Alyson – Hi Alathia and welcome to the Horror Tree.Can you tell us something about your roots and upbringing?
Alathia – I was raised in a very religious home environment and was home-schooled until college. My love of books grew from all of the places that I could read about without having to leave home. I was always curious about how each story would end and even did intensive research because of several historical fiction series I found. Moving 35 times by the time I finished college, it was becoming difficult to move my growing collection. Until college I had mostly read only Christian fiction or historical biographies, so when I branched into fantasy and then thrillers – my collection grew again.
Alyson – Growing up what books did you read? And love?
Alathia – The Hardy Boys was my favourite series and I still have them today. Bodie Thoene’s Zion series led me to other books about WWII and fed my love of history.
Alyson – How did you get started writing? Is it something you’ve always done? Or wanted to do?
Alathia – I started writing in Junior H igh and High School and I had two different stories started, but then I went to college and got busy writing papers. With my love of reading, a logical step would have been to become a writer, but I didn’t think I could ever be published, because it was such a long process. When my brother got cancer and passed away, I knew then that life was way too short to wait around so I did NaNoWriMo and looked into self-publishing. I’m in the process of transitioning from my writing being a part-time hobby to a full-time writer.
Alyson – What drew you to writing horror?
Alathia – To be perfectly honest, I hate horror and scary books or movies. I didn’t like Stephen King and zombies are just so gross. I didn’t even watch ‘The Walking Dead’ T.V. show, but my husband and oldest daughter did. I happen to be going by whilst they watched and got sucked into the story. There weren’t even that many zombies (!) and so I ventured in, cautiously. Four days and four seasons later, I was a super fan. They didn’t do things the way I wanted, so I started writing my own series with zombies. Now, I manage to write, without cringing nearly as much.
Alyson – Do you have a writing routine? Daily? On the go? Pen or pc or ipad? Study or corner of a sofa?
Alathia – I’m working on a routine, but it’s more like fast and furious for about two weeks and then I take a break to clean the house and promote things, (such as do interviews- I planned on doing much earlier) and catch up on my reading. I have started using dictation when I’m out of the house and waiting around for the kids, but the computer is my go to and it is in the middle of the living room so I can keep an eye on everything.
Alyson – You mention online participating in a NANOWRIMO Camp – which is also a big writing event in the UK- during November. Was this an important step for you as a developing writer? And did what you write become a novel?
Alathia – NaNoWriMo was the first time I knew there were people out there who wrote that fast. I honestly had no idea how to do it, but since my brother had passed away only weeks before, I decided that the camp would be my best bet to finish a story. It actually took two camps, but it got finished and I pushed the button in 2015.
Alyson – Can you tell us about your publishing experiences? Both the good and the bad? Any advice for writers?
Alathia – The bad thing was I had no idea what I was doing when I was trying to publish my first book. I even changed one character’s name mid-book. Yep, it was horrible! I didn’t have a good editor and after two tries and three books, I finally found one that not only does an amazing job, but could fix the mistakes I’d done. The good thing about writing is that the stories keep coming and I can’t write fast enough to get them all out of my head. I write a summary down and then keep working on my current work in progress. My advice would be- write and worry about the editing when you are finished with it, but do keep writing. You can always go back and correct something later, but it won’t write itself. Do your research because there are a lot of amazing writers out there who are willing to help.
Alyson – You mention having a mammoth book collection (over 6000 books!), so who are your favourite authors – currently? And do you read many horror books?
Alathia – I love Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts, Laurell K. Hamilton, Lisa Jackson, S. M. Shade, Bianca Sommerland, Ellie Midwood and many more. I switched to e-readers about the time I started writing and didn’t realize I’d been missing out on so many amazing authors just because they weren’t available to buy in book stores. I now read a mix of both paperbacks and kindle books, since I read at least a book a week and sometimes more.
Alyson – How much does music and/or film inspire or influence your writing or even your mood as you write? (One of my favourite films was World War Z- what did you think?)
Alathia – I love listening to music, while I write, but it doesn’t really do much to influence me except for providing background noise. I do like to watch movies that I’ve seen before and don’t have to pay attention to also while I write. When writing ‘Infected Waters: A Titanic Disaster’, I watched the Titanic movie about 50 times just for atmosphere and have started watching ‘World War Z’ for this latest zombie book.
Alyson – How much research do you do for your novels?
(You have the very successful Nova Ladies Series- is Nova by any chance an anagram of Avon? Just a wild guess- and the Zombies series-the latest of which is the third book- ‘Co-Eds Against Zombies’ (available on Amazon)
Alathia – Yes, the Nova ladies is Avon spelled backwards. 🙂 I do some research, but it really just depends on which book I’m working on and how much I know about the subject.
Alyson – Writing is a solitary business- do you network in person or online with other writers? Do you go
Alathia – I do lots of networking, but I don’t really have anyone look at my writing until it goes to the editor. I spend hours on Facebook talking and posting, when I should be writing! I have a love/hate relationship with people. I need to be around people, but then I can hide away for a weekend just reading with no problem.
Alyson – How important has social media been to your career as a writer? (You have an impressive number of followers on twitter @alathiamg)
Alathia – Social media has been a huge source of inspiration and help to me, learning from other writers from their ideas, motivation and promotion. There are still things I’m learning about social media, but you have to be engaged with other people to gain a following. Just promotion interaction solely doesn’t bring people in to read your books.
Alyson – How long does each novel take for you to write? Are you a planner with a spreadsheet for plot or more of a let’s plunge in and do this?
Alathia – My first books took about 6 months each, but I’ve finally gotten it down to just a month or so. I hope to get a little faster as I get better at it. I’ve been a pantser—writing by the seat of my pants from the beginning, but I’m slowly learning how to make an outline and it makes my binge writing much easier so that I don’t have to stop nearly as often because I get stuck. I take an idea and do a summary. I think over the idea for a few days or weeks adding to it until I’m ready to jump into it.
Alyson – What advice would you give aspiring (horror) writers? Any top tips?
Alathia – Write, write, write. Find your tribe—genre and stick with them and just write. Every day for ten minutes or two hours, whatever you can spare until you type The End.
Alyson – What are your future writing plans? What’s your next book?
Alathia – ‘Churches Against Zombies’ will be out later this fall, along with a short story in ‘The Undead World Anthology’. I am also working on a pen name to write romance novels with a little spice. There might be a superhero-zombie novel in the works as well.
Alyson – Where can readers follow you on line and contact you?
Alathia Paris Morgan Stalker Links:
Author page: www.facebook.com/apmorganbooks
Street Team: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1442476186066361/
Website & Newsletter signup: www.alathiamg.wix.com/books
Pepper Paris https://www.facebook.com/PepperParisAuthor
Alyson – Welcome to the Horror Tree Monique. Can you tell us something about your roots and upbringing? Where you born and raised in South Africa?
Monique – Hi Alyson, it’s an honour to be here. Yes! I was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, and I still live here. I come from humble beginnings, but I was incredibly fortunate to have grown up in the rich multiculturalism my country has to offer, especially during the transitioning years from the Apartheid era into a democracy.
Alyson – What drew you to writing? Is it something you’ve always done?
Monique – I have always been a keen reader and writer. I taught myself to read when I was three years old (my mom was too busy to read me a story, and I’m told I was a stubborn child), and it all just evolved from there. I only became serious about writing when I was nineteen, though.
Alyson – You’re obviously an avid reader, from your Goodreads profile and the large number of your book reviews. (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5780347.Monique_Snyman)
Which books have influenced you as a child? As an adult?
Monique – You found my weakness… books. All the books!
As a child, I was a complete sucker for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books. I also had a special love for non-fiction paranormal and religion books. I devoured everything from ghosts, aliens, demonic entities, conspiracy theories, and palmistry to Greek mythology, Egyptology, Paganism, and Mysticism. It sort of turned me into the weird kid… obviously.
As an adult, I find myself drawn to much of the same stuff, although I do have more diverse reading habits. The books I have found most inspiring as an author, however, include: Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy, Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses series, Karen Slaughter’s Pretty Girls. I also read anything by Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Sarah J. Maas, Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon, Liane Moriarty, Lauren Beukes, and Rick Riordan (guilty pleasure).
Alyson – Can you describe your typical writing day, your routine? Pen or pc? Study or outside in the garden?
Monique – My routine has changed as of late, due to my having to start working full time again, but typically I do all my writing on a laptop, in my home office. Unfortunately, I’m not like one of those authors who can write every day just because. I have to wait for my inspiration to catch up with my ideas, but when it does, I write until my fingers and/or eyes bleed.
Alyson – You have a blog at http://moniquesnyman.com/blog/ and I found your latest post of 101 Must-Read Classics really interesting and thought provoking. Some I’ve read, some I haven’t. A few faves are on there too. How far through the list are you? Any comments on your reading so far?
Monique – I’m so glad you enjoyed that list!
I’m about thirty books in now (I really need to update my Goodreads with those recently read classics). I found Madame Bovary a bit dreary, and not quite as contemporary as the others I’ve read, but otherwise I’m loving every moment of the classics on the list. The epic poems do take me a little longer to get through than the novels and novellas (like Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy), but it’s so worth reading that I can’t complain.
Alyson – Do you read much horror? For pleasure or research? Do you have any favourite authors?
Monique – Oh, definitely. I specialise in editing horror fiction, so I get my fill of horror for pleasure, work, research, and in all other aspects.
My favourite horror authors include the usual suspects: Stephen King, Joe Hill, Jack Ketchum (my heart’s still broken over his recent passing), Peter Straub, Clive Barker, R.L. Stine (gotta throw him in there). I also enjoy some local horror by authors like: Lauren Beukes, S.L. Grey, and Sarah Lotz. Some newcomers I’m keeping my eye on include: Todd Keisling, Laird Barron, Jasper Bark, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Bracken Macleod.
I can go on…
Alyson – What attracts you to writing horror or fantasy? Why those particular genres?
Monique – I gravitate towards writing horror because I suspect it’s my way of trying to make sense of the heinous things we hear about in the real world every day. Living in South Africa means you need to harden yourself to a lot of weird, sometimes horrible stuff, and to many people our daily realities seem completely fictitious. In the same breath, I write fantasy to escape the brutality of this world. It depends, I suppose, what my mind set is on any given day, but that’s the gist of things.
Alyson – How did you first begin to get published? What were your early successes?
Monique – As I stated earlier, I started writing seriously when I was nineteen years old. My first publication was a short zombie story for a horror anthology, which I think is still available. Then came the first book, which was a YA urban fantasy. I’m not keen on that series whatsoever any more, and I have to admit I outgrew it faster than I could write it, but it did get nominated for a Watty Award in the Favorite Werewolf category. I think all that happened in 2012, but I have actively tried to block anything about that incomplete series out of my memory. *laughs*
Alyson – How does living in Pretoria South Africa influence/inspire your writing? (I know that your novel ‘Muti Nation’ is set in Pretoria for instance-which is certainly a USP in itself!) How much research did you do for the novel? (Its heroine Esme is an occult investigator which is pretty unusual for a job!)
(Available to buy on amazon at:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Muti-Nation-Monique-Snyman-ebook/dp/B01H63QO1W/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1531232464&sr=8-5&keywords=monique+snyman)
Monique – Well, muti crimes are very real in Africa as a whole. In South Africa specifically, there is a big traditional movement when it comes to healing practices. ‘Muti Nation’ was inspired, mainly, through personal experiences. Some of the things my protagonist sees are things that I’ve seen, the places she goes are the places I’ve been. The book is very “me” in a way. That said, it took me three years to complete the book (the research took two years, the writing took a year), and the main reason for my taking so long to actually write it is because ‘Muti Nation’ sometimes just got too real.
Interestingly, the “occult investigator” bit is not quite as far-fetched in South Africa. Back in the 1990s, during the “Satanic Panic” years, our police actually had an occult unit.
Alyson – You mention in an early post on your new blog that you used to review films for a number of websites. Have particular films (whether horror or not) influenced your writing? Do you have any favourites?
Monique – I draw inspiration from everything and everyone, whether intentionally or not. I think many authors feel the same ways in that regard. That said, I think some of the more atmospheric horror films had a particular influence on my writing style. I like to set the scene, to build the suspense, and then watch the entire story come to a riveting end. I think, in that regard, Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist had a definite influence on my style. Other films that had a big influence on me are the 1980s slashers, like: Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Halloween, and Jason. Gotta love those creative kills.
Alyson – Your latest novel, The Night Weaver, is just out on amazon to buy. How long does it take for you to write/edit a novel?
Monique – It depends on the book, I suppose. The Night Weaver took me around 6 months to write and edit, and I had it for a few months before I published it. That one just poured out of me, unlike ‘Muti Nation’, which really took its sweet time to turn into something worth publishing.
Alyson – The Night Weaver is the first instalment in a dark fantasy series for young adults- is this a new departure for you as a writer? Writing a YA series? Is this something you’ve wanted to do for some time?
Monique – Not at all. I started off writing YA, and “dark fantasy” is just a sub-genre of horror, so I’m well within my little bubble of comfort. I just thought that perhaps I could make horror “pretty” and somewhat more palatable for the YA community, whom I hear are a tad wary when it comes to those full-blown scares.
Alyson – Writing is essentially a solitary craft. How do you connect with other writers? Are you in a writing group?
Monique – I used to be more involved in the writing community, but I slowly withdrew from socialising with other writers. The reason is because I edit most of those authors’ works, and it’s only natural for them to be less inclined to be around the person who dissects their manuscript word by word. *giggles*
Alyson – What advice would you give aspiring (horror) writers? What tips have you picked up?
Monique – Firstly, stop calling yourself an “aspiring writer”. Either you’re a writer or you’re not.
Important tips I can give other authors… Well, get out of the house from time to time. Walk around and get some exercise. Remember to eat/sleep/shower from time to time. Also, get yourself a good editor, particularly one who doesn’t care about your feelings. That way, your book will be the best version of itself.
Alyson – What’s coming up next for you as a writer?
Monique – I’m still working on the Shadow Grove series at the moment. The sequel is well on its way, so I’ll hopefully have that done either within this year or early in 2019. After that, I have a horror collection that needs finishing, and then another full-blown horror novel will hopefully happen after that’s done. J
Alyson – How can writers/readers follow or connect with you online?
Monique – You can find me in all the usual social media haunts:
Facebook – http://facebook.com/moniquesnyman.author
Twitter – http://twitter.com/moniquesnyman
Instagram – http://instagram.com/therealmoniquesnyman
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/monique_snyman
You can also find me on my website: http://moniquesnyman.com
Alyson – Hi T.J. Welcome to the Horror Tree.
I read on your blog https://tjtranchell.wordpress.com/about/ that you’d had a variety of jobs – one of which sounded great preparation (in a way) for your horror writing – being a haunted house monster- can you tell us something about your early years? And that eclectic mix of jobs?
T.J. – I was born on Halloween, so this is something that has always been a part of me. I had been involved in theatre during my early teens and when I was 15, I saw an ad asking for actors for a haunted forest. I couldn’t resist. I was picked and worked almost every night of the month. I took my birthday off and did a small haunt at my high school with friends. All of this was in Utah, which might not seem like a place someone like me would spawn from, but that’s my home.
Years later, I worked another haunt in Las Vegas and had a blast. That time I didn’t take my birthday off and it turned out to be one of the best nights of my twenties.
When it comes to jobs, well, I’ve done more than my share of seasonal work and jobs that I didn’t like. I’m a person who will let something I don’t like go and try something else if I’m not happy.
I’ve also moved around a lot. In fact, my family just moved again at the end of May. I got my own office out of it this time.
Alyson – Which books and authors influenced you? As a child? As an adult? Have you always been a fan of horror?
T.J. – As a young kid, I was into mysteries. Sherlock Holmes and all of the juvenile knock-offs. My Utah upbringing introduced me to The Great Brain, which was a series set in rural Utah in the last years of the 19th century. They’re like Encyclopaedia Brown but with Mormon and non-Mormon kids at an interesting time in the state’s history.
Later, I found Poe and was hooked. The imagery and suspense was a major step up from what I had been reading. And then, when I was 11, I found Stephen King. Misery was a big film that year and I watched it with a friend. The next day I went to the library and checked it out. The librarians didn’t even blink. The book scared the crap out of me, even though I didn’t understand all the words. When I think about it, that book should have turned me off from being a writer. Instead, it set me on my path. The other kids my age were reading R.L. Stine. I like Stine, but trying to read him after King just didn’t work.
Other authors I’d cite as influential include Hunter S. Thompson (one of those jobs I’ve had was as a journalist), Jack Kerouac, Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Piccirilli, and Rod Serling.
Alyson – I notice that in a recent tweet you posted covers of Shirley Jackson’s novels- one of my personal horror writing heroines- do you feel her work has influenced your writing?
T.J. – I wish I could say I remember the first time I read “The Lottery” but the truth is that I probably read about it before actually reading the story itself. Jackson is a writer who always finds me when I need her. When I read a less successful haunted house book, The Haunting of Hill House is right there. When I found my first beaten-up copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I was busy falling in love with Goth and theatre girls. The Blackwood sisters were women I would have fallen hard for, because of their quirks not in spite of them.
I think we are in danger of losing how important Jackson’s contribution to horror specifically and American literature in general is. With the newer push in literary horror, I think she’s ripe for a resurgence. If anyone needs somebody to teach a class on Jackson, hit me up.
Alyson – Which book(s) do you wish you had written? Any era.
T.J. – A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli. When I had decided writing was the best and only thing for me, I had just discovered Pic. When I was in college (I started late, so I was in my mid-twenties), I emailed him about a project and he messaged me back. That was the first time I felt like I was taken seriously as a writer by a professional.
That book is always at the top of my list I recommend to other people. It’s like Faulkner, not just because it is set in the south, but also because it gets into what family means to people who have become isolated from other communities. It is also wildly different from anything I had read before. King is like a gateway drug to horror, like pot. Pic was like coke: I read that book so many times, the pages of my first copy fell apart.
I can also guarantee that if there is another book with Siamese triplets connected at the forehead, it isn’t as good.
Alyson – How helpful has it been to have gained your Masters? For your personal development as a writer and/or improving your writing and/ or raising your literary status as it were?
T.J. – Having a Master’s degree opened doors that wouldn’t have opened otherwise, but it is also just one piece of the puzzle that I am. The biggest thing about it for me is that I can use it to subvert statistics. I dropped out of high school, earned a GED, got an associate’s from a community college, failed out at university, finished my bachelor’s and master’s in my thirties, and am now getting an MFA from the university I failed out of a decade ago.
The other key part has been that higher education has given me a community to turn to. Many of my first readers are from my graduate program at Central Washington University. The program I am in now is a literary fiction-focused program, so I have to push my boundaries and challenge myself to write the stories I have to tell and prove to the people in charge that my stories are just as good as someone else’s story that doesn’t have a ghost or a monster in it.
I was more concerned about my literary status when I was younger, but now with writers such as Benjamin Percy, Paul Tremblay, Victor LaValle, and Carmen Maria Machado showing that horror IS literary, I’m not as worried about it. I’ll have a bunch of letters after my name that hopefully get me some teaching gigs—I love teaching—but otherwise, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and try to get better at it.
Alyson – Your first novel ‘Cry Down Dark’ was published in 2016 by Blysster Press- http://blysster.com/store/ who you are now ‘author development coordinator’ for- which sounds really interesting and creative – can you tell us more about your involvement with Blysster Press and their origins?
T.J. – I met Charity Becker, the publisher/editor-in-chief, at Crypticon Seattle. I gave her the manuscript for the novel and she told me it wasn’t ready. She was right, but what she didn’t do was tell me no. She told me to work on it. I spent another year on it after having written the opening sections in 2006. I did the work and sent it back. The day Charity notified me that Blysster would publish the book, my grandma died. Grandma never would have read the book, but I know she was waiting for me to get to that point. It was the last good news she heard.
I’ve been able to develop a great professional relationship with Charity. We’re on the same wavelength when it comes to the state of modern publishing. What she has that I don’t, is a more experienced grasp of technology and business. What I brought to the table is being a cheerleader for other authors. We have relationships with a variety of writers through a contest we run and the annual Crypticon. What I do is offer encouragement when things are tough—especially to début authors who get frustrated with the formatting and revision processes—and serve as a guide for marketing, promotions, and questions. I’m the guy people come to when they think a question might sound stupid to the publisher. That doesn’t happen because Charity is an amazing human, but no one wants to look dumb when talking to their publisher.
Blysster started in 2010 and has been growing ever since. We had two début authors with us at Crypticon this year. Maria Giakoumatos and William H. Nelson. Their books are wildly different, but they are both part of the family now.
Alyson – Talk us through a typical writing day- where do you write? Pen or pc? Coffee or tea?
T.J. – I’ve spent the last couple years trying to write from a couch in a small apartment. That hasn’t been the best. Now I have a dedicated office and the output has already ramped up.
I might be one of the few writer/journalists in the world that doesn’t drink coffee. I just never got a taste for it. I prefer Mountain Dew, but since I’m a Type II diabetic, I drink Diet Mountain Dew. I also obsessively chow sunflower seeds when I write. You could tell how long I’ve been writing by the pile of empty shells. It’s kind of gross, I know, but that’s the truth.
I write now on a PC laptop, but I take lots of notes in notebooks. I love notebooks. Make them special and about a writer I like and I’m hooked. I have one that the lines in the notebook are the text of Dracula. I haven’t written anything in it yet, but I will.
I need background noise, too. Sometimes movies, but usually music. Movie scores are the best. You can feel the beats of a story but not be distracted by lyrics. There is a flow to a score that facilitates the process, too.
I also tend to write better early in the morning or late at night. I feel more engaged at those times.
Alyson – Modern horror films or those from the Golden age of Hollywood- do you have a favourite? B&W or colour? (I have a sneaky preference for B&W).
T.J. – I could talk for days about movies. When I was a kid, my grandpa was the manager of a single screen theater. My mom and some of my aunts worked concessions while my uncles took turns running the projector. Movies, even more than books, are where I became obsessed with storytelling. What you get from movies is an immediate emotional reaction. I’ve been chasing that my whole life. It’s one of the reasons I loved the haunted house work so much.
I love a wide range of movies and there are good things from the entire history of film. I wouldn’t say that I have a preference for an era, but I would say that horror from the mid to late 1990s is not as good as what came before. Thankfully, that time had plenty of other great non-horror films. Many of them were movies that hinted at horror or had horror backgrounds. “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption” are the two best examples. Back-to-back, 1993 and 1994 were two of the best years in movies. Any year that one man is responsible for movies like “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” should be seen as important. Speilberg pretty much ruled my childhood, too.
Having said that, “Poltergeist” is a Tobe Hooper movie and I will fight people about it, even if I’m wrong.
Alyson – Recently films like ‘A Quiet Place’, the upcoming ‘Hereditary’ and last year’s ‘It Comes at Night’ and especially ‘Get Out’ have redefined what audiences can expect from a horror film with new approaches and strong subversive stories, do you think we are in a bright new dawn (as has been suggested) of horror cinema?
T.J. – The thing that has changed is that people who haven’t always and only made horror films are taking them on. They have to because the world is a scary place and that’s our cultural filter. People dealt with the Great Depression by going to Universal monster movies. The other change, which is more a cycle than a real change, is that more people who aren’t horror fans are going to these movies. They go because they like what the directors, writers, and stars have done before and this is something new to them. It’s new to see a horror film by an African-American writer-director get a major release. Jordan Peele had a fan base for previous work, so people were curious. And he delivered.
“A Quiet Place” had some of the same thing going for it. Here are people with a fan base doing horror and audiences are curious about it. Krasinski brought the goods and I ‘d love to see Emily Blunt get some awards.
I think, in the past when people not known for horror have tried it, it felt more like they were doing it at the end of their primes and just because someone offered them the right amount of money. These newer films are love letters to filmmaking and are using the horror genre to tell stories that are important to society at this time in a way that people can engage with but not be beaten over the head about.
Horror has always been subversive. It’s when it becomes too commercial that the quality goes down. Formulaic movies drive the non-fans away. Too many fans, even when they complain about it, just want to see Jason and Freddy killing nobodies. When filmmakers take risks beyond that, that’s when more people start paying attention.
Alyson – I notice you were a guest on this podcast dedicated to the late, great Maestro of horror Vincent Price, http://thom-carnell.squarespace.com/bonus-material-podcast/2018/2/20/episode-163-vincent-price-w-tj-tranchell- whose films I grew up watching myself on BBC TV late-night showings. Is Price a particular favourite of yours?
T.J. – Price is one of my all-time favorites. I discovered him through the show ‘Mystery’ on PBS here in America and the Disney film “The Great Mouse Detective.” I have recordings of him reading Poe that I can listen to for hours. Price is a hero of mine, as is Thom Carnell, one of the co-hosts of The Bonus Material Podcast. When I was discovering my way, I was reading his magazine “Carpe Noctem.” Just when I was ready to send in my work, the magazine’s run ended. Then in 2011, I met Thom at ZomBcon in Seattle and nerded out hardcore. We’ve been friends ever since.
He’s a great writer, too. He recently released his second short story collection titled “A String of Pearls.”
Alyson – How much research do you have to do for your writing? Where do your ideas come from? And why have you chosen to write horror?
T.J. – Horror chose me, I believe. It is a place that I can talk about things we don’t talk about in polite society and treat them seriously. The ideas, really, come from that. ‘Cry Down Dark’ is about grief and loss. It’s my grief response to losing a friend from my late teens and early twenties to a brain tumor. Many of my stories start from things that have happened and me wondering what would have happened if one or two things had been just a bit different.
My work in progress has been the most research-intense thing I’ve done. The biggest problem was that for most of the first year of working on it, the pieces of research I needed didn’t exist. I’m writing about exorcism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and I couldn’t find any historical accounts. Then in December 2017, a professor named Stephen Taysom published an article which was exactly what I needed. I have no shame and emailed him right away. He’s been quite helpful.
I’ve also been able to do research into the histories of the church, my family, and the town I grew up in, which is the setting of the novel, although in a fictional form. Readers of ‘Cry Down Dark’ will recognize Blackhawk, Utah, as the town that book’s hero was from.
Alyson – Writing can be a solitary business, how do you connect with other writers? Are you in a writing group yourself?
T.J. – I connect with a whole world of writers via social media. Again, I am shameless and if I find someone I admire on Facebook, I will message them. If I’m lucky, they’ll message back. I’d tell you who some of the more famous ones are, but I think it would be more fun for readers to discover them on their own and see if they get a message back.
Right now, my writing community is my MFA program. Workshops are part of the program and getting feedback from people with similar goals is amazing. I also have friends I’ve made that I email back and forth with. I made new friends after attending the Borderlands Press Writers Boot camp in 2017. Those are people I know I could go to with a story and get quality feedback with no fluff. And they’d expect the same from me.
Alyson – What advice would you give aspiring (horror) writers? Those who read/use the Horror Tree as a resource?
T.J. – Don’t stop. If this is your dream, don’t quit. If someone tells you that you aren’t good enough, get better. Take a class, join a workshop group. Reach out to people like me. I want you to succeed just as much as I want my own success. This is how it works. If you succeed, you get to do an interview like this and name drop the people who helped you get there. One way I help you succeed is by putting your name in front of as many people as I can. We aren’t competing with each other. We’re all here to help.
Alyson – What is your latest fiction release? Where is it available to buy online?
T.J. – My latest is called ‘Asleep in the Nightmare Room’ and can be found on Amazon or through any bookstore. Personally signed copies can be ordered directly from my publisher at www.blysster.com.
It is a book of short stories, some poems, a long essay on Stephen King, a series of columns on horror movies, and one experimental piece about living in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Alyson – Where can writers/readers find you or follow you online?
T.J. – I’m pretty easy to track down. On the web, I am at www.tjranchell.com, on Twitter I’m @TJ_Tranchell, and on Facebook at @TJTranchell. Amazon: amazon.com/author/tjtranchell
I do have a rule about Twitter. If you identify yourself as a writer and you follow me, I will follow in return and spread the word about your work.