Hey guys! The book recommendations are just flowing in! Here is an amazing book containing short stories that you can get on Amazon Kindle Unlimited for free, for a limited time. So while we are all inside reading from home to prevent the spread of the virus, check out Keith Anthony Baird’s- And A Dark Horse Dreamt of Nightmares!
Hello everybody! Sorry, I have been gone for a while, life is crazy. And as we all find ourselves in this crazy time of the Corona Virus where we need to hunker down and wait for it to slowly dissipate what better time to give you some authors to read! This newest installment is about the book Wicked Awake by the fabulous Merrill David! Firstly, I will let Merrill tell you himself about his great new creation…
My literary Sci-Fi / Horror Fiction titled WICKED AWAKE has
approximately 120,000 words. I applied a great amount of detail,
science, and research in my tale. I believe it will hold your interest
with a brisk paced, clever storyline that I would compare to Max
Brooks’ “World War Z” crossed with Michael Crichton’s “The Andromeda
Strain” (but with humor). WICKED AWAKE is horrifying at times yet very
funny in places.
In my novel, WICKED AWAKE, Dallas Police Sergeant Jake Hathaway is on
duty one February afternoon when he parks his patrol vehicle in front
of his brother’s middle-classed house. He leaves his K9 partner Roscoe
in the marked police sport utility vehicle and walks inside to wish
his one-year-old nephew a happy birthday. What should be a joyous
occasion quickly sours as Hathaway is attacked by two creatures that
were once his brother and sister-in-law. No longer recognizable, their
faces do not appear human. Their eyes are saggy and swollen, with
dilated tiny pupils. These THINGS are not dead, nor fully alive, but
somewhere in-between. This would be just the beginning of an
But Unbeknownst to Hathaway, he himself was
partially responsible for this contagion. Years earlier he allowed a
group of Federal Government scientists to conduct top-secret
experiments on a few of the soldiers in his U.S Marine Corp unit. Now,
Jake must find a way to end the outbreak before THEY end HIM, along
with all of humanity.
Doesn’t that just sound amazing and might I add very timely? Let’s get to my questions to learn more about this fantastic horror writer…
1. Why Horror and Sci-Fy?
Growing up, I loved watching horror and Sci-Fi type programs on TV and going to the theater or renting movies (again aging myself! For those who remember Blockbuster). I was also very into Marvel Comics (never got into DC for some reason) and horror novels. Some of my favorite television programs were the Incredible Hulk (with Bill Bixby and, of course, Ferrigno) and The Twilight Zone, as well as reruns of the original Planet of the Apes movies (not really feeling the re-makes). Some of my favorite movies were the Friday the 13th series (until Jason went into outer space, then they lost me), Halloween, Freddy vs Jason was greatness! I also loved Nightmare on Elm Street, The Fly with Jeff Goldblum, Fire in the Sky (an alien abduction film that was supposedly based on true events), those bizarre Faces of Death films. I also dug the People Under the Stairs, the Ring, the Strangers, the Saw movies, the Hellraisers, The Exorcist, Jeepers Creepers, Joyride. And of course everything zombie; Evil Dead, World War Z, Zombie Land, Shaun of the Dead, I Am Legend, Army of Darkness.
2. How did the idea for this particular book come to you?
I knew I wanted to start with a zombie novel but always loved horror shows and movies. And my favorite horror flavor has always been zombie. I would load up on Walking Dead and the movies, always telling my wife and kids how those stories could have been better (like the zombies in World War Z were way too fast, everyone knows the real DEAD are slow! Ask George Romero). So my wife suggested that since I was such an expert, I should write my own novel. At first, I thought she was joking, but she wasn’t- so I did it!
3. When did you start writing and how did you get into it?
It was actually about 5 ½ years ago that my wife encouraged me to start this project. But there were a couple of major setbacks along the way that slowed me down. I had a brain tumor removed a few years back (maybe that’s why I had, and still have, some of these deranged thoughts?). Just a year later my wife, having no prior medical issues or warnings, suddenly passed away from a heart attack. I went through some very dark and blurry times since then. For awhile I was getting drunk just about any time I wasn’t having to work. My writing was replaced by depression and destruction for quite some time. But I finally found some peace and got back on track, so here I am!
4. Who are some of your favorite authors and or influences?
Some of the novels I have enjoyed the most are The Strand, Andromeda Strain, Max Brooks’ World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide, Bird Box, The Amityville Horror, The Shining. I just started to read Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout and enjoying it greatly! And of course, I like Steven King’s stuff. But who doesn’t, right? I really find myself digging those writers who combine action with some portions of humor mixed into their stories. So I emulated those writers and that style. I believe I injected a good amount of humor into my story. I tried to write a zombie story that was smart but also funny (maybe that’s why I love the Dead Pool movie so much!) One person who read my book so far commented that it is “extremely clever and brisk-paced. The narrative is witty, even when horrifying.” I like that he chose those two words WITTY and HORRIFYING to describe my work, as this is exactly what I was aiming for. If I was a rock group instead of an author, I might be compared to the band Tragedy, a metal band that put their own spin on Bee Gees songs. Or better yet, I might be more like that Death Metal Band that plays Weird Al Yankovic tunes. Is there such a band? There should be! But I also attempted to make WICKED AWAKE smarter than the average zombie book by applying a great level of detail, science, and research into it. Hopefully, I have succeeded!
5. If it isn’t too personal, why did you get out of Law Enforcement?
I retired with over twenty-five years on the job as a cop in North Texas. It was a great career but I am ready for it to be over. Being a police officer has changed over the years. Right after the 9/11 tragedy, cops and firemen were considered to be heroes. Parents encouraged their kids to wave at us and be friendly with us. Nowadays cops are hated and targeted. Firemen are still loved (apparently I chose the wrong career), but not the police. Kids are told to question all authority, especially Law Enforcement. And I get it, I think politics and some of our past leaders are partly to blame, although I’m not going to act like I don’t realize there are some very bad officers out there who have done some really fucked up things. In my book, I mention one seasoned training officer in particular who acts as if he is untouchable, above the law. But for every bad cop like that exists, I would say there’s another nine who are honest and professional. Also, keep in mind that even the cop haters are the first to call 9-1-1 for help when their house is being burglarized or their car is getting jacked.
6. You are a fan of Marvel Comics. Which ones are your favorites and if you could have superpowers, what would they be?
Growing up I was very much into SpiderMan, the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and PowerMan, but my favorite character was the Punisher. That character has been somewhat of an influence in the way I portrayed my protagonist, Jake Hathaway. Hathaway was a Marine and then goes on to become a Dallas Police Officer. He promotes to be a Sergeant and is also a training officer, then a K9 handler.
He goes from being a standup military and police figure to someone who does some very dark things. He does these things for the overall good, but they still appear somewhat tainted to someone from the outside looking in.
7. Just for fun, if they make a movie of your book, who would you picture starring in it?
Maybe Rob Gronkowski could make his acting debut in this role. But he may be too busy wrasslin’. It would have to be someone about his size- 6’5’’ and up, in his late 20’s to early 30’s. The guy would have to be built like a damn Mack truck. Or maybe some newcomer who looks like a brunette version of Rocky 3’s evil Russian boxer guy, played by Dolph Lungdren. But he would need to have darker hair and simulating more of a New York accent than that fake Russian one. Anyone remember Dolph Lungdren? Is that dude still alive? He would be 62 now… Dolph- if you’re reading this; are you available?
8. What else are you working on, or what can we expect from in your writing future?
I’m already about halfway through with WICKED AWAKE part 2 and I’ve also been throwing around the idea of writing a book about my experiences in writing a book. And about my struggle to figure out this social media stuff. I’m not sure which of those two reads will be scarier…
I want to thank Merrill for taking his time to answer my questions! And after you are done reading this, go to some of his links to find out more or just connect!
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.)
In this interview I would like to present you with an amazing woman, a fabulous writer and intellect, and also an inspiration. Her name is Rhonda Jackson Joseph. She is a horror writer, a member of the Horror Writers Association, and a professor based out of Texas. Her analysis of gender, race, and, horror has really inspired me to look at all who indulge in this world of horror that we love so much. Primarily a man’s game, I want to look at the differences we all bring to the table. Male/female, black/white/yellow/brown, different religions, different countries, different sexual orientations… how we all see horror differently. So starting off my adventure, I bring you the great lady herself and her answers to my questions:
First, thank you so much for having me over for a chat, Jaye. I always enjoy talking with other women in horror.
Where did you get your love for the horror genre?
I grew up in a home always filled with books and magazines and the ones my parents didn’t think to hide were the horror ones. I’ve always had a dark nature, so I was drawn to these tales of monsters, weirdness and evil. My father was the one who collected these books and every now and then I would talk him into allowing me to watch the horror movies with him. I was really young, maybe 6 or 7 or so. The adult me is glad he didn’t have the best parenting judgement because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten all that exposure to the things I love so much.
What are some of your favorite horror films?
Some of my all-time faves are Blacula, the original Poltergeist, Pet Sematary, The Exorcist, Beloved and all the classic Universal monster movies. Recent additions to my list are Get Out, The Quiet Place, and Hereditary. Apparently, I’m drawn to sympathetic monsters and also utterly terrified by parenthood and societal horrors.
How did you get into writing?
Writing has always been how I best express myself. The written word never fails me, even when speaking does. I’ve been full of words since childhood, with a knack for telling stories. I also have a mother who always supported whatever I and my siblings wanted to do and she continuously praised my writing and encouraged me to continue the sharing of myself through words. My insatiable curiosity helps, too. I never run out of things to write about because I question everything, all the time. Everything that happens and my experiences are fodder for stories or poems. Even things that don’t happen are fair game. Writing is such a part of my being that I can just never quit.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
So many faves! I read way more than I write, which is good in some ways but terrible in others. I love classic writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley. I also like Shirley Jackson, Octavia Butler, and Tananarive Due. Stephen King is one of my favorites as is Linda Addison and Lori Titus. And L.A. Banks will forever be #writergoals.
Which books inspired you?
I mostly read Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul as a child, so I was heavily inspired by their works to write my own creepy fare. The works of Tananarive Due and Toni Morrison inspired me immensely because they showed that black women could write riveting horror. But the most influential book overall in my horror writing was the Bible. I was raised as a Southern Baptist and those stories and the ways preachers would impart them were horrifying! I also liked the hidden messages and the ways the words could mean various different things.
I learned the word misogynoir while researching you. Can you explain it to my readers and how you feel about it or counteract it?
This is an excellent question! Misogynoir is a term coined by African American feminist Professor Moya Bailey to describe a specific hatred that is enacted upon black women. Misogynoir reflects an intersection of race and gender in the ways black women are victimized. I grew up feeling the weight of not just being black but of also being a woman, so the word feels right and encompasses the entirety of my experiences with such hatred in a way that the term misogyny ignores with its single focus on my being a woman.
One specific way I work to combat misogynoir is simply by daring to write black women’s experiences into the horror genre, as an unapologetic black woman. I write about black women being terrorized by monsters because so many experiences of black women are horrific. I write about black women being monstrous because we should be allowed to lean into this element and receive power and sympathy as other monsters do. I write about why we need these depictions, why the genre (really, the world as a whole) should embrace these characters and stories as relevant, lived experiences that encounter horror and monstrosity in various ways.
What drew you to writing in academia?
I often tell folks I’m an accidental academic. I attended graduate school primarily to get a degree that would allow me to work part-time teaching at the college level, where I would make more money than in any other part-time job. I also needed the flexibility so I could still care for my children. I didn’t know the pursuit of that degree and the people I would meet along the way would also create avenues for me to find a still growing corner of this discipline where I might be able to make valuable contributions. I honestly had no idea that writing about black women and horror from an academic standpoint was a thing. Then I met Dr. Kinitra Brooks at a horror convention and searched for everything I could find on her work about black women in horror and popular culture and I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. My entry into academic writing may have unintentional, but apparently, this is where I need and want to be.
What do you find truly horrific?
Ah…our existence is immersed in darkness and overrun by monsters. If I had to choose the most horrific things I’m aching over in this moment, I’d have to say humanity’s lack of empathy and the assassination of intellectual curiosity. It scares me that human beings can deny other humans their right to basic personhood and exalt their cruelty. Now, I wouldn’t say there was ever a time in my lifetime when this empathy existed in abundance, anyway, but I just would have thought we’d be beyond this point by now.
And I grew up surrounded by people who didn’t have advanced educations, sometimes not even through high school, and yet they still sought knowledge and facts to make decisions about their lives in general. Now we have folks who have multiple degrees who disregard facts and make illogical and unsound arguments in bad faith… and others blindly follow them. Critical thinking is pretty much dead, and it doesn’t seem it will even be resurrected as a zombie, so when it’s completely gone, it’ll just be gone.
If you could have a frank discussion with any five people in history: living or dead, who would it be and why?
This is a fun one! The chance to ask Mary Shelley about her writing process and inspiration for Frankenstein. I want to hear it from her without the filter of years of research. And meeting Edgar Allen Poe would be a dream. I often wonder how he managed to avoid ultimately succumbing to his demons before he did. I’d absolutely love to have a conversation with Margaret Garner, the enslaved woman whose story of matricide inspired Toni Morrison’s Beloved. As heart wrenching as it would surely be, I’d like to hear from her the desperation that drove her to murder one child and attempt to murder the others in an attempt to save them from slavery. I’d like to talk with Toni Morrison, too. I continue to be inspired by the way she uses words to make experiences immersive. I’d just want to shake her hand and hope some of her glitter rubs off on me. And James Baldwin seems like the kind of person I would seek out at a party, someone I could have stimulating conversations with while the world went on around us.
What are you working on now?
I work best when I’m juggling different projects, so I’m currently working on a few things. My main focus right now is an essay on the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House”, for a collection being compiled and edited by Dr. Kevin Wetmore. Also, I’m outlining two different academic book proposals for submission to publishers. In the background of these academic projects is a horror novella and a couple of chewed on and incomplete horror short stories that I hope to finally finish. By the end of the year, I’d like to have a collection of short stories to shop around to publishers.
I would like to yell three shout-outs. The first is to announce that I will be making an academic presentation at the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference at StokerCon in May, called the “Rendering the Invisible Visible: Black Femininity in Horror”. It would be great to have some folks come out to join the conversation.
The second is for Uncovering Stranger Things: Essays on Eighties Nostalgia, Cynicism and Innocence in the Series, a collection of essays edited by Dr. Kevin Wetmore that made it onto the final ballot for this year’s Stoker Awards. The third is for Sycorax’s Daughter’s. edited by Dr. Kinitra Brooks, Linda Addison, and Dr. Susana Morris, which appeared on last year’s Stoker Award final ballot. I’m super proud to have contributed to these amazing books and I look forward to more works from these magnificent writers and editors.
I’m currently accepting abstracts for multidisciplinary academic presentations at the Multiverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Atlanta this October. Please see our call for papers on our website here: https://www.multiversecon.org/papers
I want to thank Rhonda so much for giving me her valuable time and insights! If you would like to learn more about her or her works, I have included some links for your perusal:
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:
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: