The Monster Men sucked Keith Rommel right back into our madness to kick off our series of interviews that will be posted through (and probably past) the Halloween season.
Now, you all know his first book, The Cursed Man, is being made into a movie (well, you do if you watched our previous interview with Keith). Aside from that, he’s released 2 more books this year – The Lurking Man & Among the People, and has big, big plans for the future. There’s also an invitation for a future project that, if it happens, you can all say you were there when the seed was planted!
Watch on, little brothers and sisters and remember to turn the lights off…
I first met Damien Walters Grintalis at the Horrorfind con in Gettysburg, PA last Labor Day weekend. I was immediately struck by her sharp wit and great sense of humor. We were at the Samhain author table and believe me, she could hold her own with the boys. I especially loved the 50’s era dresses she wore that made her stand out from the crowd. She was promoting her debut novel, Ink, months before it was scheduled for release.
Because her book is about a tattoo that takes on a sinister life of its own. she had made little temporary tattoos to hand out to promote the book. By the end of the weekend, a first time author was the most popular person at the booth. Remarkable. And her novel, Ink, is even more so.
I’m happily seeing more women getting recognized in the horror field, especially on the writing side. No need to dress skimpy and scream a lot when you’re creating a world of terror. This being Women in Horror month, I though it was appropos that I kick things off with Damien. But when you get down to it, man or woman, she’s an extremely talented writer.
It’s very apparent that Damien worked very hard on her craft before submitting for publication, which I think a lot of new writers kind of skip over. We’re all so eager to make our mark on the publishing world that we jump into marketing and promotion before making sure our manuscript is as tight as it can be.
I was very happy that she wanted to appear on the blog and chain and talk about her road to publication, upcoming work and most creative way to die.
To prepare myself for this interview, I read, or more accurately, devoured, your debut novel, Ink. I promise not to give away any spoilers, but I will say that it was one of the top 5 horror books I’ve read in the past few years. Would you care to tell everyone a little bit about the book? Jason, the main character, is fresh out of a bad marriage and he makes an impulsive decision to get a tattoo by a tattoo artist he meets in a bar. Can you say bad decision? Neither the tattoo artist nor the tattoo are what they seem and Jason ends up in a world of hurt.
Ink is truly one of the more original and inventive stories I’ve seen in a long time. Where did you get your inspiration? I was walking out of a tattoo shop and had a what-if moment. Then I had a picture in my head of a man with a strange walk. I wasn’t sure how he was connected to the story, but I knew he was. I tried to replicate his walk in my living room and after a few minutes, the reason for his odd walk and his connection to the story became very very clear.
Speaking of Ink, do you have any tattoos? I have a few myself and now I’m a little nervous when I feel an itch on my arms. Yes, I have six. It may be tempting fate, but I’m contemplating a griffin on my left arm.
I know from my own writing that characters are often drawn from the people who have touched my life in one way or another. Your characters are so reach, so vivid, I just know there are some real life folks in there. So, care to spill the beans on who Jason. Mitch, Shelley and even Sailor are? Jason is a construct of a few people I’ve known. I did not want to write about the big burly alpha male who fixes everything with a flex of his pecs. I wanted someone less confident. Someone breakable. Mitch, on the other hand, is strong and self-reliant. If anything, she’s the White Knight in the story. Jason’s father is based on my own, although the catchphrases he uses belong to my husband.
Sailor isn’t based on anyone I know, but a concept that evil can be anyone, anywhere. There is no one face, one look, for evil and a man in an expensive suit can be just as dangerous as a homeless man with wild hair and crazy eyes. (And no, I don’t believe all homeless men are dangerous, just that many people perceive to be.) Take Ted Bundy, for example. He was good looking, he was charming, but beneath the pleasant exterior, he was a monster.
After I read Ink, I said to myself, “where has Damien been hiding all these years?”. What was your road to publication like and how did you become a part of our Samhain family? I wrote Ink initially in 2009. It wasn’t my first novel, but it was the first one I felt confident about. When it was edited and pretty, I started to query agents. I had several offers of representation, which shocked me. Fast forward a handful of months and I heard about Don D’Auria joining Samhain. I talked to my then-agent, he sent Ink to Don, and a few months later we had an offer.
OK, your debut novel is out and on the Samhain topseller list. What new book or books are you working on and when can we expect to see them in print? My new novel, Paper Tigers, about a disfigured young woman and a haunted photo album, is still in the horror genre, but of a different sort than Ink. My agent and I have been going back and forth with revisions, trying to make it as shiny and sparkly (of the non-faux-vampire type) as possible. I have two other novels waiting in the wings for edits and in between the novels, I also write a lot of short fiction.
If aliens made themselves known to us and asked you to come with them to their planet, never to return to earth, would you accept the invitation and why or why not? No, I would not. My family, my life, is here.
Here’s a series of rapid fire questions: Favorite movie? Favorite food? Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry? Most creative way to die? Kittens or puppies? Alien. Soup. Tom & Jerry. Um…jumping into an active volcano? Puppies. Definitely puppies.
Thank you so much for appearing on my blog and chain. Please let everyone know where to find you and any parting words of wisdom.
You can find me online via my website: www.damienwaltersgrintalis.com , my blog: dwgrintalis.blogspot.com, or on Twitter @dwgrintalis. Parting words of wisdom? Never investigate strange noises while wearing only underwear, and always check behind the closed shower curtain.
So, have we piqued your interest? Trust me, even if you’re not a horror fan, Ink will captivate you. What’s your publication journey been like? And more importantly, what is your most creative way to take a dirt nap?
Yes, yes it did. You’ll have to give me a minute here. I’m really excited that you’ll be reading my book!
Alistair screamed his rage and fought to break free of his dying host. I lunged, knocking my stunned opponent to the ground. Huge slates of plaster plummeted around us. The steel bathroom doors twisted like they were made of foil, tearing from the hinges to whistle through the air. The building’s structural beams groaned; the walls threatened to give.
Metal shelving units popped free from the walls, and cement screws volleyed through the air. Searing pain ripped through my shoulder as one of them hit their mark, then another. Beneath me, Alistair’s true form threatened to break free of its host. Maniacal laughter erupted as he fed off my wounds.
Enraged, I seized his throat, squeezing the slender column until it threatened to pop. Time was running short. Another minute and the ruined building would implode from the force of our destruction. Coiling over him, I sank my teeth deep into the base of his neck, tearing flesh free from bone with a vicious shake. Warm fountains of blood spurted on my face. Geysers of life pumped from the mangled jugular. The fluid was bitter and sticky against my tongue. Grimacing, I spat the foul taste from my mouth, my eyes burning with hatred. Alistair made a strange gurgling sound, his hand reaching out in a last ditch effort, but his strength faded with each weakening beat of the human’s heart.
Lips curled into a sneer, I knocked his arm away and, seconds later, his eyes went black. I remained hunched, shoulders heaving while I caught my breath and shook the last threads of anger. Throwing my head back I bellowed, releasing the last shreds of violence and ire.
The ground stilled, and an eerie silence settled over the store. Only the sound of my own labored breathing reached my ears. Wiping the blood on the sleeve of my coat, I stood. Concerned, I sought Ava among the piles of rubble and found her clinging to Remiel. She was still wide-eyed and trembling. Her fists twisted in his torn cloak as if attempting to hold on to his very life. I ached to offer her a reassuring smile, but instead I found my gaze riveting upon the speechless angel at her side. He stared back in silence, tense, but calm despite the chaos.
“You,” I growled through clenched teeth, “are worthless.”
“Seir . . .”
My eyes snapped to Ava in question, though I still struggled, aching with the urge to rip her friend from the floor. Several agonizing seconds ticked by, measured only by my beating heart as she struggled to form coherent thought.
“W-what are you doing here?”
“I was in the neighborhood.” It was a dry quip, but I was still seething with annoyance. I turned to confront Remiel, pinning him a scathing glare. “It’s probably a damn good thing, too, seeing as you were nowhere to be found.”
His chin lifted a notch in defense. “I was shielding her. I kept her safe.”
A humorless smile lifted one corner of my mouth; my shoulders lifted in a snort. “Keep on telling yourself that if it makes you feel better.”
“I suppose you want to eliminate me now as well?” Wariness crept into his voice and he pressed his lips together as if bracing for the answer. I found myself wondering how he’d ever worked his way up the angelic ranks, all the way up to Arch. I’d seen arthritic field hands with more backbone and gumption over the years.
Behind him, Ava had staggered to her feet. Her steps were wobbly and slow, laden with fear. I rolled my eyes, dismissing Remiel with a terse wave. “You aren’t even worth the effort. Unlike you, some of us didn’t revive our energy with an afternoon nap.”
Ava’s shrill scream broke the spell of resentment brewing between us. Alarmed, I rushed to her side, worried that I had somehow mistaken my assessment of Alistair’s condition. Her eyes were flared to comical proportions, almost bulging from their sockets in a state of horror and disbelief. I moved to comfort her, trying to wrap an arm around her trembling shoulders, but she whirled away, her feet scrabbling in an attempt to put distance between us.
“This is not happening! What is going on here?” Tears streamed down her face and she shivered as the onset of shock kicked in.
“Ava . . .” I took a step forward.
Her hand shot up. “Don’t touch me. Tell me what is going on! What just happened here and what the hell is that?”
She pointed to the inanimate corpse on the floor. Slate black eyes stared unseeing at the ceiling. They reflected the fathomless abyss of darkness and despair that had once inhabited the soul. Alistair’s presence had infected the body, and with his demise the flesh began to wither and shrink. The once human face was contorted, the bones displaced beneath the surface. In death, they had shifted to resemble something closer to the demon’s true form as he lie trapped within. The gaping hole in his neck appeared even larger, standing out in vivid contrast against the gaunt, mummy-like remains.
“Him?” I asked, shrugging. “He’s dead.”
Just to be sure, I nudged the putrid miscreation with the toe of my boot. “Quite, in fact.”
“You are not funny, Seir!”
“It was worth a shot.”
I’ve read your poetry and shorts and am always blown away by the dark beauty of your prose. I know how hard it is to struggle for that first book deal. What was your road to publishing success like and how long did it take? How did you find Wynwidyn Press, or did they find you?
Legions? That’s almost as good as having minions! I’ll take it!
It only seems fitting that I cap off a week where I released a novella about skunk apes with an interview with Eric S. Brown, the godfather of Bigfoot books. Now, there’s way more to Eric than just Bigfoot – the dude is quite prolific – but I came to know of his work through my fascination with our hairy cousin. Eric has two books currently tearing up the charts, Crypto Squad and my fave, Bigfoot War (along with its sequels, especially Bigfoot War : Frontier).
It’s been a goal of mine to interview Eric, and now I can cross that off the old bucket list. Enjoy!
1. It’s 1975 and I’m on the TV game show Password. My celebrity partner (I’ll pretend it’s Lynda Carter, complete with Wonder Woman costume) turns to me and says, “Bigfoot”. Now, since I’m a man of the future on an old game show sitting next to Wonder freakin’ Woman, my answer is as clear as a cloudless sky. I blurt out, “Eric S. Brown!” I’m right, we hug and move on to the next round. You are the Bigfoot master when it comes to horror fiction. What drew you to the wild man?
ESB: When I first started writing, zombies were my thing. I wrote them for about eight years. I had a lot of books in that genre published like Season of Rot and War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies. Finally though, even though I still loved them, there came a point when Zombies just didn’t do it for me as a writer anymore. I wanted something else. I remembered back to my childhood, living in rural North Carolina, and there was Bigfoot. He scared the Hades out of me as a kid and I knew I had my what I was looking for. I came up with an idea that mixed the Bigfoot mythos with the feel of a zombie/end of the world book and Bigfoot War was born. Today, it’s still the # 1 rated by customer reviews Bigfoot book on Amazon and it’s had three sequels published to date.
2. Looking at your Facebook postings, I’m amazed by the sheer number of books you have out or are coming out. What’s the latest and tell us a little bit about it.
ESB: My latest two books are Crypto-Squad and Boggy Creek: The Legend is True. Crypto-Squad is another genre bending book like Bigfoot War. The zombie apocalypse is raging and the world’s only hope is government sponsored agency that uses Cryptids as both agents and weapons. Crypto-Squad pits Mothman, The Jersey Devil, Bigfoot, The Chupacabra, and more against zombie hordes in a struggle to save what’s left of the human race. Boggy Creek: The Legend is True is a novelization of the film of the same name.
3. How many books have you published? I know that they’re all not about Senor Sasquatch. What are some of your favorite monsters that you write about?
ESB: I’m gonna go with a lot in terms of a number of books. As to my favorite monsters, of course Bigfoot, Mothman, and Zombies are my top three at the moment. However, I also have a series of Werewolves books called “A Pack of Wolves”. A Pack of Wolves I and II are on the market now and soon Grand Mal Press will be releasing a limited hardcover that collects the two of them and also includes a third installment of the series exclusive to it.
4. If you were on a camping trip in, say, east Texas, and you open up the tent in the middle of the night to see a six foot Bigfoot staring you in the face, what’s your first instinct?
ESB: Pull out the huge freaking gun I was carrying with me and blow it away before it can rip me limb from limb.
ESB: Trying not to laugh, I will have to answer no. I am a total geek. I am mean super geek. I live in a house full of books, comics, and horror films, seldom venturing outside unless it’s in search of more coffee.
6. What do you think of Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet?
7. Have you ever been to Boggy Creek? (on a side note, I had a chance this year but got rained out). What do you think of the movie and is it time for a solid remake?
ESB: I have not though I would love to go someday (if I can convince myself to venture out). I really enjoyed the new one and the old one is a genre defining classic that you just have to love. Working with Jennifer Jaynes, the screenplay writer for it, on my novelization was awesome. She’s such a pro. Between the two of us, I really think the new book blows the new movie out of the water because it functions on a much deeper level and on my end, has a lot more guns and gore.
8. What book are you currently reading and what’s the next one on your to-read list?
ESB: I got hooked on the Honor Harrington series over this past summer and devoured those. Currently, I am waiting on David Drake’s new horror collection to be released. Drake is my hero and in a sense my mentor. He’s my fav. author of all time. And if those didn’t give it away, yes, I read a lot of Military SF. I am much more likely to pick up a book by folks like Eric Flint, Timothy Zahn, or John Ringo than one by somebody like Stephen King.
9. Thank you for taking the time to answer my sometimes-insane questions. Is there anything else you’d like to tell the folks visiting Hunter’s blog and chain?
ESB: Thank you for having me on here. I hope that if you’re looking for something crazy different in terms of Crypto-Zombie horror, give the Crypto-Squad or my Bigfoot War series a go.
OK, so I understand this particular panel won’t be anything like being a judge on American Idol (which is why I’m happy to do it). I’ll be on the NY Spotlight on Success first ever paranormal panel this Thursday night in NYC. My Monster Men co-host, Jack Campisi, will be by my side along with a host of paranormal researchers and psychics. It should be a blast. Hope you can make it.
Here’s some info on the event and how to purchase tickets.
I’m so glad I can finally take a break from talking about myself and shine the spotlight on a tremendous new talent, Kristopher Rufty. I’m proud to say that we’re Samhain Horror brothers (his first book, Angel Board is not to be missed), and was blown away by his latest novel, Pillowface. This dude is the goods and he has a ton in store for us. So strap yourself in, turn on the Halloween soundtrack, tuck your favorite butcher knife by your side and read on…
HS. I have to say, Pillowface grabbed me by the short hairs from teh get-go and never let up. Why don’t youtell folks a little about the book and why they absolutely must read it!
KR. The book is about Joel Olsen, a twelve year old horror fan and aspiring special effects artist who spends way too much time alone. He is now being raised by his sister Haley, who is only twenty-three years old. They lost their parents in a car accident a few months prior to where the story begins. Joel has an active imagination and is so enthralled with horror movie scenarios that he doesn’t even flinch when he discovers a wounded slasher straight from the movies he loves in his backyard. Joel becomes obsessed with Pillowface, and looks at this situation as a big game, or a movie he’s seen adozen times. It isn’t long before Joel realizes this isn’t as much fun as he’d expected it to be. Soon into the book people around him start being brutally murdered, and with Buddy and Carp on the hunt for Pillowface, their missing ally, even more blood is shed.
Anyone with a love for horror on any avenue will probably find something to enjoy in this book. As dark and twisted as it turned out to be, it’s actually a good time. I had a blast writing about the launch of summer vacation. It was fun tapping into that part of my own childhood and remembering how it felt knowing that after Sunday ended on that first weekend of summer vacation, there were still a couple months left beforeI had to go back to school. The sky was the limit! Much like Joel does in the book; I’d formulate a summer to-do list and make sure I completed every task on it. Whether it was watching a certain number of movies, or finishing the Stephen King, Bentley Little, or John Saul book I had purchased for a summer read, or adventures I planned to have in the woods around my house, I did it all, because if summer was nearing its end andI hadn’t completed them, I would feel depressed. As if I’d wasted my summer break.
HS. Being a Richard Laymon fan, I felt his presence throughout the book. Are you a big fan as well and how has he inspired you?
KR. Laymon is my favorite author. Not just my favorite horror author, but my favorite period. Whenever someone learns I write horror fiction they usually say something along the lines of: “Oh like Stephen King?” And I’ll nod and say: “Sort of. More like Richard Laymon.” Then I get a confused look because they obviously don’t know who I’m talking about and that’s a shame.
Trent Haaga (the writer of the movies Deadgirl and American Maniacs) recommended I read The Cellar by Richard Laymon one day while we were in a book store together. I had confided in him that I was growing tired of reading books by the same handful of authors and wanted to branch out. He took me to the L’s and searched the selection until finding Leisure’s reprint of The Cellar. He went on to tell me how great of an author Laymon is and how once I read this book, I wouldn’tbe able to stop. And he was right. Laymon’s books became a hunger that I neededto feed. It was also what made me join the Leisure Horror Book Club; the possibilities of several authors I’d yet to discover were at my fingertips! Trent’s suggestion morphed me into a completely different horror fan, reader, andwriter.
Laymon’swork has been heavily influential on my own. I never wanted to mimic his style or anything like that, but I wanted to incorporate into my own writing Laymon’s sense of sentence and paragraph structure and detail. And also I wanted to freely use the word rump just as he had. I started off writing screenplays and making indie horror movies, and in the scripts whenever a female had to fall down, I could never think of a delicate way of putting it. So, I took my Dad’s term, rump, and used that. When I read it in Laymon’s novels I smiled with glee.
Years later I learned Don D’Auria (the same who’d edited Laymon and countless other legends) would be my editor as well, and it was a dream come true.
HS. I don’t know who’s more twisted, Joel, the young boy in need of a father figure, or the murderous Pillowface with a soft spot for the boy. Which would you rather go camping withfor a week?
KR. Pillowface, easily. I don’t trust Joel in the slightest.
HS. You managed to do what so many have tried and failed at, which is create a classic slasher/monster and make him genuinely sympathetic. I mean, I was actually rooting for Pillowface towards the end. How difficult a task was that for you?
KR. It wasn’t as difficult as making David (the main character from Angel Board) sympathetic. Pillowface is a complex guy and underneath the mask and behind the chainsaw he’s human. In an earlier draft I wrote him a bit differently and to me he just didn’t come across as a real person. That was my mistake, not writing him realistically. When I set out to do a fresh write on Pillowface, I delved more into his point of view instead of learning about him through Joel’s eyes, and instead I thought it would be neat if we learned who Joel was through Pillowface’s eyes. But not just Joel, some of the other characters as well. Especially Joel’s sister, Haley. Pillowface crushes on her like any man would, but whenever a normal person thinks flowers, candy, and a night on the town, Pillowface thinks of swooning her by dismemberment, destruction, and pain.
HS.Which is harder to do, direct a movie or write a novel? What are the best and most difficult parts of each?
KR. They’re each their own obstacle. I’d have to say that, personally, writing a novel is easier and sometimes more gratifying than making a movie. There are a lot elements going into directing, especially low budget movies, which interfere with your vision, so to speak. I learned early on in moviemaking that it’s best to leave what you pictured in your head while writing the script at the door because chances are you will have to improvise on the spot for a variety of reasons, which also means working away from the script, or changing something last minute or like I had to in PsychoHolocaust, and cut a character completely out of the movie two days before we started filming because the actor cast to play them dropped out.
Budget can be your best friend and worst enemy. When there’s plenty to give she’s wonderful to have on your side, a great go-to source that can solve almost any problem. But when there’s not enough to give, the budget can be an evil she-bitch that constantly takes and takes and when you wantjust a little more to spend on your movie you realize that she’s dried up after spending herself on name actors, plane tickets, and food. When writing a screenplay, you always have to be cognizant of the budget and write within its means which can make for some great creativity but can also kill it quickly. My favorite parts of the movie process are the writing and editing, usually after a year or so goes by I realize that I actually enjoyed aspects of the shooting. Ha-Ha. However, I do enjoy working with talented actors and crews and watching what I wrote come to life whether it was how I had originally imagined it or not.
When writing a novel there is no budget restriction, and you’re pretty much free todo whatever you want. When the characters want to have sex, they can, and there are no worries on my part whether or not they will take off their clothes, because I’m pretty confident that they will! Also, if something blows up in the story, I don’t have to go back and cut it because there is no way I can afford an explosives expert, or I can have a legion of demons pour out of someone’s rump and not fret over how we can do the effect (I’m not big on horror CGI). I can just write it and it is. That is amazing to me. Writing is amazing to me. Making movies is amazingto me. I love them both. They are a partof who I am.
HS. You’re obviously a horror movie buff (not to mention director). What are your 5 favorite horror films.
KR. Wow, that’s a tough question. I’ll name fiveI like a lot, in no particular order.
TexasChainsaw Massacre (original)
Nightof the Living Dead (b&w and the remake from the early nineties)
Fridaythe 13th (original)
Okay, so that was five of the more popular horror classics. Here are five that aren’t so popular.
BasketCase (anything really by Frank Hennenlotter)
SilverBullet (Busey at his finest)
Nightof the Creeps
HS. OK, in 25 words or less, describe your current work in progress.
KR. I’m working on a few things simultaneously. Finishing up a novel and doing a polish on one that’s already completed, completed a novella, and started another novel. The Lurkers is my next book through Samhain Publishing and will be out in August, which is about tiny goblin-like creatures invading a small town and the group of people driving through who get caught in the middle. We’re also doing a promotion with the release. My short story The Night Everything Changed will be available for free soon and leading up to the release of The Lurkers. It takes place in The Lurkers universeand is definitely worth checking out, and for a price tag of zero, you can’tbeat it. After that, I’m not sure what order the next few will follow.
But a current work in progress is PlainfieldGothic and here’s a 25 words or less rundown:
Robbing graves in the early 1950’s, Ed Gein inadvertentlyunearths a genuine vampire and sets it loose on the unsuspecting town of Plainfield, Wisconsin.
And there you have it. See, I told you there was a lot more awesomeness to come! You can check Kristopher and his work out at www.lastkristontheleft.blogspot.com
Jonathan Janz is new to the horror scene, just like Tim Tebow is to the NFL, only JJ is a hell of a lot better at what he does. Now, I’m not saying we’re lifelong buds or neighbors, but from getting to know him over the past 6 months, I’m pretty secure in saying they invented the phrase “he’s the salt of the earth” to describe this guy. His debut novel with Samhain Publishing, The Sorrows, is the real deal. Think The Haunting meets the early work of Phil Rickman (and if you have never read a Phil Rickman novel, you can return your Official Horror Fan Membership Card). This book has the iron jaws of a pit bull, except this is one angry dog you’ll be happy to cross.
Jonathan was nice enough to answer my sometimes bizarre questions. Here they be, in all their gory…glory.
1.Your debut novel, The Sorrows, is now out through Samhain Publishings new horror line. Tell us a little about your book, you know, something that will compel us to buy it as much as terrify us to sleep with the lights off.
To borrow a question from my favorite horror novel (Peter Straub’s Ghost Story), “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” If you’re imagining it, I now want you to imagine the face of the person you wronged. Then imagine that face growing dark with rage and pursuing you…even after death. That dread is at the heart of The Sorrows.
The novel is set on an island, and this island (called the Sorrows by its long-dead inhabitants) is haunted by events nearly a century old, as well as a bestial creature that might or might not be a Greek god. If you travel to the island, you better hope your slate is clean because any soul you’ve ever wronged will find you there…for violent and unholy retribution.
Also, The Sorrows is about two composers (and two female companions) traveling to one of the most haunted places in the world (the island) to find inspiration for a big-budget horror movie being shot by the most demanding director in film.
2.If you were guaranteed to be an overnight sensation writing in another genre, what would it be and why?
Whoa, great question. I think I’d write readable literary fiction. By that, I mean stories that people can actually understand without having to squint at the page for an hour trying to figure out what the hell the author’s laboring to say. I think of writers like Cormac McCarthy and Ian McEwan…man, I love those guys, and I’ve heard them called all sorts of things, but to me they’re both deeply literary and fantastically skilled. So I’d like to write stuff that exhibits both those qualities. In fact, I’m already working on a couple of things…
3.OK, you’re invited to spend the night in a haunted castle, say Leap Castle in Ireland, with the stipulation that you must be alone and have no source of light. Do you go? If you do, what do you expect to happen?
Truth? Or something that will make me sound manly and virile? The truth is, I’d never spend a night away from my kids (I’ve got three of them under the age of six) because I’d miss them and worry about them.
But let’s say, for the fun of it, that I’m ten years older, and my wife and kids and I are vacationing in Ireland. Some guy says, “Hey, Lad, I’ll put a thousand bucks each in your children’s college funds if you spend the night alone at Leap Castle.” I’d do it then, and I’d spend the rest of the night scared out of my mind imagining all sorts of things.
Do I think I’d really see something? Other than the puddle of urine pooling around my feet? I don’t know, and that’s what makes the prospect of spending the night in a place like that so frightening. I might see nothing, though my imagination would conjure all sorts of awful things. I might also see something real, which is truly terrifying.
4.For the aspiring writers out there, can you describe your road to publication? Also, do you have an agent and how did you connect with him or her?
My road was very Beatlesesque—long and winding. I’ve been rejected so many times I’ve come to tense my stomach muscles like Houdini every time I open my inbox because a gut punch is always on the way. That sounds cynical, but it’s the truth. You’ve got to be determined, you’ve got to accept that you don’t know everything, and you’ve got to have enough stubbornness and confidence to stay with something that most days brings you nothing but negative feedback. And silence.
I don’t have an agent at the moment, though I’m about to start shopping again. I once had one, but that’s a long, dull story that I’ll spare you for today. Having said that, I fully believe an agent is necessary to maximize a writer’s success, and I’d very much like to find one. The key, though, is compatibility. She/he has to like your work, and you have to have faith in her/his abilities. So yes, I do want an agent and believe I’ll get one when the time is right.
5. Quick, in 30 words or less, describe your current work in progress.
What if the two traditional depictions of vampires—the romantic, haunted loner, and the monstrous, insatiable beast—were only phases in the transformation into something far more terrible? And infinitely more powerful?
That was thirty-two words, and you still don’t know the title (Loving Demons), or who my protagonist is (Ellie Crane) or how her husband Chris becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman who lives in the forest where he and Ellie move, or how Ellie conceives a child but soon learns she can’t leave because the forest and the spirits that live there won’t let her leave, or how a demonic cult once sacrificed—
Okay, I cheated a little, but that’s a start. (Hunter : Dude, you cheated a little??)
6.What is your favorite horror movie and novel? Aaaaand, whenyou were a kid, what was your all time favorite cartoon?
Movie: Jaws or The Exorcist. The former is better-made, but the latter is scarier.
Novel: Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. The gothic structure of that book changed my writing forever, even though I didn’t even try to write until five years after I read the book.
Cartoon: Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry. No wonder my stories are so violent!
7.Last one. Whats the weirdest thing you’ve ever written and did you ever let it see the light of day?
The weirdest thing is probably a novel called Blood Country that I actually reference in my debut novel The Sorrows. It’s a bizarre hybrid of a crime novel a la Elmore Leonard and a bloody horror novel by someone like Richard Laymon. Actually, it’s far bloodier than most of even Laymon’s stuff, so I guess the title is apt.
I did indeed let it see the light of day about three years ago when I finished it and began querying agents about it. The responses went something like this: “I really like your writing, and there’s no doubt you can do suspense very well. And I know I stated in my guidelines that I wanted dark. But…well…not this dark.”
I plan on reworking it after my next three novels are done (the aforementioned Loving Demons, another I’m about eighty-percent done with called Native, and the novel I’m going to write this coming summer). Blood Country is weird, dark, and disturbing. But I like it, and I think readers will, too, once I get it right.
Thank you so much, Hunter, for having me on your blog and for asking such awesome questions. Forest of Shadows was OUTSTANDING, and I’m proud to be published alongside you!
**If you want to read a truly insightful, sometimes hilarious, but always honest blog, check out Jonathan Janz, the Blog!
The great thing about being part of the new Samhain Horror family has been meeting some of the new and seasoned authors that they have brought together. Russell James is one of those cool dudes in a loose mood. He has a chilling new novel out, Dark Inspiration. If you want to read a book that will actually make you sleep with the light on, look no further. This is classic horror at its best. Russell was nice enough to sit down for an interview with yours truly. Enjoy!
1. Your novel, Dark Inspiration, is right in my personal sweet spot. It
has a haunted house, creepy old cemetery and sinister secrets. Tell us a
little more about the book, especially something that will put chill down
Doug and Laura Lock try to fulfill many couples’ fantasy. They quit their
jobs and move to a country dream house and hope to re-fire their personal
and professional lives. But Doug finds a hidden attic full of some creepy
taxidermy left by a deceased former resident and starts doing some twisted
experimentation. You experience Doug’s personal descent from inside his
head, and it’s not pretty. His plans for his wife are…well, you’ve got to
Laura is influenced by the spirits of two twin girls and Doug encounters
the spirit of their uncle. Neither of them shares their experiences with
the other and so start living parallel, secret lives. When the lives
finally intersect, it goes off the rails. Way off. Honestly, the two of
them could have used some paranormal advice from John Backman from your
Forest of Shadows.
2. What was the aha moment in your life when you decided you wanted to
become a writer?
I remember having a short story published in a junior high literary
journal and thought that was the coolest thing ever. But the idea of
seriously writing and having other people want to read it was so daunting
a task, I never considered trying.
I would tell my wife stories I thought up when we went on long drives in
the car. She kept bugging me to write them down. Tired of my lame
excuses not to, and knowing I worshipped at the paperback altar of Stephen
King, she bought me his On Writing for Christmas a few years ago. Reading
that made me realize that I could write something, if I applied myself.
3. Every writer has a special journey to publication. How did you come
about having your book published by Samhain?
Again, credit goes to the wife. The next Christmas after On Writing
arrived, she got me an online writing course at Gotham Writer’s Workshop.
Two short stories I worked on there ended up getting published.
Nice start, but several unsold novel manuscripts later, success wasn’t
knocking. I took an advanced Gotham class to see what I skills I was
missing. During that class, the instructor alerted us that Samhain was
having the equivalent of open auditions for horror books. I had Dark
Inspiration fresh off a tour of publisher and agent rejections, so I sent
it in. In a million-to-one-shot, Don D’Auria bought it.
Trust me, I wake up every morning thankful for the stroke of luck that got
me here today.
4. What book have you read that really scared you and made you want to
sleep with the light on?
I really like reading collections of true ghost stories. A personal
experience when I was kid made me a true believer.
There are times I’ll read about an event and both arms go to goose pimples
and my heart skips a beat. That’s the good stuff.
5. OK, suppose you had to hire a monster as a contract killer. Out of
Jason, Michael Meyers, Freddie and Pinhead, who would you choose and why?
I have to send Freddy Krueger. He can kill someone in their dreams
without a trace. Plus in his free time I can have him Edward Scissorhands
my backyard shrubbery.
6. In three sentences or less, describe what you’re currently working on.
I have a short story coming out in December on a podcast called Tales of
Old. It’s historical fiction about a World War I fighter pilot. So you
can read it on the website or download and listen to it.
The next novel is called Sacrifice and will be out sometime in 2012. A
group of kids destroy an evil demon in 1980, but thirty years later find
out they may not have finished the job. They return home to confront the
demon, their own aging, their past mistakes. The demon isn’t going to go
quietly, and this time has friends.
And if you want even more reasons to be afraid of the dark, check out Forest of Shadows.
If you’ve ever wondered to yourself if Twitter is worth the time and effort, I have good news. Thanks to my trawling around the land o tweets, I happily stumbled upon writer J.C. Martin and picked up a copy of her story, The Doll. I became an instant fan. Luckily, she agreed to be interviewed for this old blog and chain. J.C. is so cool, she also interviewed me for her blog and has a giveaway for my book as well. So, thanks to Twitter, two complete strangers have become friends, at least in this nutty online world.
J.C. Martin has some pretty finely tuned writing chops and has made whole books available for free on her website. You can’t beat that with a stick with a nail on the end. My one piece of advice for you, the reader: get on the bandwagon now, while there’s still room.
1. Your story, The Doll, just blew me away. It’s set on the very real Island of Dolls in Mexico. What inspired you to write The Doll and have you ever been to that creepy island?
Sadly, I’ve never had the chance (yet) to visit Mexico. I discovered the Island of the Dolls while researching backdrops for a planned collection of short horror stories. Initially, I was thinking along the lines of a geographic theme for the anthology: terror across the globe, or something like that. I Googled “scariest places in the world,” and the Island of the Dolls (unsurprisingly) popped up repeatedly. There were some pretty gruesome and atmospheric photos of the dolls, and because I’ve recently read about the South American religion of Santeria, and its darker cousin, Palo Mayombe, the idea of a cursed doll crafted from black magic came to me naturally!
And if you are wondering, yes, I am still working on said horror story collection, which is why I released The Doll as a teaser, and as a way to gauge response.
2. I see that you speak 3 languages. Is there one language that is easier for you to write in, or does it not matter since you’re so fluent in all?
Heavens, I wish! I am by far most fluent in English. My grasp on the other languages have deteriorated from lack of use. I can still read, speak and understand most stuff OK in Chinese and Malay, but I probably have a writing age of about 6 in them!
And I always like to boast that, although they are technically not different languages, I can speak four Chinese dialects: Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien. :)
3. The Doll is very much a horror story, but you also write in other genres. Which is your absolute favorite to write in, and which is your favorite to read?
I don’t start out a story by pigeon-holing them into a genre, but oddly most of my short stories evolve into horror. A handful are more general, or literary, fiction. For longer works, both my novels — one I’m actively querying, and one I’m currently plotting — are crime fiction, but definitely dark crime fiction.
4. When you’re not writing, you also teach martial arts. What school of martial arts do you teach and what level are you at? Does the discipline you have to master in martial arts help you with your writing? How so?
I teach Wing Chun kung fu, a traditional Chinese martial art, as a 2nd Degree (equivalent to a 2nd Dan black belt). The discipline, perseverance and focus mastered in Wing Chun definitely helps keep my butt in the chair and my eyes on the computer screen (I have a full interview on my martial arts experiences and how they influence my writing HERE). Furthermore, it’s been immensely useful when writing fight scenes! I can be my own fight choreographer! (I’ve also written a post on writing action scenes HERE.)
5. What’s your favorite movie, book and song?
Movie – Kung Fu Panda! 1 AND 2! Combines my love of kung fu and cuddly animals with my love for a good storyline! (not the most obvious choice for a dark fiction writer, I know!)
Book – This is difficult. I have loads, but one that really stood out for me: one is Boris Starling’s Messiah. It was the first crime novel that blew me away, not just with an intricate plot, but tightly paced writing that kept me going and going. The final revelation made me go “OMG!”, and it is now the gold standard of crime fiction I aspire to.
Song – I’m a sucker for Disney music, but my current favourite is In This Life by the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, whose awesome music I’ve just discovered. We played this for our first dance, at our wedding in August. :)
6. Tell us a little about what you’re currently working on.
Apart from the short story collection now tentatively titled Everyday Horrors, I’m planning my crime novel currently called Labyirinth, in which I hope to capture the spookiness of the old, disused stations of the London Underground.
7. If you could live anywhere in the world and be anything you want, where and what would you be?
I would be a full-time writer (what else?) working from my beach house, on an idyllic Malaysian island overlooking the Andaman Sea.
8. Mind telling the world a little something that most people don’t know about you?
I have pretty severe trypanophobia, and have not had a needle pierce my skin for over 7 years now. Seriously, when the doctor took my blood pressure once before drawing blood for a blood test, he wondered if I had hypertension, in my late teens! When he took it again after blood was drawn, my b.p. returned to normal.
I have refused travel vaccinations, blood tests, and a jab for the swine ‘flu that hit the UK a couple of years back. I ended up catching the ‘flu, but it was well worth not having the injection!
To learn more about J.C., visit her website at http://jc-martin.com/fighterwriter/about/
Need more horror? Click here.
I’ve gotten to know Frazer Lee thanks to our being in the same horror fraternity, Samhain Tau Chi. He’s definitely on my “To Have A Beer With” list, but until we meet at some remote bar, I thought it would be a good idea to have a little chat with him about his amazing new book, The Lamplighters, horror in general, his deepest secrets (ok, maybe not deepest) and Halloween. So sit back, have a nice bottle of chianti and some fava beans and enjoy…
1. Your latest book, ‘The Lamplighters’, will be out with Samhain Publishing’s horror line this November. Can you tell us what a lamplighter exactly is and what drew you to make them the subject of your book?
‘The Lamplighters’ are essentially caretakers. In the world of my novel, these lucky young people are hired by a consortium of billionaires to look after their glamorous island homes. It’s a dream job because all they have to do is turn on a few lights (hence the name) and cook and clean in order for the rich employers to maintain their residency status (and tax breaks). If the concept of a lamplighter sounds far fetched, I assure you these people really exist in places such as Monaco where the super-rich go out to play. And while I was working on the novel, a news story broke about a contest looking for a caretaker to look after a lush tropical island, proving fact is often stranger than fiction! In essence the lamplighters formed the basis of the book because they embody that “be careful what you wish for” vibe – which is what The Lamplighters’ particular horror premise is all about.
2. What did you enjoy most about writing ‘The Lamplighters’?
I also work as a screenwriter/script doctor so I have to say I most enjoyed not having any budgetary constraints to deal with! If I wanted to include explosions, underwater sequences, multiple (expensive) locations and “visual FX” they could all go in to ‘The Lamplighters’ with no-one from production getting all hot-under-the-collar about it. (Laughs) Aside from that I really enjoyed getting to know Marla and The Skin Mechanic and all the other characters. I enjoyed the surprises and discoveries they sometimes threw my way as the story revealed itself through them.
3. The horror genre is new to Samhain. What drew you to them as a publisher and how has the experience been?
I first heard Samhain was branching out into horror via Brian Keene’s website, around the time I was finishing up work on editing the manuscript of ‘The Lamplighters’. Like you Hunter, I admired editor Don D’Auria from his work with Leisure/Dorchester. I’d submitted my full manuscript to Leisure on request after Don saw the synopsis and first three chapters. The shizzle then hit the fan over at Leisure, so I followed up with Don over at Samhain. I’m glad I did because a few weeks later I got a very flattering email from Don inviting me to publish with them. The experience has a been a pleasure, really, from having input into the cover design to working on the final text. It’s been bloody exciting to see the marketing around the new line with banners and flyers at events like Comic Con, and ads in Fangoria and Famous Monsters. There is a real buzz for the new line, with authors and horror fans alike Blogging and Tweeting and Facebooking about the titles. I also like the fact Samhain offers ebooks and paperbacks so people can choose depending on their preference. Likewise I think it’s a smart move for the line to offer some familiar names like Ramsey Campbell, who is one of my absolute faves, along with new blood like us guys. It’s an honor to be in such esteemed company and I’m excited to be part of the first wave of Samhain Horror authors.
4. The popularity of horror books comes and goes in waves, though the tsunami of bad horror films just keeps on smashing onto our shores. Where do you think horror literature stands today and what’s your prognosis for the future?
I kind of wish you hadn’t asked me this, because I feel a slight rant coming on! I don’t know, I think the good stuff bubbles to the surface regardless of any tidal waves of trash that poison our shores.
You mentioned bad horror films. Now, one thing that really gets my goat is that independent filmmakers are now jumping on the bandwagon and remaking existing movies. The studios – you expect them to churn out remakes because their business model is minimum risk/maximum return, after all. And if audiences didn’t pay to go see these things, they wouldn’t make them and spend millions marketing them – but they make gazillions of dollars back, so someone is out there watching them! True, a bona fide visionary filmmaker can bring something fresh, new and amazing to a remake (John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’) but visionaries like him are few and far between.
Indie-kids remaking horror classics? That sucks, really, because the low-to-no budget world is where the real IDEAS should be coming from. The indies should be the source of the studio remakes and the franchises of tomorrow, see? Homage is great and all, and nothing exists in a vacuum, every creation has its influences of course. But if you’re an independent filmmaker and if for whatever reason all you can dream up is homage and replication of someone else’s work, that just makes you a fucking hack in my book. I truly believe it is the duty – the DUTY – of indie horror filmmakers to at least try and create something original and brave. Sorry, I said this would be a rant! (Laughs)
Now, in the case of horror literature, I actually think the remake culture in horror cinema right now is positive for horror authors. Many folks are just exhausted seeing so many of their favorites being rehashed, exploited and toned down for a quick buck that they may turn to outlets like Samhain Horror to try something fresh. And there’s a crossover happening there between books and films. A couple of my recent film favorites, ‘Pontypool’ and ‘Let The Right One In’ were both sourced from fantastic novels, both very fresh takes on very established sub-genres. Who knows, maybe some of the new Samhain horror novels could be the new horror movies of tomorrow?
Popularity is cyclical, I agree, but the underlying fanbase for all things horror is certainly solid and loyal. And dare I say it, whatever your poison – insatiable.
5. You write and you direct films. Which gives you the greatest satisfaction? On a side note, what was it like to work with Pinhead (Doug Bradley for those of you who aren’t aware that Cenobites are not real)?
When I’m writing, I love to direct. And when I’m directing, I love to write. (Laughs) Both keep me on my tippy-toes in different ways and neither ever fully satisfies me as there’s always something more to learn, always somewhere further to go. That’s, I guess, what keeps me doing both. Of late the balance has tipped more in the favor of writing, but writing is one helluva enjoyable way to scratch a living so I am not complaining! On that side note of yours, it has been a real pleasure to work with Doug Bradley. He is a true professional and good friend who brought so much to the film projects we worked on together. We keep regular contact and I’d work with him again in a (hellbound) heartbeat.
6. Why does it appear so difficult to get great horror books to translate into great horror movies?
I believe it only ever works if an adaptation is just that – a truly adapted work. Because the mechanics of novels and movies are so vastly different a movie of a book can only really succeed to my mind if it stops trying to be a book and just focuses on being a movie already! Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ is a great example – while not to everyone’s taste (including it seems, the author’s!), it is an adaptation of the novel into film form in the truest sense. The Shining is a novel by a visionary writer and The Shining is also a film by a visionary filmmaker – ‘and never the twain shall meet’. Be honest, how many movie adaptations have you watched and thought to yourself, “they could’ve cut that part” or “they could’ve shown that in a visual way rather than telling it in reams of dialogue lifted straight from the book”? Adaptation is far more bloody difficult than many people seem to perceive it to be, it’s a fine art. Add to that the complexity of fans of the book wanting the movie version to be word-for-word what they saw in their head when they were reading it – it’s never gonna happen. In my experience, take 10 different filmmakers reading the same source material, screenplay, whatever, and you’d get 10 very different movies as an end result. The trouble is, if we’re already fans of a book we’re ‘making the movie’ in our heads at least as we read it – so our expectations of any subsequent movie version are rarely, if ever, going to be met. And interestingly, the translation of movie screenplays into movie novelizations can be just as difficult a task, although the inclusion of “8 pages of color photos from the film” can sweeten the pill somewhat!
7. What’s one secret you could reveal about yourself that would surprise people the most?
To those who know of my enthusiasm for splatter and gore, it may surprise them to learn I have been a vegetarian for 21 years (although I started eating fish again a couple of years ago so I guess that makes me pescatarian now). Anyone who REALLY knows me will not be in the least bit surprised to know I prefer the taste of human flesh… (Winks)
8. As many people will know, Samhain Publishing is named for the ancient tradition that became every horrorhead’s favorite festival of Halloween. What would make for your best ever Samhain celebration?
Oh Halloween is my favorite time of year, hands down. Best ever celebration would be the same thing I enjoy doing every year… Carve some pumpkins with the family, cook up and devour a batch of pumpkin soup and some tasty ‘dead man’s fingers’. And then, when the little monsters are tucked up in bed, kick back and watch John Carpenter’s classic ‘Halloween’. Aside from that, maybe a game of ‘wake the dead’ at the Horror Stars’ Cemetery in which Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasance and other dear departed f(r)iends wake up and come out to play for just one more night… A happy Samhain for one and all!
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