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:
A Plague of Pages:
AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N7MPMGN
AMAZON US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N7MPMGN
Get in touch with John on Twitter – https://twitter.com/john_f_leonard
John F Leonard Author Pages:
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B01BHUE6Z6/
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:
Official site: ErikHandy.com
Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00476PH5G
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/erikhandybooks/
Twitter page: https://twitter.com/ErikHandy
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB2-bhZHAXtuMUNrwJHKsdQ
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/erikhandy
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
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:
*Spuyten Duyvil is at http://www.spuytenduyvil.net/
* “I Wagered Deep, etc.” is at https://www.amazon.com/Wagered-Which-Would-Catch-First/dp/1945334045
*Thrice Fiction Magazine is at http://www.thricefiction.com/
Radio host, Podcaster, and Author. This amazing man that I have befriended on Twitter is so inspiring. His novel Shepherd and the Professor offers fascinating plot lines and many twists and turns that make it a must read in my book! I am very glad to get to introduce him here to my readers at Chills From the Quill, so lets get to the questions!
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do for WNIJ News and NPR?
I’m the morning host for NPR station WNIJ, and the newscaster for two other NPR stations covering the length of Illinois.
How did you get into podcasting?
The president of the Rockford Writers’ Guild, Connie Kuntz, launched the “Guildy Pleasures” podcast one year ago, and Connie invited me to be the first guest. She read my first novel, Shepherd & the Professor, and was reading my more recent stories about humans who work for a vampire named Fiona. So I went into the studio with Connie and her husband Jesse who engineered the podcasts. During these sessions, I used my experience as a radio announcer to deliver the kind of recordings Connie and Jesse were looking for. We did the first five of my Fiona stories, and they got a great reception — I’ve heard nothing but good things about them.
Are you a horror lover?
I love to be frightened, I love Gothic atmosphere, and I enjoy stories that play up erotic tensions between monsters and humans. I’ll admit I’m not into splatter or torture. But I’ll never refuse a challenge to write this if I think gore can lead to a truly great story.
Where did the idea for Fiona come from? And are you a fan of vampire fiction?
I’ve always been fascinated by vampires because they work on different levels. As mythical creatures, they transcend human limitations. They’re stronger, sexier, and live forever – who doesn’t dream of this kind of power? But they’re also rich metaphors for things that suck our life force. Your emotionally insecure neighbor is the vampire hidden in plain sight, ambushing you with questions when you return from work, draining whatever energy you have left. The vampire might be your lover, mother or pusher. I guarantee you: somewhere, somehow, a hidden thing is latched to your neck, taking from you and never giving back. When you finally see it, and admit your role in these encounters, I hope you have the strength to put a stake in it.
Favorite or inspiring authors for you?
Anyone who writes vampire fiction owes a debt to John Polidori, Bram Stoker, and Anne Rice. As a horror fan, I also owe much to Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. In college, I was fascinated by Albert Camus and his treatment of the absurd – where humans desperately seeking meaning are confronted by a universe that offers none. There’s a connection to horror in absurdist philosophy that Jean-Paul Sartre brings home with No Exit. The final line of this play is: “Hell is other people.”
What are some of your favorite books or works of literature?
To the above, I’ll add John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, Let the Right One In. Lindqvist also wrote the screenplay for the 2008 movie of the same name, but the book contains an entire plot thread involving Eli’s caretaker, Håkan, that’s gripping and absolutely terrifying. Best horror novel I’ve read in many years.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I’m tempted to repeat that one by Sartre but I’d prefer something more hopeful. With your permission, I’d like to quote a character, Daniel, from my story “The Remains of the Daylight”:
“Because if one person thinks you’re good, you are good – right?”
(That line gives me hope)
What would you really like people to know about you?
I’m an optimist. Readers are often surprised to hear me say that.
What inspires you to write?
Wow, that stumped me. I’ve done several interviews, but nobody asked me that before. The most truthful answer I can give is: I don’t know. I simply must.
And lastly can you tell us a little about your work and do you have any writing works set for the future?
I’m gathering all my Fiona the vampire stories that appeared in Dark Dossier Magazine’s Halloween issue (11 of them) and will add nine or ten more. These will be chapters in a book called The Guardian which I hope to finish this summer.
Thanks so much, Jaye, for the opportunity to share my thoughts, inspirations, and stories with you. You’ve been a wonderful host!
I am eternally grateful to Dan for taking the time to answer my questions and I hope we have inspired you to read some of his works! You can find links here for podcasts and readings:
The Caretaker” http://bit.ly/2lx3HyD
“The Interview” http://bit.ly/2m9HKpX
“Wolf at Fiona’s Castle” http://bit.ly/2GCZAKt
“Hauptsturmführer Fillennius” http://bit.ly/2E6OSNL
You can also find him at Twitter at: https://twitter.com/danklefstad?lang=en
And on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/dan.klefstad
And at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Klefstad/e/B01IC5A1XK
Roger Jackson another friend from Twitter was kind enough to let me ask him some questions about his writing. He is a Whovian and a self-proclaimed proud geek and an intelligent and fun one at that! So lets get to the questions!
What do you love about horror?
Its flexibility as a genre. We can have Horror stories so many elements, romance or comedy or social truths and yet the core ideals of the Horror story remain undiluted. It rarely plays well in the other direction. I can have a love story about werewolves and it still works as a Horror story, but throw a lycanthropy grenade into the middle of Verona and Romeo and Juliet’s asses are mine.
Why do you write horror?
All of the above, but I think the most straightforward answer is that my brain is wired to embrace the darkness. I didn’t have any parental or familial influence as a child, which rather wonderfully meant that I was left to my own devices, and I was always drawn to the forbidden, the scary movies and books and comics. They’ve always been the most comfortable and natural way to process the world around me, and in the end that’s what writing is, processing the internal and external worlds through one’s own personal filter.
Who are some of your influences?
I’ve been influenced more by concepts and events than by individuals, I think. Certainly, the more media I consumed, the more I saw what worked and what didn’t. I remember seeing my first dead body when I was perhaps five or six, a child a little older than me pulled from the mossy waters of a local river, and almost at once making the link between the fear and queasy excitement of the assembled onlookers and my own feelings when I watched a Horror movie. I saw that bridge between the real world and fiction, and I suppose that was a key point in terms of an influence.
Favorite books, authors, and films?
My favorite book would have to be Pet Sematary, if only because it’s so unrelentingly bleak. The pages are soaked in death and futility. I don’t really have a favorite author, though, because everyone brings something to the table. I have a least favorite author, but let’s not go there! Favorite movies? So many! The Devil’s Rejects, most likely, because the ending makes me cry.
Tell us about the art that is your heart-kintsugi?
Well … most people know that Kintsugi is the art of repairing ceramics or pottery with a lacquer dusted with powdered gold. Rather than throwing a broken object away, Kintsugi means to extend its life and make something beautiful out of its scars. A few years back, I was ill and at the same time experienced from someone close to me a level of coldness and cruelty that I didn’t think they were capable of, and as a result there was some emotional breakage. I picked up on the Kintsugi thing because that’s how I am now, proud of the scars I’ve been left with. Everyone should be proud of their scars. They’re symbols of survival.
What do you prefer British or American horror and why?
I’d have to say British. There’s a weird kind of glamour to a lot of American Horror, whereas the British stuff is often realistically ugly and decaying. Movies like Death Line or Mum And Dad or even Human Centipede 2 (set in London) have this wonderful texture of griminess and threat that’s often lacking in American stuff.
What are some of your favorite weird things, or what do you like to do that is weird?
Weirdness is subjective, but I love art like Goya’s Witches’ Sabbath, because I like things that subvert expectations or accepted morality. I don’t know if I personally do anything weird, but … if I pass a dead animal in the street, a crushed cat or slaughtered bird, I always take a snapshot on my phone. I have quite the collection, but I think that when the corpse has been removed and the last of the blood dispersed by the rain, it’s important to remember that the animal had lived at all.
What do you want people to know about you?
Probably that I’m not as scary as these answers make me sound!
Do you have a personal motto or mantra?
“Get Better, Not Bitter.”
I want to thank Roger so much for taking the time to answer my questions and you can read more of his work here:
From Fast Times at Ridgemont High to the Chopping Mall, and from Night of the Comet to True Blood, and many other great roles, Kelli Maroney can do it all. I became a huge fan when I first saw Night of the Comet. So many films at the time had women tripping and falling and basically being helpless and here come this blonde cheerleader who gave as good as she got! She was not a victim and there is nothing better then a bad ass female kicking ass and driving off into the sunset! I was very excited to be able to ask Kelli a few questions and being the kind and gracious actor that she is, she kindly answered them. So without further ado lets get to the questions!
I know you were headed to the National Shakespeare Company in New York but you immediately got cast in Ryan’s Hope, did you get any formal acting classes?
Yes, I had a whole season at the conservatory the summer before, plus I was an apprentice at the Guthrie Theater before attending that school. We, the apprentices, were “extras” in the productions, and visiting rep actors like F. Murray Abraham, Steven Lange, and William H. Macy taught us classes in lieu of paying us for performances, because there were so many of us that the LORT theater couldn’t pay all of us. Or, any of us, for that matter.
You started young and I know you wanted to leave acting for awhile but you are still huge today. How did you stay grounded and do you have advice for young girls and women coming up in Hollywood and or the movie industry?
It’s not really that I wanted to leave acting, it’s that I was in-between “Young Babe” and “District Attorney” roles, so was starting to get a lot of victim roles, which I hated playing, because as I found out much later, they go against what we call now my “brand.” So I started looking around for other things to do with my working life to put food on the table. I wasn’t making enough money during that period to support myself properly and I was tired of compromising and trying to be what I thought they wanted, so acting became not fun for that period of time. My advice is always, “Be true to yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Don’t sell yourself short because you think it will get you somewhere in the end. You’ll be torturing yourself unnecessarily. Focus on learning your craft and being professional. Meet people as human beings and not as “connections.” They notice that. You won’t feel powerless as long as you remember that you have something to offer others, so focus on what you have to give and not so much on what you want to get.” That’s about it.
Do you enjoy doing horror films and what are some of your favorites?
I love horror, I love making movies, and every role I do is my favorite for one reason or another. I love paranormal horror and possession stories but haven’t gotten any of those kinds of scripts yet. I loved what Vera Farmiga did with THE BATES MOTEL, creating the role of Norma Bates and producing the series as well as starring in it. It was fantastic.
Why do you think it is important to have more women in film?
Well, we are at least half the population of the human race, so it’s likely that we have pertinent things to say about it. The “boy’s club” is in the process of being dismantled, but it’s difficult to change things when they’ve always been a certain way forever. So, it’s a process. Some of the covers are being pulled as to the way it’s operated previously, and hopefully people will speak up more now, and not be silent when things are unjust. Everyone will be happier if/when that happens. The industry is evolving as we are evolving.
What was it like working with John Hughes and Alan Ball (I know it was a shorter time with Mr. Ball)?
I never worked with John Hughes, although people often think I was somehow involved in his films for some reason. I auditioned for him once, and Molly Ringwald was reading with the other actors. She absolutely towered over me in a not-great way. I It was actually very funny, but not going to work for those scenes. Alan Ball was wonderful He loves the genre films of the 80’s and treated me like a queen. I was very honored. It went by too quickly for me, and I wish I’d gotten to work with him more. There had been talk of making my TV Evangelist a recurring character, but they had so many potential story lines that it never ended up happening. I’d have been so delighted to do that, as I LOVED the show.
Can you tell us about Rick’s Martini Bar?
It’s a podcast that I was interviewed on for FAST TIMES. The episode went well, and the podcast host and creator, Jerry McCarty, invited me to co-host. I’ve been doing it for around 8 years now. Not every show, but I book celebrity guests and Jerry and I bounce off each other for a nice contrast. It’s syndicated and available for free on iTunes. I believe it’s winding down now, and I’m thinking of doing another podcast, but don’t have any details on that yet.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I was just a judge for the film festival SHRIEKFEST, which is a great honor. The film festival opens tomorrow evening! EXORCISM AT 60,000 FEET will premiere pretty soon, but no hard date at the moment, as It’s just coming out of post-production now. I’ts a horror/comedy with me, Lance Henrikson, Bill Mosley, Adrienne Barbeau, Bai Ling, Kevin O’Connor and more. It’s sort of a cross between AIRPLANE! meets THE EXORCIST meets SNAKES ON A PLANE. The comedy is just..wrong– is the best way I can describe it! I’m sure people will have a lot of fun with it.
And I was thrilled to work with Tyler McIntyre (SUICIDE GIRLS) on BLOWING UP EVERYWHERE, a festival short that will be making the rounds. I’m looking forward to having a few films on the festival circuit. Next year I’ll shoot TO AVENGE, A crime-thriller set in Ocean City, MD. Of the things that I can speak about, that’s all the info I have, so far.
If you could play any role, what would it be and why?
I’m more of a gun-for-hire than an actor who has dream roles, honestly. It’s what I’ve done my whole career so far. One thing I know from experience is that my “brand” is Survivor and Final Girl (Woman) and I dislike victim roles. That may change as I work and grow. We are always growing. Plus, that could be an over-reaction on my part to the really ridiculous number of “victim” roles I’ve come across, and it could be that I’ll snap out of it eventually.
Do you have a personal mantra? Is there anything you would like people to know about you?
Always raise the vibe of any room you enter, every time. You’re there because you have something to contribute that is needed, even if you don’t know what that is at the time. Ask, “How can I help? What can I do to support you?”
I want to thank Kelli so much again for taking her valuable time to answer my questions. To learn more about her or to follow just go to:
Badass Cheerleader Productions
I had the good fortune to meet Erik on Twitter and he quickly became a favorite of mine with his wit and intellectual comments. After reading his book Demon King I was thoroughly intrigued and had to learn more about him, his wife Supergirl, their rottweiler named after the thunder god and their two crazy cats. Erik has done so many amazing things. Erik has a B.A. in Psychology, an M.S.C.S., and a Ph. D. in Artificial Intelligence. He has worked as a criminal investigator for a state agency, a college professor, a C.T.O. for an international software company, and a video game developer. Whew I am tired just writing all of his accomplishments! So let us find out more about this talented man!
~My fiction has always had a dark streak. When I was young, I heard the adage: “Write what you read.” At the time, I was reading a lot of science fiction, with a smattering of horror, so I thought I should write science fiction—dark scifi, granted, but scifi. I wrote some cyberpunk and tried very hard not to recognize that as much as I love reading scifi, I’m wasn’t that great at writing scifi. Let me put it this way—my “scifi” was frequently compared to Dean Koontz or Stephen King 😊
When I returned to writing fiction after being disabled, I first had the idea while re-reading one of my favorite authors, Stephen King—specifically I was reading the Dark Tower series and thought it would be cool to write something with the same depth, with the same “Epic Quest” quality. I had been playing around with an idea in my head about a serial killer that was a wendigo, and the Blood of the Isir series was born. It was so easy to write dark fantasy, and even easier to write straight horror, I was sure I found the right genres. Having said that, I do have plans for a scifi horror novel at some point.
What and who are some of your favorite horror films, books, and authors?
~I love Stephen King, Dan Simmons, Robert R. McCammon, Anne Rice, Ambrose Ibsen, Joe Hill, Walter Jon Williams, and many, many more.
As for films, I seem to be drawn heavily to scifi horror like the Aliens franchise and Pandorum, but I also love original movies like the Babadook, Gerald’s Game, A Quiet Place (I love, love, loved this movie!), The Others, etc. Having said that, I almost never turn down a horror movie.
What I dread in either setting is formulaic, repetitive stuff. You know what I mean… “So-and-so has sold a gerbillion books writing about butterflies, so my next book will be about butterflies. I’ll call it ‘Butterflies on a Train!’” Yech.
Can you tell us a little bit about your work in A.I.?
~I spent most of my time trying to make artificial characters into something more than talking heads. My Ph.D. explored building synthetic personalities by basing character drives and emotions on trait-based personality theory (from psychology). I also did some work in Natural Language Understanding and machine learning.
Also can you tell us about some of the video games you helped develop?
~I worked on Madden directly, and as a character AI adviser on many others under the Electronic Arts umbrella. Probably the most fun I had in the game industry was working on a project that never made it into production—an MMO concept set in Frank Herbert’s Dune universe.
I love the Hank & Jane IRL, would Supergirl like to comment on you and or your work?
~Direct from Supergirl:
Erik is one of those people who is good at everything he tries. This amazes and annoys me in equal parts. At the time he got sick, he was a professor at a private university. We had moved thousands of miles from family a few years prior so he could take the job. It was a difficult time and eventually, even with all the help and support the university provided, he had to stop working. I remember the day I filled the car with the contents of his office. The next few years are a blur to both of us, him due to pain and medication and me due to working and handling the family and house stuff. I do remember that we started to go for drives as a way for Erik to get out of the house and for us to chat. We have always been the kind of couple who enjoys spending a lot of time together.
At some point Erik began talking about wanting to write a story with a character that had RA. I encouraged (or nagged, potato/potahto) him at every turn because I wanted him to have something of his own again and be more than the RA. I told him we didn’t need to worry if it ever got published or how long it took to write but that the writing was what he needed to do. We set up the office with a recliner and a swing arm for his monitor and keyboard so he would be able to sit long enough to write more than a sentence or two. There were flares that interrupted and the writing went in fits and starts for a while but eventually he had something.
Any interesting stories (that you can tell) from your criminal investigative days?
~I can’t say much from the investigative days, but my experiences drive my writing, to be sure. There are far more horrible things in the world than we give it credit for. One of the scariest moments in my life was an interview with a homeless man when gradually realizing the depth of his paranoia and persecutory delusions, then discovering he was armed with .45 caliber pistol.
My years working on a psychiatric intensive treatment unit also fuel my work—in fact I am developing a concept for a novel or two pulled directly from my time there, and parts of Demon King came from this part of my life, as well (and not just the obvious bits 😊).
What would you like people to know about you?
~I have a so-called invisible disability. It’s not really invisible—it must easy to see based on the glares I sometimes get when Supergirl pumps the gas, holds the door open for me, or cuts my steak in a restaurant. It’s especially not invisible for my family and friends. It has changed me-physically, but it has not conquered me, and it has not changed who I am at the core (a big, dumb, stoic Viking). For more about my pointy-stick collection, please see:
Even with this stupid disease, I love life. I’m a positive person most of the time, and I try to have fun with whatever I’m doing because that’s the best sharp, pointy, monster-poking stick I can find. I love to laugh, and I love meeting and talking to people.
How do you combat writers block?
~I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I shouldn’t write, and most of the time, I’m bright enough not to waste time on those days, I just go relax with a good book or movie. I mostly have the reverse problem. I have far more ideas than I can write in the time my Personal Monster™ allows me. I’m rapidly filling up a digital notebook of ideas, beginnings, endings, characters, etc. Hopefully, I’ll be able to figure out a way to write faster (or develop implant technology that sucks the stories directly from my head while I sleep).
Any advice for other writers facing their own “personal monsters”?
~Push that monster out of the way and get to work. Find a way to do what you need to do. Experiment, take notes—whatever is necessary. DO NOT LET THE MONSTER WIN.
Do you have a personal mantra?
~If I do, it involves Personal Monsters™ and sharp, pointy sticks. Or maybe something funny.
I want to thank Erik and Supergirl so much for taking the time to answer my questions and give us such a personal look inside this amazing authors mind!
You can learn more about Erik and his books here : https://erikhenryvick.com/