OK, I’m jumping the gun here, bypassing Thanksgiving and diving right into Christmas. I have a very good reason. Author Matt Manochio’s new book, THE DARK SERVANT, has dropped just in time to savage the Christmas season. I sat down to talk with Matt (both at the bar at Chiller Theatre and back home) about his book, path to publication and lollipops. This is a book you definitely want to pick up. Anyone that introduces me to a new monster is one badass of a dude.
Ok, let’s set the table for this here sit-down. Your debut novel with Samhain, The Dark Servant, unleashes on the world on Novermber 4th. Tell us about the book.
Thanks Hunter! I’m guessing your readers have heard of Krampus, but for those who have not, Krampus, in European folklore, is a huge, hairy devil who serves as Saint Nicholas’s (yes, Santa Claus’s) dark half. Saint Nick rewards the good kids and farms out the bad ones to Krampus, who disciplines the brats in a myriad of horrible ways. I set my Krampus loose in northern New Jersey where he goes after a town’s hideous high school bullies—but there’s certainly more to it than that.
Where did you come up with the idea for the terrifying creature in The Dark Servant? The cover is absolutely amazing. Is it exactly how you pictured it in your mind?
I had never heard of Krampus until two years ago when my boss asked me if I knew of this monster. (He’d never heard of him either and knew I was into kooky pop culture stuff.) I was 37 at the time and couldn’t believe this thing slipped by me. It’s such a wonderful myth. And fortunately it’s been largely unexplored in American fiction. (Think about all the vampire, zombie and werewolf books that flood the market.) So while European storytelling created the legend of Krampus, I created my own walking, talking, irreverent version of the monster. And I couldn’t be happier with the results. As for the cover, I originally wanted the artist to show less of the monster. I wanted to give the creature its form or profile, if you will, but still allow for the reader to paint his or her own picture of Krampus—eyes, snout, fangs, etc. But don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled with the cover (Samhain has great artists working for them) and the staff absolutely took my input not just on what the monster looked like, but on background (spooky, wintery forest), and font style and color.
You and I had a very similar path to publishing. Let folks know the highs and lows you experienced and how perseverance and good storytelling wins in the end.
For those who don’t know, Hunter and I were victims of the Dorchester Publishing collapse. I wrote in depth about my struggle for Writer’s Digest. But in short, however fantastic you feel upon getting that first book deal, which I got (and saw vanish) in 2010, research the publisher. I had no idea Dorchester was on its last legs and doomed for bankruptcy. The company laid off my editor months after I signed the deal for a straight crime thriller. I stayed in touch with my editor, who landed at Samhain not long after Dorchester’s fall, and when I got the idea for The Dark Servant, he was the first person I contacted and he encouraged me to go for it. So if you make connections in this business, keep them! Remain on good terms. Also as important, I kept writing. I was literally down in the dumps for a day when I realized I wouldn’t be published with Dorchester, but that was it. One day in August 2010. After that I took the outlook that if my work could sell once, it could sell again. You must keep a positive attitude in this business.
What are some of your favorite horror books and movies?
- An American Werewolf in London
- John Carpentar’s The Thing
- ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
- Monster by Frank Perreti (not a favorite, but it heavily influenced me)
- Jurassic Park (ok, it’s not strictly horror, but it is among my favorites)
If you had to be chased down by Jason Voorhees or eaten by Jaws, which would you pick and why?
Jason Voorhees hands down. Jason could at least end my misery quickly. Did you see how much agony Quint was in when Jaws got ahold of him?
What’s your biggest fear? Have you tried to conquer it and failed, or do you just accept it for what it is?
This is a hard question to answer. If you’re talking phobias, I hate heights and don’t think I can ever conquer that fear. If you’re talking real-world every-day fears, it’s rather bland but important nonetheless: being able to provide for my family and hopefully putting my son through college. He’s 3 now, but they grow up quickly, and I’m terrified to think of what college tuition will cost in 15 years.
Do you have a favorite space to write? What’s the strangest place you’ve found yourself writing?
My favorite writing spot is sitting cross-legged on my bed. I don’t have a desk. Strangest place I’ve ever written something? I was a journalist once upon a time, and in 2008 I wrote an article for USA Today on my Blackberry about an AC/DC concert during the concert. (Go to my website if you’d like to read it. I linked to it.)
If you had to guess, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? (and you can’t say three, because that cartoon cheated!)
At least 100, especially if you work all angles of the pop. Just a guess.
Which do you think is better, the original The Thing from Another World, or John Carpenter’s The Thing?
John Carpenter’s The Thing, and not just because of the special effects, which were groundbreaking at the time. It was a well-cast movie, too. But the biggest reason I like it is because Carpenter’s version was more faithful to John Campbell’s short story, on which the movie is based.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m waiting to hear back from my editor on revisions I made to a second book. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can sign a deal. I don’t want to say too much about it other than it’s a supernatural Western set in South Carolina during Reconstruction. I’ve got an idea for another book that I intend to start after this publicity tour dies down in mid-December. I’m taking off the last two weeks of the year and cannot wait to dive into writing (which I’m finding less and less time to do—toddlers have a way of sapping up your time).
December 5 is Krampus Nacht — Night of the Krampus, a horned, cloven-hoofed monster who in pre-Christian European cultures serves as the dark companion to Saint Nicholas, America’s Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas rewards good children and leaves bad ones to Krampus, who kidnaps and tortures kids unless they repent.
The Dark Servant, Synopsis
Santa’s not the only one coming to town …
It’s older than Christ and has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in snow. Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy’s devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, imperiling his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why his supposedly innocent high school peers have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint’s ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.
“The Dark Servant is everything a thriller should be—eerie, original and utterly engrossing!” — Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times bestselling author
“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted, Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant has taken an esoteric fairy tale from before Christ and sets it in the modern world of media-saturated teenagers—creating a clockwork mechanism of terror that blends Freddy Krueger with the Brothers Grimm! Highly recommended!” — Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor
“Matt Manochio is a writer who’ll be thrilling us for many books to come.” — Jim DeFelice, New York Times bestselling co-author of American Sniper
“Matt Manochio has taken a very rare fairytale and turned it into a real page-turner. Matt has constructed a very real and believable force in Krampus and has given it a real journalistic twist, and he has gained a fan in me!” — David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author of the Event Group Series
“I scarcely know where to begin. Is this a twisted parental fantasy of reforming recalcitrant children? Is it Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets Nightmare on Elm Street? Is it a complex revision of the Medieval morality play? In The Dark Servant, Matt Manochio has taken the tantalizing roots of Middle Europe’s folklore and crafted a completely genuine modern American horror story. This is a winter’s tale, yes, but it is also a genuinely new one for our modern times. I fell for this story right away. Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.” — Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead and Dog Days
“Just in time for the season of Good Will Toward Men, Matt Manochio’s debut delivers a fresh dose of Holiday Horror, breathing literary life into an overlooked figure of legend ready to step out of Santa’s shadow. Prepared to be thrilled in a new, old-fashioned way.” — Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Damnable, Diabolical and The Angel of the Abyss
“In The Dark Servant, Manochio spins a riveting tale of a community under siege by a grotesque, chain-clanking monster with cloven-hooves, a dry sense of wit, and a sadistic predilection for torture. As Christmas nears and a snowstorm paralyzes the town, the terrifying Krampus doesn’t just leave switches for the local bullies, bitches, and badasses, he beats the living (editor’s note: rhymes with skit) out of them! Manochio balances a very dark theme with crackling dialogue, fast-paced action, and an engaging, small-town setting.” — Lucy Taylor, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Safety of Unknown Cities
“A fast-paced thrill-ride into an obscure but frightful Christmas legend. Could there be a dark side to Santa? And if so, what would he do to those kids who were naughty? Matt Manochio provides the nail-biting answer with The Dark Servant.” — John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Violet Eyes
“A high-octane blast of horror. A surefire hit for fans of monsters and gore.” — Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown
“Have yourself a scary, nightmare-y little Christmas with The Dark Servant. Matt Manochio’s holiday horror brings old world charm to rural New Jersey, Krampus-style.” — Jon McGoran, author of Drift
Matt Manochio, Biography
|Matt Manochio is the author of The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing, November 4, 2014). He is a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association, and he hates writing about himself in the third person but he’ll do it anyway. He spent 12 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter at the Morris County, N.J., Daily Record, and worked for one year as an award-winning page designer at the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail. He currently works as a full-time editor and a freelance writer.The highlights of his journalism career involved chronicling AC/DC for USA Today: in 2008, when the band kicked off its Black Ice world tour, and in 2011 when lead singer Brian Johnson swung by New Jersey to promote his autobiography. For you hardcore AC/DC fans, check out the video on my YouTube channel.To get a better idea about my path toward publication, please read my Writer’s Digest guest post: How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller. Matt’s a dedicated fan of bullmastiffs, too. (He currently doesn’t own one because his house is too small. Bullmastiff owners understand this all too well.)
Matt doesn’t have a favorite author, per se, but owns almost every Dave Barry book ever published, and he loves blending humor into his thrillers when warranted. Some of his favorite books include Salem’s Lot, Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
When it comes to writing, the only advice he can give is to keep doing it, learn from mistakes, and regardless of the genre, read Chris Roerden’s Don’t Sabotage Your Submission (2008, Bella Rosa Books).
Matt grew up in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and son. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in history/journalism.
Sometimes as a Monster Man, you just have to bite the bullet for the greater good. Fall is here and the shelves are bursting with dozens of different seasonal pumpkin beers to choose from. Jack and I ponied up to the bar and did some taste tests to let you know what to run out and buy and what to avoid. Let me tell you, it was a way better experience than our monster wine taste test. Find out who rules #Horrortober!
Naturally, this is my favorite month, the time when I have all the irons in the fire and surround myself with all things horrific. I’m watching at least 1 horror movie a day and posting them on Twitter with the hashtag #Horrortober. I’m also posting some quick reviews on what I’m watching and reading over at The Monster Men blog.
Two of my books, SWAMP MONSTER MASSACRE and THE MONTAUK MONSTER, were just named in Horror Novel Reviews 100 Scariest Books of All Time. If you’re a horror reader, check out the list and see how many you’ve got under your belt.
Speaking of Swampy, a review of the audiobook was just posted at Reading Between the Wines (my favorite way to read!). I think they dug it. I mean, who doesn’t love a good, murderous skunk ape tale?
There’s a new review of my terror-filled western, HELL HOLE, over at the blog for Lindsey R. Loucks. We also did a fun, unique Q&A. Interviewers take note! She was truly original. I have a special I’ll be running for Hell Hole next week, so stay tuned.
Last but far from least, I was also happy to be on the return episode of POD OF HORROR, where we talked about The Montauk Monster and some of my upcoming projects. An awesome podcast that you should be checking out. Plus, they love Jonathan Janz, so they’re my kind of peeps.
Now, if you’ve made it this far, you should be properly rewarded. For those living in the US, send me an email at email@example.com with the subject : 100 Scary Books. Let me know the scariest book you ever read. I’ll pick 2 people at random to win a signed copy of The Montauk Monster.
To say we here at Monster Men central have been working hard to have legend-in-the-making author Johnathan Janz on the show is putting it mildly. So we figured once we had our claws in him, we weren’t letting go until we had enough for two episodes! In part 1, we talk about his latest horror thriller, EXORCIST ROAD, as well as everything else in the Janz growing library. JJ is the goods and also one of the nicest guys in the biz. I have to admit, he’s my writer brother from another mother. Here’s a great chance to see and hear the man behind the tales of terror. I do believe this may be the first video interview with the man who likes to spin our nightmares.
In part 2, we focus on vampires, both in books and movies. His spring release, DUST DEVILS, is one of the best vampire books to mosey along the Ponderosa and naturally made us gravitate toward the bloodsuckers. We know how much you all dig your vamps. Enjoy!
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!
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