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Listed Alphabetically by Author's Last Name
by Kirsten Kowalewski
Kimberly Pauley is the author of Sucks to Be Me : The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe), the sequel Still Sucks to Be Me will be coming out next year.
Kimberly, thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions.
KK: Could you tell us a little about yourself? What are some things your readers might not know about you?
KP: Hehe, perhaps not much, since I tend to “over share” on the Internet. But here are a few things…
I’m half Chinese and the shortest person in my family, including all of my full Chinese relatives (is that fair? Eh, not so much). I always wanted to be a writer or at least something equally creative (other than that brief Black Beauty-inspired stint where I just wanted to do anything involving horses). I met my husband on my very first day of college. He’s a math guy, so we’re pretty much exact opposites. Oh, and we had a baby in 2008 who is just the cutest, sweetest little guy ever.
KK: What's your work environment like?
KP: I generally write at home, though I’ve written in coffee shops and the like before. But with little Max now, I pretty much write whenever and wherever I can. Yesterday, in fact, I worked on outlining a new book while waiting on our car to get serviced. So basically, anywhere. Though I do have an office (think lots of bookshelves and wood and too much mess).
KK: You've said you specialized in young adult literature and took
science fiction classes in college. Just curious, what was your major? Did it have any relationship to your work life after you graduated?
KP: English major, which had absolutely no bearing on my work life after graduation pretty much up until I started writing. I’ve worked as a graphic designer, a legal transfers consultant, a web designer, and an IT manager. In other words, yuck! (though the last one did pay well…sigh.)
KK: What have been the major influences on your writing? Books, music, movies?
KP: Definitely books. I’ve always loved reading. I used to read between 30 and 45 books a month. I don’t have the opportunity to do that anymore, but I would if I could.
KK: You run the website YA Books Central. What gave you the idea to
start the site? Can you tell us a little about it, and what your plans for the site are?
KP: I’ve been running it for over ten years now, which is just about forever in Internet time. I was a “guide” for The Mining Company (now About.com) when they decided to drop most of their teen-related sites. I had all these reviews and interviews and didn’t want to just toss them out, so I started up a site myself. It’s grown a lot over the years and features book reviews by both YABC staff and readers, as well as interviews, monthly giveaways, and more. Honestly, I don’t know what my plans are now. Before I quit my corporate job to write full time, I kept it pretty small. Then I left to write and had more time to devote to it and grew it up…but now that I need to work on my own writing more and have a son, I’m not sure where things will go from here.
KK: What was your path to publication? Why did you choose to write for teens?
KP: As I mentioned above, I left my corporate job to write full time. That was back at the end of 2004/beginning of 2005. We also moved out of state from Florida to Kentucky (we now live in Illinois). I finished the novel in 2005 (before Twilight even came out, which will tie into the next question…) and then started shopping it around. All the agents pretty much said the same thing, that they liked the writing, but didn’t think vampires were a good bet. It wasn’t until an online friend of mine mentioned her editor was looking for new paranormal books that a door opened. They debated it for a year, but ultimately decided to publish Sucks to Be Me. Yay!
As for why I decided to write for teens…um, you know, I don’t know that it was really a conscious decision. That’s most of what I read so it was natural to go that way, I suppose.
KK: Why did you choose to write a vampire book? Had you read many before writing Sucks to be Me?
KP: Thank you for not asking me if Twilight inspired me. LOL (It didn’t; it wasn’t even out yet!) I honestly have never been a huge vampire fan. I studied Dracula a great deal in college (I imagine just about every English major has) and I had a professor (Dr. Twitchell) who literally wrote the book on vampires. But I haven’t read a great deal of contemporary vampire literature. I did have one book come across my reviewer’s desk (which shall remain nameless) and it tied into the Dracula book but got a lot of details wrong. That annoyed me and got me started thinking.
Of course, now I’ve seen reviews where people argue over my take on Dracula in Sucks to Be Me (which, for the record, is based on my studies of the book in college).
KK: In many teen vampire books, the main character is set apart because she's "chosen", but that's not the case in Sucks to be Me. Mina has a loving family, friends, and does well in school. Was it intentional to turn the typical story upside down?
KP: Absolutely. I wanted to turn the whole vampire thing on it’s head and do it in a very funny, but kind of realistic way. I’ve had people tell me my book is the anti-Twilight because of that. Though I will say that some of the vampire “myths” that Mina confirms in the book are based on traditional vampire folklore (like the eye color thing).
KK: Mina's character tells her story in a journal format, with lists at the end of each chapter. This setup seems more similar to The Princess Diaries and other teen chick lit books than to a vampire tale. Do you see influences on your own writing from other YA books and trends?
KP: Oh, sure. I think any author would say yes to that. And I did want this book to have a totally different “feel” from a “normal” vampire book – light and sarcastic and contemporary.
KK: What other projects do you have cooking? What else can we expect to see from you in the near future?
KP: Well, the sequel, Still Sucks to Be Me is coming out next year. And I’m working on an entirely different book right now (also fantasy-ish, also YA, and also comedic…but no vampires!). I’m not sure yet what plans the publisher has for Mina, but if I can, I have another book or two to write about her adventures as well.
KK: Is there anything else you'd like to share with readers and librarians? Thanks so much for your time!
KP: Just that readers and librarians both rock! Seriously. I’m totally not sucking up. Fan letters from readers absolutely make my day and is one of the reasons I write. And librarians are the funniest, funnest, and most genuine group of people I know. I have a blast at the ALA convention every year. Hope to see some of you there next year!
by Rhonda Wilson
Mari Mancusi is the author of the teen Blood Coven
Vampire series as well as couple of non-paranormal teen books.
Additionally, she writes for adults under the name Marianne Mancusi.
RW: Mari... Thanks so
much for taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview for Monster
MM: But of course!
RW: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got your start in the writing industry.
MM: I’m actually a full time television producer by day. I work for a nationally syndicated show called Better TV, which airs on fifty-six different stations around the country. As a producer, I go on location and produce stories about fashion, fitness, beauty, celebrity, etc. It’s a fun job and I learn a little bit about everything—perfect for a writer!
In addition to TV, I
always knew I wanted to be a writer. When I was too young to even pick up a pen,
I’d dictate stories for my mother to transcribe for me. Once I learned to type,
I was off and running, creating story after story. But it wasn’t until I was in
my twenties that I realized short stories weren’t going to cut it. So I had to
sit down and discipline myself to write a full novel. My first couple novels
will never see the light of day, but eventually I sold my first book, a time
travel romance/comedy called “A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court.”
It came out in 2005 and I went on to sell eleven books to three publishers in
the coming years.
RW: Who have been your writing inspirations throughout the years?
MM: Wow – there have been so many. For TV/film writers I love Joss Whedon and Diablo Cody. For book authors, I love Anne Rice (who gave me my first appreciation for vampires!), Marion Zimmer Bradley and her Mists of Avalon series (who gave me my first appreciation for Arthurian legend), among others.
I also have great writer
friends who constantly serve as inspiration and encouragement. I think that
sometimes writers feel they’re writing in a vacuum and I really recommend, if
you’re serious about making writing your career, to meet and network with other
writers. They can be there as cheerleaders or sounding boards or shoulders to
cry on. And believe me, as a writer, you’ll need all three at different points
of your career. It’s a tough job and non-writers won’t be able to understand
what you’re going through.
RW: Where did you come up with the idea for your Blood Coven Vampire Series?
MM: I started the first book before Twilight became such a worldwide phenomenon. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and thought it’d be fun to do a comedy vampire series in that vein. (Not pun intended.) Since the adult romance market, for which I’d been writing, was crowded with vampire books, I thought I’d try writing mine for teens.
Originally I called the first book “Wow, That Sucks”, which is kind of a silly title, but does sort of have the feel I wanted to go for. Sucks for Sunny – literally – who had no idea the vampire world existed before being mistaken for her dark-side loving twin. And sucks for Rayne – who had her hopes and dreams dashed when Magnus bit her sister. And, of course, sucks for Magnus, who has to straighten the whole thing out.
I always liked twin stories growing up – Sweet Valley High, for example. The idea that two people could look identical on the outside—even share the same DNA—but be completely different on the inside is fascinating to me. I wanted to play with that and the idea of mistaken identities as well.
RW: Do you make an
outline to keep track of things as you are writing your stories or do you just
set down and start writing? I figure with a series it'd be really difficult to
keep track of everything!
MM: I definitely do outlines – I think it’s too easy to get stuck in the middle if you don’t know where you’re going. At the same time, if I come up with a different idea in the middle, I’ll let myself go with that, as long as I can lead it back home at the end. And yes, I take a lot of notes on characters and such, so I can keep track of everyone. After four books, it starts to get complicated. I also re-read the old books before starting a new one to re-familiarize myself with the major players and details.
RW: Would you say that you find you relate more to the character of Rayne or Sunshine?
MM: I would say I’m more like Rayne, though I do have some Sunny traits as well. I love gothy stuff like Rayne does—the music, the clothes, etc. If I didn’t have a day job, I’d dye my hair black and dress like a goth girl 24/7. I’m also a big gamer girl like her – and used to be addicted to World of Warcraft like she is.
I also remember in high school feeling as angry as Rayne on the inside. Furious at the world. But I was never able to express it as outspokenly as she does. She speaks her mind and doesn’t care who hears. Inside, she’s probably a bigger marshmallow than her sister – so afraid of anyone seeing her as weak. Sunny’s much more even keeled and would prefer to fit in rather than rock the boat.
What I really like with both twins is, even though they’re vastly different in personality and fight often, in the end, they always support and stick up for one another when it counts. They’re best friends forever. I would have liked a sister like that when I was growing up.
RW: Out of the books in
the series so far, do you have a favorite? And if yes, why?
MM: Stake That is probably the closest to my heart. I love Rayne’s sense of humor and she’s so passionate – she says what she feels without much of a filter, mostly because it’s written in blog/diary format. It was fun to write in such a loose, unguarded way. It was also fun to come up with the blog comments from her “readers.”
Oh and I have a bit of a
crush on Jareth, too. Bad boy with a troubled past and all…
RW: Can you give our readers a sneak peek to what we can expect out of Rayne and Sunshine next? And how many books are forthcoming?
MM: The next book, out in January, is called Bad Blood. It’s back to Sunny’s point of view. Magnus is now master of the Blood Coven and has been too busy with his new job to spend much time with her. Then the vampire council goes and assigns him a new Blood Mate named Jane to be his co-ruler. Sunny’s horrified; a Blood Mate is almost like a soul mate and Magnus is HER boyfriend. It gets worse when she discovers Jane might secretly be evil, but no one believes her because they just think she’s jealous.
Most of the book is set in Las Vegas, where the twins’ father and stepfamily live. It was fun to take them somewhere new.
As for how many books are
forthcoming, I’m not sure – it depends on how well Bad Blood does! My German
publisher has already bought book #5, Night School, and is talking about Book
#6. As long as I can sell them, I’ll write them – I love Sunny and Rayne and
doubt I’ll ever run out of stories to tell about the Blood Coven.
RW: What got you interested in writing particularly in the paranormal sub-genre of teen fiction?
MM: I tend to write the kind of stories I love to read and I always loved those type of books growing up – where you can lose yourself in worlds different than our own. There was a writer, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, who I loved as a child. I need to go back and re-read her books.
RW: What upcoming projects are you working on that our readers should keep an eye out for?
MM: In addition to Bad Blood, out in January, I have a romance novella in an anthology called “My Zombie Valentine” which will also be out in January. It’s a mix of horror/romance. My “Gamer Girl” contemporary YA will be out in paperback in June. And right now I’m writing a YA time travel called “The Camelot Code”.
RW: Where is the best place online for our readers to keep up-to-date on Mari Mancusi news?
MM: My website is www.marimancusi.com. There you can find my MySpace and Facebook page links as well. And I’m on Twitter at mariannemancusi
RW: Thanks again for taking the time to do the interview! Looking forward to more Rayne & Sunshine adventures!
MM: Thanks for having me! I hope you all enjoy the books!
by Rhonda Wilson
Greg Lamberson is the author of the novel Johnny
Gruesome and the new series, The Jake Helman Files. He also the
writer/director of the cult horror film, Slime City.
RW: Greg... Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview!
GL: Thanks for asking, Rhonda. I usually do interviews about my low budget horror films, and I have to squeeze in plugs for my novels, so it's nice to do it the other way around.
RW: Can you please tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got started writing?
GL: I lived in New York City for 21 years, during which time I struggled as an independent filmmaker. I wrote and directed three low budget horror films which played as midnight movies: SLIME CITY, UNDYING LOVE and NAKED FEAR. All three of them are available on a new 2-disc DVD called GREG LAMBERSON'S SLIME CITY GRINDHOUSE COLLECTION. I grew frustrated working with low budgets, and it took years to finish the films. So I decided to take some of my unproduced screenplays for bigger budget films - JOHNNY GRUESOME, PERSONAL DEMONS, and THE FRENZY WAY - and turn them into novels, which allowed me to tell bigger stories than I ever thought possible. An agent at William Morris flipped over PERSONAL DEMONS and said, "But it would cost $150 million to turn into a movie! What have you got for $20 million?"
RW: Who have been your writing inspirations throughout the years?
GL: I was penpals with William F. Nolan when I was in high school, and I love his style, especially in the LOGAN'S RUN novels: very visual, very cinematic, very fast paced. I also think that David Morrell is incredible. There is no better thriller than FIRST BLOOD... except maybe THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE. I was in high school when SALEM'S LOT and GHOST STORY were published, so certainly King and Straub were a huge inspiration to me. And I grew up watching the Dan Curtis/Richard Matheson horror TV movies. Throw in Marvel's TOMB OF DRACULA comic by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan and you've probably got all of the major influences on me.
RW: Do you have a set writing schedule for yourself or does it vary drastically?
GL: I'm a stay at home father with an overactive 3 1/2 year old. My writing schedule is whenever I can grab some free time. During the 3 hours my daughter is in daycare, the 2 hours when she's napping, or after she and my wife have gone to bed. If I'm in the heat of a project I try to spend every free minute writing. But I have other interests, too; I'm in post production on a new movie, a sequel called SLIME CITY MASSACRE; and I post content for FearZone.com, which I was hired to create, launch and edit; and there is so much laundry to do... so I'm pulled in a lot of different directions.
RW: Can you please tell our readers a little bit about the first Jake Helman book, Personal Demons?
GL: It was published as a limited edition hardcover and trade paperback by Broken Umbrella Press in 2005; it won a publishing contest judged by T.M. Wright. That was a huge thrill, because Terry was my favorite author during the 1980s; I read A MANHATTAN GHOST STORY 20 times. As I said, it was based on a screenplay I wrote, though there is twice as much content in the novel because I really expanded the story. I love noir as much as I do horror, and I wanted to write a story that would be full of surprises, in which the horror would spin the noir conventions and vice versa. Jake is a really flawed hero, a real underdog, and I loved throwing one fantastic scenario after another at him, to pile up the conflicts and ratchet up the suspense until the point where it seems impossible that this guy could possibly save the day. I wanted it to have the breakneck pace of a DIE HARD movie, or the TV show 24, and I wanted it to be slightly optimistic, almost spiritual, as well.
I knew that I wanted it to be a series, but saw no point in writing any of the sequels until I had a mass market paperpack deal. That's where Medallion Press came in. They published JOHNNY GRUESOME, my second novel, and agreed to take on this series. Adam Mock, Ali DiGray and Helen Roseburg are big supporters of this project, and Adam came up with the series title, "The Jake Helman Files."
RW: Where did you get the idea for the Jake Helman series?
GL: I don't outline my stories. I know the general structure, the main characters, and a few key scenes, but I like to surprise myself while I'm writing. That's the only way I know to surprise readers. When I turn a screenplay into a novel, the screenplay serves as an outline, and the material I add is what I enjoy the most. The Jake Helman Files are horror, noir, crime drama and even a little science fiction. I lived in NYC when I wrote the script, and I started the novel after 9/11, and that defintiely had a huge impact on the story, and Jake. Now, I've been fantasizing about the sequels ever since I wrote the first book, so I can't say where these story ideas came from. Current events, classic noir situations... I like to shove everything in the blender and see what comes out.
RW: What are your plans for the Jake Helman series? Do you have several books contracted already?
GL: I'm actually not under contract at all. I've written the first sequel, DESPERATE SOULS, which will be out next October, and I'm working on the third book now, which will be out in 2011. Adam told me they'll hold October for Jake as long as I can deliver. Medallion would contract me based on outlines, but if I had to write those outlines the joy would go out of the writing process for me. So I write the entire novels on spec, but with the understanding that they're really behind this series and want to keep it going.
RW: Which have you enjoyed writing more, the Jake Helman series or the Johnny Gruesome book?
GL: Oh, the Jake Helman files for sure. JOHNNY GRUESOME was fun, but it was based on a screenplay I wrote when I was 19. There is so much more going on in PERSONAL DEMONS, many more layers and twists. I consider this series my main creative project. If I write at least the first six novels, and Medallion publishes them, I'll feel very satisfied.
RW: After having written the Jake Helman series and the Johnny Gruesome stand alone book, how would you say it compares to write a series book to a stand alone?
GL: Well, when I wrote the JOHNNY GRUESOME screenplay I plotted out sequel movies, so I honestly can't answer that! And in between PERSONAL DEMONS and DESPERATE SOULS, Medallion is publishing my werewolf novel, THE FRENZY WAY, in June 2010. THat was conceived as a stand alone novel, but now it's looking like a trilogy. I look forward to writing a stand alone novel some day...
RW: Out of all of your books, do you have one character in particular that you would call your favorite or that you particularly relate to? And if so, why?
GL: Yes, Jake is clearly the character I love and identify with. I find him very likable and believable, and plan to do horrible, horrible things to him! That man is going to go through hell...
RW: What current projects are you working on that our readers should keep an eye out for in the near future?
GL: SLIME CITY MASSACRE is taking up most of my free time right now; I'm polishing DESPERATE SOULS, and I'm very anxious to free up more time for the third Helman book. I'm not sure if I'll write the fourth book in that series, or the sequel to FRENZY WAY next; I spend a lot of time coming up with ideas for boith of them, it's just a matter of which one gels first.
RW: Where is the best place on the internet for our readers to keep up-to-date on Greg Lamberson news?
GL: I update my live journal daily, and my website is www.slimeguy.com. You can also watch 24 episodes of SLIME CITY SURVIVOR, the webisode series devoted to the making of SLIME CITY SURVIVOR, on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/SCMsurvivor
RW: Thanks again for taking the time out of your schedule for this interview!
GL: Thanks so much, Rhonda!
by Rhonda Wilson
Nick Cato has just recently released his first
full-length novel, Don of the Dead. He is also the co-author of the book,
Two Twisted Nuts and owns his own publishing company, Novello Publishing.
RW: Nick... thanks for taking the time of your crazy schedule to do this interview for Monster Librarian!
NC: It's my pleasure to serve YOU.
RW: Can you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into the writing industry?
NC: I became a major-league horror fan when I was quite young (somewhere between 5 and 7 years old). Besides the Godzilla and Dracula films I caught on TV back then, I always enjoyed horror comics, magazines, and by junior high, novels. I really didn't start writing seriously until the mid 90s, and by the early 2000's I had managed to sell some of my short fiction to various markets.
In 2003, my wife and I decided to fill a niche that we thought was sorely lacking in the small press, and that's a press dedicated to humorous horror fiction. Hence Novello Publishers launched in 2005 and is still going.
RW: Who have been your writing inspirations throughout the years?
NC: While I grew up on King and Koontz (like just about every other writer), the late Richard Laymon was the first author I read (in the mid 80s) that really inspired me to try my hand at my own story. His style is very "cinematic," and every time I read one of his novels I feel like I'm sitting in the theater at a midnight cult film. I try to capture that 'aura' in my own writing.
RW: Please tell our readers a little bit about Don of the Dead and where you came up with the idea for your novel.
NC: DON OF THE DEAD is basically a series of daydreams I've had for most of my life (being an Italian horror fan from Noo Yawk). It's a mash-up of my two favorite genres, and while there have been horror stories involving gangsters, I think this one is quite different from any that I've read.
I actually started writing DON in '98, then threw it on the back burner as I worked on it on and off over the years. I think it was sometime around 2006 when I finally figured out how I wanted to tie certain things up, then went ballistic editing, re-writing, and seeking help from some trusted writer friends. I was THRILLED that Coscom Entertainment asked me about the novel, they being big zombie publishers, and beyond thrilled that they decided to add it to their roster.
RW: What got you interested in the comic horror sub-genre?
NC: Besides watching the ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN-type films when I was a kid, the 1981 slasher spoof STUDENT BODIES did it for me; I couldn't get enough of seeing my beloved genre being mocked that way. While I love Mel Brook's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, STUDENT BODIES was the one that identified with the slasher genre, something that exploded in the early 80s when I was just starting to sneak into R-rated films. To this day it cracks me up whenever I put it on.
It wasn't until around 2002 or 3 that I realized how many horror writers were adding humor to their stories, and a few others who penned flat-out horror comedies. There's plenty of people working today who I look up to in this often misunderstood (and disrespected) subgenre.
RW: Prior to Don of the Dead you had written numerous short stories, can you tell our readers where they can find these?
NC: Besides several print and web zines, you can find my short stories in the anthologies DEATHGRIP: EXIT LAUGHING (Hellbound Books), STRANGE STORIES OF SAND & SEA (Fine Tooth Press), SOUTHERN FRIED WEIRDNESS VOLUME ONE (sfp), and BITS OF THE DEAD (Coscom Entertainment).
RW: Which do you enjoy writing more, short stories or novels, and why?
NC: Novels. While I enjoy writing shorts (I usually do them WHILE writing my novel as a break and way to keep my mind fresh), novels leave much more room for all the basic elements of story telling to unfold. I admire those who can write short stories (or novellas) and capture the feel and depth of a novel. That blows my mind.
RW: You also own your publishing company, Novello Publishing, how did that come about?
NC: It was the culmination of waiting for humorous horror to come out on a more frequent basis. While we only do 2-3 books per year now, it is our goal to eventually get up to 5 or more. Thankfully there's now one or two other presses who publish some quality humorous horror.
RW: Yet another horror-related media you run is the Horror Fiction Review, can you tell our readers what that is and where they can go to read it?
NC: In the 80s I published a Xeroxed Fanzine titled STINK. It featured reviews of low budget horror and cult films and occassional book reviews. I stopped doing it in 1991 around the time I got married and became partially domesticated. In 2003, I was recovering from hernia surgery, and while reading Ed Lee's grossly underrated novel MONSTROSITY, I suddenly had the urge to review the piles of horror novels I'd been reading since I left the DIY publishing thing. From 2003-2008 I published 17 print issues, but like everything else was forced to "sell-out" and become a webzine (which I HATED at first but financially am loving it!). We update it monthly right here: THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW Fanzines are a dying thing, mainly due to the Internet, but in the 70s and especially 80s it's how we fans of horror and punk rock communicated. In fact, one of the editors of FANGORIA magazine, Mike Gingold, started out doing his own fanzine. Nice to see one of us "made it!"
RW: You are the host of a weekly web cam program called Lair of the Yak, can you tell our readers a little about the show?
NC: After meeting my then (future) co-host Cornelius at the 2005 World Horror Convention in NYC, I stumbled upon a website called operator11.com. People did a lot of really bad "shows" on it, so I figured let me try a film/book review program. In no time, my simian companion and myself started yakking every Saturday night on 40 minute webcasts, and before long we managed to get some name authors and filmmakers on as guests. It's an open-forum type show, where anyone with a webcam (or even a working mic) can get a free account on the blogstar site and join us, share their opinions, promote things, or try to outwit Cornelius! When there's no guests on we'll show some classic b-movie trailers and discuss what books we're currently reading. While I try to keep the show horror-centered, we sometimes talk music, TV, comics, and once in a while do "open mic" type shows where anything goes. But the BETTER shows are the ones featuring a special guest.
As of this writing (9/25/09), we're about to do our 78th show on www.blogstar.com, a neat little website that's much like the problematic operator11 site. We keep our fans informed at www.myspace.com/lairoftheyak.
RW: What upcoming projects are you working on that our readers should keep an eye out for?
NC: I'm currently shopping my second novel, titled SUBURBAN EXORCIST, a spoof of Terms of Endearment--I MEAN--The Exorcist. I'm also shopping my first novella titled THE APOCALYPSE OF PETER, a bizarro end-of-the-world yarn. My third novel is underway, and deals with a semi-famous dog (can't say anymore at this time as it would make everyone reading this too envious).
As far as my press goes, Novello Publishers is just about to unleash DARK JESTERS, our 7th book and 1st anthology of humorous horror. We're very excited about this one are thrilled about the 10 tales we selected out of about 200 submissions (the "we" being myself and co-editor L.L. Soares). In December, we're releasing a fantastic novella by Jerrod Balzer titled ZOMBIE BASTARD. Jerrod pitched it to me and by the time I was halfway through the hysterical middle section, I knew this had to be a Novello title.
RW: Where online is the best place for the latest info on Nick Cato?
NC: I've been trying to get my blog off the ground, so if you want to join 4 others you can visit http://nickcato.blogspot.com/ for my occassional book and movie reviews, plus updates on my press my own writing. I'm also on all the usual sites, and I still have Novello Publishers up and running although I think we're getting more sales through horror-mall and MySpace/Facebook.
RW: Thanks again for taking time to do the interview!
NC: And I thank you and all the wonderful people at Monster Librarian for this crucial opportunity.
by the Monster Librarian
Rick Yancey is the author of The Monstrumologist, released this fall by Simon and Schuster. Formerly a revenue officer for the IRS, he published a critically acclaimed memoir, Confessions of a Tax Collector, in 2004, which allowed him to become a full-time writer. He has since written fiction for both adults and teens. Rick has three sons and lives in Florida with his wife, Sandy.
ML: Your first book, Confessions of a Tax Collector, was your memoir of working for the IRS. Does your time working there influence your writing at all now?
RY: It helped me be able to work on a
deadline and to understand the importance of never lying to your accountant,
especially if you're self-employed.
ML: You have an undergraduate degree in English. Have you always wanted to write? Did your degree influence your writing?
RY: I've wanted to be a writer since I was
fourteen. At thirty-eight, somebody noticed. Yes the degree did come in
handy for something. A good liberal arts education helps writers
ML: What have some of the influences on your writing been, especially those that helped to shape The Monstrumologist?
RY: Are there particular books, movies, or music
that have affected your writing? I loved Stephen King when I was in my
twenties, but I hadn't read any horror for years before sitting down to
write The Monstrumologist. Since then I've stuck my toe into some Stoker but
that's about the extent of it. I worry, like a lot of writers, of being
unconsciously derivative. I like scary movies that mix in a strong narrative
drive and sense of adventure (I think JAWS is a perfect example), and that's
what I was trying for with The Monstrumologist.
ML: You’ve said that for the Alfred Kropp books you often acted out scenes for the book, complete with dialogue, before writing. Did you use the same technique with The Monstrumologist?
RY: Only with bits of dialogue (If
something strikes me as awkward or stilted, I try it aloud to test it).
Other than that, no. I'm too squeamish to pretend some headless thing is
chasing after me. The book would have ended up as one long "AAAAAHHHHH!"
ML: You have written in a variety of genres: memoir, mystery, adventure, and now horror. What kind of book is the most fun for you to write?
RY: Each book is fun in a different way. The
Ruzak detective books often make me laugh out loud. The Monstrumologist
spooked me a bit. But it's fun to be a little scared, isn't it?
ML: Your first several books were written for an adult audience. Why did you change to writing for young adults? Do you consider yourself to be mainly an author of young adult books now?
RY: I don't try to label myself. Writing 50,000
+ words is hard - not impossible - but hard. Writing the kind of stories you
would like to read makes it a little easier. I read somewhere that's the
kind of book a writer should be writing: the kind you want to read but no
one has written. So I don't think of myself as a young-adult writer writing
for the adult market when I pen a mystery, and I don't think of myself as an
adult market writer writing for kids when I write a book like The
Monstrumologist. I just write the stories I want to read but nobody has
ML: The Monstrumologist is very different in tone and topic from the other books you’ve written. What led to your writing a work of gothic horror?
RY: It began with a memory - a terrible
nightmare I had as an adolescent . . . it's odd how the horrible nightmares
from our childhood stick with us. In it, this faceless, huge, hulking shadow
is chasing me through the house. There are a dozen places to hide . . . but
nowhere to hide. The feeling of being doomed . . . with the clock ticking
down until it caught me . . . I still remember my terror. The best stories
come out of our primal instincts and primitive emotions. Once I decided I
wanted to write a horror story, immediately my thoughts turned to the
nineteenth century . . . gas lights and cobblestones . . . capes and tall
hats . . . a lingering sense that the Romantics had it all wrong as the
world moved toward industrialization . . . it seemed to fit the mood
perfectly. And, of course, the most famous horror novels of all
(Frankenstein and Dracula) were from that period. Why not journey to the
time in which modern horror was born?
ML: The Monstrumologist has a wonderful gothic feel. How did you go about creating the atmosphere that permeates the book?
RY: I think that came from the majority of the
manuscript being composed at three in the morning by candlelight. That
wasn't on purpose: I was afraid I'd miss my deadline. My personal opinion is
people should take deadlines more seriously, and I try to practice what I
ML: Some reviewers have described The Monstrumologist as Lovecraftian. Would you say that’s a fair characterization?
RY: I can't agree or disagree. I've never
read Lovecraft! Embarassing to admit, but true. The comparisons have been
rather positive, so I'm flattered. I've got to read some Lovecraft.
ML: At the beginning of The Monstrumologist, you quote a variety of authors, including Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, and Sir Walter Raleigh, who mention or describe the Anthropophagus, the monster in your book. How did you initially discover the Anthropophagus? Did you specifically search for the information, or was it a serendipitous discovery?
RY: I stumbled upon them. I didn't want Warthrop
to be studying or chasing after a "traditional" cryptid, like a Bigfoot, or
anything from supernatural fiction (vampires, werewolves, etc.). I thought
we were up to our literary eyeballs in vampires and the like, and, let's
face it, how scary is Bigfoot really? So I was looking for a creature that
was truly horrifying by could still have its feet (or claws) firmly planted
in the natural universe. I honestly can't recall now when and under what
circumstance I stumbled upon the Anthropophagi, but I consider it
marvelously serendipitous. I took some liberties with the beast, as I'm sure
discerning readers will point out, but still kept them at least
ML: Just curious, how did you choose names for your characters? Every time I read Will’s full name, William James Henry, I thought of the author Henry James.
RY: I choose character names by the way
they sound. I just thought "Will Henry" sounded wonderful; say it aloud,
you'll like it. So, no,I was thinking of either of the James boys when I
created the name. "Warthrop" sounded cool to me, too, but his first name,
Pellinore, is taken from the story about the king who chased the Questing
ML: Monstrumologist is the first in a series, so it looks like you plan to write more in the horror genre. Do you expect to write primarily in the horror genre from now on?
RY: I plan to fulfill this contract (a total of
three Monstrumologist books) and see where it goes from there. Of course,
there are enough horrifying creatures out there to fill whole libraries,and
I love the characters, so writing more than three would be no problem. Other
than that, I go where my muse takes me. A writer should never talk back to
or defy his muse.
ML: When can readers expect the next installment of The Monstrumologist? Can you give us a hint about the creature who will be the focus of the book?
RY: Book Two should be out sometime next year
(I'm about 1/2 of the way through the first draft now). And sorry, no hints.
ML: Is there anything else you’d like for librarians and readers to know?
RY: I love 'em! Hearing from them, talking to
them. I invite everyone to contact me through my website, www.rickyancey.com,
or on the Facebook fan page. I try to answer everyone.
by Rhonda Wilson
Kate Douglas is the author of the long running paranormal erotica series, Wolf
Tales, published by Kensington Books, as well as numerous other romance and
erotic books. Her latest release was Wolf Tales VIII.
RW: Hi Kate! Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy
writing schedule to answer some questions for Monster Librarian.
KD: Hi Rhonda! You’re more than welcome. I appreciate the chance to chat about my books.
RW: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got started writing?
KD: Hmmm...should I start with the poem I had published in the fourth grade? LOL...I always loved to write and knew I wanted to be a writer. I started out writing commercials for a country western radio station right out of college in 1972. Over the years I did freelance work, was a newspaper reporter and started writing and submitting romances clear back in 1985 or so. I sold my first romance to an epublisher in 1998, but didn’t sign with Kensington Publishing until 2005. The first Wolf Tales released in January 2006, and my sixteenth book, if you count the anthologies, releases in August 2009. It’s been a very busy few years! On a personal note, I’m married to a terrific guy who is VERY patient and has put up with me for over 37 years. We raised a son and a daughter who grew up and found mates and have so far produced a total of five perfect grandchildren for us. Doug’s retired and keeps things running around here so I can write full time. (And yes, that’s why I’m Kate Douglas...I took his name since another author was already using my real last name)
RW: Who have been your biggest writing inspirations throughout the years?
KD: Too many to count, but I would have to say that reading books by authors like Anne McCaffrey, Anne Stuart, Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, LaVyrle Spencer, Angela Knight, JR Ward, John D. McDonald, Christine Feehan, Susan Andersen—and the list goes on—inspired me because of their amazing talent. I wanted and still want to be as good as they are. I love strong writing, and reading a well-written book, whether it’s science fiction, suspense, romance, whatever, always makes me want to be better. On a personal level, author Patricia Lucas White was a true inspiration when I was struggling with the frustration of wanting to publish and not being able to sell. Pat lost her long battle with cancer on July 13, but I will always think of her as the one who encouraged me when I needed it most, and the one who taught me, by example, what paying if forward really means.
RW: How do you go about writing? Do you schedule a certain time frame each day/week to write?
KD: I get up around six or so, grab a cup of coffee and head for my office. I spend about an hour or so going through email and then I start writing. Some days I work until four or five in the afternoon, others I’ll write until my eyes cross around midnight. I take breaks to stretch my legs during the day, but I write almost every day, all day. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing. When we travel, I sit in the back of the motorhome with my laptop. I take the occasional day to go for a hike (we did three miles this morning) but then I’m usually back at my computer as soon as I get home. If I feel as if the words aren’t flowing, I can take a break without guilt, but most days you’ll find me in my office, in my big old recliner with the laptop in my lap. I’m pretty dull in real life!
RW: You currently have eight Wolf Tales books out. Congratulations on such a successful series! What gave you the idea to write this series and did you realize it was going to grow into such a large series when you first started it?
KD: First of all, there are eight Wolf Tales and eight Chanku novellas in the Sexy Beast and Wild Nights anthologies—I mention the novellas because they’re very much a part of the series and the novels don’t make a lot of sense without them. I’d like to say my books stand alone, but Wolf Tales is really like an ongoing soap opera. I can’t always write in as much back story as I’d like, because the plots and storylines are so connected and so involved at this point that there really isn’t room for all the information a reader might want, which is why I encourage readers to read them in order.
Wolf Tales began as an online serial for Changeling Press, an epublisher. I had a thousand word story about a woman lost in a blizzard who is rescued by a man she never sees. They have an amazing night of unbelievable sex, and she awakens on the side of the road near the place where her car went off in the storm. When Margaret Riley, the owner of CP, asked me to write something “hot and different” to launch her new company, I expanded that short story into a twelve thousand word “beauty and the beast” tale, though in the beginning I had no idea what my beast really was. The Chanku mythology evolved as I wrote the serial, pumping out a new story every few weeks.
When my agent asked for something “hot and different” to pitch to NY, I gave her the first five chapters of the serial. Editorial director Audrey LaFehr at Kensington loved the stories, but the company didn’t have an erotic romance imprint. When she told CEO Steve Zacharius about the series, he gave her the go ahead to start a new imprint, and Aphrodisia was born. Those first five chapters became the first Wolf Tales, which launched Aphrodisia.
I had no idea the series would become as popular as it is. My first Kensington contract was for three novellas and three novels, but I’m currently contracted through 2011, up to Wolf Tales 12. However, since I’m also doing another series for Zebra, The Demonslayers, I’m no longer writing novellas. The last Chanku story will be Chanku Spirit in Sexy Beast VIII, next spring. After that, the Wolf Tales novels will run a bit longer so I can incorporate more story and plot.
At this point, there’s no plan to end the series, and I’ve got a lot more stories in me to write. Plus, new characters keep popping up and the ones I’ve got are having babies now, so we may just go to Wolf Tales/Next Generation.
RW: When you are writing the Wolf Tales books, do you have some kind of outline that you work off of to know how everything is going to play out or do you just go with the flow and write as things come to you?
KD: I wish. I never have a clue what’s coming next. I sit down and start writing. I do ask myself what the various characters have been up to, and often when I’m finishing a story, an idea will come to me. When that happens, I’ll add an epilogue as a teaser for the next book, but the actual details don’t come to me until I sit down and start to write. Luckily, I’ve got really talkative characters and it’s pretty hard to shut them up!
RW: There are so many characters within the Chanku pack of Wolf Tales, does it get confusing at times to keep track of who is who? Do you have some kind of family tree or the like that you work off of to keep track of who is who and what location they are living at?
KD: I have a really cool family tree on my website that Mischa Parris, one of my readers made for me, but I also keep biographies on each character, along with detailed physical characteristics. Information like what color wolf they become when they shift, eye and hair color and for the men, whether or not they’re circumcised. I know that sounds weird, but in erotic romance, details like that are important, and if I get it wrong, my readers will let me know. I also have a time line to keep track of their ages, since the books don’t correspond with the actual dates in real life. It can get confusing, but the one thing I never have trouble with is each character’s voice. They are all individuals to me, and their personalities and speech patterns are really unique for each one.
RW: Do you have any particular character(s) within the Wolf Tales series that you have grown especially attached to while writing the series?
KD: LOL...uh...most of the guys? Actually, Anton Cheval is so real to me it’s scary. Adam Wolf is another one I really like, but when I want to write something really hot, I often turn to Mik and AJ, because I know they’re reader favorites. All my male characters are special...thinking of Stefan, Jake and Baylor, and Oliver, too. Ulrich is popular with the older women who read my series. Among the women, Keisha is definitely my favorite. She’s got an aura of calm about her that I love, a self confidence that is really amazing. I want to be like her when I grow up! I can’t even imagine what it will be like when the series eventually ends—I will miss all of them so much I’ll probably need therapy!
RW: There are other novellas that take place in the Chanku world that readers can find within the Sexy Beast anthology series and also the Wild Nights anthology. Do you feel that readers would miss out on a lot of the Wolf Tales storyline if they do not read these alongside with the Wolf Tales novels?
KD: Definitely. I mentioned them earlier—I tend to write in a linear fashion, so the Chanku stories in the Sexy Beast anthologies are an integral part of my series. I don’t think the series would make sense to a reader who skips the novellas. Too many things happen in them!
RW: Going along with the above question, do you have a preference to writing these shorter novellas or the full-length novels?
KD: I prefer the longer novels where I can get into the plot a lot more and develop my characters. Often I’ll write a novel with two separate story lines that will interact and eventually connect—Wolf Tales V and Wolf Tales VIII are good examples—but most of the time I just want to spend more pages building a stronger story.
RW: In the past you have written non-paranormal romance and erotica, do you foresee yourself going back to writing in these genres again or do you feel you have found your new calling in this paranormal genre?
KD: I read science fiction as a kid and I think that’s why I love paranormal. I really get into the world building and developing a mythology that works within the parameters I create. I’m not very confident writing contemporary romance—I don’t watch television, rarely see a movie and hardly leave my house, so I’m not in tune with contemporary life. In paranormal, I create my own world and don’t need to be as cognizant of what’s actually happening outside my insulated world. Paranormal gives me total creative freedom—I absolutely love the chance to let my imagination run free.
RW: Can you tell us what our readers have to look forward to picking up off the bookshelf in the future by you?
KD: More Wolf Tales, of course. Wolf Tales 9 is going to be so much fun—Tia Mason Stone is giving birth, and all the Chanku come to Montana and Anton’s new clinic to hold vigil while she’s in labor. And while they’re killing time, they tell their “how we met” stories. I learned so much about everyone that I had a blast writing this book. Jake and Luc Stone, Anton and Oliver, Anton and Stefan, Shannon and Tia, Mik and AJ...all of them tell their stories. Some of them totally surprised me.
My biggest news, though, is my new Kensington Zebra series, The Demonslayers. The first book, DemonFire, isn’t coming out until March 2010, but I’ve already got my cover art, and it’s gorgeous. Also have a first chapter excerpt posted on my website. Go to www.katedouglas.com and click on the DemonFire cover for the excerpt. It’s not erotic romance, but it’s definitely paranormal—Dax is a demon who gets kicked out of hell and ends up hunting demons on earth. He’s got seven days in a borrowed body and...well, ya gotta read the excerpt to get a feel for this one! My tag line is pretty descriptive: It’s the battle of good vs. evil—and the demon’s the good guy.
RW: Where can our readers and librarians find out more information about you?
KD: My website: http://www.katedouglas.com and click on erotic romance for info on Wolf Tales and first chapter excerpts of all the books, or click on romance for information on DemonFire. I’m hoping to redo my website before the new series debuts, and I’ll be sure to let you know. There is also an author page at www.kensingtonbooks.com Plus, readers can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/katedouglas.author and on MySpace at www.myspace.com/katedouglas_wolftales And of course, anyone can email me. I answer all my mail myself and generally will reply the day I receive it at firstname.lastname@example.org
RW: Thanks again for taking time to answer our questions!
KD: You’re more than welcome. And if anyone has more questions regarding either of my series, please don’t hesitate to drop me a note. I will answer if I can.
with the Monster Librarian
Guy N. Smith is an icon of horror fiction, he has been writing horror fiction for over 30 years, producing a wide range of monsters to haunt his readers. His latest take of terror is Maneater.
ML: Could you tell us a little about yourself?
GNS: I was born in the small village of Hopwas, Staffordshire, where I lived until 1977. My mother was historical author E.M. Weale and she encouraged me to write from an early age. I was first published at the age of 12 in a local newspaper and this led to 56 short stories (1952-57) some of which were novellas and were serialised.
In 1972 I married Jean and we had 4 children. 1977 saw us move to Black Hill, a remote area on the Shropshire/Welsh border which is still our home.
I have written around 116 books since 1974, mostly horror but also mysteries, childrens books, westerns and non-fiction. Primarily though, I have always been a journalist and have published around 3,000 articles on shooting, deer stalking , big-game hunting etc. For the last 10 years I have been Gun Editor of “The Countryman’s Weekly” with a deadline of 5 features per week, mostly technical on guns, ammunition etc. I also have to review and test rifles, shotguns etc.
ML: Did you initially want to write horror? How did you get started writing?
GNS: My early short stories featured some horror, SF, pirates, westerns detective etc. I began writing for the sporting press in 1960 which was to be the mainstay of my output. However, in 1972 I submitted a story to the “London Mystery Magazine” and this led to a further 17 being published in this quarterly anthology up until its demise in 1982. So, in between my regular journalism, I wrote short fiction.
ML: Did you read horror yourself? Do you read it now? What would you say has influenced your writing?
GNS: I have read much of the classic horror, Lovecraft, Stoker etc, and I have my own collection of ‘Weird Tales.’ If I read any horror now it is usually pre-1960. Some contemporary horror writers have accused me of emulating them but this is certainly not the case as I have never read their work. In any case I was published prior to their books.
As already stated, my mother influenced my writing and my family have always encouraged me.
ML: You have been writing for 30 years. How have writing and publishing changed in that time? Do you think the changes have been good or bad for writers?
GNS: Writing and publishing have certainly changed since I started. In the ‘good old days’ I wrote 40,000 word books and my publishers were encouraging me to turn out as many as possible. The most I ever wrote in one year was 10.
Then things changed. Basically, the market was saturated with numerous category publishers trying to ‘leap on the bandwagon.’ Everybody’s sales plummeted, publishers began to drop their horror lists and eventually the category market as a whole suffered.
Before the horror market collapsed my publishers at the time (Hamlyn Paperbacks) wanted bigger and more ‘complicate’ novels. Instead of producing fast-paced fun horror I found myself having to write depressing psychological horror. I was not happy with it but I continued until the horror genre virtually petered out.
I then diversified into children’s books, a tome of a western for Pinnacle, USA and various non-fiction. We tried publishing for a year or two under our Black Hill Books ‘Bulldog’ and ‘Muffin’ imprints. It was fairly successful but this was not the way I wanted to go. So I abandoned fiction for 10 years and concentrated on my journalism and my second-hand mystery and westerns postal book business. This is now very successful and expanding all the time.
ML: When you are writing, what is your process for putting together a story? What type of environment do you like to write in? Do you need quiet, or play music, for example.
GNS: For every book I have a detailed synopsis broken up into chapters. So, when I come to write it all the research is done, it is paced, and all I have to do is to sit down and write. In the old days I could write a book comfortably in 4 weeks. Nowadays my routine is different; the daytime hours are taken up with journalism, interspersed with my hobbies, and I write novels in the comfort of my armchair in the evenings, usually knocking out around 3,000 words at a session. I do not need peace and quiet. Often the television is on. I can also write on trains or in the car when Jean is driving. The environment is of no consequence to my work.
ML: You have written a number of series over the years – the Crabs series, the Sabat series, the Werewolf series. Do you start off the series knowing where you story arc is going, or do you develop each book on its own, as a stand alone title?
GNS: Sabat was commissioned as a series by New English Library. During the 1970’s series were selling well but by 1982 when my Sabats 1-4 were published they were going out of fashion. Had they been published a few years earlier then we should probably have reached anything from nos 30-40.
The Werewolf trilogy was certainly not intended as such. I was simply delighted to have the first one, also my first book, commissioned. The same applies to the Crabs. I never thought ‘Night of the Crabs’ would be anything other than a one-off. In the event it spawned five sequels, many short stories and a graphic novel.
ML: You have written about killer bats, crabs and other creatures over the years. What inspired these “nature run amok” stories?”
GNS: “Nature–run–amok” stories come naturally to me. I have lived in the countryside all my life and understand wildlife. My latest novel “Maneater” (Severn House) is about a wounded leopard terrorising the area around my home. It cannot hunt its natural prey so it turns to the easy option – humans. It could just become a chilling reality.
In ‘Maneater’ the hero is Gordon Hall who featured in all three of my early werewolf novels. I have brought him back to the scene of his former adventures, now a man in his late sixties who has spent the intervening years as a professional hunter in Africa. This is specially for my original fans.
ML: The Crabs series has developed a following over the years. Were you surprised by the success of the series?
GNS: Yes, I was surprised by the success of the Crabs series. It was also filmed in the 1980’s as ‘Island Claws.’ Best sellers are rare, you can never forecast how a book will be received. This one came at the right time, that record hot summer of 1976 when ‘beach reads’ were in demand.
ML: You have written about werewolves, vampires, the occult, and nature run amok. Of all the monsters and demonic forces you have written about, which do you find to be the scariest? What kinds of stories are the most fun for you to write?
GNS: ‘Maneater’ is the book I find the scariest because I feel that one day it will happen. I have often been accused of prophetic writing. In 1980 I wrote ‘Caracal’ (a lynx-type creature). A month after it was published a Big Cat was sighted in Wales, one of the first of a multitude of such feline sightings. My novel was mentioned in the local press and our local bookshop sold 100 copies as a result!
Pulp fiction is the most fun to write. I often think that I was born too late and maybe I could have had a field day in the many pulps of the thirties.
ML: Your book ‘Writing Horror Fiction’ was published in 1996. Some time has passed since then. What additional counsel would you give to those horror authors just starting out?
GNS: Many aspiring writers seek my advice. Much of what I wrote in ‘Writing Horror Fiction’ is still applicable except that the market has changed. The only advice I can give is to keep on writing, don’t give up. I forecast that the horror genre will be BIG again one day, and maybe sooner that you think.
Whilst I am always willing to advise budding authors, I simply do not have time to read their manuscripts.
ML: What stories are you working on now? What new releases can we expect from Guy N. Smith?
GNS: I have ideas on file but today publishers are ruled by accountants. If your last book does not sell as hoped then they will be reluctant to publish your next. This also applies to authors such as myself who have a track record that cannot be disputed. It is what you are achieving now, that counts. ‘Maneater’ has had some excellent reviews so I am hopeful that sales figures will be on target for another book.
ML: Is there anything in particular you would like librarians and readers to know about you?
GNS: Fans are very important to me. When possible I like to meet them personally. For many years now I have held my Fan Club Convention at my home in Shropshire. This gives fans an opportunity to meet me in my own surroundings and see where all the books have originated. All except the first six were written here.
This year the Convention will be held on Sunday, September 6th. We start at 1pm and the event usually continues through to the evening. There will be an on-going buffet and drinks. Fans will have the opportunity to discuss my books with me or talk about their won writing. There will be the usual auction, a few GNS rarities, going under the hammer. Then there is the GNS bookstore to browse, maybe finding that elusive title for which you have been searching for years – and probably much cheaper than one found on e-bay!
For further information visit: www.guynsmith.com
By Rhonda Wilson
John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning
author of the novels Covenant and Sacrifice as well as several short story
collections. In addition, he is also co-founder for the publishing company,
Dark Arts Books.
RW: John, thanks for taking the time to let me interview you and congratulations on your latest mass market release, SACRIFICE!
JE: Thanks for grilling me. I'd prefer to stay medium rare, if that's ok.
RW: Can you tell our readers a little about SACRIFICE and also your previous release, COVENANT, since it is a prequel to the novel?
JE: Sure! Covenant is essentially about a reporter, Joe Kieran, who runs away from some ghosts of his past only to get entrapped in the ghosts of a town called Terrel, where people seem to be throwing themselves to their deaths from a cliff outside of town, strangely enough, on the same day every year. As he digs deeper into the town's past, Joe gets himself in deeper to the clutches of... let's just say an ancient evil.
Sacrifice picks up fairly soon after the events of Covenant. It's a standalone novel (all that you need to know from Covenant is included) and begins with Joe, once again on the run from his past -- this time from the events of Covenant. He picks up a teenage hitchhiker, Alex, who, we soon find out, can talk to the dead. And the two of them are eventually goaded onto the trail of a sexy serial killer, Ariana. See, Ariana has this gruesome plan, thanks to having procured a book of the lost. If she can complete a series of erotic serial sacrifices, in cities across the country, she will be able to open the door to our world to a race of ruthless, succubi demons called the Curburide. If Joe and Alex can't catch her, we're all doomed. It's kind of a crazy erotic demonic sacrifice, adventure, bloody road trip novel. Isn't that a genre of its own?
RW: What upcoming projects are you working on that readers and librarians should keep an eye out for?
JE: My next novel is titled THE 13TH and will be out in a limited edition early this summer, with a mass market paperback edition in October. This book is about David Shale, who investigates a newly opened asylum for disturbed pregnant women that happens to be housed in a previously abandoned luxury hotel with a dark history nestled in the backwood hill country. When his girlfriend disappears and he witnesses a strange ceremony in the basement of the old hotel-turned-asylum involving a lot of blood and ancient language, David knows that there is more to this "asylum" than meets the eye. And the clock is ticking on the life of his girlfriend for him to find out exactly what...
In addition to THE 13TH, I've got new short stories due out this summer in anthologies from Dark Hart called TERRIBLE BEAUTY, FEARFUL SYMMETRY and an Edward Lee tribute anthology called INFERNALLY YOURS from Necro Publications. I actually wrote both pieces a couple years ago, so I'm really excited that both of these anthologies are going to be released soon.
RW: You have released several short story collections as well as the above mentioned novels. Do you have a preference between writing the short fiction and the full-length novels?
JE: They're very different disciplines. I started as a short story writer and I still love the instant gratification of the form. You can start and finish -- and often polish -- a short story in an afternoon, as opposed to a novel, which takes months. Telling the most "story" in the fewest amount of words is the great challenge of a short story, and there's a lot of fulfillment in that. On the other hand, the novel gives you the opportunity to stretch and explore all sorts of side plots and characterizations that you could never do in the short form. I think novels, ultimately, build a world that, if done well, readers never forget, while short stories tend to be a little more disposable. So these days I'm favoring the novel.
RW: Your books lean very heavily on the paranormal and occult. What got you interested in this particular area of horror?
JE: It might have a little to do with my upbringing, which was somewhat oppressively Catholic. My mother was kind of a throwback to the 1800s and believed the mass should be said in Latin and that women should never be allowed on the altar of a church. When my siblings and I were pre-teens, she took us to the Stations of the Cross and All-Night Vigils where we had to sit in church from 8 at night until well after midnight praying and smelling incense and whatnot. I'm sure all that contributed to both my skepticism of the supernatural, and yet at the same time my yearning to somehow make those invisible realm dreams real through my writing.
RW: Do you have any plans to write anything in a genre other than horror down the road or do you see horror as the area you want to stay focused on?
JE: I've been fascinated with the macabre since I was in kindergarten and saw my first EC comic. I grew up reading science fiction prose, but my writing is probably more informed by the television shows I watched -- "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Night Gallery" and "Kolchak: The Night Stalker". Those shows and the short, sharp stories they told really influenced the fiction I would create as an adult. I have always looked to fiction for escapism as a reader, and to me that means writing about things outside of the normal realm of our reality. So... that tends to push me away from working in the straight mystery, thriller, or romance arenas, where most of the events could really take place in real life. For me, a story has to have something... extra, not of this world... for me to want to read or write it. And I seem to do better in writing demons and monsters than aliens.
RW: Who would you say have been your writing inspirations over the years?
JE: One of my earliest was Richard Matheson, who walked the line between horror and science fiction, as well as between prose and visual media (he wrote a lot of Twilight Zones and the movies The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Night Stalker, and I Am Legend / The Last Man on Earth. More recently, What Dreams May Come and A Stir of Echoes were based on his novels. His first published story was one that I read over and over again as a teen - "Born of Man and Woman" - for its chilling merger of taut monologue, science fiction and horror. Since then, I have to credit Stephen King, whose ability to write amazing characterizations while blending genres is truly amazing, Clive Barker and Charlee Jacob, who went places I didn't imagine you could go until I read them, and Anne Rice, whose lush portraits and historical horrors kept me rapt for much of the '90s. Then there were the lyrical pens of Neil Gaiman and Nina Kirki Hoffman, who played with dark fantasy in a way that left me ever-entranced. Over the last few years, I've become a big flag waver for Edward Lee, who puts together rollercoaster ride horror novels that are as fun as they are relentless.
RW: Do you have a particular atmosphere that you enjoy writing in when you sit down to write? And do you usually write on a set schedule or does it vary?
JE: My dayjob has always had roots in journalism and publishing, so I have generally "written" something everyday. But carving out the time to write fiction after writing during the day has often been sporadic. In the '90s, I used to sit down on Sunday afternoons and knock out short stories, and occasionally some novel chapters. More recently, as I've had increasing markets for my work, I've tried to keep a more predictable schedule, writing for a few hours on the weekend, and at least one weekday night when I'm actively on a project.
As for atmosphere, I'm kind of particular. I really work best to music, and it's best if I'm not in my house, where there are a thousand distractions (I'm a great procrastinator). So I either light a bunch of candles, put on a This Mortal Coil CD and lock myself in the basement, or go out to an Irish bar and cloister myself in a booth for a few hours. That way, there's nothing to really allow me to procrastinate, since I'm stuck in a booth. And someone always brings me Newcastle when my glass is empty. That's when I get my best work done.
RW: You're also co-founder of the publishing company, Dark Arts Books, how did that come about?
JE: I have been a proofreader for small presses like Necro, Delirium, Earthling and Cemetery Dance for more than a decade, and for a couple years I also served as the book designer/proofreader/distribution guy for Chicago's Twilight Tales. When that volunteer job - which essentially was about running a press -- faded out, my friend Bill Breedlove suggested I put together a little chapbook for a couple of us "Chicago horror authors" to use as a calling card at the upcoming World Horror Convention (back in 2006). Not being content with a simple chapbook, by the time I was done, said "chapbook" was a full fledged trade paperback with a color cover and an ISBN titled CANDY IN THE DUMPSTER. Dark Arts Books was born (see www.darkartsbooks.com). Since I'd already done all of the jobs of a publisher for other presses, it was an easy transition. We did another volume the following year, and then Bill joined me as co-publisher for 2008's SINS OF THE SIRENS and LIKE A CHINESE TATTOO which is currently nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. We're debuting our fifth title at the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend in mid-June, when we'll also find out how our first nominee, TATTOO, fares.
RW: Running Dark Arts Books you get to work on many angles of the book industry including editing, book design, promoting, etc... have you ever considered doing this solely instead of writing?
JE: I have, and in some senses I already do. The book design / layout work is something that I've done (sort of) as part of my dayjob for 20 years. I've always been an editor/layout guy where I work. So it's a natural to use that skill to serve the fiction I love. And I get a kick out of designing my car-crash graphical collage book covers and website banners. I've done a bunch of covers and website designs over the years for various authors and presses (you can see them at www.johneverson.com/artwork.htm ) But in the end, it is fiction I truly love, and the rest just offer elaborate excuses not to write it. So... I hope I never consider giving up crafting the words in favor of crafting only their presentation medium.
RW: Where can our readers and librarians locate more information about you on the internet John?
JE: My website is probably the most comprehensive source -- www.johneverson.com -- it includes access to my bibliography and blog. I also have a profile on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A35GB5ERBIL5YM ) and pages on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and my publisher's site: http://www.dorchesterpub.com/Dorch/authordetail.cfm?Author_ID=557
RW: I know you've been really busy on tour for SACRIFICE so I really appreciate you taking the time out to do this interview. Thanks again!
JE: I still feel pink inside. Thanks for grilling me just-right!
Salvatore and Geno Salvatore Interview
By Bret Jordan
When readers think of contemporary fantasy novels, especially when the Forgotten Realms world is mentioned, they think of RA Salvatore. He has created one of the most loved characters of the genre, a dark elf named Drizzt Do'Urden. The next generation of Fantasy has begun now that Mr. Salvatore and his son, Geno, have begun a new saga in the world of the Forgotten Realms - The Stowaway.
Thank you both for taking the time to be interviewed for The Monster Librarian.
BJ: You both worked together to create The Stowaway. What was it like to write this story together?
GENO: It was surprisingly easy. We've worked together in the past -- I've copyedited every book my father has written since I was a teen -- and our styles meshed well. Plus, the story fell into place very easily and naturally, so we never had any real arguments about where to go etc. etc.
RA: The only hard parts for me were first, when I saw something that I might have done differently, I knew I had to hold back when it was just a question of style because I wanted this to be Geno's story in Geno's voice; and second, I always told myself I didn't want any of my kids to become writers, so I'm hoping that twenty years from now, Geno will still look upon this as a positive thing his father helped him with. It's a tough business.
BJ: Most of your books take place in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, as does The Stowaway. What do you both find to be the attraction with the Forgotten Realms?
RA: About half my books take place in the Realms. But I love the place. It's classic high fantasy, and you can see the influence of Tolkien and Vance and all the great ones who came before in Ed Greenwood's incredible playground. Classic fantasy, and the kind I enjoy the most.
GENO: I grew up reading the Realms. As a fantasy world, it just feels like home to me.
BJ: The Stowaway is an exiting tale of pirates and demons. What inspired the story?
GENO: The first incarnation of the Stowaway was a short story I wrote in high school, in which a person sits in the hold of a ship flipping marbles at rats, pondering the nature of boredom. For the novel, we took that basic start point and expanded on it -- who is this person, why is he in the hold, what is he doing? The pirates and demons and all the rest just naturally fell into place.
RA: I was just amazed at how easily the story fit together with the Halfling's Gem. It seems every time we needed a plot element, it was just there waiting for us.
BJ: I imagine that you both have spent a lot of hours playing Dungeons and Dragons over the years. Do you find the characters in your stories reflected in your Role Playing Characters or vise versa?
RA: To some extent yes, but I've never based a character in a book on a D&D character. I do have certain expectations for a hero, and I'm sure those expectations do carry from my gaming experience to my novel writing experience, and vice versa.
GENO: I tend to be the Dungeon Master more often than a player, so I enjoy pulling the villains from my father's books (and now from my own) into my D&D campaigns. But I don't think I pull my campaigns back into the books.
BJ: Drizzt Do'Urden is a contradiction, a true instance where the cover doesn't always define the book. Up until his creation the word drow or dark elf was associated with evil and treachery. Did you set out from the beginning to show that things are not always what they seem with this character?
RA: I knew he'd be a contradiction from the minute I conceived of the character, of course. But what I really set out to do was create a sidekick for Wulfgar. After about two pages of writing Drizzt, however, I began to see so many possibilities in those contradictions that it became obvious to me that the Crystal Shard was his book. And the series has gone on from there.
BJ: Up until Drizzt, the drow were a stereotypical faceless enemy. What made you decide to use them instead of another race, such as orcs or mind flayers?
RA: Drow were a lot more appealing to me because, even though they were "monsters", they were described as incredibly beautiful and intelligent.
BJ: You both have worked on the DemonWars Campaign setting. What differentiates writing for a campaign setting and sitting down to write a novel?
RA: A novel is an adventure, where you're inviting the readers to live vicariously through your heroes. A game design setting is a setting. It's a place for people to create their own heroes. In a game design setting you're more concerned with getting the reader the information he or she needs to tell his or her own story. Creatively, both processes are equally exhausting.
BJ: Do you have to be
in a certain environment, such as an office with music
playing and a cup of coffee close by, to write your stories?
GENO: The only requirement I have is some peace and quiet. I often write at home when my roommates are at work, for example, but I love to work out on Boston Common, with my MP3 player and my laptop and the shade of a tree.
RA: I wish I had the luxury of creating the perfect writing ambiance but lately, meaning the last five years or so, things seem to be so hectic that I find myself writing whenever I can find five minutes and a place wide enough to open up a laptop.
BJ: What advice would
you give to anyone wanting to become a writer?
RA: If you can quit, quit. If you can't quit, you're a writer. I mean that in all seriousness. If you don't have a burning need to tell your story, then don't try to be a writer because you're chasing fame and fortune. It doesn't work like that.
BJ: Do you have plans
to collaborate on future novels?
GENO: There are two more novels coming in the Stone of Tymora series, and both will be collaborations. After that, who knows,
BJ: What is next for Geno Salvatore?
GENO: I'm currently finishing the second and starting the third of the stone of Tymora series. After that, I have a screenplay I intend to write, several novel ideas I'd like to explore, and I'm considering applying to film schools.
BJ: What is next for RA Salvatore?
RA: I've got "The Dame", which is the third book in the Saga of the First King, coming out in August, and "The Ghost King", the next Dark Elf book, coming out in October; I'm hard at work on the last book in the Saga of the First King, and developing a video game with 38 Studios.
BJ: Where can readers find out more about you and your writing?
BJ: I would like to thank you both again for taking the time out of your busy schedules to answer these questions.
By Rhonda Wilson
RW: Hey Jeff! Thanks for taking the time out of
your hectic schedule to do this interview.
JS: Not a problem! My schedule really isn’t that hectic...I mostly just lounge around the pool, sipping lemonade and asking my man-servant how those interview questions he was supposed to answer for me are coming along.
RW: Tell us a bit about yourself. What get you interested in writing and how did get your start in the writing industry?
JS: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It goes back so far that I don’t even know what sparked the interest! Throughout high school and college, I submitted several screenplays, short stories, and a couple of (bad) novels with no success, and a couple of years out of college I started getting some acceptances from very small markets. My first published piece, excluding markets for kids, was “This Skit is Extinct,” which appeared in Liquid Ohio magazine in 1996. For the next three years I racked up a nice collection of ‘zine publications, but had no luck with the novels or movie scripts until Pauline Baird Jones, who I’d met on a screenwriting site, suggested that I send my novels to an e-publisher. She assured me that e-publishing did NOT have to mean “pay to publish,” and How to Rescue a Dead Princess was accepted by Hard Shell Word Factory in 1999. Over the next decade, e-books led to trade paperbacks, which led to hardcovers (many in the “really cool limited edition” market), which led to where I am now, with my first mass market release, Pressure, days away from showing up on bookstores shelves across the country. It’s been a slooooooow climb, but every year I can honestly say that I’m a little further along!
RW: Who are your writing inspirations from the past and/or present?
JS: I’ve never described my writing style as “Dave Barry meets Richard Laymon” until this very moment, but I think it’s fairly accurate. I try NOT to be influenced too much by other authors, so it’s hard to state any direct inspirations, although I’m sure there’s all kinds of subconscious plagiarism going on.
RW: A lot of authors seem to write with music playing in the background… what is your typical setting? And if music is involved, what CDs are typically in your player?
JS: I almost never have music playing when I’m writing—I get distracted too easily! That said, the artists in heaviest rotation on my iPod are They Might Be Giants, Bowling For Soup, The Dollyrots, Stephen Lynch, Alice Cooper, The Arrogant Worms, and Barnes & Barnes, although these days I probably listen to podcasts more than actual music. I’m a huge fan of Kevin Smith’s SModcast, and I also love Dinner For Fiends, Pod of Horror, Dread Media, and Mondo Movie.
RW: Do you tend to work on writing multiple books at one time or focus on one until it is completed before moving onto the next project?
JS: I’ve gotten more focused, but I still tend to work on multple projects at once. Usually I’ve got a main project going, and then I’ll work on some shorter things at the same time. At the moment, I really only have two active writing projects, and one of them will be put aside after I finish the first three chapters and send them to my agent. Once my current novel is finished, I’ll start on a contracted novella, and maybe—just maybe—dig back into the fourth Andrew Mayhem novel! (Or maybe I’m just going to keep mentioning it in interviews and never finish it, like the slacker that I am.)
RW: The majority of your books are of the comic horror genre, but I know you write other genres as well… which genre do you enjoy writing the most?
JS: Gotta be comic horror. It’s just the most fun. Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy writing the non-funny stuff; my current work-in-progress is a “serious” horror novel, and I’m having an absolute blast writing it and I think it’s well on its way to being the best thing I’ve ever written, but if some guy shoved a rusty knife in my face and said “Pick one sub-genre and stick with it for the rest of your life or I’ll poke out your eye and make you watch me eat it...with your good eye, of course,” I’d choose comedic horror. Meanwhile, the three chapters I mentioned above are for a romantic action/adventure comedy...
RW: Going along with that… Which of your books what you have written so far did you enjoy working on the most and why?
JS: The Severed Nose was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I think it has the feel of a British comedy—a very understated approach to a very over-the-top situation. I also really enjoyed writing Kutter, which was the exact opposite of The Severed Nose in that I challenged myself to write a dark comedy that was completely realistic, and that contained no one-liners, witty dialogue, amusing descriptions, or any of the tools that I’d normally rely on when writing a horror/comedy. Early indicators are that it works extremely well...but of course readers will have to be the final judge (and possibly executioner).
RW: In addition to having written a variety of genres, you have also written various KINDS of books… novels, novellas, chapbooks, anthologies, etc… do you have a particular story length that you enjoy writing more so than another? Do you feel you get more out of one particular kind of story?
JS: Though I like them all, ultimately it’s the novels I’m the most proud of. I really enjoy writing short stories, and I think many of them contain my funniest, sickest, and most inventive work, but there isn’t time in a short story to build up the same level of intensity or character empathy that I can create in a novel. Benjamin’s Parasite works because the reader (hopefully) cares about Benjamin. At the same time, the shorter works offer more room for experimentation. I probably wouldn’t write a full-length novel with a narrator who’s a complete scumbag, but I did that in my novella Disposal. And, of course, something like “Mr. Twitcher’s Miracle Baby-Chopping Machine” could only be a short story.
RW: Your first mass market release, Pressure, is due out in late May 2009 from Leisure books. Do you have more mass market releases lined up after this or are you still planning on doing mainly small press releases in the foreseeable future?
JS: My next mass market release is a novel called Dweller, which Leisure will publish in March 2010. That’s as far as it goes as far as works that are officially contracted, but I plan to have many, many, many more mass market releases in the future! Of course, that plan is somewhat dependent on the sales figures for Pressure, so I encourage readers to get out there and buy copies for everybody they know. Guys, there’s no better way to hit on hot chick than to give her a copy of Pressure--make sure you have plenty of copies on hand!
RW: What upcoming projects do you have in the works that readers and librarians can keep an eye out for?
JS: When this interview goes up, Pressure may still be “upcoming,” (the official on-sale date is May 26th) so I’ll mention that one. And of course Benjamin’s Parasite is brand-new from Delirium Books. The Severed Nose should be shipping in July from the Morning Star imprint of Bloodletting Press. Kutter hasn’t been formally announced yet, so I can’t blab too much about it, but that’s another one to watch for.
RW: Where is the best place on the Internet for people to keep informed on any new Jeff Strand news?
JS: My Gleefully Macabre website: www.jeffstrand.com.
RW: Thanks again for taking the time to let me interview you Jeff.
JS: Thank you!
by Bret Jordan
When horror readers think of zombies one of the first names to pop into their head is David Moody. He is a fellow who took a chance on his hard work and release his novel Autumn for free on the Internet. The chance payed off and it wasn't long before Autumn became an Internet phenomenon and a much loved book among the zombie fans. Autumn is now a highly successful four book series and will soon see the big screen. Mr. Moody didn't stop there though, not by a long shot.
BJ: I know how busy things can be with family, writing and life in general so I would like to start off by thinking you for taking the time for this interview.
You are probably best known for your Autumn series, a must have for zombie fans. What made you decide to make it available on-line instead of going straight to print?
DM: My first book ‘Straight to You’ was published ‘traditionally’ in the late 90’s but it didn’t really go anywhere (I’ve still got a quarter of the original print run in boxes in my loft!). When I finished my next book, Autumn, I was a bit disenchanted and didn’t want to go down the same publishing route again. I knew I wasn’t going to make a lot of money so decided to give the book away as a free download to try and build up a readership and get people interested in my work. It took a long time, but it had the desired effect in the end. I wrote several sequels to ‘Autumn’ and the first book’s been adapted as both an online audio dramatization and a feature film.
BJ: Autumn is about the world as we know it ending in a zombie apocalypse, so why zombies?
DM: Forgive the bad pun, but I kind of stumbled into it! The novel was originally conceived as an ‘empty Earth’ story looking at how a handful of people dealt with the sudden death of 99.9% of the population. The book needed more of a focus, so I had about a third of the dead people getting up and moving again after a couple of days. If I’m honest, I’ve always had a fascination with zombies and I was a huge fan of Romero’s original films, although there have always been some aspects of the zombie mythos I’ve struggled with (such as the need to eat dead flesh!). Reanimating the dead in ‘Autumn’ allowed me to put my own spin on the genre.
BJ: Your books deal with the world ending or changing from one apocalypse or another. It's a popular topic and like me most people just can't get enough. What do you think makes tales of the worlds end so appealing?
DM: You know when you have a nightmare, then you wake up and feel the relief when you realize it was just a dream? I think that’s part of the reason why apocalyptic fiction and films are so popular – they let you look at what might be; they let you peer into the abyss then take a step back into ‘normality’ again. I find the subject fascinating. As a species we seem to blunder blindly through our lives. We assume that what here today is going to be here tomorrow and, of course, that’s not always going to be the case. It’s interesting to look at what might be and think about how we’d cope, both individually and collectively. Also, there’s so much grief and trouble in the world right now that some of the scenarios we see in films and read about in books suddenly feel uncomfortably plausible…
BJ: At the moment there are four Autumn books out there and a movie in the works. Will there be a fifth Autumn novel?
DM: There actually already is a fifth ‘Autumn’ book, it just hasn’t been released yet. It was literally just days away from publication last summer when I pulled the plug. Following the interest in ‘Hater’ and the ‘Autumn’ movie, I was offered a couple of contracts by Thomas Dunne Books in the US. As a result, they acquired the three book ‘Hater’ series and the five ‘Autumn’ books. They’ll be re-released over the next few years. The fifth ‘Autumn’ book is called ‘Disintegration’. For those who know the series, as the stories progress the dead become more aware and begin to react to every move the survivors make. As a result, the living are forced to live in virtual silence – not easy when they’re outnumbered by the dead more than 100,000 to 1! In ‘Disintegration’, two separate groups of survivors collide. One of the groups has survived through stealth and silence, the other through brute force –literally ‘harvesting’ the dead. They’re backed into a corner and have to fight to survive. Problem is, no-one’s willing to back down. Each group thinks it’s approach is the right one…
BJ: I loved Hater. It read like a zombie book, but in a surprising twist it turns into something completely different and maybe even something more horrifying than a zombie infestation. What gave you the idea for Hater?
DM: It’s great to hear that you enjoyed ‘Hater’. I honestly didn’t see the similarities with a zombie novel until I’d finished the book. Then I looked back and realized I’d written a zombie story from the point of view of the zombies! The initial idea for the book was to look at an event – a sudden, inexplicable change – which meant that the population was irrevocably split into two unequal halves. I wanted to think about how we’d react if something happened that superseded all the current divisions we use to differentiate and discriminate: sex, age, race, beliefs etc. etc. I think the prospect of having kids suddenly turn against their parents (or vice versa), lovers against each other, teachers against students and so on is terrifying. Imagine there being an invisible, untraceable division that suddenly forces everyone onto one side or the other… In July 2005, terrorists attacked London, and there was footage on the TV of one of the bombers who worked as a classroom assistant. I thought the idea that someone could sit in a class and teach kids one week, then blow up innocent people on a tube train or bus was absolutely terrifying. And from that initial thought came the idea of using ‘Hate’ as the device in ‘Hater’.
BJ: Both Autumn and Hater are going to the big screen. How does it feel to have your books turned into movies?
DM: To be honest, we’re a couple of years down the line now and I still can’t believe it! I always wanted to make movies, but had no training and no way of doing it so I wrote books instead, figuring that was the next best way to tell the stories I wanted to film. I write very visually, and the books lend themselves to film. Being on the set of ‘Autumn’ in Canada in late 2007 was an incredible experience. Watching the rushes and then seeing the actors (including Dexter Fletcher – from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – and David Carradine – Kill Bill, Kung Fu) was amazing beyond words. And as for ‘Hater’… you know, it’s enough of a thrill for me to know that Guillermo del Toro and J A Bayona have read the book. For them to want to film it is amazing. On a practical level though, it’s quite hard letting go of your work and handing it over to someone else. As I said, I write very visually and I imagine every detail of every scene. It’s bizarre seeing how someone else interprets your words.
BJ: Not only do you write, but you are also the owner of Infected Books. What made you decide to get into the publishing side of things?
DM: After the initial success of the free ‘Autumn’ download, I decided to set up Infected Books to make more work more accessible and available. In effect, I was self-publishing, but that term has such a negative stigma that I really set up the business to hide behind. The success of the books took me by surprise and running the business took a huge amount of time, so much so that I didn’t have any time to write as I was working full-time and have a large family too. That was one of the reasons I was so keen to sell the books to Thomas Dunne – it allowed me to close down Infected Books and concentrate on writing.
BJ: A lot of authors are inspired by music, or they catch a glimpse of something and it starts them on the road to their next story. What inspires you?
DM: Inspiration can strike at absolutely any time, when I’m doing absolutely anything! Watching a film, driving the car, walking the dog, out running, cooking the dinner, dreams… you never know when it’s going to happen. I make a note of any ideas, and then find myself almost constantly going over them in my head. I think best in the dark with my ipod on! Music is vital to me. I have a few playlists that last a few hours each… instrumentals, film soundtracks, ambient stuff… anything that gets me in the mood to write.
BJ: When you are writing a story do you just put pencil to paper (finger to keyboard) and start from scratch, or do you get a framework for your whole story and then begin writing?
DM: I think preparation is the key to success. Sometimes I can be working on an idea for months, even years before I actually start writing. When I’ve got a basic plot worked out in my head, I start making notes. I’ll put together a structure / basic synopsis, then expand it. When I’m ready I’ll write out a chapter-by-chapter plan, and only then will I start the first draft. I force myself to go all the way through the story without revising or editing, then start again from the beginning.
BJ: Do you have anything you do to prepare to write, or anything that might be taboo when you do write, such as listening to music?
DM: I’m fortunate in that I can write at pretty much any given time. I do get easily distracted though, and there are times I have to pull out the broadband connection so that I can concentrate without dealing with emails or surfing! I try to write at least a couple of pages every day, but if I find that the words aren’t flowing for any reason, I don’t force myself. I think the harder you try to write, the less effective you become. You have to be relaxed and in the right frame of mind.
BJ: In your bio you talk about how you wrote a story, Straight to You, and got it published. Then life took hold with family, jobs, bills, etc... and you had to give up writing for a while. How did you manage to juggle all of your responsibilities and begin writing again?
DM: It was difficult. ‘Straight to You’ was published in 1996 and ‘Autumn’ didn’t appear online until 2001. Juggling responsibilities is hard, but the family has to come first. As I’ve already alluded to, I pretty much hit the wall when Infected Books was at its height and I’m actually still a couple of years behind with some projects. Fortunately, the interest generated by the ‘Hater’ and ‘Autumn’ movie deals and the subsequent contract with Thomas Dunne Books meant that I could close the business and concentrate instead on writing. It’s still difficult to find the time though! I work from home, so I have to balance writing with cooking the dinner, getting the kids from school etc. etc.
BJ: Do you have any advice or suggestions for people who would like to start writing?
DM: Do it! Stop thinking about it and beating around the bush and just do it! When I started writing I set myself a few simple ground rules, and I still try and follow them today:
Try and write a page a day.
If it’s not working, walk away from the computer. You can’t force yourself to write and staring at a blank screen won’t help.
PLAN IN ADVANCE. By the time I sit down to start writing a book, I’ve usually done months of preparation and research and have made notes telling me what’s going to happen, chapter by chapter.
Keep going! Resist the temptation to keep going back and rewriting. Finish each draft, then go back to the beginning and start again.
BJ: Are you working on any stories at the moment and if so is there any you can tell us about it?
DM: Right now I’m working on the first sequel to ‘Hater’ which is called ‘Dog Blood’. It’s a continuation of Danny McCoyne’s story as he tries to find his family (in particular his 5 year old daughter – for reasons which are obvious if you’ve read the first book!). The main difference between the first and second book is that this time the story is more expansive and deals with the effect of the events on society as a whole, rather than just Danny and his family. After that I’m planning to work on a new version of an older novel, ‘Trust’, as well as working with my editors on the re-releases of the ‘Autumn’ series. And after all that comes the final ‘Hater’ novel…!
BJ: I know folks can check you out on the Internet at http://www.djmoody.co.uk/ and http://www.myspace.com/infectedbooks. Any other spots you like to hang out where readers can find out more about you?
DM: Yes, there’s also a Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Moody/36732715171. I’m also currently working on resurrecting the Infected Books brand as an online store where people can get hold of signed copies of my books and T-shirts etc. amongst other things. You can find out more at www.infectedbooks.co.uk.
BJ: I would like to thank you again for taking the time for this interview and I'm looking forward to reading your next novel.
DM: It’s an absolute pleasure! Thanks Bret!
by Rhonda Wilson
Tim Waggoner is
the author of numerous horror and fantasy novels as well as of short
stories. His upcoming release is Nekropolis from Angry Robot
RW: Thanks for taking the time out to let me interview you. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
TW: I'm 45, amicably divorced, the father of two wonderful daughters ages 14 and 16 am a tenured professor of English at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, and also serve as a faculty mentor in Seton Hill University's low-residency MA in Writing Popular Fiction program. I write fantasy and horror, both original work and media tie-in projects, and I've published around twenty novels and over one hundred short stories. I've also published articles on various aspects of writing in Writers Digest, Writers Journal, and other magazines and journals.
RW: How/when did you get your start as an author?
TW: Ive been making up stories in my head ever since I can remember. The first actual book I created was a cartoon version of King Kong vs Godzilla drawn on a stenographers pad. In junior high and high school, I began writing and drawing my own comic book called The Bionic Team, which featured myself and several of my friends as cyborg superheroes. I wanted to be an artist in those days, and I used to get frustrated with my friends who kept telling me how much they liked my stories. I felt they were supposed to like my drawings more! When I turned eighteen, I decided to focus on writing fiction seriously and finished my first (unpublishable) novel when I was nineteen. After that, I just kept plugging away until I began publishing short stories in small-press magazines, and eventually I began publishing professionally.
RW: Who have been your biggest inspirations in the writing field?
TW: Lawrence Block was a big inspiration. I used to read his fiction-writing column in Writers Digest religiously and learned so much from it. He stopped writing the column years ago, but you can find some of his columns reprinted in the books Spider, Spin Me a Web and Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. His Writing the Novel from Plot to Print is another classic how-to book. My biggest inspiration, though, would be my friend and mentor, the fantasy novelist Dennis L. McKiernan. I was fortunate enough to be in a writers group with Dennis some years back. He was wonderfully encouraging and taught me so much not only about being a better storyteller, but also about what it truly means to be a professional writer. He's a darling man, and a hell of a writer.
RW: You tend to write many different genres... do you favor one more than the other?
TW: I always loved weird stories anything with elements that spark my imagination. So while in a sense I recognize that I do write in different publishing genres, in one sense, I only write in a single artistic genre: the Stuff Tim Thinks is Cool. That said, I often gravitate toward the darker side of weird, so I tend to till the fields of horror or darker fantasy more often than not.
RW: Out of all the books you've written, which would you say is your personal favorite?
TW: Honestly, I have to say Nekropolis. I wrote the first version of the book about thirteen years ago, and I loved the main character and the milieu so much and I've gotten numerous letters from readers over the years demanding a sequel to the original Five Star Books edition -- that I've been working on getting a publisher to bring out a mass-market paperback series ever since. (You can read an essay about the long road to Nekropolis here: http://www.timwaggoner.com/nek_making.html.) Finally, Marc Gascoigne at Angry Robot Books decided to bring out an expanded edition of the original book, along with two more in the series.
RW: The books you have written for Leisure seem to have a lot of adult content in them (i.e. sexually explicit)... do you find it hard to avoid adding in scenes of that nature when writing young adult books?
TW: Not at all. I only use extreme elements when they fit the story I'm trying to tell. If the story at its core doesn't need such elements, my imagination doesn't supply them. So I literally don't think of such elements when writing a YA book or a tie-in novel for whose setting extreme elements would be inappropriate. The vast majority of the fiction I've written both short and long form doesn't include extreme elements for this very reason. They weren't needed for the story I was telling at the time.
RW: What is/are your method(s) for writing a book? So many words a day? Certain time of day you write? etc...
TW: The way I write changes depending on what process I need at any given time. A lot of it has to do with how busy I am with being a dad and teaching, and what other writing projects I might be working on concurrently with a given novel. I strive to write 3-5 pages a day on whatever novel I'm involved with, but if that's not possible, Ill try to binge write later to catch up. So maybe Ill write only three days a week, but Ill produce ten pages each of those days. The most important thing is that I'm making steady, measurable progress on a project and that I don't lose momentum.
RW: What upcoming projects can your readers and librarians keep an eye out for?
TW: As I mentioned earlier, there'll be at least two more books in the Nekropolis series: Dead Streets and Dark War. I recently finished a Stargate novel titled Valhalla, and Ill be doing a new Eberron trilogy for Wizards of the Coast featuring a reoccurring dark hero called Lady Ruin.
RW: Where can readers and librarians go to find out more information on you and your works?
TW: The best bet is to visit my website: www.timwaggoner.com. You can find my full bibliography there, as well as some sample short stories and articles, along with links to reviews and other interviews probably more than anyone would ever want to know about me . . . myself included!
RW: Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to let me interview you Tim!
TW: You're very welcome! It was a pleasure.
by Michele Lee
Nancy A. Collins is the author of several novels and numerous short stories. She is a recipient of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award and The British Fantasy Society’s Icarus Award. Her latest work is a young adult vampires series titled Vamps is reviewed here.
ML: You started your novel writing life with Sunglasses After Dark, the first Sonja Blue novel. How have you gone from rather adult horror novels to YA vampire princesses?
NC: It's been a long road, but not a terribly surprising turn, at least for me. I have always had a good number of young/teen readers with the Sonja Blue series, and with my work in the comics industry. It wasn't that huge a leap, personally, to start looking at the YA market. The biggest changes I've had to face are the differences in length (the average adult novel is 90 thousand words, while the average YA novel is half that) and some of the subject matter. Young Adult themes nowadays are far more 'mature' than when I was in junior high & high school. I do have a tendency to be dark, though, and I have to remember that the audience reading my books has yet to enroll in the School of Hard Knocks most adults attend after they graduate from college, so I have to remind myself to dial it back a few notches.
ML: You've been a rare, strong female voice in horror for a while. Do you think that being a woman has affected your career, either positively or negatively?
NC: I've never run into sexism in the publishing industry per se, whether from the editors or fellow writers. However, I become well aware that it exists whenever I deal with Hollywood, especially in regard to Sonja Blue. If she had been a male character named 'Jason Blue', there would be three movies out by now. But I think my being a woman does affect the characters a great deal. They tend to share a sense of responsibility (or a resentment thereof) to their family. But then again, I was raised in the South.
ML: The YA world has a lot of big dog vampire books, such as Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. How does VAMPS compare?
NC: I think VAMPS is for those readers who are looking for a storyline driven by something besides boyfriend/girlfriend drama. There is plenty of who-really-likes/loves-who or who's-messing-around-behind-who's-back going on in the VAMPS series, but that's just a part of what's going on. If you're looking for a rehash of TWILIGHT, you're probably not going to like VAMPS that much. However, if you like the Anne Rice vampires series or Harry Potter, you will probably enjoy VAMPS a great deal.
ML: Sonja Blue and Cally Monture are both half-blooded. What do you think the draw is to characters who aren't of one world, or another, but are somewhere between?
NC: I feel that most women, on some level, view themselves as being caught between two worlds, whether it's mother-wife, daughter-girlfriend, student-employee, or however you want to mix-and-match it. It's also an excellent allegory for coming of age, whether you're sixteen or fifty-two. In the Sonja Blue series the underlying theme is her constant inner struggle to remain human in the face of monstrosity. In the VAMPS series Cally is being tempted to forsake her human heritage in order to fit in with her new peer group. People are in too big a hurry to throw away their humanity, whether in exchange for 'cool' or 'money' or 'fame', if you ask me.
ML: In VAMPS, I have to admit I abhorred Lilith, the reigning social queen of Bathory Academy. But by the end you'd managed to soften her snottish personality and make her sympathetic. Does muddying the good guy/bad guy trope make for a better stray, in your opinion?
NC: When writing a character like Lilith you have to remember that no one ever thinks they're a villain. Hitler, Bin Laden, and Jeffrey Dahmer all had a perfectly good reason (to them) for the evil they committed. With Lilith, I just took your basic self-absorbed, insecure, high- maintenance high school rich-biyatch and added the fact she's a, you know, shape-shifting, blood-drinking MONSTER to the mix. Part of why Lilith is the psycho-sister that she is has to do with how she was raised--or not raised--by her parents, and the society she lives in, which is VERY Darwinian and favors the strong over the "weak", and where ruthlessness is viewed as a virtue. It doesn't make her any less evil, at the end of the day, but at least you can understand where she's coming from.
ML: You've written novels, short stories, comics, nonfiction and novelizations, and edited anthologies. Do you have a favorite medium?
NC: They all have their different strong and weak suits. Comics are probably the easiest/most fun to write. I'm always excited to see how an artist interprets what I've described. I love writing short stories because you can experiment with style and format far better in short form. Novels allow you a great deal of freedom in regard to character development. Novelizations are definitely the least fun, because you're working with other people's characters, and while that can be fun if you're a fan of a particular series or character, you have and have to abide by a fairly rigid 'bible' supplied by the producers, so there isn't a lot of room to be creative and explore your own vision.
ML: Unlike a lot of authors these days you have very little web presence. Do you think this is a boon to your career or draws away from reaching potential readers?
NC: Actually, I have had a My Space page for several years now. It's athttp://www.myspace.com/golgotham I've recently created a profile with Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/profile.php?id=1501539605&ref=profile
Also, HarperTeen.com has an author page for me athttp://www.harperteen.com/authors/32665/Nancy_A_Collins/index.aspx
that features some Q&A and other fun stuff.
I used to have a LiveJournal blog for several years, but I closed it out when I changed my ISP. It was too much hassle to change all the jpegs I'd posted from my account over the years to Photobucket.
ML: What's the draw to vampires?
NC: Since they look like us, and, in fact, used to BE us, they are a perfect allegory for the human condition. Depending on what you want to focus on, they can be a symbol of man's darker drives (cruelty, ruthlessness, predatory behavior), or they can symbolize passion and romance (the love that lasts forever, the all-consuming passion that never ends). They also make excellent Byronic heroes, flawed heroes that battle with their inner demons in the name of love or beauty. They can also be painfully accurate portrayals of the perils of modern dating (the handsome charmer who seemed perfect at first, only to later reveal himself to be an inhuman monster).
ML: Do you think the vampire story will ever die?
NC: No. No more than the detective story, the love story or the ghost story will die. Indeed, the vampire story combines elements of all three. In the last 30+ I have seen several vampire-based books and movies become huge pop
culture successes: SALEM'S LOT, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, FRIGHT NIGHT, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, BLADE, FRANCIS FORD COPPOLLA'S DRACULA, UNDERWORLD, and now TWILIGHT. And then there's the upcoming sequel to TWILIGHT and the DARK SHADOWS movie starring Johnny Depp. So, no, I don't think vampires are in any danger of disappearing any time soon.
ML: What do you have in store for Cally and Lilith and the true bloods of Bathory Academy? According to your blog on Amazon.com there's a movie in the works?
NC: Actually, the producers are working on trying to turn it into a TV series. But I would be just as thrilled if they can turn it into a feature film. As for Cally, in AFTER DARK, the 3rd book in the series, her relationship with Peter is going to undergo a huge shake-up, due to circumstances beyond their control. The same goes for Lilith and Jules. Both sisters also suffer deep personal losses that change their lives forever, and are given a chance at living a dream come true. Of course, how they react to these nearly identical parallel situations is completely different from one another. Lucky Maledetto, the twins' older brother, will be playing a larger role in the third book, as will Exo. We also discover a great deal more about how Old Blood society works, and just how dangerous the Shadow Hand can be. Oh, and there's an all-vampire fashion show.
by Bret Jordan
Fran Friel is the award winning author of numerous short stories, novellas and flash fiction. In case that weren't enough she’s been editor for Dark Recesses Press and founder and writer for The Horror Library Blog-O-Rama and Fran Friel’s Yada Feast. I recently read her story collection entitled Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales and was amazed by her imagination and her ability to express it in a way that kept me glued to the stories.
BJ: I know how busy you must be so before we start I would like to thank you for taking the time for this interview. MonsterLibrarian.com.
Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales is a collection of everything from flash fiction to novella length stories. Which do you prefer writing?
FF: First, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to talk with you and the ultra-cool Monster Librarian readers. It’s a pleasure to spend some time with you.
As for my writing preference, being a Gemini, variety is the spice of life, so I enjoy all the forms you’ve described. Ultimately, it’s the story that dictates the length—some are best told in a quick flurry of words, others take time to be revealed and teased out onto the page. For me, flash fiction can really get the juices flowing. A quick 1000 words with no holds barred--no interruption from the internal editor—is a wild creative rush that I love. This fast drafting flash exercise has created the foundation for several longer pieces, many of which found their way into my recent collection.
BJ: Authors have a wide variety of sources that inspire them. Where do you get your story ideas from? For instance, the novella, Mama's Boy is a dark and twisted walk through the corridors of a serial killer's mind and the events that created the monster. Where does a nice lady like yourself come up with such twisted story ideas?
FF: I find inspiration in the oddest places: wind chimes, patterns in a quilt, crazy photos on the Internet, conversations (my husband is a marvelous source of inspiration—his mad ideas are endless). Reading fabulously imaginative writers like Jack Vance, Philip K. Dick, Alfred Bester, Julian May, Ian M. Banks, Neil Gaiman and Peter F. Hamilton (yeah, I’m a big SF/F reader) somehow supercharge my imagination. Random ideas pop in my head like little inspiration bombs when I read those writers. It’s kind of weird but wonderful.
Also, prompts from writing friends have been a great inspiration. I used to belong to AJ Brown’s Flash Fiction group at Zoetrope Virtual Studios. We had a friendly competition in which a prompt was offered and we had one hour to write a flash. It’s amazing how that kind of time constraint can force your creative juices into overdrive and silence the internal critic that tends to stifle wild abandon in the imagination. With a little practice, it creates a creative fluidity that feel marvelous and produces surprisingly effective flash stories and fodder for further story exploration.
The novella, “Mama’s Boy,” was created before my work with AJ’s group, but it did come from a flash fiction prompt. In fact it was micro-flash fiction for Valentines day. The prompt was, “And that’s why I love you.” Sweet, right? Well, my mind immediately gave me the image of a man tracing the tip of a sharp knife down the front of a naked woman’s body. I have no idea where that came from. And the weird thing is, that was well before I started writing horror stories. I suppose it was a portent.
Thank you for the “nice lady” compliment. I figure being the little sister to three very big brothers may have something to do with the source of my twisted imagination, but if truth be told, there’s a dark side in all of us. There are just some of us willing to let in the light so we can see it. Funny thing I’ve noticed, horror writers are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Maybe purging those literary demons is good for the psyche.
BJ: Under the Dryer was the wonderful story told from the perspective of man's best friend and your story Orange and Golden was also based on man's best friend. Was either story inspired by one of your pets?
FF: I didn’t realize it until after the story was written, but “Under the Dryer” was inspired by a magnificent Bull Mastiff I saw when I was in college. He was in the back of a pick-up truck in the middle of Center City Philadelphia, just sitting there alone, his big old tongue lolling out of his mouth. He was massive and amazing to me, and he appeared to be a gentle and patient soul. I never forgot him and when “dust bunnies” in my laundry room sparked my imagination, Goliath (as I thought of him) became the perfect hero for my story. I never got to meet that gorgeous old boy personally, but I hope that my story did his memory justice.
In a way, “Orange and Golden” was indeed inspired by one of my pets, my dog, Sandy, as well as all the marvelous dog friends I’ve had throughout my life. I adore them, and believe dogs to be great teachers of love, forgiveness and compassion. My Labrador, Sandy, is like a sister to me. So when I saw a story on TV about a man who lost his dog during the Katrina disaster, I couldn’t imagine how painful that would have been for me if it had been Sandy. In the TV story, the man was desolate and waiting for help with a huge crowd under an overpass in the horrible heat of New Orleans. A group of amazing people somehow found him amidst all the madness and reunited him with his dog. All I saw was this man, his face buried in the dog’s furry neck, sobbing with relief and joy. That image brought on a well of tears and sorrow that had been building inside me from watching the devastation of the Katrina disaster. I wrote that story because I had to, and I sobbed from beginning to end. More than a few people have reported that it made them cry when they read it. Dog lovers, no doubt. We’re a soft-hearted bunch.
BJ: Some authors claim that outlining a story kills their creative edge while other authors use outlines as a roadmap of where their story is going. Do you work from an outline or go with the flow?
FF: As I mentioned earlier, with flash fiction, I like to just let the story rip. With a thousand words, that’s easy (and fun) to do. With longer work, if I didn’t use an outline, the story would be a mess of wandering scenes and ideas (like my brain). I think it would frustrate the heck out me.
Personally, I use a rough outline, more of a scene list that I can reorder and make notes on as I go. Stories aren’t usually linear for me—I start with a brief description of the scene that sparks an initial inspiration. From there, I make brief scene notes as ideas for plot and characters flow. As the story emerges, the structure of the storytelling begins to reveal itself, as well.
For me, the outline is a scaffolding, making it easier for the writing to flow because I’m not struggling to figure out where the story/plot needs to go. Once the outline is complete, I fast draft to get the story written, so I don’t lose momentum. I also use the scene outline during the drafting process to notate questions about things I’m unsure of, which helps to keep me from getting hung-up on details that I can tended to later in the first re-write (I do a lot of rewriting). I’ve realized that fast drafting comes from the creative side of my brain, and the editing/rewrite process comes from the critical side of my brain. Keeping them separate stops me from getting bogged down, while satisfying both the creative and critical sides of my brain without having to express them at the same time.
Inevitably, my outlines change and scenes are added and omitted as I go along, but an outline helps me maintain theme and plot consistency, as well as the story arc. The creative process is a very individual thing, but that’s how it works for me.
BJ: Do you listen to music or do you need a quiet environment to write in? If so, what sort of music or background noise to you listen to?
FF: I’m pretty noise sensitive—kind of ADD. I lived in a small house as a kid and had to do my homework reading with my fingers in my ears or outside, because the TV and other household noises made me nutty. So, I work best in silence. I love music (used to be a musician), but it’s distracting to me when I write.
With that said, recently I’ve been using some ambient music that has binaural beat technology (hemi-sync sound technology from The Monroe Institute) imbedded in it that helps to balance brainwave patterns. The CDs I’m using are designed to improve focus, creativity and concentration, particularly good for those folks like me who can be easily distracted or overwhelmed by the environment. I’ve used this type of technology for years for meditation, but I’ve just recently been trying the focus products for writing. So far, so good, but it’s too early to tell if it will become my common practice. As an aside, my daughter has used it very effectively for college—studying, designing (architecture student) and tests.
BJ: Are there any routines you do to prepare to start writing?
FF: I don’t have any routines to prepare for writing, but the process often starts before I get up in the morning. While I’m still in that dreamy morning state of mind, I think about my stories and let my mind wander. I find it’s a really good time to work out story problem spots. Seems my mind is more flexible before I get out of bed—a sort of altered state of mind, I think.
I’ve actually embarked on a new schedule. I’m in the process of easing myself into going to bed much earlier and getting up to write between 4AM-8AM. I’ve been battling my natural sleep rhythm for years to accommodate my late owl husband, but it’s been wreaking havoc with my writing productivity. My best time is early morning and the perfect time to take advantage of that dreamy creative period—ideally to roll out of bed and right into my office without interruption. That’s the plan anyway. Right now, I’m just trying to adjust to getting to bed by 10:30.
BJ: In the biography section of your website you mention writer's groups and writer's associations. How have writer's groups and organizations helped you in your writing?
FF: I think that early on, writer’s groups were especially helpful. I needed feedback and information about the industry, since I was clueless when I began writing. As my work has evolved, the groups are more social and support related. Some of those writing group folks from the early day are now my dearest friends.
When I began, one of the places I found most valuable was Francis Ford Coppola’s Virtual Studios at Zoetrope.com. It’s a great critique site (literary fiction oriented for the most part) and the place I found my buddies at The Horror Library. The group has changed and evolved over the years, but they were instrumental in my decent into dark fiction, and I thank them for their care and support through my growing pains.
The group has gone on to thrive in the business from those meager beginnings. Boyd Harris and RJ Cavendar, both founding members of The Horror Library and dear friends, now have a publishing company called Cutting Block Press. Author, AJ Brown (fondly called my lil’ bro), writes his pants off and is now editing genre mags and mentoring a number of new authors in the group. Award winning author, Kurt Dinan, and other Horror Library luminaries have established the coveted Snutch Labs writer’s group, garnering a very impressive roster of big name interviews on their blog. The venerable Chris Perridas has established himself as a authority in the world of HP Lovecraft, and is working on a marvelous antiquities publishing project. Others have gone on to found and edit magazines, write novels, win awards, author screen plays, make films—you name it and they’re doing it. Although much has changed at the HL, whenever I visit, it’s still feels like going home.
BJ: You write a blog for Horror-Library Blog O'Rama and Yada Feast. How do you find writing blogs different than writing fiction?
FF: Sadly, the Horror Library Blog-O-Rama is on extended, if not permanent, hiatus. We had our three year anniversary in October and as founder and wrangler of the blog, it was time for me to move on to focus full-time on my own writing. I had a marvelous team of faithful bloggers, AJ Brown, Erik Smetana, Dan Naden and Chris Perridas (plus an extraordinary group of notable genre pros who blogged for us – their Second Tuesday Guest Blogs are still available on the blog MySpace site—well worth a read) but their own projects were taking off and no one was able to take the helm, so I had to put the old girl on hold. Maybe the new generation of Horror Library writers will pick up the reins someday.
I happen to love blogging, and I still blog at Fran Friel’s Yada Feast, but I do find it very different than writing fiction. For some reason, I can knock a blog out with no trouble. Once I have an idea and a picture, the words just flow like honey—sweet and easy. But fiction is a different animal for me. Remember that altered state thing I mentioned earlier, I think that’s the difference. I think blogging is more of a left brained function for me, but fiction is a deeper creative process, like sculpting, painting of composing music. The right brain functioning is more subtle and interruptions are somewhat jolting, making it harder to return to the right state of mind. It’s like meditation in a way, at least for me, it takes time to settle in and it’s uncomfortable to be disturbed once I’m there. With blogging, the phone can ring, the dog can bark and I can make a cup of tea and go right back to where I left off without missing beat.
BJ: You are an editor for Dark Recesses Press. Do you find that editing other people's stories helps you with your own writing - seeing what to do and not to do, what works and what doesn't?
FF: I’m so busted, Bret. I’ve been meaning to update the bio at my website for ages and you’ve shown me that I’ve put it off too long. Consequently, that Dark Recesses info is a little out of date, well maybe a lot, since I haven’t edited for DRP for quite some time. Forgive my negligent web-updating ways.
Even so, it’s a very good question. Editing is one grueling sport. The slush never stops coming and the advertising and subscriptions are never quite enough to let the staff breathe a sigh of relief, so it takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort to keep a magazine running, and I admire anyone who does it at all, especially those who do it well.
For me, editing was a real boon for my own writing and understanding of the industry. I got to see the gory details of what doesn’t work in a story (again and again and again), what annoys editors, and how decisions are made for what gets published and what doesn’t. Consequently, my writing improved (I hope), and I don’t take rejections personally. From working at a fiction magazine, I know there are many reasons why a story gets rejected, even if it’s a great story, and I know why rejections/acceptance notices can take forever. Editing taught me a lot of patience as a writer, and I’m grateful and better off for the insight.
BJ: What advice would you give to new writers?
FF: Make sure you’re having fun. Writing seriously can turn into work very quickly, which can also quickly take the joy out of the process. Destroying the joy often makes one’s writing flat, forced and lacking luster and imagination. Writing is hard work for most of us, but be sure to have some fun in the process.
I’d also recommend taking at least a few good writing classes if you haven’t studied creative writing in college (i.e. – Gotham Writers’ Workshops, Ed2Go – Writing Like a Pro, local college, community extension classes, etc). Learning the basics up-front can save years of confusion and rejections. The mechanics of writing isn’t rocket science, but it’s still an art and most people don’t naturally know how to do it. It looks easier than it is.
Go to the library or your local bookshop and ask for books on writing basics. There are tons of them, so ask for recommendations for the best. The technical details of structure, voice, point of view, premise, etc. may be boring as heck, but they’re worth the effort if you’re serious about storytelling and writing well.
Read widely, and live widely. Variety in reading and life will make you a better writer. Drink up what you experience in the world and let it spill out on the page in your own unique way. The world needs great stories, so let us have ‘em!
BJ: You have won several awards for your writing (Reader's Choice Best Dark Genre Fiction Collection from Dark Scribe Magazine, Reader’s Choice Flash Competition for Lamoille Lamentations in 2005, Slushpile Competition for The Horror Library in 2005). What's your secret?
You flatter me, Bret. I wish I knew a secret. Half the time I’m floundering around just trying to get words on the page. I’m not as prolific as many writers, but all I can say is that I write stories that give me that “Ooo, that could be cool” kind of feeling when I get an inspiration. I’ve learned that it’s got to have that spark for me, or it’s not worth writing. Whenever I’ve succumb to writing a story that doesn’t have that spark, I’ve felt ungrounded in the writing, and the story ultimately felt flat for my readers. Apparently, no spark for me, means no spark for anyone else. I guess that’s really what is meant by “write what you love.”
BJ: What's next for Fran Friel?
FF: I’ve got a novel in the works (and yes, it has that elusive spark), but I’ve had to put it on hold for a while to deal with some family issues. However, I’m working on a series of short story ideas that I’m very eager to get on the page and out to a few anthologies and magazines. I’m actually very excited about a few of them. In fact, they’ve been plaguing me and making me restless to get them done. I get cranky when I don’t move the story queue along. It’s like a traffic jam in the back of my mind—blaring horns, disgruntled cab drivers and fumes. Not good. Hence, my dramatic schedule adjustment. The edict from my waiting stories: “Get more writing done or we’re taking over your brain completely. It won’t be pretty, so get to it Friel!” I’m sure you get the picture.
BJ: Where can folks find out more about you?
Thanks for asking, Bret. Folks can find more info at my website: www.franfriel.com (soon to have a fancy-schmancy updated bio—thank you for the unintended nudge, Bret!). They can also find my writing antics at my blog: http://franfriel.blogspot.com/ . I’m known to haunt MySpace – www.myspace.com/franfriel; LiveJournal – www.franfriel.livejournal.com ; and facebook – search Fran Friel (there’s two of us – I’m the girl!).
It’s been a joy to be here with you, Bret. I can’t thank you and the Monster Librarian enough for the privilege.
BJ: Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule for this interview. I am looking forward to the next Fran Friel story collection.
by Rhonda Wilson
Louise Bohmer is the author of the book The Black Act. She is also the editor-in-chief of Lachesis Publishing as well as their imprint Sinful Moments Press. Additionally, she is the senior editor for Lachesis’ imprint, LBF Books.
RW: Louise, thank you for taking the time to allow me to interview you.
LB: Thank you and Monster Librarian. I really appreciate it.
RW: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
LB: Sure. I live in the Maritimes in Canada, in the province of New Brunswick. I actually moved here about 4 years ago from Western Canada, so it was a huge move for me. Since I was young, I've had a fascination with the English language and writing, reading, poetry, anything to do with literature and the printed word. I used to sit by my little book case as a kid and read my set of encyclopedias for hours. I was that geeky. My favorite sections to read were always folklore, mythology, and entries on dead poets. (Well, I also liked the colored inserts on art, birds, butterflies, and types of mushrooms.)
I've been writing off and on from a young age. About 6 plus years ago, I decided to try and take a serious stab at it, and ended up landing some editing work with a micro press, from there I landed more editing work with small presses that had larger distribution capabilities, and I've managed to build my contacts in the industry fairly well. It has been a tremendous learning experience, and I really do love gaining knowledge on how the publishing industry works.
So now, more or less, I'm a freelancer. It's demanding, but I admit I love the pace.
RW: How did you get started both in the writing and publishing industries?
LB: Basically, through contacts. I needed to build up my CV and experience first, and then it opened me up to a larger range of freelancing opportunities. Building a name as an editor as well as a writer has been crucial.
I met an editor through a writers group I belonged to, and she commented on the neatness of my work. She asked if I had ever considered trying to pursue some editing work in the small press. I said I'd certainly love to give it a stab, and she helped me get my first job. I don't work for the company now, but the experience was a great way to learn what not to do and what to do. From there, I ended up landing the position with Lachesis and their imprints, and then I received my promotion to editor in chief of Lachesis, and--I suppose it is all right to say this now too--recently I became the editor in chief of our erotic romance line, Sinful Moments Press. I'm a senior editor with our LBF Books imprint.
Writing I started back with first as a hobby, but then I chose to give it a stab professionally. I can only pursue that goal part time, what with the editing, but I am hoping with the first book out now it starts to take off a bit more.
RW: Which do you enjoy more… the writing or editing side of books?
LB: Great and difficult question. I'd have to say the writing is ultimately my favorite, just because I can lose myself in my own world, with a story close to my heart, and my characters. I do enjoy losing myself in my characters, and letting them kind of develop the plot for me, tell the story to me as we go. That's such a peaceful, relaxing place to be, but it can be a struggle, too, when a scene decides not to work with you, and you really have to pick it out and concentrate hard to bring it into focus, to put it down on the page properly.
The editing is great exercise for the writer in me. I do find my writing has improved with the amount of editing I have been doing, and all that I have learned from editing, refreshing my mind on the many grammar rules and such. Editing has made my plot arcs stronger, my point of view handling stronger, and my management of language crisper, smoother, I think.
RW: What authors do you consider your inspirations and/or do you enjoy reading when you have free time now?
LB: My favorite author would be Clive Barker, but I also enjoy reading John Everson, John R. Little, and I've been wanting to get back into Ramsey Campbell lately, also. I've only read his short work, mainly. Who else? Well, I'm very fond of Romantic poets, I admit, especially Lord Byron, William Blake, and Percy Shelley. Mary Shelley as well, and I also find Margaret Atwood inspiring. I'm also a fan of Tom Piccirilli's work, Kealan Patrick Burke, Wrath James White, and Monica J. O'Rourke.
RW: Where did you get the idea for your novel, The Black Act?
LB: The idea came from a short story I wrote about 5 years ago, called QUEEN OF SAMHAIN. Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ in English ) was the Celtic New Year, celebrated on November 1st, with our present day Halloween being Samhain eve.
This short story, set on the Samhain eve, told the tale of two young witch women who face some difficult odds due to one sister's dalliance with a King of the Woods. The twin who is not suffering enchantment is left with the decision to either save her sister or save the Queen of Samhain, a forest monarch and a consort to the King of the Woods (Oak King throughout the book).
I was asked to write a Halloween themed story for a Halloween antho, so I decided to do something with this older holiday that is part of the root of today's Halloween. Queen of Samhain was the result. Later, when I sent the reprint to
Lachesis for consideration in an anthology, Carole Spencer, the publisher, asked me to write a novel on spec, based around the world I'd created in the short story I sent in.
RW: Was it a long writing process that started and stopped over the years or was it a novel that you just wrote straight through over a short period of time?
LB: It was about a two year writing process. I was lucky in that Carole gave me a lot of time to develop the book, and she gave me a lot of leeway with publication dates. I'm so very grateful for that because this book did take significant world building. So, it was more or less a 2 year process and fairly intensive. I wrote the first draft in about 4 - 6 months, I believe, and then another 6 for the re-write, at least, then we edited and copy edited. With edits and copy edits, the whole process ended up at roughly 2.5 years.
RW: The Black Act is your first novel to be released and is listed within the dark fantasy / horror genre. Are you planning on sticking within this same category for future releases or do you have other projects in mind? What can fans expect in the future?
LB: I feel really comfortable within dark fantasy / horror, but I would like to branch out in the future. To be honest, one day, I'd even love to give a literary novel a stab. I don't want to limit myself, or get too overly comfy in one genre. But, my next book I am working on now will also lean toward horror and dark fantasy.
Tentatively titled 'Gypsy Wagon', it will deal with a young woman whose husband mysteriously dies through demons (what she calls her ghosts) attached to her past. She has a chance to resurrect him, but first she must go on a spirit quest in the woods that border her rural, secluded cabin home. She stores her husband in a large walk in freezer they keep in their basement, and sets out on her journey.
They'll be an elusive shaman in this one, a Russian gypsy grandmother, and I plan to attempt a murder mystery sub plot, among some others.
RW: What kind of setting do you make for yourself when you prepare to write?
LB: I prefer to write at night, in my office, and I like to listen to music on the headphones while writing. Usually I choose a CD that suits the mood of the story I am working on. Night, for me, is the most peaceful, calm time to write. I leave the day hours for business, editing, and e-mails, as well as some promotion.
RW: Where can readers and librarians go to find out more information regarding you and your work?
LB: Readers and librarians can surf on over to my personal site at:
http://www.louisebohmer.com or they can visit the newly launched The Black Act website at: http://www.theblackact.com . If they'd like to purchase or stock the book, they can hop over to the publisher's site and The Black Act pre-order page at: http://www.lachesispublishing.com/proddetail.asp?prod=The%5FBlack%5FAct
Or they can go over to Amazon.com to order a copy at:
It was temporarily out of stock on Amazon, but is back in stock as of today, and appears to be shipping early, so you might even receive copies before the release date.
RW: Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to allow me to interview you for the Monster Librarian site Louise.
Thank you! :-) Free promotion is very appreciated, and so helpful it's like gold, imho.
by K.D. Payne
Gord Rollo is the author of Crimson and The Jigsaw Man. He also is the editor of Unnatural Selection and Dreaming of Angels.
KDP: What inspires you to write? What was your inspiration for your last two published novels, Jigsaw Man and Crimson?
GR: For me writing will always be cathartic. I can heal what is bothering me or hurting me through fiction and it's a wonderful thing - much cheaper than a therapist I can assure you! Inspiration for story and novel ideas can come from anywhere, obviously, but I honestly think the work will be better if the writer has a personal stake in what they are writing about. If they care about the story in some way, in other words. I can write about anything you pay me to, but unless I have that emotional attachment to a piece, it won't work. It might still be a decent story, but not a great one. Jigsaw Man was my attempt to deal with the very real and life threatening disease my oldest daughter went through as a baby. Right from birth her liver was slowly destroying itself and her only chance for life was a liver transplant operation. Long story short, she ended up having to have 3 liver transplants and it was a horrible year in all our lives. Thankfully she was too young to remember it, but I still recall all of it. I sat down to try write something to take that black cloud away from me and out came The Jigsaw Man. Crimson was a very personal novel as well. I used to have recurring nightmares about the creature in the novel. He lived in my closet and had red glowing eyes. That would make him a classic boogieman-type monster, but I never once remember thinking of him as the boogieman. To me, he was always just the creature, so that is what he is called in the book. I had hundreds of nightmares about this man but thankfully I started to grow up and he went away. It wasn't until I was in college that he returned to my dreams and I was shocked to discover I was just as scared of him then as when I'd been a boy. Maybe even more scared. That started me thinking about Childhood Fear and how maybe none of us ever escape the things we were most scared of as kids. That's where the idea for Crimson came from. I think it's worth noting that since I wrote about the creature, I've never dreamed of him since. Maybe he's gone for good finally... or just biding his time. Time will tell.
KDP: Do you base your characters off of people you know, different aspects or yourself, or are they completely fictional?
GR: Always a combo of both. Fictional, of course, but I like to people watch at malls or parties or wherever, and then I use those people to help me create my characters. I usually never have a huge problem creating the people in my books but for some reason I have a hell of a time naming them. I agonize over character names and I keep thinking this should be so bloody easy. I usually end up getting a telephone book out and picking a first and a last name that way.
KDP: Who do you consider your biggest inspirations?
GR: I grew up on King and Koontz like everyone, and I still love both those masters, but I probably was more inspired by Richard Laymon and Robert R. McCammon. I just felt those guys were more down to earth and wrote my kind of language and plots. Being from Canada, I was able to get all the British editions of Laymon's novels long before Leisure Books started introducing the US readers to his body of work. His writing had flaws in it for sure, but that was part of what I loved so much about him. I suppose growing up and being a horny teenager, his plots appealed to me to - lol! Who knows? One of my prize possessions is a copy of Richard's novel Savage, which came directly from his personal library.
KDP: Do you intend to continue writing horror novels or are you planning on branching out into other generas?
GR: That's a tough question. I love horror but it's extremely hard to make a living writing it. In a perfect world, more people would be like us and read horror, but at the moment that isn't reality. So if I want to make a living as a full time writer, I have to be willing to stretch out my wings a little, which I'm looking forward to. I'll always write and read horror, but I am already working on a thriller novel, a comedy/crime caper, and a Young Adult horror/science fiction/adventure series.
KDP: How long does it take you generally from concept to finished work before you are ready to submit a book to your publisher?
GR: Depends if I can lock myself in a room or not! It's tough being a writer with kids and family commitments (not to mention working for a living), and it's always a battle trying to find that balance between real life and writing fiction. I could easily write a novel in 3 months if I could head to my office every morning and start typing. As it is, it usually takes me about 8 months now. I'm getting faster, and once you start getting hit over the head with deadlines you HAVE to, but it's all part of the learning curve. It's actually the biggest difference I'm seeing now that I've reached this level (whatever level that may be) of success. The pressure to produce quality work faster goes WAY up. You have your whole life to write your first book, and maybe several years to write your second, but after that, you need a new one every 8 months to feed the fire. Not complaining mind you - I love it - it's just the way the game works.
KDP: What is your routine when writing? Lots of coffee?
GR: No. All I require is quiet. I hear all kinds of stories of writers listening to screamingly loud music to inspire them, but I could never do that. It's loud enough with the kids running around and the televisions blaring. I prefer silence so I can hear my muse think. In the past, I nearly always would wait until the wife and kids went to bed, then write for several hours late at night. It's getting harder to do that now and find I'm far more sharp or "on" as it were, if I get up early and write in the morning before the family wakes up. Hopefully I can turn this thing into a full time gig soon and can write all day. That would be just super.
KDP: Do you have any children? How old would they have to be before you let them read your books?
GR: I have three children. Amanda is 13, and I have twins, Emily and Andrew, who will be 8 soon. I think I'd let Amanda read my books now if she wanted but she doesn't see to want to. She is mature enough, and that is what I'd go by, not age. Some kids are ready for more than others and parents should judge that way I think. Amanda's into the Twilight series, naturally, and I'm thrilled that she seems to be enjoying getting into reading of any kind so I don't try push her to read me or horror. The strange thing is that I always seem to put my kids in my books. My wife HATES what I do to sweet little Emily in the first chapter of Crimson. Andrew plays a major role in Jigsaw, and Amanda is one of the main characters in my new novel, STRANGE MAGIC. None of them are based on my kids - I'm not that insane (yet - lol!) but I like to put their names in there just for the hell of it. Maybe when they eventually read the books it will help keep them in line as teenagers:)
KDP: Are you a cat or dog person? Why?
GR: Dog. Definitely. Cats are too creepy and they always seem to have their own secret agenda. Dogs are far more loving and seem to need you more that independent cats. I have a 3 year old purebred pug named Bailey. She is stupid as a brick but I love her. The kids dress her up in all kinds of silly costumes and hats and she seems to like it. A cat would never let you do that!
KDP: What scares you?
GR: Lots of things. I think we all carry around a lot of fear and I don't think it gets better as you get older. As kids, sure we have some irrational fears, but we have so much more to worry about as adults, especially once we have children. Responsibility brings fear into play more, and that is why I think people like horror books and movies. It lets us deal with those fears in a controlled way. Like I said earlier, I was always scared of this creature in my closet as a kid and I know that if he comes back to my dreams tonight, I'd still be scared of him. I'm not a huge fan of Spiders either. I don't freak out when I see them, like some people do, but I don't particularly like them either. Scarecrows are a bit creepy to me too. Can you see where the idea for Crimson came from better now - lol! (For those who don't know, you'll find Spiders and Scarecrows in the book too, along with the creature.) I suppose I worry about normal things like cancer, and terrorism and stuff like that, but I don't let it get to me. I'm pretty level-headed and don't sweat the things I have no control over.
KDP: What do you have coming up on the horizon for your fans to enjoy?
GR: Several things. First off, I just signed a two book extension with Leisure books that will see me published by them until at least 2011. My next novel is called STRANGE MAGIC and it is finished and ready to go. Look for the mass market paperback in early 2010. The second book (my fourth with Leisure) is called VALLEY OF THE SCARECROW and I'm working on it now. That one will be out in 2011. In the meantime, I have several small press books due out this year. Cemetery Dance just release the hardcover anthology, THE BRITISH INVASION, which features my story Lost In A Field Of Paper Flowers as the lead off story in the book. It's probably my best short story I've ever written and I hope some people get a chance to check it out. Dark Regions Press is doing a deluxe and a signed limited edition hardcover for STRANGE MAGIC which will be out in a few months. I've seen the artwork and it is fantastic. Look for it around May I think. CRIMSON is also getting the small press limited edition hardcover edition too, published by Bad Moon Books and will be out this Summer. I also have a short story collection tentatively called THE DARK SIDE OF HEAVEN due out late this year too but I'll let you more about that when things get ironed out.
KDP: Where can readers and Librarians go to find out more information on you and your writings?
GR: I have a website at www.gordqrollo.com that they can visit and I have a message board over at http://horrorworld.org/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=121 and also one over on Brian Keene's site at http://www.briankeene.com/forum/index.php?board=44.0
by Bret Jordan
Joel A. Sutherland is the author of several short stories, a children's book and just this past December he launched his first novel, Frozen Blood. I read an earlier version of the story and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only does Joel write, but he also edited and spearheaded the Fried! Fast Food, Slow Deaths anthology.
BJ: Greetings, Joel. First off, thank you for sparing the time for this interview.
JS: It's absolutely my pleasure, Bret.
BJ: Now, if I understand correctly, you have the best job in the world. A librarian. How did you manage that?
JS: You've got that right; it is, pretty well, the best job in the world. (Nacho taste tester and professional video gamer might be better.) And I owe it all to my beautiful wife, Colleen. About five years ago, she saw a posting on the library's website for a summer position assisting with children's programming. It's a well-known fact that I'm a three-year-old in a twenty-eight-year-old's body, so this sounded like the ideal summer job for me. I applied and never heard back. Well, not about that position, anyway. A few months later an Information Librarian position became available, they still had my resume on file, I was interviewed and landed the job. It turned out to be my dream job. Surrounded by books all day -- what's not to love?
BJ: What turned you from librarian by day to writer by night?
JS: Well, I've actually been writing for most of my life, but I only began to take publishing my work seriously in the last four or five years. Again, I have my wife to thank for this transition. (Are you sensing a pattern?) She reads more than anyone I've ever met and she recognized a certain level of quality in my fiction, so she encouraged and pushed me into sending stories to markets. She also helped me get over those first few rejections.
BJ: You have written zombie stories, ghost stories, werewolf stories and everything in between. Where do you get the ideas from - what inspires you?
JS: Coming up with story ideas is a lot harder work than I think a lot of people realize. For me, anyway. Rarely do ideas pop out of thin air or materialize in my dreams. I have to sit and think, and think, and think, and -- you get the idea -- before I have a decent idea and a way to turn it into a decent story. Most of my ideas are formed on long drives or as I lay awake in bed.
As for those specific monsters, I've consciously made an effort to write unique takes on the classics. I've still got to create a new take on Frankenstein and on Jekyll and Hyde. They will come to me eventually, but it might take many trips from Toronto to Ottawa or many sleepless nights to get there!
BJ: What inspired you to write your new novel, Frozen Blood?
JS: The creation of Frozen Blood was like a perfect storm (pun intended). The basic idea came from a storm so big and nasty it requires capitalization, the Ice Storm, which crippled Ottawa, Montreal and Kingston back in the 90s. I wrote a 3,000 word hailstorm story for an anthology about the biblical ten plagues, but it didn't make the cut. I sent it to Lachesis Publishing for an anthology of theirs, but again, it didn't make the cut.
However, the publisher and editor enjoyed the story enough to ask if I'd be interested in extending it into a novella to be published by them (it simply didn't match the style or tone of the other accepted stories). As I worked on doing so, they then asked if I'd be able to extend it to a full-length novel. At first I had no idea how to turn 3,000 words into 80,000, but luckily a handful of inspirational 'aha!' moments struck me, and it ended up not only being an educational process, but a very enjoyable one, as well.
BJ: Frozen Blood has a main character that isn't your typical heroine. She is a wreck of a lady and it gives her a realism that is often hard to capture. What gave you the idea for such a unique character?
JS: I'm not sure, exactly, but I always wanted Tara to be conflicted. I don't think even I knew how conflicted she'd become as I started writing! When everything is really clicking, my characters tell me -- instead of the other way around -- their pasts, their quirks, and their characteristics. If you read through my writing, you'll notice that there are very few unscarred characters. Storytelling hinges, after all, on characters overcoming (or not overcoming) problems. I'm interested in exploring problems of the mind.
BJ: All through Frozen Blood I felt a growing sense of tension and doom in dozens of subtle ways. For instance, Tara and her sister Evelyn are like night and day and the contrast added to the tension in the story. What other techniques do you use to create such dynamic foreboding and horror in your stories?
JS: I decided early on that one of the keys to pulling off the tension in this novel would be the seemingly never-ending storm, and readers have told me that I was successful. Every time I thought the reader might be beginning to forget about the storm, I'd mention it or have it intensify in some way. Many of the effects of the storm -- the incessant racket, the ice-encased cars and shattered windshields, the trees shattering -- were things I witnessed during the real Ice Storm.
BJ: For the most part you are a horror writer, but there is one book that fell far from that tree and shows just how versatile of a writer you are. How did The Teddy Bears of Tomorrow come about?
JS: It was a short children's story I wrote as an assignment for a Writing for Children course I used to attend, and then promptly forgot about it. A few years later I rediscovered it on my computer, dusted it off and thought it was pretty good. I sent it to Sam's Dot Publishing for a magazine of children's fiction they publish, and heard back a little time later, asking if I'd like them to publish it as a standalone illustrated storybook.
Frozen Blood, The Teddy Bears of Tomorrow ... opportunities keep on falling in my lap. I guess I've got a lucky horseshoe hidden somewhere in my body that I'm not aware of.
BJ: Something Fishy This Way Comes, though a horror story, was a bit different than your normal horror stories. Where did you come up with the idea to combine horror with a bit of humor in that one?
JS: Most of my writing life I've focused on writing humourous stories, scripts, and novels. It's only recently that I've begun to focus more on serious fare like Frozen Blood. Something Fishy, published in Permuted Press' The Undead: Skin and Bones, is about an illiterate teenage boy who takes shelter in the public library during the zombie apocalypse. I wanted to lampoon (lovingly, of course) my dream job -- I wrote it shortly after I was hired as a librarian.
BJ: Not only have you been busy as a writer, but you have also been instrumental in publishing the Fried! Fast Food, Slow Deaths anthology. What made you want to get into the editing and publishing side of things?
JS: It wasn't something I set out to do, more like something that evolved naturally. I was upset that an anthology collapsed, taking one of my early acceptances along with it. I began to see other contributors online complaining about the loss, and wondering if they should take on the project themselves. Nothing happened, though, and I began to think to myself, "Gee, why don't I do it?" I put the call out for submissions before I had enough time to come to my senses, realizing how much work would be involved! But it was a fun and rewarding gig, and I'm glad Graveside Tales picked up the book for publication. A lot of talented writers and artists took part in the project, and I'm rather proud of how it turned out.
BJ: Lots of writers need a certain environment to write in, music or their favorite blend of coffee keeps them going. Do you have anything special you do when you write or prepare to write?
JS: It helps if I don't have easy access to the internet. Or computer games. I've been writing by hand more and more lately, and my productively has seen a nice bump. I wrote Frozen Blood largely while listening to some fairly moody music, such as Radiohead's In Rainbows and a couple of Queens of the Stone Age and The White Stripes albums. I hope some of those bands' brilliance rubbed off on my writing!
BJ: What is next for Mr. Joel Sutherland? Anything new on the horizon?
Well, unfortunately for my fiction fans, I need to focus on completing my Masters of Library and Information Studies during the next year, so I'm not going to have as much time to work on my own projects. However, I'm still going to find the time to crank out some fiction -- I'm thinking a couple of stories, and perhaps a novella and/or a co-authored novel. I've also got a few other things in the works, so never fear! You'll still be seeing my work pop up here and there!
BJ: Finally, where on the web would a fan be able to find out more about your work?
JS: Here are the main places:
-My personal website: http://www.joelasutherland.com
BJ: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview, Joel. I look forward to reading more of your unique and frightful stories.
JS: No need to thank me, Bret, and I appreciate your support. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go shush some noisy teenagers with my best librarian scowl painted across my face.
by The Monster Librarian
Melissa de la Cruz is the talented author of young adult vampire series Blue Bloods. Her latest entry in the series is Blue Bloods 3: Revelations.
ML: Melissa, thank you so much for this interview. We at MonsterLibrarian.com have a lot of questions for you and greatly appreciate your taking the time to answer them.
Can you share with us how you started out as a writer? What was your path to publication?
MDLC: I started out as a journalist. My first article appeared in the New York Press in 1996. From there, I started writing for more newspapers and magazines, sometimes as a book reviewer, sometimes as a features journalist--I interviewed a lot of B-list celebrities! I also started an online fashion magazine with a bunch of friends, and I've had stints at magazines--I was a beauty editor at Allure for a while. I sold my first novel, for adults, to Simon & Schuster when I was 27 and it was published in 2001, called Cat's Meow, about a New York fashionista. I published a couple more adult books and then S&S asked me if I would be interested in writing for teens, and I published The Au Pairs with them in 2004, and I never looked back. I love writing for teens--it's what I was meant to do, totally. But I'm glad I had my freelance and fashion background--they were great material for my books.
ML: How did you end up writing YA horror fiction?
MDLC: My editor who had bought The Au Pairs moved to Hyperion and she asked me if I had any horror ideas. Again, I've been really lucky that people have liked my books enough to ask me to write for them, instead of the other way around. I've always wanted to write about vampires--again, it was like a lightbulb--THIS is what I'm meant to do! It just felt really natural.
ML: Do you enjoy writing in the horror genre? Will we see more YA horror from you, or do you plan to go in a different direction with your writing?
MDLC: Oh yes. I love writing YA horror. Although I think of Blue Bloods as more 'fantasy'. But there will absolutely be more books in this genre. I'm writing a Blue Bloods spinoff right now called Wolf Pact, about werewolves, that I'm really really excited about, and also another new horror series I'm working on that I can't talk about right now.
ML: What would you say are the primary influences in developing the Blue Bloods?
MDLC: All the books I've loved: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Sex and the City, Flowers in the Attic, The Secret History, The Vampire Chronicles, and The Dark Tower. I always think of Blue Bloods as a younger Sex and the City crossed with a sexier Harry Potter.
ML: Did you read other YA vampire fiction before writing the Blue Bloods books?
MDLC: No. I've never read Twilight. (I did see the movie though!) I finished Blue Bloods, submitted it to my editor, and then saw Twilight in the bookstores. I was really worried, actually, that because Twilight came out before my book did, that no one would read mine. Happily, that's not the case at all. Because Twilight did so well, more kids wanted to read vampire books.
I read Stephen King's Salem's Lot and Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles when I was a teen, and those were the vampire books that influenced me.
ML: Revelations ended with a cliffhanger, leaving room for a sequel. What are your plans for continuing the story of Schuyler and the Blue Bloods?
MDLC: Hyperion has bought up until Book Six, they tend to buy two at a time. There will most likely be ten books in all. I know all the main big plot points, and I know the end. But I don't know how long it will take me to get there. Book Four will be a resolution of some ma jor plot lines and will open up a new 'trilogy'. Book Five will pick up a few years after Book Four. All the books will still feature the gang: Schuyler, Jack, Oliver, Mimi and Bliss. But there will be new characters, which I am excited about.
When I wrote the Blue Bloods mythology I had a nine-book series in mind, with three trilogies. The first trilogy kind of seeped into four books, but I want to keep the next books a little tighter.
ML: The idea of vampires as fallen angels seems to be unique to your work. What influenced you to create this concept?
MDLC: A lot of people ask me if they can find my mythology "anywhere else" because it seemed SO natural that vampires were fallen angels. And I have to tell them, nope: just in my books. I've always loved the story of Paradise Lost, I thi nk Lucifer is such a great character. I did feel like when I was making up the mythology that I was excavating the story--I was so excited when I made the connection because it just felt so perfect.
You use a more advanced vocabulary in the Blue Bloods books than we’ve seen in
other YA vampire novels. Is that typical of your writing, or does it serve a
particular purpose in the books?
MDLC: How funny you ask! I do get emails about that sometimes. I even got a hate email about my vocabulary! Someone said "Stephenie Meyer doesn't need to use words like 'ameliorate' to sound smart." Which I find so hilarious. I'm not out to impress anyone. I think that's just typical of my writing. I like big words, and I like to use them. I don't write down to my readers, I write the same exact way for my adult books. I read Dune when I was fourteen. I read Kafka and Camus at fifteen. Kids are able to read much more dense and complicated books than mine. :)
I'm not really sure what purpose it serves, but I've always loved the tone of books like Jane Austen's and Edith Wharton that very dry, very exact language.
We also noticed that you create atmosphere and setting using very detailed
descriptions, and that you create suspense effectively. How do you balance
setting, character development, and plot when you’re writing?
MDLC: Oy! Thanks for that! I try. I don't know--I like glamorous settings, and I like richly detailed books like Anne Rice's. So I always try to set the books somewhere fun. The plot is key - I work on that to death, I do a huge outline and I try to make it all dangerous and fun and cliff-hanger-y. But when you write the book the story kind of just takes a life of its own so you have to change things as it goes. It's such a cliche, but the characters have a life of their own and you just have to follow what they want to do too.
The only book I ever wrote that emerged, perfectly, from the outline was Masquerade. None of my other books were ever that easy. Sometimes you just get lucky. My husband and I had just come from the Venice Biennale, and I wanted to introduce Lawrence in a cool way.
ML: How do you organize
yourself when you’re working on several projects for a variet y of audiences
simultaneously? How do you stay motivated?
MDLC: It's difficult. But the fun is that I get to be in different worlds. I can't work on books that are too alike. I'll hear a song and I'll think, oh that's perfect for my chic-lit book, or then I'll read something and think it's perfect for Blue Bloods. It keeps me interested in a variety of things.
I think it's really helpful to be curious about the world. Writers want to know what makes people tick, and how the world works. I love learning about new stuff kids are doing, or new slang, or just, everything that's new. I like being trendy. It keeps me young and the books interesting. I'm never bored with life. There's always something new to discover.
ML: What’s your routine? Do you need peace and quiet to write, or do you prefer to write with music playing?
MDLC: I need total silence. And I need to work in an office away from my home. I used to be able to work at home before I had a kid, but now my little girl wants to play all the time and it's heartbreaking to say no. So it's easier if I just get out. Also, because I had a day job for all those years and wrote my books at work, I really like being in an office to write. The sound of typing is very soothing.
I like music on when I'm editing, but that's the only time. I like to take dance breaks though. I'll work and then I'll put on some house music and dance around for five minutes and then it's silence again and writing.
ML: Do you write a series
with a story arc in mind before you start? When you are writing a series, how
much of the plot and the details do you already have worked out in your head and
how much occurs when you are writing that specific book in the series?
MDLC: I always know the big arc, the big plot points, the big story. I work out a lot of things in my head for a long time. It took a year to write Blue Bloods. Kids want the books so quickly, but it takes a long time to do these things. I had the idea for the werewolves for a long time too, but I didn't even want to sell it until I was really able to think about it for a year. While I think there's an advantage to doing things quickly, I think writing books takes time. And it's good to let them sit in your head for a while.
ML: To wrap up, is there anything you’d like to share with librarians and readers?
MDLC: I'd like to thank all the librarians for your support--you guys are the best, and you really care about the kids. It's so nice to meet you guys on tour, and the kids are really lucky to have you. For my readers, I have a special Christmas treat for them, so check out my website around the 25th for a fun Blue Bloods surprise.
Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity for this interview. We at MonsterLibrarian.com appreciate your taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to reading your future work!
Thanks for having me!! It was a pleasure!!
by The Monster Librarian
This month we interview Steve Vernon, whose latest book Gypsy Blood has just been released from Five Star. Steve's other titles that have reviewed here are Long Horn, Big Shaggy , The Last Stand of the Great Texas Packrat , Nothing to Lose, and his contributed to Right House on the Left.
ML: Steve, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
SV: My pleasure, Dylan. I'm always happy to talk about my work.
ML: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
SV : Well, I am a bit of an odd duck. I make a living reading palm and Tarot and telling stories. I think of myself as a crazy urban gypsy.
I've been writing since the mid 80's but I feel as if I've only begun to get serious about my work.
ML: Interesting. Carnival, the main character in your new book, Gypsy Blood, is also a fortuneteller. How much of his development as a character comes from your personal experience?
SV: I drew a lot from my life and a lot more from the life I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't have lived. I often wonder what might happen if I set up a palm reading shop in some inner city retail sector and hung a sign in the window. Of course, I don't have any of my ancestors caged up inside my heart - at least none that I'm aware of.
However, Carnival, (the protagonist from Gypsy Blood), is a lot like I imagine myself to be. Quick-witted, a master of repartee, and a man of dubious action.
Mind you, in reality, I am nothing like Carnival. I often put my foot in my mouth, rarely know what to do, and think with the speed of a molasses tortoise.
ML: You mentioned you're a storyteller. That certainly comes across in your writing. Do you do any oral storytelling?
SV:I have worked for several years as an oral tradition storyteller. Working with local schools I travel from classroom to classroom and have told my tales to audiences ranging from fifteen to five hundred people. I tell ghost stories, legends, folklore and stories I've written. I'm not a quiet storyteller, either. You won't find me whispering by candlelight. I get up, I roar, I jump around.
I am competing with video games and cable television. I've got to keep the volume turned up to the max!
ML: That's great. Storytelling in the oral tradition is really becoming a lost art. Do you translate your oral stories into writing, or does it work the other way around? Or are they entirely different processes?
SV: I have translated my oral stories into written format - especially in my ghost story collections. It can work in the other direction as well. Oral storytelling or writing prose - they are all ways of tapping into the very same creative source.
ML: You've told stories at local schools. Have you written for children or teens, or thought about it?
SV: Actually, my latest project is a YA novel. It is very Canadian and has very little to do with the horror genre. I also have a children's picture book manuscript that is in development with a regional press.
ML: That's neat. I've noticed that your writing is hard to classify. Your stories have been varied in nature. Do you see yourself mainly as a horror writer?
SV: I used to. However, I also am a journalist, a poet, and even once a playwright. I am branching away from the horror genre a bit, although I still have several manuscripts sold and due to be released in 2009-2010. These days I'm just a writer. The guy stringing works together and trying to make a living out of it. I am finding it necessary to branch out in order to achieve that financial autonomy.
ML: When you're writing a story, how do you go about it? Do you write in bits and pieces? Do you listen to music?
SV: I rarely listen to music. I find it distracts me. Ideally I like to start up a project knowing where I'm beginning and where I'm ending - that is, the first scene and the last. Then I just drive from one to the other. Lately, I've found myself a little stretched for energy. The time I dedicate to writing has become a little harder to manufacture - I'm so busy promoting current works as well as just making a living. For example, today I spent about six hours at a book signing at the cruise ship dock, in order to sell 34 copies of my ghost story collections. That's a lot of time spent, but it's necessary to get the books out there. I am a hand seller.
ML: You sound pretty invested in getting your ghost story collections out there.
SV: Well, I have been telling these stories in schools across the Maritimes and the Nova Scotia School Board was so pleased with the book Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories From Old Nova Scotia that they ordered 560 copies for inclusion in the in-class libraries of every Grade 11 clasroom in the province. Both collections are a big hit with school age kids and grown-ups alike.
I see them as a natural bridge into the YA market - which is where I am aiming myself. In addition to the hand-selling I am currently working on my second article for FATE magazine, a Halloween article for a tourist website, a paranormal column for Shroud magazine and my YA novel. I am building a highway, I guess.
I should add, that although my YA novel doesn't have any elements of horror in it - there are certainly strong elements of the paranormal in it.
ML: Sounds like you are very busy! The important question is, does your YA novel have a vampire?
SV: No sir. It does have a sea serpent. And bagpipes.
Bagpipes are very scary.
Getting back to horror, what would you say are the primary influences on your writing? Did you start out as a horror reader, or did your inspirations come from somewhere else?
SV: I started out reading neo-pulp - Doc Savage, Hardy Boys, Fu Manchu, The Executioner, Leo Kessel's SS stories, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. That's where I learned to write. I also picked up every horror novel I could find as well as the entire run of Dark Shadows - both comic book and novel format.
ML: How would you say your early reading influenced your writing?
SV: It gave me a sense of pacing. It gave me an ear for dialogue and a need for clarity.
Hemingway taught me how to say it straight. Bukowski tipped me off to wild metaphors.
ML: Your horror writing seems to have a fair amount of humor infused into it.
SV: I like a good laugh as much as any other guy. I find that the muscles required for concentrated belly laughing are awfully close to the muscles required for a blood-curdling scream.
ML: Getting back to Gypsy Blood, it looks to be the first book in a cycle. What should we expect from book two?
SV: That's a pretty good question. I have a rough outline of book two - however the publisher of Gypsy Blood - Five Star/Gale/Cengage - has just announced that it is getting out of the horror/fantasy line. That leaves the future of the Gypsy Blood series in a state of dangerous unpredictability. That isn't a good place for a palm reading protagonist to find himself in.
ML: I guess even fortunetellers can't always know the future.
SV: Heh. I was aiming in that direction.
Glad you picked up on the pun.
ML: Is there anything you'd like to share with librarians and readers before we wrap this up?
SV: Well, I could tell them to keep an eye out for my second novel due out from Delirium Press next year. I could also tell them to keep an eye out for my four author - four novella weird western collection from Cemetery Dance (with Keene, Lebbon, Curran and myself). I could also mention that I've got a story sold to Shivers V, from Cemetery Dance.
I could also mention that they ought to pick up my new novella LEFTOVERS from Magus Press, available for pre-order at Horror Mall or directly from the publisher. I could also tell them to look for my third ghost story collection due out next Spring. However I am far too modest to mention any of these accomplishments.
So let's pretend I didn't say a thing, shall we?
ML: Thanks for not sharing all that great news.
SV: What great news?
ML: It sounds like you are reaching out in many directions. We will look forward to seeing more of your outrageous writing in the future.
by Bret Jordan
Rio Youers is an up and coming author to keep your eye on. A year or so ago I reviewed his novel, End Times for MonsterLibrarian and was just awestruck by his capabilities as an author. This led me to go to his website, www.rioyouers.com, and download Old Man Scratch which just so happens to be one of the best short stories I've ever read. Imagine Grumpy Old Men as a horror story. It had humor, horror, and heart, taking the reader from laughing to crying to cringing. After that I read Mama Fish and was again blown away by his capabilities. His latest release, Everdead, is a novel that I plan to be the first in line to get.
BJ: Hello, Rio. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to allow me to interview you.
RY: It’s my pleasure. I like interviews, because I get to tell the truth, which is often a welcome interlude from the satisfying, but sometimes taxing, process of writing fiction.
BJ: At what point in your life did you decide to start writing, and why horror?
RY: I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I know that’s an unexciting, cliché answer, but it happens to be true. At some point it graduated from being a child’s hobby to a young man’s passion. I was probably sixteen years old when I thought that being a writer would be a good way to make a living, and I started submitting to agents and publishers at around that time. Without success, obviously; I was a passionate writer at sixteen, but not a good one. I soon amassed an impressive pile of rejection letters, and mustered encouragement from the less-scathing ones. I kept plugging away – not because I wanted to be published, but because I loved writing stories – and eventually the successes came. But it was a long time coming, and there is still a long way to go.
Why horror? I really don’t know. My stories have always had a dark edge. I guess that’s just the way my mind leans. I enjoy all kinds of books and movies. I loved Kung-Fu Panda and I thought Hancock was great fun. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is one of my favorite books of all time, and I still cry openly when I watch It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas. But when I write, it’s like my brain becomes this charnel house filled with vaults and alcoves that no normal person would dare look into. I think that if I had written It’s a Wonderful Life, Bedford Falls would have been filled with vampires and cannibals. “Every time a bell rings, a town’s person is eaten alive.” Yeah … it may have lost its universal rating, and some of its festive cheer, but it would have been fun.
But why? Seriously, I don’t know. Dr. Phil probably has an answer, but I’m afraid I don’t.
BJ: What movies, books and authors have influenced you?
RY: I don’t think there’s a horror writer alive today that hasn’t been inspired, to some degree, by Stephen King. It’s not just that he’s a great writer – he’s a great storyteller. The great American storyteller, and I think the future will remember him as fondly as Hemingway or Steinbeck. Graham Greene is also a huge inspiration to me, because he writes so beautifully. You get the sense that every sentence is constructed with the utmost care. His books are often short, but they are powerful and incredible pieces of work. And then there’s Peter Straub, who falls somewhere between the two: a great storyteller who writes beautifully. He was the first writer to teach me that you can write wonderful, spooky tales, and you can write them with care and consideration, and without apology. Most of the books I had read up until the time I read Ghost Story were about killer bugs or brain-munching zombies, but I found that you can be just as terrifying – no, more so – with a carefully selected turn of phrase. It was a huge lesson to me. I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Straub read my new novel, Everdead. It’s somewhat intimidating, I have learned, to have one of your heroes read and critique your work. Probably the next time I feel like this will be at my Final Judgment. But Mr. Straub enjoyed my novel, which made me very happy, and made the whole ride so worthwhile.
As for books and movies … well, the list is long. A few stand-outs would be Stand by Me, An American Werewolf in London, Pulp Fiction (I love the dialog in Tarantino’s movies – part comic book, part Elmore Leonard). And books … obviously the works of the authors named above, and a trove of other titles, including Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Dracula (of course), and a book called The Crosskiller by Marcel Montecino, which was outrageous and violent and fun, and it taught me not to be afraid to push the boundaries.
But I find inspiration in a lot of things: good people, good conversation, good music. The right melody at the right time can lift me like a bird. I love when that happens, when you get that glow inside you, that purpose, and you are moved to fill the page with words. To quote Freddie Mercury: “It’s a kind of magic.”
BJ: I had a blast reading End Times. It was unlike any other horror novel I've ever read, and the main character wasn't the typical “hero” type. What inspired you to write the story?
RY: End Times was a conveyor book. It moved along on its own and I had to run alongside to keep up. I really feel as if the story was totally in control, and that I had very little to do with it; I was just a host – a way for the story to be told. It was a thrilling experience, because I didn’t know what was going to happen.
The spark for the novel came from a dream in which I was following a beautiful young woman through the woods, and I noticed that she was floating - that her feet were not touching the ground. I woke up wanting to know more about her, believing she had a story to tell. She floated in my mind for a little while, and eventually her purpose emerged. I started to write about her, and then the story got its hooks in me and dragged me along for the ride.
It’s difficult – maybe even impossible – to give a concise answer as to what inspired me to write End Times, simply because the book wrote itself.
BJ: In End Times you deal quite a bit with the American Indian. Did you have to do a lot of research about them?
RY: Yes, an extensive amount; while the book was happy to write itself, I still had to do all the necessary research. But I like research. It always seems like puzzle-solving to me. And the subject was fascinating, too, which makes the process more enjoyable. I read several books to give me the flavor of life on a modern-day reservation, and the Internet proved extremely valuable. This was eight years ago, so there wasn’t as much information on the ’net as there is today, but I found what I was looking for. I was also able to e-mail people for the answers I couldn’t find. For instance, the troubled protagonist, Scott Hennessey, is given a Lakota name when he goes to the rez: Nabokazunte Nichola, which means “No Fingers.” That’s the sort of thing you don’t find on the Internet, no matter how much digging you do. I had to e-mail a Lakota language center for the translation. I find that most people are happy to help, provided you ask politely.
The Native American research, while challenging, was actually a cakewalk compared to some of the other research I had to do for End Times. I’m thinking about the articles and papers I read on self-mutilation. I’m thinking about the reformed heroin users I spoke to, in depth, about their illness. If End Times was going to work, I needed Scott Hennessey to be believable, and that involved some brutal research. One of the questions I am often asked by people who have read End Times is: “Have you ever taken heroin?” The answer is no, but the fact that the question is asked means that Scott’s illness is accurately depicted.
BJ: Old Man Scratch is in my top ten list of all time favorite short stories, probably in the top three of that list. Where did the idea for that story come from?
RY: A dead raccoon gave me the idea. It was lying in someone’s driveway, all stiff and dusty. It occurred to me that the owner of the house would have to come out, probably with a shovel and rubber gloves, and remove the unfortunate creature. I wondered if this was a common occurrence, if the owner had a specific shovel they used for the job. The roadkill shovel. And then I got to thinking about roadkill, and how it always seems to disappear inside of a day or two. This was enough to kickstart my imagination. I moved a few ideas around in my head, and eventually had a blueprint to work from.
Old Man Scratch is a story that really grew on me as I was writing it. The characters took hold in my mind, all of them, and they became real to me. They became friends. I think that’s when you know that your story is going to be good – when you can feel your characters breathing from the page.
It’s also a story that started out being about one thing (what happens to the roadkill?) and ended up being about something else entirely (age and aloneness). When that happens, when the story moves in and steers itself west instead of east, it’s a clear indication that the story is in control, that it’s writing itself, and you just have to let it happen. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s like Pinocchio turning into a real boy.
BJ: Mama Fish is another story that I read and really enjoyed, it sucked me in and made me keep reading until it was finished. If I remember correctly it takes place in America. Was that hard to write, with you being from England?
RY: I’ve been living in North America for seven years now, so it feels natural to set my fiction here. It’s just a question of nailing the little details, and that comes down to puzzle-solving again – doing the research. I blitzed the first draft of Mama Fish and didn’t worry about the details. I just wanted to get the story down. Second time through I made sure that all my strings were tight and in tune. Most of the novella is set in and around a high school. I went to school in England, and my only experience with American high schools has come through movies like The Breakfast Club and Porkies (which I assume to be accurate representations … right?). I have a good friend – he’s as American as apple pie - and I sent him a copy of the story when it was mostly done. He read it, checking for the inconsistencies that might come from an English mind … checking to see that it read like an American story, told from an American’s perspective. He e-mailed back to say that I’d nailed it, which was pleasing. He also loved the story, which pleased me even more.
Like all my stories, it seems, there was a good deal of research that went into Mama Fish, from urban development in the American northeast, to spinal injuries and rehabilitation for paraplegics. These are subjects I know (or knew) nothing about. But you have to go prospecting. You have to solve those puzzles. And when you do – when it all comes together – it can be extremely satisfying.
BJ: Now, you have a new vampire novel coming out. I haven't read Everdead, but it takes place in a European hot spot, doesn't it? What is that place like, and why did you decide to set your vampire novel in that location?
RY: San Antonio is in Ibiza, which is a little island off the coast of Spain, and every summer it is besieged by (mostly European) tourists who are looking to exorcise their frustrations with a little fun in the sun – which usually involves sex, drugs, and hard-driving techno music. I went there back in the nineties. I was younger then, and better-equipped to deal with the excesses of youth (and techno music). The place blew my mind. There are no rules or inhibitions. Anything goes. I always describe it to Americans as Spring Break on steroids, but even that doesn’t come close. A number of things occurred to me in the two weeks that I was there. Firstly, there isn’t a lot of activity during the daylight hours. Most people are sleeping off the night before – crashed out by the pool or on the beach. But as soon as the sun goes down, the whole town comes to life. It becomes a loud, bright carnival. The second thing that occurred to me is that caution is pretty much left behind. It’s not included when you’re packing the sunscreen and your passport. The rule that we’re all taught as children, Don’t Talk to Strangers, just doesn’t apply. There’s a lot of stranger-talking going on. And there are a lot of people, drunk, high, or just swooning in the excitement of the island, who disappear with complete strangers at the end of the night. Which is pretty scary, when you think about it. Another thing that occurred to me – because the fundamental things certainly do not apply – is that you can go missing for two or three days before alarm bells start ringing. I saw it happen. People just disappear for a couple of days. Having fun. Doing their own thing. It’s a reckless environment.
I got to thinking that San Antonio in Ibiza would be the perfect place for a vampire. It is alive with young, sexy people who are willing – almost encouraged – to walk with strangers. Most importantly, they all come out at night. If I was a vampire, I wouldn’t be terrorizing villagers in some Transylvanian village … I’d be in Ibiza, wearing designer clothes and dancing the night away. Until I got thirsty, and then my choices would be bountiful.
Also, it’s just a great place to set a vampire novel. It’s fast-paced, exciting and exotic, and it gives the story a breath of originality. And I believe that when you write within the vampire genre these days, you have to strive to do something different.
BJ: I've seen the cover by Alan M. Clark and the blurb from Peter Straub and I'm dying to get my paws on Everdead, but I'm curious about your vampires. Are they the suave and haughty vampires of legend, are they vicious killers who are driven by their appetites, or are they somewhere in between?
RY: That’s a good question. There are two types of vampire in Everdead – again, striving to do something different. Luca Giancarlo Carzola is my main vampire, the central character in the book. He’s young (well … he’s over a hundred years old), handsome, and Italian. He’s more in the suave-and-haughty category of vampire, and was actually inspired by Christopher Lee in the Hammer Horror Dracula movies of yesteryear. I don’t mean that he’s fifty years old and wears a cape, but Christopher Lee’s vampire always had a powerful and hypnotizing presence that I was keen to have Luca share. That being said, he’s still essentially an animal – sleeps in crates and in the earth, or wherever there is darkness.
Then we have The Originals: a storm of gargoyle-like creatures – the first vampires, who hunt the darkness for their inferior descendants. They are vampire legend, and it is said that you’ll only see them once. The Originals are vicious killers. No doubt about it. So Luca becomes the hunter and the hunted, which offers the story an interesting dynamic.
I wanted to boogie with tradition, but also offer something unique. Aspects of Everdead pay homage to some of the great vampire stories and movies I have enjoyed over the years. But the overall feel of the book is quite unique. It’s fun and frightening. It’s light and dark. Peter Straub certainly enjoyed it. He actually e-mailed me prior to reading it, basically warning me not to get my hopes up because he isn’t normally a fan of vampire fiction. But he read Everdead – in a state of absolute pleasure, by all accounts – and that filled my long-suffering writer’s heart with so much pride that I thought it would split open. It’s all a question of preference at the end of the day, but I think, with Everdead, that I did a pretty good job.
BJ: I know when I write I need peace and quiet and my own environment. Is it the same for you, or can you write anywhere while listening to music?
RY: Yes. I can write anywhere, at any time. I’m not bothered by noise or the things that might be going on around me. I just zone-out, find the hole, and disappear. I write on trains and in bars. I write in crowded rooms or empty spaces. I can write in a box. I can write with a fox. And always shorthand (I only ever use my computer when I’m at home). Ideally, I am sitting at my kitchen table, listening to MLB Gameday Audio. When I edit and revise, I prefer ruthless, ball-crunching rock and roll.
BJ: What's next on the Agenda for Rio Youers? Are you working on anything now?
RY: Absolutely. I’m always working on something, and that’s just the way I like it. Right now I’m moving toward the end of my new novel. It’s called Souls Fall and it seems like I’ve been writing it for approximately eight hundred years. The end is in sight, however – no more being sidelined by other projects. And I’m extremely happy with it so far. I need to put it in a box and shake the crap out of it (while listening to ball-crunching rock and roll, of course), but I’m confident that there will be a pretty damn good story at the end of it.
Souls Fall should be published next year. I’m also looking to publish a collection of my shorter works, which will include Mama Fish and Old Man Scratch. I need one more kickass story for the collection, though, which I will write after finishing Souls Fall. I already have the idea – or think I do, but I’m willing for the story to turn west instead of east and take me for a ride. With any luck, the collection will be published in the second half of ’09.
BJ: Finally, I know your website is www.rioyouers.com. Are there any other online links for your fans?
RY: I have a MySpace page that is covered in dust. I need to do something with it, when I get time. I look at it every now and again – think to myself, I really need to do something with this. And then I hit the X in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and forget about it for several weeks. Other than that, I would encourage people to visit my favorite sites. I usually lurk, and occasionally post, on the forum at www.gravesidetales.com, which is filled with great people who share my love and enthusiasm for the genre. I’m a lurker at The Horror Mall, too, which is also brimming with great people – both readers and writers. www.joehillfiction.com is another favorite website. I think Joe Hill is an incredible talent, and the most exciting new writer to hit the scene since Clive Barker. I also spend way too much time on You Tube. I watch the same video over and over again, and never seem to get bored of it. Just type in “Jumping Lizard” and you’ll see what gives me my daily dose of the chuckles.
BJ: I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview and I wish you the best with Everdead and your career as a writer. You can bet I will be keeping an eye out for Rio Youers books.
RY: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. But now, just thinking about “Jumping Lizard” … I just have to go and watch it again.
by Bob Freeman
It just wouldn’t be Werewolf Month without having a chat with everyone’s favorite shapeshifting scribe, Steven E. Wedel. The author of the critically acclaimed Werewolf Saga, which includes Murdered by Human Wolves, Shara, Ulrik, and the short story collection Call of the Hunt, Steven is also a family man and a high school English teacher in his home state of Oklahoma. So, armed with the cyber-equivalent of silver bullets and wolfsbane, I stalked the literary lycanthrope beneath the light of an Internet full moon and cornered him with some magickally charged questions:
Bob Freeman: First, I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us here at the Monster Librarian for Werewolf Month.
Steven E. Wedel: Thank you for having me, Bob! Werewolf month, huh? Man, I love the sound of that. Makes me want to build up the fire and put on my wolfskin belt for some dancin’.
BF: So tell me Steve, what led you down the path of writing werewolf fiction?
SEW: I was just writing my biography at first. Oh, wait. I wasn’t supposed to tell that part.
About 15 years ago I had this image of a woman standing over the corpse of her husband and saying, “I told you I’m a real bitch during my monthly.” She meant something a little more than what my wife becomes during that time of the month. That woman became Shara and that was the climactic scene in the short story “Biological Clock,” which was first published in Mausoleum magazine in late 1993 (and later included as a chapter in the novel Shara).
Later, in a writing class I was taking, I had to develop a character and put her into a situation the teacher dictated. I decided to go with this Shara character I’d created, and pretty soon I’d brought her into contact with Josef Ulrik and the thing just blossomed and grew and now is up to four books.
BF: I’m a huge fan of the werewolf mythos myself and have always felt that they were an underused horror trope, not only in literature but in cinema as well. For you, who got it right? What’s your favorite werewolf story?
SEW: Sure, and you’re a damn fine author of the lycanthropic tale, yourself, Mr. Freeman. Your new book is gonna rock some socks. But wait! This is about me.
Okay, confession time. I don’t read that much werewolf fiction. On the one hand, I don’t want to read what someone else has done and think they’ve copied me (they probably didn’t, but I have this huge … ego). And, I don’t want to subconsciously copy things others have done. It can be a rather limiting subgenre, so I just try to avoid getting incestuous.
That said, I loved Gary Brandner’s first THE HOWLING and Kelley Armstrong’s BITTEN. The canonical werewolf text still has to be Robert Louis Stevenson’s THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. Although Mr. Hyde isn’t actually a werewolf, it’s obvious that Stevenson knew the appeal of the beast, and the potential danger inherent in releasing your inner monster.
There’s also Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris. Everyone who loves the beasties should read that one.
The most recent werewolf novel I read was W. D. Gagliani’s Wolf’s Trap, which I really enjoyed. I bought Ray Garton’s Ravenous a while back. I love Ray’s writing and look forward to reading this book … eventually.
I read a lot of non-fiction about werewolves … inquisition trials, legends, even some of the hokier stuff where the “werewolf” is supposed to be someone possessed by the devil in modern times.
BF: How about on the silver screen? For me, I always dug Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf starring Oliver Reed, though Lon Chaney Jr’s portrayal of Larry Talbot in Universal’s The Wolf Man was probably the quintessential werewolf film. Your thoughts?
SEW: I love The Wolf Man. No doubt about it. The first horror movie I can remember watching and liking was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. But, for all its influence and many great things, that first wolf-man movie is pretty flawed. The cops claimed the victims’ throats were torn out, but poor Larry only seemed to strangle them. I think house cats were mutilating the bodies after Larry killed them. And people saw wolf prints, but did you see Larry’s feet? Seriously, it’s a great film if for no other reason than Curt Siodmak compiling, creating and solidifying what we think we know about werewolves today.
My personal favorites are The Company of Wolves and The Howling (only the first one!!!). I couldn’t count how many times I’ve watched The Company of Wolves, but every time I do I find something new to ponder. It’s just an unbelievable film. The Howling was the first “modern” werewolf movie I watched. It was on VHS, and it really creeped me out for a while.
A close third would be Dog Soldiers. That is one great movie. And the werewolves aren’t even CGI.
The Hammer movie is great, too. Hammer did a lot of things right with a lot of their movies. Oliver Reed did a fantastic job of portraying the werewolf there. And it’s the best adaptation of Endore’s novel.
BF: All right, I can sense that you’re chewing at your leash. I get the feeling you’re wanting to talk about something. That wouldn’t be your new release from Scrybe Press would it? What was it called again?
SEW: I don’t remember.
Oh wait! It’s all coming back to me now. The book is called Ulrik. It’s the third volume of The Werewolf Saga and was just released at the end of June. I’m incredibly excited to have it out there. It’s almost 400 pages of the most complex plotting I’ve done so far.
BF: I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to getting my oversized mitts on Ulrik. It’s been a long time coming. Why don’t you take us back to where it all started, with Shara.
SEW: That’s a long and winding road! I already told you about the birth of Shara and Ulrik. I finished the first draft of Shara in 1997, I think it was. I was taking another creative writing class, this time with mystery author Carolyn Wheat. When I started submitting the novel I came up with this idea that I would become to werewolves what Anne Rice was to vampires. Yeah, I dreamed BIG. By this time Mausoleum had published three werewolf stories by me and another had appeared in a small anthology. I collected those four, wrote four new ones and put them in a saddle-stapled chapbook I made myself and gave away or sold pretty cheap. The idea was to get my name out there and attached with werewolves. That was the first edition of Call to the Hunt. The campaign wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped … but now there are a few people out there who really want one of those original copies. Weird. They were just something I made on the copier at work.
Anyway, Shara was published by 3F Publications in 2003. The publisher had a lot of enthusiasm, but not much business savvy. Soon after publishing Shara (and several other books), the company folded. As 3F was going through its death throes, Scrybe Press was just getting started. Nathan Barker had read Shara and liked it and asked if I had anything else. Well, I’d written Murdered by Human Wolves with the intention of giving it away to everyone who bought Shara through Shocklines bookstore, but that never happened. So I offered it to Nathan, who was specializing in affordable chapbooks, and he accepted it.
About a year later I got the rights back to Shara and Nathan bought the book, and the rights to be the publisher of all The Werewolf Saga books. He dubbed Murdered by Human Wolves as Book One. At the time, I wasn’t thrilled about that. I saw MbHW as a supplemental thing and not really a part of the series. But, one of the main characters from that one plays a huge role in the new book, so it all worked out very well.
I wrote the first few chapters of Ulrik right after finishing Shara in ’97. But, at the time, I didn’t know where to go with the story after Joey ran away. It took me about eight years to figure it out. Okay, well, I might have figured it out sooner if I’d tried, but I was busy writing other stuff and going through some pretty big life shifts.
I’ve begun the next book, too, but it’s stalled at the moment. Based on the ending of Ulrik, I have to make some hard decisions about a couple of key characters, and the muse hasn’t decided which way to jump just yet. So I’m working on something else.
BF: My own experience with your work started with Murdered by Human Wolves. Researching that story must have been fascinating. It’s so compelling.
SEW: Well, thank you! Actually, the research was incredibly rushed. I’d lost my job with a major energy company when it merged with another company. I had to move back to the Oklahoma City metro area, where I took a $30,000 pay cut and went back to my journalism career for a short time. While I was working at that newspaper the photographer told me about Katherine Cross’s grave and how he went there with his wife and one of her friends who claimed to be a witch. The “witch” took some dirt off Katherine’s grave, put it in a jar she then put on her mantle at home and later had to get rid of it because it was creeping her out. Naturally, I had to look into it.
I was barbecuing and talking to the publisher of 3F on the phone about promo stuff and mentioned what I’d heard. She told me to write what I thought would be a short story for that Shocklines promotional chapbook, but she needed it quickly. I got lucky and found Mary Franklin through the Oklahoma City Ghost Club and she provided the bulk of what I used in the story. The people in Konawa either had never heard of Katherine Cross, or wouldn’t talk about her.
What Mary told me was very fascinating. I put pretty much all of it into the feature article in the back of the book.
BF: So, tell me about teaching high school English. Is it as horrifying as it sounds?
SEW: Yes. The school where I work is an independent district within Oklahoma City. We have an incredibly high percentage of students on free or reduced lunch, which is the standard they use to determine the level of poverty in the district. Only about 24 percent of our graduating seniors go on to college. There’s racial tension, fights, departmental politics, all that kind of stuff.
But, I’ll tell you this. I’ve had a lot of jobs, and have earned a lot more money than I make as a teacher, but this is the only job I really love. It can be incredibly frustrating when you’re trying to teach the subtlety of Animal Farm to a bunch of sophomores who’ve never heard of the Soviet Union and are more worried about whether they’ll go home to their meth-addicted mother or to state custody after school. But when a student comes to me and says, “Mr. Wedel, your English class was the funnest class I’ve ever had, and I really learned a lot,” I remind them that “funnest” isn’t a word and get all warm inside. The great thing about teaching English is that you can really talk about anything because there’s literature to cover it.
It’s a hard job, though. Not the planning, lecturing and grading. The hard part is when you have a student crying because she’d rather stay in school than go home, or because her dad drank all the family’s money and she hasn’t eaten for two days. But they’ll beg you not to tell because state or foster care is worse than what they have. There’s nothing harder than seeing that kid wipe her eyes and leave. But there’s nothing better than the reward of seeing that kid graduate despite all the odds, too.
BF: Who are you reading now? What authors inspire you?
SEW: Lord help me. I’m reading Chaucer. I got through 42 years of life and earned a master’s degree without having to read The Canterbury Tales, but this fall I start teaching Advanced Placement Senior English and I have to foist Chaucer on the kids, so I’m subjecting myself to it now. I’m sure it’s sacrilege for an English teacher to say this, but I just don’t care for Chaucer and Shakespeare.
I’m teaching summer school right now, and it’s remediation for kids who did poorly on reading exams during the school year. I had them read Stephen King’s The Long Walk, and we were able to learn parts of speech, vocabulary, personification, setting, plot, theme … all that hoity-toity stuff without the drudgery of archaic language.
BF: The life of a writer can be very lonely at times, especially when you’re locked in the throes of battle with your muse. How do you deal with the isolation? What is it that pushes you?
SEW: Bob, I have four kids at home. Two are teenagers and the other two are ages 7 and 6. Do you know what I would give for some isolation? For five hours without hearing, “Dad, can I have …” or “Dad, will you take me to …” or “Dad, [insert kid’s name] just hit me”? I get to write in spurts, and if I’m lucky I’ll get 30 minutes uninterrupted. A lot of times it gets to where my family can’t be around me because I’m grumpy and on edge because I need to write – NEED it like a junkie – and then my wife will take the kids somewhere and I’ll get an entire afternoon to work.
What pushes me is the story. I want to tell it. I want to explore it. I seldom know exactly where I’m going when I set out on a literary adventure. I just start writing and things happen on the page. I’m lucky in the fact I can write quickly and can slip right back into a scene after a long interruption.
BF: I know that we authors can be a superstitious lot. Do you have any rituals that you perform? Music you listen to while you work?
SEW: No, not really. I do listen to a lot of dark instrumental music when I write – Midnight Syndicate, Nox Arcana, Danny Elfman movie soundtracks – but it isn’t necessary. I can’t listen to music with lyrics.
I had a marble egg I used to roll in my hands while thinking about a scene or character, but that was replaced by a set of Chinese jingle balls Marcy Italiano gave me.
Sacrificing a goat at the start of every new chapter doesn’t count, does it?
BF: What’s on the horizon for Steven E. Wedel?
SEW: Next up is the publication of a short story called “Okie Werewolf Seeks Love” in Graveside Tales’ anthology The Beast Within. This deviates from the established rules of my Werewolf Saga, and is played for the humor.
After that, Bad Moon Books will be releasing a limited edition novelette called Little Graveyard on the Prairie. This one is about an Oklahoma farmer with Alzheimer’s disease, a ruined farm and an estranged ex-wife and daughter. He’s taken to growing a new crop on his farm. Now, he’s haunted by his own memories and maybe by more than that. It’s a very personal book for me; the farm is the one where my paternal grandparents lived, and my grandpa suffered with Alzheimer’s for years before he passed away. It’s a horrible, unfair disease, and something I really fear. As a result, I think this little book may be the best writing I’ve done. There’s one scene that still makes the hair stand up on my neck when I read it, and that just doesn’t happen when I read my own writing.
Beyond that, I don’t know. I have other stuff floating around, but those projects haven’t found homes yet.
BF: Any last words?
SEW: I’m a shameless pimp. Buy my books!
Nah, you’ve covered a lot, and I’ve rambled on long enough.
BF: Where can we find you online?
SEW: My main site is www.stevenewedel.com. It’s a brand new site, done on Wordpress, which I love and highly recommend. I have another site dedicated just to The Werewolf Saga. It’s at (get ready), www.werewolfsaga.com. Both sites link to MySpace, a bulletin board, etc. I’m spread out over the Internet like some kind of webcam whore. Watch me wiggle, watch me dance. Pull your wallet outta your pants!
BF: On behalf of the Monster Librarian I’d like to thank you for taking part in Werewolf Month with us and I wish you the best of luck with Ulrik. I’ve been a fan since the first time I had the chance to read your work and I look forward to bigger and better things from you in the future.
SEW: Thank you, Bob. I really appreciate that, and that you took the time to interview me for Monster Librarian. It’s one of the best horror sites on the Web. (Next to Horror World, of course! Love ya, Nanci!) Best of luck to you with your new book, too.
Interview with Daniel Waters
by The Monster Librarian
Daniel Waters is the author of the recently released young adult horror title Generation Dead his debut novel which is reviewed here.
ML: Hi Dan, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.
Daniel Waters: Hello Monsterlibrarian--or can I call you Dylan? Thanks for having me, and thanks for reviewing Generation Dead.
ML: You're welcome. Can you tell us a little bit
about yourself? Your bio on the book is pretty mysterious, and of course,
you can call me Dylan.
Daniel Waters : Thanks.
Re: the bio--Intentionally mysterious --better to seem mysterious than dull, I suppose.
Husband, father of two. I've lived in Southeastern CT since I was three.
Daniel Waters: I write, read, and have an absurdly
large music collection. Two interesting facts: I cleaned up the Pentagon and
have done CD jacket photography for Thor, the god of rock.
ML: That sounds like great fun. Did you start out
intending to write for teens?
Daniel Waters: Not at all. The conscious decision
to write for teens came after my second foray "out of the cave" to try an
advance my writing career through networking rather than just blind
submissions. I attended WHC 2005 in NYC and there was a YA panel, and the
editors sounded like they were practically begging for manuscripts. One of
my friends then pointed out to me that out of the three or four of my ms he
had read, I'd had a teen protagonist in each one. I had the idea for
Generation Dead rattling around in my head, and so I pitched it on the spot
to one of the editors after the panel, and she invited me to send it when
Daniel Waters : That being said, now that I'm
officially a YA author, I'm exactly where I want to be.
ML : So did you read other YA books before writing
Daniel Waters : Not since I graduated high school!
And then it wasn't a category like it is today--SE Hinton, Robert Cormier
and a few other titles--To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the
Rye are probably in the YA section these days. I can count on one hand
the number of modern YA books I've read--the editor in question gave me a
couple after I submitted, and I've read one or two from people I've met
along the way, but I'm not a student of the category by any means.
Daniel Waters: My avoidance is almost a superstition now.
ML : As Generation Dead is a "zombie" book,
what have your influences been?
Daniel Waters : Other than George Romero, I don't think I have any other influence as far as the zombie-ness in the book. Zombie purists (there are zombie purists, right?) would probably find fault with much of it. Romero's use of "zombies in the mall", as a take on consumer culture, was something I consciously inverted in part of the book, so that was influential.
Daniel Waters : I think the zombie book(and movie)
most influential on GD is Ira Levin's "The Stepford Wives"
Daniel Waters : Oh, and "The Body Snatchers"
Daniel Waters : by Jack Finney
Daniel Waters : Not exactly EC comics-style living dead
ML: So are you a reader of zombie fiction? I'm just
wondering how you came up with an idea connecting zombies and teens in the
first place, since you already had the idea when you went to the YA panel at
Daniel Waters: Actually, Pet Sematary was
influential, now that I think of it.
Daniel Waters : I can't say I actively seek out zombie fiction--I'm a huge EC comics fan, and I've read and enjoyed a couple of the zombie books of recent years, but not because I comb the shelves for all things zombie
Daniel Waters : The idea for GD came from watching a newsmagazine show on violence in schools. I had a job that put me on the road often, and one night I was holed up in the hotel channel surfing, and there was a show about kids starting fights or randomly attacking kids just so they could put in on YouTube. With footage. Scared the living hell out of me. Couldn't get it out of my head, knew I had to write about it in some way
Daniel Waters: I think the zombies appeared as a coping mechanism--weird, usually we develop coping mechanisms to guard against things like zombies!--but they appeared, and it let me tackle subject matter that was at once very serious and very personally terrifying in a context I could bring some humor into.
ML : Is that why your zombies are so different from
typical zombies? Your "living impaired" teens are fairly sympathetic
characters in contrast to the usual mindless ravening horde.
Daniel Waters: I think so--I wanted to shake the
conventions a bit, certainly.
ML: I think you succeeded there. Did you do
research to represent teens and teen culture, such as the Goth subculture?
Daniel Waters : Plus I think I'm still 17 at heart,
ML: LOL. Would you say there's a message to the
Daniel Waters : I would. I'm fascinated with the
messages that some reviewers/bloggers have pulled out thus far.
We should keep it a secret though, as I've been cautioned by many that "message" fiction is the kiss of death in trying to attract a teen readership!
Daniel Waters : Let me amend--I would say there are
messages, plural, in the book. Secret, subliminal messages!
ML : Well, before I start rolling on the floor
laughing, let me ask you whether you plan to revisit the world of Generation
Dead, or do you have other projects cooking?
Daniel Waters : The second book in the world of GD,
Kiss of Life, is on my editor's desk. There may be more.
I have a couple other ms that we'll start shopping soon, both YA, both with supernatural themes.
ML: We'll look forward to seeing what you come up
with next. Is there anything else you'd like for librarians and readers to
Daniel Waters : Now that I think of it--if I interpret your question about "message" to mean a "conscious attempt at social commentary" correctly--that might be the kiss of death among horror fans as well as teens!
Thanks for destroying my fledgling career, Dylan!
ML : I aim to please.
Daniel Waters: For librarians--GD was a Spring
selection of the Junior Library Guild, something I am thrilled and proud of
Daniel Waters : And for librarians and readers both--thank you in advance for giving GD a try. I'd love to hear from you at www.danielwaters.com and Tommy, one of the zombies from GD, would love to hear from you at his site mysocalledundeath.com
ML: Thanks so much for taking time away from your own writing and family to do this interview. We really appreciate it!
Daniel Waters: Thank you, Dylan. This was a first for me, and I appreciate the air time.
by Michele Lee
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is a talented writer whose work spans multiple genres. She is well known as a horror writer and is probably best known for her series of historical horror novels about the vampire Count Saint-Germain. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has had two titles released so far in 2008. Elder Signs Press has recently released Saint-Germain: Memoirs and Borderlands Press has released Lost Prince. Reviewer Michele Lee had an opportunity to interview the author.
ML: Many writers are reluctant to let the term "horror" be attached to them or their work, even when they use classic horror tools, such as vampires. You, on the other hand, were the first female president of the Horror Writer's Association, one of only two female World Horror Convention Grand Masters and appear to not only be okay with the term, but to embrace it. Why do you take the different stance?
CQY: I think of myself as a multi-genre writer: sometimes what I write sells in the horror market, sometimes in young adult, sometimes in science-fiction, sometimes in mystery, etc. etc. Given the reality of genre-defined publishing, I would be professionally remiss to ignore where my work sells, and who reads it. For the last decade, more than half my work has sold in the horror marketplace; it is very flattering that the readers think enough of my work to recognize it so well. As to the HWA, the late Charles L. Grant asked me if I'd take the organization on, ("Kah-win, come on, you said you have some ideas . . . ") and since I've long been in favor of such organizations, I did, not because I'm female, but because I come from a family of unionists.
ML: Do you think this has affected your career?
CQY: Since almost everything around me affects my writing, I suppose it has also affected my career.
ML: Lately it seems that the monsters of fiction are changing. You are credited with taking vampires out of their creeping-undead dark ages and giving them humanity. Now it seems that vampires are becoming symbols of our hidden power fantasies and werewolves are often little more than the classic alpha male archetype. What do you think of this progression?
CQY: Archetypes tend to modify over time, and every writer has his or her own take on how those modifications behave. I admit that I'm somewhat put off by stories that reflect little or no sensitivity to folklore and/or the psychology underlying folklore, and use media images and tropes instead of folkloric ones to create their archetypal figures, but that's a matter of taste, not of approval or disapproval.
ML: Your work hasn't just been limited to the famous Comte de Saint-Germain. Of your works what would you recommend to readers who don't like vampire fiction?
CQY: As you say, it's quite a list. Check it out at ChelseaQuinnYarbro.net under bibliography. When it comes to recommending my work, I'm the last person to ask. But in terms of what I return to of my work as a kind of benchmark, I tend to like Ariosto (alternate world history and a fantasy attached), False Dawn (near future science fiction; it should be available again soon from Fictionwise.com), A Mortal Glamour (a medieval demon among medieval nuns) The Law in Charity (1847 western), and some of my pseudonymous work, but it always takes me at least a decade to get a handle on what I've done.
ML: What do you believe you bring to the table for readers who haven't yet picked up one of your books?
CQY: The same thing every writer brings to the table: a certain way of telling a certain flavor of story. My work tends to the dark, and sometimes to the ironic. Most of it is character-driven, so those who like rapid-fire action might prefer other writers' works to mine.
ML: Writing historical stories certainly presents a challenge. Do you aim more for accuracy, or to capture the soul of the era?
CQY: Accuracy is essential to capturing the soul of an era. Fiddle with the accuracy and you mess with the soul. I try to give some sense of what it was like to live in a time -- what people living in the time actually experienced, and how the saw themselves. I've said many times that one of the hardest things to find out about any society is not what it did -- we know what it did -- but what it thought it was doing.
ML: Of the many different time periods you've written have any of them presented more of a challenge than others?
CQY: The less literacy in the period and society, the harder it is to research, since the material is scant and the information often of questionable accuracy: think of the material left in Europe on the barbarian invasions. The records from the period tend to be highly biased toward the European/Christian point of view. Not that I think the barbarian were noble savages tragically misunderstood, but to refer back to what I mentioned in the previous response, I'd like to know what they thought they were doing, from their points of view.
Also, the two hardest things to find out about any culture is what they wore when they were schlepping around the house, and what they ate for breakfast.
ML: Do you have a favorite time period to write in?
CQY: There are some that are more pleasant than others, and some that are deeply troubling. I like the ancient Romans, and it shows. I like the Italian Renaissance, and that shows, too. Russian history fascinates me, but I don't like it very much. Same with India and Africa. In terms of fiction, the snake-pits, like the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, make for terrific tales of treachery, violence, politics, religion, cross-purposes, and savagery, but they're a bit harrowing to confront, and the research is pretty ghastly.
ML: I adore that in other interviews you repeatedly refer to the culture of the time period as a tertiary character. Do you find that the character changes wildly from book to book, or do they have similarities?
CQY: The characters who are of the time period and culture tend to reflect that time period and culture, as everyone does; those characters who are outside of the time period and culture tend to be consistent within themselves, although impacted by their present environment of any given tale.
ML: Lost Prince is a reprint of your novel The Godforsaken. How do you think it differs from other werewolf novels?
CQY: First -- and this is true for every book and every writer -- I wrote it. The book originally was a kind of challenge. I was in New York having lunch with my then-editor at Fawcett/Warner, Kathy Malley, who asked me casually over the salad, why, since I had done vampires, I hadn't done a werewolf novel. I said werewolves didn't interest me, that they were victims of fate who behaved as if they were incapable of dealing with their lycanthropy. I said that instead of becoming homicidal maniacs at the full moon, they had twenty-eight days and twenty-seven nights to make arrangements, to arrange to be locked in a safe place and given a lamb or a shoat or a kid on the night of the full moon. Kathy considered that and said, "What if the person couldn't make an arrangement?" I said there were other ways to accommodate the problem: get out of town, chain him/herself up with silver, or, if it was too intolerable, commit suicide with silver. "What if suicide were not a possibility?" was Kathy's comeback. "You mean, if the werewolf were a devout Catholic?" Kathy just smiled. On the plane home, this discussion haunted me and I called her a week later, saying "What if it were the sixteenth century, and the werewolf were the heir to the throne of Spain?" She told me she'd be waiting for the proposal.
ML: You didn't just make Don Rolon, the lead, a werewolf in the time period of the Spanish Inquisition, he's also heir to the throne. How do you avoid bringing too much tension into a book?
CQY: I don't know if there's such a thing as too much tension, particularly in a horror book.
ML: Is there anything specific that you hope readers get from your books?
CQY: Yes, but it doesn't happen very often. Readers get out of books what they are looking for, not what I put in, which is just as it should be. I'm not writing a polemic, I'm telling a story, and that means that whatever a reader gets out of a book is what's in it for him, or her, whether I put it in the story or not.
ML: What can readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?
CQY: At the moment, I'm beginning the end-game of Burning Shadows, Saint-Germain #23. I'm waiting to hear on a proposal for a science fiction novel that my agent has in submission. Saint-Germain #22, A Dangerous Climate will be out in October from Tor, and Fictionwise will have more of my titles available as the year goes on. Also, the four Charlie Moon mysteries are being reissued by Ramble House. And the current issue of Interzone has a short story, "Endra" --- from memory, among its contents.