onto AAWIL and his prodigy, Robin Bottin, took on The Howling project as his replacement.
Both films had iconic special effects transformations, both of which were worked on by Rick Baker. Did this change the aspect of physical effects vs camera effects?
Before The Howling came along, werewolf transformations had been achieved with lap
dissolves and progressive make-up appliances. The Howling really set the bar and certainly pushed the boundaries of development, but in fact it was Dick Smith that came up with the physical onscreen transformation. He had developed a specific technology for a transformation sequence in Altered States so it should be Smith and Altered States that receives credit for the advancement in physical effects vs camera effects but The Howling did push the envelope and similar methods were also used on AAWIL.
I don’t think Smith gets as much credit as he deserves. He single-handedly created the
combination of make-up with on-set practical special effects and even developed three foam latex pieces for facial prosthetic. Previously prosthetic face masks were made in one piece, which restricted the actor’s facial expressions. So I’d have to say while The Howling showed off some impressive FX and paved the way in which werewolf transformations are achieved the industry had the technology already.
What did you learn about how The Howling franchise developed?
The Howling franchise was a mess lol. There were far too many cooks in the kitchen and
nobody remembered how to ignite the oven after they had turned it off.
Any fun little teasers that you have to engage my readers?
Well, several of the crew were high as kites while making IV, V, VI and VII. Howling IV
was partly developed under the Cannon Films umbrella and they’re on-set safety methods were not very orthodox. The movie also has an alternative version and there are various cuts available, which included a longer sex scene and varying scene orders. No one really wanted to continue the series past Joe Dante’s original; it was more of a financial decision. Hemdale Film Corporation picked it up and moved forward with it but it failed to garner the same attention or commercial success as the original film or Hemdale’s other horror production, Return of the Living Dead. Howling V had such a minuscule budget they reused the werewolf costume from the fourth film but the crew could not work the animatronics so ended up keeping the werewolf in the shadows.
Contrary to popular belief there is no additional gore in Howling V and what you see on
screen is what was shot. The only cut footage was additional dialogue that had no real context in the film’s proceedings. Howling VII, besides being a terrible movie, suffered as much while in production as it did when it eventually made it to VHS through New Line Cinema. Most of the cast and crew were arrested only days before the cameras began rolling and there was a huge debate on how they were going to execute the SFX.
And the final teaser is that The Howling Reborn had Dee Wallace set to return to reprise her role, and it had been planned that, had the film been a success, they were going to adapt it into a series on a VOD platform. Sadly it wasn’t to be, and it was accused of cashing in on The Twilight films. The Complete History of The Howling is the definitive Howling companion and hopefully the teasers above will entice your audience to go and buy my book from Amazon.com. I really can’t stress enough how much love and compassion went into crafting the final paperback.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on The Complete History of The Amityville Horror and finishing A Case for Murder Aaliyah Files. My TV series Pop Culture Pulse is about to start filming, so it’s all go!
I want to thank Bryn so much for taking the time to answer my questions and in such a comprehensive way! I really appreciate it. I also wanted to reach out to Nick Stead who did the new unofficial story arc in the book. Nick is famous for his Hybrid Series which also deals with the supernatural lore of werewolves and vampires.
Nick, how did you get involved with The Complete History of the Howling?
It was really thanks to a mutual fan on Twitter asking if me and Bryn
would work together on a collaboration that led to me being invited on
board The Complete History of the Howling. I met with Bryn not long
after and it was his idea for me to ‘do what I do best’ and write a
short story arc for it.
How did you approach your story arc?
Bryn gave me the creative freedom to do whatever I wanted with the
story arc as long as it was just under 3500 words and based on one of
the movies. So my first port of call was to rewatch each film in the
franchise. I know Bryn loves Howling 2 and 4 but my personal favourite
is the first one, so those were the main three I focused on.
I really treated the story like a bonus scene that could have been
slotted into any of the movies, and it ended up being the first
Howling which inspired me. The idea actually came one night while I
was laid in bed with my mind buzzing (I have a lot of problems with
insomnia as my brain never knows when to switch off!), and the scene I
was imagining came just after where the first Howling leaves off,
where Karen White has transformed on live TV and we’re shown a few
people’s reactions. From there it was just a case of shaping that idea
into a short plot which would work in roughly the amount of words I
had, then getting to work on it. I did re-watch various scenes in the
Howling a few times while I was writing, as I really wanted to get the
feel of the movie into my story and the right characterisation for the
character I took from the film.
What was your interest in The Howling previously?
My interest in the Howling movies really comes from my love of
werewolves, which I’ve had for as far back as I can remember. I’m not
sure what started my love of them exactly but it could be partly down
to the bullying I suffered at school. I always joke I’m like Hagrid
out of Harry Potter – I love anything with big fangs and claws and a
taste for meat. But wolves were always my favourite animals so I think
when I first came across werewolves, it was something to do with the
idea of transforming into one of these creatures I was so in awe of,
plus all the power that comes with it, that caught my imagination. But
more than that, something about the kind of bipedal werewolves like we
see in the first Howling movie really spoke to me. That mix of wolf
and man in one awesome form with all the advantages of both species –
I would have given anything for that power as a kid, and it’s
something I never grew out of. Werewolves will always be my favourite
mythological creature and any movie which successfully manages to
capture all I love about them in the story line and the design of the
werewolves will always rank highly in my DVD collection. The first
Howling does exactly that – the effects are amazing for its time and
the look of the werewolves is just the right mix of wolf and man. The
other movies in the franchise are enjoyable as well for other reasons
but it’s really the first and The Howling Reborn which speak to me as
a werewolf fan. Though I could have done with less of the romance in
The Howling Reborn!
It has been an honour to be given the opportunity to be involved with
The Complete History of the Howling when I’ve always been such a big
werewolf fan, and I’ve really enjoyed working with Bryn. He’s a really
fun guy to hang out with and a good friend I’d never have met otherwise!
I also want to thank Nick so much for taking his time to answer my questions! I will be doing a followup interview with him to introduce you all to The Hybrid books and help you get to know him as an author better.
My last reach out was to Dee Wallace herself to see if she had any comments on her portrayal of Karen White in the original The Howling.
The Howling was one of the favorite moments of my career! I was starring with my fiancé and working with Joe Dante. How lucky can a girl get!
I want to thank everyone involved again and I do hope that you go check this book out and all of Bryn and Nicks works!
Hey everybody! I had the great fortune to interview an author and a phenomenal musician Jon O’Berg, He began playing piano at age 7, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Irvine. He has done over a dozen albums ranging in style from atmospheric, to jazz, from funk to experimental, and from electronic to ambient. He has played with the amazing band Gemini Soul https://www.reverbnation.com/geminisoul. And he has written some absolutely fabulous books. I really enjoyed his horror novel Shatter Point which is a ghost story wrapped around the premise that everyone does in fact have a breaking point especially when an extreme haunt is involved,. So I wanted you to get to know him and for you all to check out his works, so let’s get to the questions!
My first obvious questions for horror writers, why horror?
I inherited a love of horror from my parents. Whether it was my mother telling ghost stories to neighborhood kids on warm summer evenings or my artist father painting skeletons, ghostly figures, and deserted buildings, horror surrounded me growing up. Horror speaks to one of our strongest emotions and often symbolizes issues such as social dysfunction and guilt. But even more significantly, for me, it provides the perfect vehicle for exploring the tension and ambiguity between what is real and what is imagined or unknown, which we must grapple with daily. That’s why authors like Paul Tremblay and Gemma Files especially appeal to me.
Do you have any favorite horror films or books that have influenced you or your work?
Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House”—both the novel and the 1963 movie. The shocking twist in Thomas Tryon’s novel “The Other” made a huge impression on me. And although it’s not a horror book, I love “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which has nightmarish elements with the Boo Radley house. Its concern with prejudice and social justice influenced my newest horror novel, which I hope to publish soon.
Have you ever gone to an extreme haunt like in your book The Shatter Point?
Are you crazy??? I wouldn’t last two minutes. Not my idea of a good time. I got the idea for the novel after watching a documentary on extreme haunts. That was close enough. I do like conventional haunted attractions, though. Living in Toronto, I’m fortunate to be near one of North America’s premiere haunts at Casa Loma, a castle that sits on an escarpment overlooking the city. Every October, the proprietors turn the castle and grounds into an impressive haunt. What could be a more appropriate setting for fright than a real castle?
Why do you think people are so intrigued with being scared?
I think it safely allows us to explore certain feelings and provides an emotional release. Kind of like riding a roller coaster, or the laughter after being frightened at a haunted attraction. I also think it helps us tame fears we have, such as fears of death and the disintegration of the body, and fears about loss of control. As one of the characters in my new novel says, horror is sort of like a vaccine that inoculates us. For a while.
Does anything frighten you?
Wasps. I can’t even be outside in the vicinity of those insects without coming unglued. Murderers. I’ve had close encounters with a serial killer, a mass shooter, and a colleague who chopped up his girlfriend—a triple whammy that continues to haunt my stories. And madness. The first time I experienced panic attacks, I thought I was losing my mind. These incidents, when they occur, are terrifying beyond anything I can describe.
You are a very talented musician, can you tell my readers a little about why you love music, how you pursued it in college and what your favorite styles and influencers are?
My mother wanted me to take piano lessons, which I did for seven years starting at age 7. I’ve always had a creative streak, and music provided an additional outlet beyond writing, making up games for my friends to play, and designing floor plans. In college I started out intending to become a writer, but after two years switched my major to music because, at that time, it came more easily than writing. I love how music and words go hand in hand to enhance each other. A very powerful combination. My tastes are eclectic, and I appreciate most styles of music from classical to rock to pop to jazz to rap. The style isn’t as important to me as the artist’s vision and how well it’s executed. Who’s influenced me? Meshell Ndegeocello, Tori Amos, Steely Dan, Jethro Tull, Herbie Hancock, Laurie Anderson, Todrick Hall, Esperanza Spalding, RuPaul, Joni Mitchell… I could go on.
Have you ever considered adapting your music to soundtracks for films?
I often get comments that my music (at least some of the instrumental stuff) sounds like a soundtrack. It would be fun to write music for a film.
You have done music for television, can you tell us more about that?
I wrote some background music for a couple of programs years ago—very light, inconsequential wallpaper music. It’s difficult because you’re trying to please a client who can’t necessarily articulate very well what he or she wants. So I didn’t enjoy that. But songs I’ve recorded have been used in programs on NBC, BET, Telemundo, the Hallmark Channel, etc.
Like your album Ghost Story, if it could be the soundtrack for a film what would you like to see happen in the film?
Hmm… Trying to tie together the different threads, it would be about demonic forces that unleash ghosts from catacombs under the earth to usher in the apocalypse. The ghosts cause people to do horrific acts against one another, like chopping off heads that they keep in a box. (Idea for a new novel?)
What new projects are you working on, or anything else we should be on the lookout for?
I just completed a novel about a drag queen and his female friend who run a horror podcast and share a passion for fashion, art, and horror. When they learn their apartment building might be haunted, they investigate with the help of their quirky neighbors, but uncover something sinister that threatens them all. And there will be a companion album of horror songs written by one of the characters in the story. I’m currently seeking a publisher. I also have an idea for another novel that I’ll start writing soon.
“The Shatter Point” is available at Amazon (https://amzn.to/2IAFL79) and other online retailers. My music is available at iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, and most online sources.
Hey guys, Jaye here again to bring you another amazing author for you to go check out: horror author John F Leonard. John hails from the England and is an author who can spin an incredible read from the usual and the mundane by turning the topics on their head. Beautiful character crafting and scenarios that will have chills running up and down your spine and leave you thinking about them long after you are done reading. A dash of social commentary, a morsel of suspense, and a huge dollop of terror will have you clamoring to read more! So let’s get to the questions for him:
Why horror? What got you interested in writing in that genre?
The simplest answer is that I like reading horror and I think you’re best writing something you would like to read. That was all I ever really wanted to do when I started out – write something for myself. A book I’d see and think, yeah, I fancy reading that. I’ve still got the same ambition.
It also depends on your definition of horror. For me, it has clear cross-overs with science fiction – apocalyptic and dystopian stuff – and yet goes beyond that. Elements of horror are found in a lot of the ‘mainstream’ genres. I wouldn’t want to tackle a romance, for example – believe it or not, I have been asked – but a horror romance, now that’s not entirely out of the question. : )
Who are some of your favorite authors, or inspirations or who inspired you?
Too many to list them all. Some of the earliest include James Herbert, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Stephen Donaldson, A.A. Attanasio, Robert McCammon.
It’s a toughie – the early ones are the easiest and still difficult – how far back to go, how do you identify/isolate influence?
I’m holding off on mentioning newer writers because I haven’t read enough recently. That’s a sad admission, but it’s the truth. There are only so many hours in my day and I’m spending most of them writing/working – that’s set to change, once I’ve got through my backlog of work/rejigged my schedule.
Your art work is amazing, any formal training?
I had an excellent education, and it included art. Your strengths (to whatever degree) are invariably your interests – Art, English, History. They were all subjects that fascinated me. Of course, that was a long time ago.
As far as art goes, I sold quite a few sculptures and paintings and came to the awful realisation that it wasn’t going to pay the bills. I drifted away, like you do. Got lost in trying to survive the world.
Sometimes you go back though, rediscover your first loves. Sculpture, drawing, painting – I wasn’t sure what I had left in me for those.
Language, the written word, was a different matter.
It felt like I’d never really explored what I could do there. I think the desire to write is probably the last great motivation I’ll have in my life. When that urge is spent, I’ll be happy to watch the grass grow.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere and anywhere. I have a list of ideas – it grows nearly as quickly as my To Be Read books and To Be Watched movies list. Reality and its subversion is something currently grabbing my interest. The Scaeth Mythos/Dead Boxes have their foundation in that concept.
What frightens you?
Mortality – my own and that of my loved ones. There’s a terrible fragility to life. It wasn’t something that concerned me when I was younger, but I worry about it a lot these days.
There are other things. Stupidity, for one. That scares the brown stuff out of me. Not being able to intelligently reason is a surefire recipe for bad decisions and worse outcomes. It’s great friends with greed, you often find them skipping hand in hand through the wastelands they’ve created.
Heights is another, more prosaic one. Not in and of themselves – nothing wrong with simply being up high, its height combined with a feeling of vulnerability. Standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower is an amazing experience. Beautiful and breathtaking. Stuck at the top of a stepladder trying to fix your roof is insane!
Thinking on it, probably doesn’t count – comes under mortality.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Nothing very exciting. I love to read when I’m not knee deep in my own writing.
Television – I can vegetate in front of the box with the best of them. My viewing mostly consists of horror, science fiction, comedies. Some drama, although a lot of it is dross. Some sport, football and snooker. Current affairs (when you can filter the truth from what the networks want to give you).
I like a drink and relaxing with family and friends. Don’t do enough of that.
Sleep! I know that sounds factitious, but there’s nothing like a genuinely restful spell under the duvet.
Do you have a writing muse or mantra?
I don’t think so. Not sure I actually subscribe to the idea (on a personal level). I believe the need to create exists in most of us. How it comes out is down to the individual – art, writing, learning how to fix the plumbing. Whatever.
For me, the process isn’t always easy. It’s often hard work. Putting in the effort and hours. What makes it worthwhile is the end result. Well, sometimes anyway. Now and again, you finish up, wipe your hands on the oily rag, and find out you’ve written a turkey. Or the damn tap is still dripping : )
Whilst I love it, writing doesn’t belong on any sort of pedestal. It’s an admirable ability, but ultimately just another skill.
Where did the Scaeth Mythos come from?
It began with me asking family and friends to suggest a name for an Irish vampire (I’m of Irish heritage and very proud of the fact).
I was inundated by ideas – seems my folk can’t resist taking the pee. ‘Mick the Biter’ was one suggestion that made me howl with laughter.
Anyway, I cogitated and researched and eventually got to ‘The Scaeth’.
The vampire side of it also morphed into something else. Broadened into a bigger concept. The Scaeth is a kind of cosmic vampire. A parasite infesting the walls of reality. It’s hollowed out a space for itself and no longer resides in any universe, just plunders those it can access. Dips into them to interfere and feed. It loves to feed.
If you could have dinner with any 5 people, living/dead/real/fiction who would it be and why?
That’s a killer question! Can’t even begin to factor in fictional. This would change with my mood, but here we go:
R. Giger – The mind that created Alien, that’s all I need say. Plus, I’d try to persuade him to get me a Harkonnen chair.
George Best – knew how to enjoy himself and my favourite footballer.
Peter Cushing – a gentleman, part of the Hammer Horror crew so lots of gossip/insights.
Siouxsie Sioux (from the Banshees) – a punk presence.
James Herbert – ignited my love of horror and struck me as a bloke with hidden depths.
We’d need an extra seat – my wife is usually at my side for big events.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been busy lately with some shorter fiction, novellas of varying lengths. I may put together a collection of what’s already out there along with new, unpublished stuff. After that a novel is most likely.
My latest is A Plague of Pages – another story from the Dead Boxes Archive. In the same territory as Bad Pennies and Call Drops. Old school horror, to my way of thinking anyway, about the perils of writing under diabolical influence.
What happens when a normal guy wants to redefine himself and become a horror writer …it doesn’t work how he plans. Not surprising, there are supernatural, cosmic forces cooking the books, so as to speak : )
I want to thank John so much for taking the time to answer my questions and may I say his dinner guest list was inspiring. If you would like to know more about John, read his works or connect with him on social media, just follow these links:
My next author interview is with horror writer Erik Handy. His stories are spine chilling and engaging, dark and imaginative and I really encourage you to check them out! So let’s get to the questions and find out what he says:
When did you first fall in love with horror?
I grew up in the VHS Boom of the 80s. My parents constantly rented just about everything horror and sci-fi. It was probably then.
Favorite horror films?
Fright Night, Predator, and The Fog.
Favorite horror authors and books?
I don’t really read anymore, but when I did, I liked Bentley Little a lot.
Favorite comic books?
Watchmen. It’s a well-told story first, comic book second, if that makes sense.
Where do you get your inspiration for your books?
Sometimes from my hyperactive dreams. Sometimes from a stray thought.
Why are you the King of Horror and Suspense?
Because no one does it better than me.
You work and you write which probably doesn’t leave you with much time, but do you have anything else you do to decompress from these activities?
I’ll get all the rest I need when I’m dead.
Is there anything that scares you?
Knowing there is probably nothing after death. NOTHING.
I know you write screenplays. If you had all the power, which of your books would you like to see made into a movie and who would direct and star?
Just one?! Noooooo . . . . I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the stories in Demonica being filmed for an anthology a la Creepshow. A different director for each segment . . . John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, and Rob Zombie. It’d have to star Jeffrey Combs and Brad Dourif in multiple roles.
Lastly, what projects are you working on for the future?
I’m cleaning up my screenplays for publication. After that, I’m going to reissue and finish my Demon Hero series. After THAT, a new short story collection, then maybe a new Bad Boogeyman novel. 2019 is going to be a busy year!
I want to thank Erik Handy for taking the time to answer my questions. If you would like to learn more about him or read his works, just follow these links:
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.
I am so pleased and honored to introduce you great readers to an astounding writer by the name of RW Spryszak. I have a few interviews under my belt but have never felt like I was reading literature when reading answers. Mr. Spryszak has done that for me here. So eloquent and illuminating that they are a joy to read, I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I did. His book Edju was very hard for me to put down. So without further ado, please enjoy and here is a small bio to get you started.
Bio- RW Spryszak’s recent work has appeared in Peculiar Mormyrid, A-Minor Magazine, and Novelty (UK), among others. His early work is archived in the John M Bennett Avant Writing Collection at the Ohio State University Libraries. He is editor at Thrice Fiction Magazine* and recently produced “I Wagered Deep On The Run Of Six Rats To See Which Would Catch The First Fire*,” a collection of contemporary surrealist and outsider writing from around the world for 2018 under that banner, which is also available on Amazon.
Who are some of your favorite authors, or authors that have inspired you?
What inspires me to work is work that isn’t produced. I go into a bookstore just to browse and leave without buying anything. You could ask my wife this. She would verify what I’m saying. This happens a lot. And a long time ago I asked myself, well, what did you want to find that you couldn’t find? And maybe that is what you should write. Write what you’d like to read but can’t find. This is how I work. So, it isn’t what authors have written that inspires me, as you say, it’s what they haven’t written. It’s only a void I’m filling. In my own universe anyway.
Now, as an example of writers whose work has influenced me I have to go back to when I was young and didn’t know what I liked but found things that stayed with me. Gogol’s Dead Souls, first of all. I still have that old worn Penguin Classic copy from when I was in high school. The pages are quite yellow now. Of course, everybody who is a reader discovered Kafka as a teenager I think. But it was people who wrote things that made me go – “You can do this??” I mean when you’re young or naïve you expect a story to go from A to B to C, and twists and unexpected things make your head snap. So, there are the poems of Dylan Thomas and Guillaume Apollinaire. Thomas creates these spiraling images and ideas that blend and weave in and out of each other until you find yourself trapped in his crazy tornado. And Apollinaire writes the kind of things that make you say – “you can do that??” His work is one hundred years old and a lot of it reads like it was done yesterday.
But there’s Robert Walser. Naguib Mahfouz. Jan Potocki. I’m saying these names but I’m quite sure no one is going to look them up or anything. Still, I don’t think – for your audience – you can call yourself a true fan of horror if you haven’t read Potocki’s A Manuscript Found in Saragossa. Just saying. Maybe kitsch horror, but not gothic horror. Dracula, Frankenstein, certainly. But if you haven’t read Manuscript you have a missing part in there. An aspect that would make you say – “you can do that??”
When did you start writing, or what prompted you to start writing?
So how do I answer your question? I don’t know. I used to make up stories in my head as a little boy. Full technicolor epics before I would fall asleep. Wash up. Brush teeth. Go to bed. Roll around making up movies in my head.
And my first rejection letter came from Stan Lee. I wrote a story that pitted Doctor Strange against The Hulk. I was 10 years old. I sent it in and, with the innocent expectations of a kid I also sent along 12 cents to buy the issue my story would appear in. Well, of course, Marvel Comics would never use a hand-written story from a 10-year-old who didn’t know the highway from a footpath. So, here’s my Stan Lee story. 1963 or 4. I got a hand written note back from Stan Lee saying he enjoyed the story but could only use their own material. And – get this – the 12 cents I included with my submission was taped to the blue card he sent back with his note in an envelope. Was he the coolest guy ever? Yes, he was. By the way, Doctor Strange did face The Hulk in one adventure eventually, I think, sometime in the 1990’s I believe. I ought to sue, don’t you think?
How would you describe your style of writing?
I don’t think I think like a writer. I’m influenced by the visual. I look at things like a painter or a sculptor but I couldn’t paint or sculpt to save my skin so I write the form. Writing and acting were always easier than painting. Concepts. Visuals. I think probably because I was influenced by TV and movies when I was small. In Edju, in particular, I used something I learned from my long-ago acting days. How to stay in character from start to finish. Edju is a first-person story, so it’s vital you don’t “break character,” as actors would say.
Though I’m not in the Surrealist camp, so to speak, and never claimed to be, I do use the techniques they’ve developed. They try to bring the unconscious truth to things and so Arp’s ideas about Chance often come into play. Then there’s the process of automatic writing or even sentence collage. These are things I’ll utilize. Take for example in Edju, I used automatic writing as prompts. The start of some chapters is in italics. That was straight from the back of the brain and unedited automatic writing. Then I connected them. I left the strictly Surrealist process when I connected these prompts with a willful, consciously-produced narrative – which makes me not a Surrealist, I think. I don’t know. You’d have to ask them if I’m one of them or not. I mean, several Surrealists, people who have been with that worldview for decades, have supported my work – Max Cafard, J. Karl Bogartte, the New York Surrealist group – but I think that’s because I love the work they produce and have spoken up for their movement – which never went away, contrary to what the New Yorker may think – for years.
And, really, I think this is a question better asked of my readers than of me. There are people who like my style and people who can’t stand it. Folks who tell me they can’t put it down and folks who can’t get through the first two pages without screaming and burning the damn thing. I know my stuff is difficult sometimes. So, what do I say?
Do you set a certain plot, or go where your writing takes you?
I could never work from an outline. I tried when I was younger. I couldn’t do it. It was like – I’ve written the outline and so the book is done, right? I have nothing but a vague idea and I’ve never known how things were going to end. Not ever. In Edju, I was going along and going along and wrote “If I didn’t need to eat I would never trust your world again, and I would stay in these rooms till the spiders wept.” And I stopped and looked at it and said – Okay. That’s the last line. I’m done, now for the edits. And that line will lead into the first line of the next book because Edju, conceptually, is a trilogy. I have two vague notions about the two next pieces but I have no idea where they are going to go. The second book has been started at least five times and I think I only just settled on what to do last week. So, I guess my answer is I go where it takes me after a vague notion, or something like that.
If, while writing, I can’t visualize a title for the thing? I know I’m onto something. Whenever I’ve had a title first, nothing ever works. I don’t understand that. When I get to the point where I can’t come up with a title no matter what and it comes down to I don’t even care what anybody wants to call it, just get it away from me, you decide – it gets published. When I start with a title, it never even gets finished. It’s weird.
What are some of your favorite works of literature?
Well, yes, I mentioned these. Dead Souls, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. Mahfouz’s The Journey of ibn Fattouma. Walser’s Jakob Von Gunten. But also, from a writer’s viewpoint, there’s technical aspect too, that you have to have. I’m not a big fan, but even if you don’t like him you have to say that Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is the perfectly executed novella. And it’s good to have a grounding. In fact, I’ve always felt you need a grounding in the classical and traditional before you can go off “experimenting.” You’ll find Picasso’s early stuff more traditional than you’d at first think it would be, being Picasso. Then, when he “got it,” so to speak, he created his own world and his own rules. But I’d say he couldn’t do it until he understood the starting point. I think that’s true for everyone to some degree. So, until you can read Dickens and explain why he’s a lousy writer, and he is, you should keep reading the traditional until you “get it.”
What is the most important aspect of writing for you?
Well it’s a compulsion that has to be fulfilled, isn’t it? When I was in my twenties I used to worry about getting published. Have to get published. It must happen. And so on. Of course, that’s when nothing ever happened. It wasn’t until I finally said, you know what, it doesn’t really matter if it gets published or not because I’m going to sit here and write anyway because I have to or I’ll just explode or go crazy. I would write because it was going to happen whether anybody was ever going to read it or not. That, of course, is when people started to accept and publish things.
Oddly enough, after that, I got this crazy notion that I wanted to bust into the mainstream. I had all this alternative work done and it was archived and I had a tribe and – for some reason – I said I’m going to try to break into the big time or something and – poof. Came the drought. I wanted to get published. I needed to get published. And nobody wanted anything I was doing. A couple of the bigger wigs even laughed at it. Because it was actually pathetic stuff, to be honest. So, okay, I went back to just doing what I’d always done and forgot about “trying” so hard and… what do you think? All of a sudden (to use a term that should never appear in anything you ever write), there I was back in print.
That’s the long way around the barn to say the most important aspect of writing, for me, is to not only be yourself, but if it’s working there’s nothing that needs to be fixed. If it ain’t broke. Stay true to your own voice, no matter how trite that may sound. Find your tribe and dance with them.
Do you put any of yourself in your writing?
Yes. There are dozens of things that happened to me, mostly filtered by metaphor, in Edju. Shards of dreams I had. People I’ve met. Or aspects of them. There’s even a scene in the book that I wrote forty years ago for something else. Something I wrote, never kept, but never forgot. It goes on for pages as if I was copying out of an old notebook. I never forgot the scene and it just came into the book on its own. That scene came from a particularly intense part of my growth as a writer. But, yes, they are all over the place. However, well-disguised. And this is all I will say about that.
What led you to write in this genre?
This is crazy because I didn’t write Edju to a genre. I just thought – a book. Maybe Literary Fiction. Maybe Dystopian. I didn’t have a target. When Spuyten Duyvil*, the publisher, first put it on Amazon they listed it as “Gothic.” To be honest, I didn’t even know what Gothic was. Gothic Horror – sure. I’d heard of that. And I didn’t know if there was a difference. Then a few people contacted me and said “Horror,” or “Speculative.” To tell you the truth, I don’t know what it is, exactly. So, my approach is like that old song – “any world that I’m welcomed to.” I’m becoming convinced it belongs in that Gothic category that the publisher listed it in. But you’ll have to believe me when I tell you I seriously didn’t have any kind of thing like genre in my head.
Do any movies or TV shows influence your writing?
Not off hand, no. I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore. My TV is mostly old movies and Baseball. Baseball is my escape hatch. Outside of that it’s just all noise. I suppose, growing up in the late 50s and 60s there were influences that happened then, but I couldn’t specifically tell you one thing or another.
Any future writing projects you would like to talk about?
The plan is to complete a trilogy with Edju as the lead before I croak. I have no idea what to call it, and that’s a good sign I think. But – you shouldn’t take anything for granted. I’m doing this but there’s no guarantee anyone will take it. Life in the small press universe is like that and you have to expect it. Unless you’re a best-seller you don’t make much money in writing. All the writers I know have a regular job somehow. Teaching, editing, or anything. Every one of them. You have to stay real.
I want to thank RW Spryszak so much for his valuable time and marvelous answers to my questions. For more information or to read his works please check out the following links: