Author: Ruschelle Dillon

The Horror Tree Presents an Interview with Alexandrea Weis

The Horror Tree Presents- an Interview with Alexandrea Weis

By Ruschelle Dillon


Ruschelle: Alexandrea, welcome to the Horror Tree, where you will find all sorts of fruit, nuts and meat sacks hanging for you to snack on. Watch out for the disgustingly bloody ones. They’re not quite ripe yet. It’s great to have you here. You have a fantastic selection of books out there for your newfound fans to feast from. Many take place in your hometown of New Orleans which has seen more than its fair share of destruction from hurricanes, Ida being the most recent. At the penning of these questions, there are still swaths of Louisiana that are still without electricity and are digging out of Ida’s wrath. Has the devastating weather played a part in inspiring your books? Horrors can beget horrors.

Alexandrea: Honestly, the response in the aftermath has been fantastic compared to what we went through with Katrina. Then we had weeks without running water, power, gasoline, or food. It was a nightmare and very horror worthy. We’ve been fortunate this time. I got my power back in six days. A big THANK YOU to the line men and women who came to restore our electricity. They are a godsend!


Ruschelle: New Orleans has such a rich history. What are some aspects of NOLA that you must include when writing your stories? Conversely, are there nibblets that you find trite or just flat out wrong that you refuse to put in black and white? (I liked the word nibblets. I am also hungry for corn right now…)

The Horror Tree Presents – An Interview with Nicholas Bowling

The Horror Tree Presents – An Interview with Nicholas Bowling

By: Ruschelle Dillon


Ruschelle:  I’m here sitting on the thickest branch of the Horror Tree hoping you’re not looking for a new log for the Log Lady from Twin Peaks. This tree is haunted and off limits. Speaking of Twin Peaks, your most recent work, The Follower, which dropped July 20th, 2021 is described as Twin Peaks meets Welcome to Night Vale. Could you give us a little taste of how The Follower conjures both the strange Twin Peaks and Welcome to the Night Vale? 

Nicholas: Well. I wasn’t consciously channeling Twin Peaks, but tonally it shares quite a lot, I think. I like to create feeling in my (adult) books where the world just feels a bit out-of-joint – a sense of unease or menace beneath the surface of things that can’t quite be articulated. I like to wrongfoot the reader, too, in terms of tone and genre. I want them to feel unsure of how they should react to a certain scene or character. Absurdity is good for that. It allows you turn something funny into something violent or upsetting very quickly. David Lynch is obviously the master of this, but I think it also comes from my general experience of the world. It’s a very odd place, and people are very odd, and we’re all involved in a kind of group delusion that it’s anything other than that. Normality is a fiction that barely holds together most of the time. Also: The Follower has a peak. But just one. 

As for Night Vale – I wasn’t even aware of it until my publisher told me it was in the same neighbourhood as The Follower. But I’ll get on it.

‘Ariadne, I Love You’ Blog Tour: An interview with J. Ashley-Smith

The Horror Tree Presents- an interview with J. Ashley-Smith

By Ruschelle Dillon


Ruschelle: I’m thrilled to welcome dark horror author J. Ashley-Smith to my scary little branch of the Horror Tree. His newest offering, Ariadne, I Love You, is making herself pretty for her Meerkat Press debut in July. Authors plan their upcoming works ‘coming out’ parties so it gets the recognition it deserves. What do you have planned so your newfound fan can follow the journey?

J. Ashley-Smith: Thank you, Ruschelle. I’m stoked to be here.

Ariadne, I Love You launches on 20 July, and we’ve got a whole bunch of great stuff lined up to celebrate. Meerkat Press has been working tirelessly to arrange a sweet blog tour, and I’ll be stopping by some friendly sites to say hi, answer questions, talk about the book, share a guest post or two, and for certain there will be a playlist in there as well. You can hook into the tour on the Meerkat website

I’ve got my fingers crossed that there will also be a real, live, in-person book launch at some point in the year as well (Australia only, at this stage).


The Horror Tree Presents- an Interview with Jennifer Anne Gordon

The Horror Tree Presents- an Interview with Jennifer Anne Gordon

By Ruschelle Dillon


Ruschelle: Ladies and Gentleman, The Horror Tree Presents an interview with THE award-winning author Jennifer Anne Gordon! A woman of many masks, dancer, teacher, writer, model, podcaster, business owner, butcher, baker, candlestick maker- okay maybe not those last three, but I bet she would if she wanted to do so. Her newest offering Pretty/Ugly is due out July 13th, 2021. But if you can’t wait to see what this fantastic author is all about, check out her other offerings-Beautiful, Frightening and Silent, From Daylight Madness, When the Sleeping Dead Still Talk and Victoriana. But FIRST, let’s have a little fun. Tell us three things about you but one of them isn’t true. You can reveal the answer at the end of the interview…if you want to. If not, just let everyone speculate and spread crazy rumors about you on Twitter.

Jennifer: I held the hand of a ghost while in an abandoned executioner’s home in Prague. Once I locked myself in a bathroom—panicked—then peed my pants while still in the bathroom. I met Vanilla Ice after seeing him in concert at a place called Club Land in Worcester Mass. 

The Horror Tree Presents – An Interview with R.B. Wood

The Horror Tree Presents – An Interview with R.B. Wood

By: Ruschelle Dillon


Ruschelle: Thank you for taking time from celebrating the release of your forthcoming novel from Crystal Lake Publishing, Bayou Whispers, on April 29th.  How about we pour ourselves a finger (or two) or bourbon and chat about all things booky, beasty, and boooozy, shall we? Your novel, mostly, takes place in New Orleans. Did you set out to write a story set in NOLA or did the story come first and NOLA just seemed to be the perfect backdrop?  


R.B.: NOLA was always going to be the setting, but what I started with was a very different idea for Bayou Whispers. Initially, I was going to write a more historical, purely Southern Gothic Horror story. Some of the horror elements are still there, as are some of the initial characters (modernized, of course). But there is something so special about New Orleans that I had to make it my “locale of choice.”


Ruschelle: Many authors would love to visit the locales of their novels or they write what they know and pen their tales from a view from out their own backdoor. Were you lucky enough to hang out with Papa Legba while researching the bayous, culture, parishes and beignets? Mmm…beignets. 


R.B.: Sipping a Blackened Voodoo while enjoying some of the best seafood is not a wrong way to research a novel. I spent a lot of time in New Orleans back in the days I traveled for business. Work hard and play hard was my motto, and if I was anywhere near a good airport, playtime meant NOLA.

The Horror Tree Presents an Interview with John C. Adams

The Horror Tree Presents an Interview with John C. Adams

By Ruschelle Dillon


Ruschelle: Hello John, it’s great to interview a fellow Horror Tree contributor and book reviewer. As Jigsaw from the movie Saw teases, let’s play a game. Two truths and a lie. Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself. 

John: This feels like a blind date. There’s no better venue to tell bald-faced lies about yourself and hope to get away with it. Here are two truths and one lie. Can you tell them apart? In addition to writing, I am a full-time carer for a brain-damaged relative. I am proudly breeding the world’s most impressive collection of giant spiders in our family’s greenhouse, and I am hoping to turn that into a profit-making business really soon. I can only pray that one of my kids will inherit my love of arachnids and take over the family business. I am nonbinary.

Ruschelle: No fair, I know this one. When should I expect my Mesopotamian Sabretooth tap dancing spider? Your latest novel, Blackacre Rising, is the sequel to Souls for the Master. When penning the first book, did you plan on multiple books or did it manifest organically as the pages multiplied?

John: Souls for the Master was my debut novel. Like any first work, it went through multiple versions and improvements. A previous incarnation was Commended in the First Three Pages of A Novel competition from the University of Winchester Writers’ Conference in 2012, so that tells you how long it has been a part of my life. It was published by Horrified Press in 2016 in paperback, and I republished it on Kindle in 2019. Overall, I didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing during the early versions up to 2015, but probably any emerging writer feels a bit like that. I certainly didn’t think in terms of a whole series. Just getting the book ready to submit to a publisher felt like a huge endeavor, but it was accepted by the first publisher I submitted it to, which is something I’m very proud of.


By the time Souls for the Master had been published, I had had time to get used to seeing my name in print and to think about the future a little. At that time, I made a short set of notes about a possible sequel, which I then came back to some time later when I started writing Blackacre Rising. By the time that novel was finished, I knew there would have to be at least a third instalment to see the narrative complete. But I always try to make each novel standalone because many readers come to a series partway through.


Ruschelle: As authors, we become attached to our characters. Often it’s because we base our characters on people we know. Do any of your characters from  in Blackacre Rising or Souls for the Master resemble friends, family, dead lovers you dismembered and buried In your garden? Oops, I didn’t mean to say garden. 

John: Actually, our home is a Victorian ex-miners’ cottage with an immensely long garden. We’ve unearthed the remains of the WW2 Andersen Shelter and, just between ourselves, many of my former lovers have unwillingly found a resting place down there. I was a lawyer before I became a writer so I’m keenly aware that basing your characters on dead people is a great way to avoid libel actions. And if the inspiration of your choice is still alive and kicking, why not take matters into your own hands…?


One of the main characters from Blackacre Rising is farmer Brett Flint, who owns Blackacre. He’s based in part on local farmers here, because it’s good to draw that direct inspiration to make a character credible. He’s also partly based on the character of the relative I care for (before he suffered brain damage of course). Quite often when I create a character they feel right and familiar, but afterwards it dawns on me where the inspiration came from. That was the case with Brett. On the other hand, Gerald Flint, Brett’s cousin, was one of the main characters in both novels and he’s more directly based on my adult son. I was aware of that during the writing.


Ruschelle: What enticed you to write about scientific experiments in Blackacre Rising? It was Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, wasn’t it? Now, I have to sing it, ‘Every speeeerm is sacreeed. Every sperm is gooood.’

John: Every child a wanted child, even when the wish for that child is downright icky and unpleasant, right? Well, it is a horror novel…


I wanted to portray a sick and twisted desire to be a parent right from the moment of conception. Infertility can eat away at even the most decent people, although no one would call Dr Luther Honigbaum or Sinistra Tungsten decent. Both yearn to be a parent and are prepared to be ruthless if that is what it takes to make it happen. Along the way, their desperation means that they lose touch with the fact that the child must come first. They can’t see that forcing unwilling participants to father your child or carry the infant in their womb is the worst possible way to nurture a young life.


It was very important to me to have both a man and a woman showing these disturbing traits, since the trope is so often that the women is crazed by the desire for a child while a man is portrayed as always wholly rational in his wish to become a father. In many ways, in Blackacre Rising, Honigbaum’s behaviour is much worse than Sinistra’s. In part that’s because he is estranged from his teenage son Don Allwood.


Fatherhood was one of the key themes of Souls for the Master, with Gerald struggling with his own father and the Master fulfilling a dark inversion of a fatherly relationship to those he sought to control. I was pleased to expand that theme in Blackacre Rising, but here it is Don, Gerald’s fellow member of the resistance, who is struggling with his relationship with his father.


Ruschelle: Do you have a favorite movie monster or wayward cryptid? There’s got to be a creature that makes you smile at its mere presence or mention.

John: I’m a huge fan of the English Fifties Sci Fi and Horror writer John Wyndham. Even my love of the Triffids, his most well known monster, is trumped by the bathys he creates in The Kraken Wakes. It’s my favourite novel of his. They arrive from Outer Space, crash land into the deepest parts of the oceans across the world, dig long tunnels to travel across the sea floor and then crawl right up out of the sea and tear people limb from limb.


Ruschelle: You have written fantasy as well as horror. Does your approach or research differ for each genre or do you treat all genres the same?

John: I can’t speak for other writers who cross genres, which many authors do, because I think every writer finds their own path. That’s absolutely right. For myself, I do approach horror and fantasy in completely different ways. Fantasy novels tend to be much longer. That means often writing a portion of the novel, having a break from it and coming back to it sometime later. Each country and culture has to be created from the ground up and that requires extensive reading to get the details right. All in all, it’s a lot more time consuming than writing a horror novel. My horror fiction is set in a universe recognizably our own but with some major differences, such as the omnipotence of the Master and the sinister forces of the Seven at work in Blackacre. But these are features I’ve invented, rather than involving a wholesale step back in time. I like how different the two experiences feel, and I never feel tempted to write only one genre or the other. I alternate between the two.


Ruschelle: When sitting down to write, do you choose the story or does the story choose you? In other words, do you always sit down to write with a story in mind, or do you hope and pray an idea bites you in the ass as you sit at the computer? 

John: With short fiction, I tend to start with a title and that gives me the germ of an idea. The title comes spontaneously to mind, so I think it chooses me! I never just sit down to write without knowing what I’m going to be working on that day. I’ve got a list in one of the my files that only ever seems to grow longer but that’s good because it means I’ve always got something to write. I’m very keen to avoid the tyranny of the blank page.


Ruschelle: Damn show off. Oh, I mean, brava! Lol. Actually, keeping a file of ideas is a wonderful idea. I may need to steal it…You are a book reviewer! It’s not an easy task. What do you look for when reviewing authors works? What do you feel makes a great book review? 

John: I review for the British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine, as well as reviewing right here at The Horror Tree. What I look for in a book varies a lot depending on where the review will be placed because the key to a good review is to select a book that the readership will find fascinating. A review should be an entertainment in itself, and be satisfying in a small way as a self-contained publication, even if the reader doesn’t go on to buy the book immediately or at all. Many readers don’t. It is critical that the reader is provided with enough information to tell whether the plot and characters might interest them, and a good review provides a summary that avoids plot spoilers and doesn’t summarize so far into it that the whole story becomes completely predictable.


With the BFS, books are sent out to reviewers that have been submitted by publishers. With Schlock! and The Horror Tree I have the pleasure of selecting a book I believe the readers will be interested in and which speaks to me as a reader, too. I recently reviewed The Merry Spinster by Daniel Mallory Ortberg for The Horror Tree, and it was a privilege to be able to share an amazing work by a trans writer I really admire.


I like to include something personal in my response and often a little wry humor, too. Your reviewer ought to be a firm friend for the journey. I also try to be quite rigorous in analyzing some aspect of the book, perhaps theme or point of view. If a book has a particular strength or weakness that I wish to draw attention to then I try to offer more than just the observation that I did or didn’t like it. A professional reviewer ought to earn their keep, and that involves justifying the reasons for their response to a work.


Ruschelle: That being said, what in your opinion, makes a terrible book review? School us, and future book reviewers of the pitfalls of leaving reviews.

John: I’ve still got all the early book reviews I wrote when I was at a much earlier stage in my writing career and was learning the reviewer’s trade. I look at them sometimes to reassure myself how much I’ve improved as a reviewer. You need that affirmation to get the confidence to offer your opinion about the validity of another writer’s work, especially when that writer is so much better at it than you will ever be and has rightly been picked up by a massive publishing house and sold millions of books worldwide.


The worst of my early reviews are, of course, gloriously opinionated and ill informed, so it’s a very good thing that none of them ever saw the light of day. What they really all have in common is that they fail to appreciate how hard it is to write a really good novel and that one reviewer’s opinion is only ever one people’s view rather than a definitive opinion that cannot be challenged. Most bad reviews are precisely like that, in my experience.


Ruschelle: Do you have a prized book in your collection? If not, what would it be if you could lay your finger-flesh on its smooth and, oh so sexy, spine?

John: My boyfriend tried to persuade me recently that The Necronomicon was actually a real book. When I saw the madness in his eyes, I didn’t have much difficulty believing he might possess a copy. Let’s just say I didn’t look too closely into his unpacking when he arrived a while back for a visit. Since then there has been some very uncanny thumps emanating from upstairs.


I’ve always thought The Necronomicon would have a sexy spine, and indeed that the cover would be very alluring and beguiling. The true darkness lies within, but by the time you’ve opened the cover and started reading of course it is too late.


Ruschelle: I believe I own a copy of the Necronomicon. Of course, mine is a paperback and it’s written in spaghetti sauce and not blood. So, I’m going to guess it might be a knock off…As we were…As writers, we challenge ourselves and set specific goals to better ourselves at our craft. Is there a genre, theme, topic or word count etc. that you have set as a goal for yourself?

John: I need to master fantasy and horror first! Some might say I have my hands full on that score already and that even that task is likely to be completely beyond me. I have been writing articles recently as well as reviews, and joking apart I can see how these have improved my understanding of both genres.


Ruschelle: For you as an author, what do you find most challenging to write, a ferocious battle scene or a ferocious sex scene?

John: I love a good battle scene, and quite often vary them from all-out melee to single combat, to bring it back to the personal. Even on the largest battlefield with a cast of thousands there is scope for the personal to creep into the action through the settling of old scores with cruel and imaginative violence. The key is to intersperse the bloodthirstiness with plenty of trash talk. You could say the same about a ferocious sex scene, too, of course.


Ruschelle: Is there an author you would love to collaborate with on a novel at some point in your career? Okay, I know the answer is ME, but let’s choose someone else. ☺

John: I’d love to collaborate with you. The Stain had a very poetic resonance that is quite unlike my own writing. Collaboration works best when everyone brings something different to the table. That said, collaboration can take place a little too close to home, which is why my boyfriend and I still haven’t finished writing the two-thousand-word short story we began five months back.


Ruschelle: Dust that two-thousand-word puppy off and finish it! I bet it’s grown a little since you both started it. 

Here’s an interesting question, would you let yourself be haunted or possibly possessed by a ghost if it meant getting their story about life after death?

John: It’s interesting that you assume this hasn’t happened already.


Ruschelle: You’re right! I should never assume. I look forward to your life after death account. I hope you got pix!

As creatives, we are inspired by films, television, music, social media, movements and people. What has been an inspiration to you most recently?

John: The hell of living in the middle of nowhere, caring for a severely ill relative with no help from outside and feeling perpetually overwhelmed at the responsibility. It made the domestic arena a living nightmare and led me to write liminal horror set in an isolated farmhouse where nothing is too weird or dangerous, and horrors literally come crawling out of the walls as the house itself is alive.


Oh, and Litsy, obviously.


Ruschelle: We all need to know what fantastic projects we should look out for from you in the not so distant future.  

John: After Blackacre Rising is published it’ll be time for me to get back to my unfinished fantasy novel. I’m just over half way through the first draft, so that’s a lot of work left to do. It’s based on a Russian-inspired Medieval universe, and features some of the core characters from the Gortah van Murkar fictional world as well as some brand new characters.


Ruschelle: It’s been fantastic interviewing and celebrating the success of a fellow author from our Horror Tree family. So, where can your newfound fans find you and your work on the www?

John: Right here on The Horror Tree with my monthly reviews is a great place to start. Plus my website and Amazon page if you want to find out more about my writing. Just head over to Google. If you search for John C Adams you’ll have a choice between my Amazon page and website, John C Adams the well known University of Mississippi college football player and physician born in 1887, or alternatively John C Adams the highly respected Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Texas at Arlington. We’re a talented bunch.


The Horror Tree Presents…an Interview with C.S. Alleyne

Ruschelle: Hello, hello C.S. Alleyne. It’s wonderful to have you here with us in our little literary corner of hell and mayhem we call the Horror Tree. We are excited by your soon to be released novel Belle Vue. It’s based on a creepy asylum that is right in your own backyard. So awesome. Could you give us a bit of the asylums back story?

C.S.:  Thank you Ruschelle, I’m also excited by Belle Vue being released as it’s my debut novel and my feet haven’t touched the ground yet lol!    

To answer your first question, the Metropolitan Asylums Board opened the, ahem, ‘Leavesden Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles’ (not a name to be reckoned with these days!) in 1870 in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire which is local to me.  Set in 93 acres (although this figure varies considerably according to your source), the original designs for the asylum allowed for the accommodation of 1,560 inmates. Soon that figure was far exceeded and in 1948 the number was over 3,000 patients. Eventually the hospital (as it had become) closed and after a few years was developed into the luxury apartments. 

Although the regime there was strict it was nothing like the Belle Vue Asylum in my novel – that is my imagination and fictionalising from the wider sources of my research. It is quite ironic that these many asylums – both in the UK and US – which in Victorian times only housed the poor and insane (often passed on from the workhouses) should become highly desirable residences with – in some cases – million pound price tags!

That change in usage and perception of desirability fascinated me and when I found a book called ‘Murders in Hertfordshire’ which told the story of a murder taking place there at the end of the nineteenth century, I was hooked and started jotting down plot ideas  and researching more about its history. Not sure where the satanic orgies came in though lol!


Ruschelle: Your novel is a beautiful tapestry. Weaving rich beautiful colors of fiction into the solid strands of facts. How difficult or seamless was it to get the perfect balance of each?


C.S. Thank you. I did make a big effort at this since I strongly dislike those parts in often excellent novels which have research dumps! Those chunks or even pages of text which rattle off everything you wanted – or more likely didn’t want – to know about usually a highly technical or obscure subject. Often it’s safe to skip over these sections if not of interest but I think that is a wasted opportunity. I tried to focus on the actions of the characters and reveal small aspects each time.  I accept I may fall flat on my face here and every review will now identify Belle Vue is full of the very thing I didn’t want to do. But if so my heartfelt apologies and I will not make same mistake twice lol!     


Ruschelle: Are your main characters, Alex and Claire based on people you may know? Are they fragments of you or are they plucked from your imagination?


C.S.: When I first started writing Belle Vue and created Alex and Claire (who also went through a few name changes) I thought I would use bits of myself, friends, film and tv examples but in the main it didn’t turn out that way (or not consciously anyway beyond one character from Oz where I grew up) . Rather it was their role in the story and how they would react to the unfolding circumstances. I also wanted Alex and Claire to be an everyman (and woman) to enable a connection to the reader (if they had these paranormal experiences lol!) whereas the other main characters are very distinct and, as with the ‘baddies’ not necessarily likeable but hopefully compelling.


Ruschelle: Let’s get to the juicy part in your research of the asylum, the satanic orgies. Did you include that ‘dirty little secret’ in Belle Vue? Have you wiped your browsing history clean since then?  LOL


C.S.: I did most of the research just before ‘incognito mode’ existed but luckily the search sites also weren’t as sharp with bombarding you with associated adverts back then. Whereas I did visit a number of converted asylums as part of my research, the closest I got to a satanic orgy was a day trip to the Hellfire Caves in West Wycombe. Very interesting for me but just as I didn’t murder anyone or hadn’t been tried in court, I had to read around the subjects and use my imagination. 


Ruschelle: You discovered a cemetery on the grounds of the asylum. What did your research come up with on the ground’s residents?  


C.S.: When I first found the cemetery which is a surprisingly long way from the main old asylum buildings, it was over grown. There was a lychgate at the entrance but although you could see some graves, others were hidden in the undergrowth. What you could see in some places were where the graves had sunk. This I found in my reading was because they buried the pauper lunatics in hessian sacks and so as the body decomposed the ground above caved in.

Aaron Kosminski, who was one of the people suspected to be Jack the Ripper and was an inmate of the asylum (from 19 April 1894 until his death in May of 1919), is supposedly buried there. Recently the cemetery has been thoroughly cleared and more gravestones discovered.


Ruschelle:  Since the asylum has been converted into apartments, do you believe there are spirits haunting the halls?


C.S.: As a prime candidate for possible hauntings, stories appear every so often in the local press about legends and ghosts associated with the asylum. A recent one identified a past goalkeeper of Arsenal, who lives in one of those luxury apartments, supposedly haunted by the ghost of a monk holding a candle. Since I have a great imagination and, bizarrely given what I write, am a bit of a coward when it comes to the supernatural (always clutching a magazine to hide behind when watching a horror movie), I probably would not live in a place with such a history. 


Ruschelle: How long from conception to research to writing and editing did it take you write Belle Vue?


C.S.: When I started writing Belle Vue at first I focused on the research side as I knew very little about Victorian lunatic asylums or the murder case so that took quite a bit of time as I loved doing that and my research parameters got wider and wider! I also didn’t really think I’d be able to write much and wondered if it might be a short story as it was unlikely I could find enough to write for a novel. But once I got into creating the story and characters it was no problem at all! This process took a couple of years off and on. By the time I’d finished my first complete draft it was twice the length of the soon-to-be-publsihed Belle Vue!

I joined a writers’ circle and many there who had had books published said they had written lots of novels before getting published (now in bottom drawers) so each was a form of practice and developing their writing skills. I did it the other way round and used the same book to do this!  I pruned it and rewrote it numerous times instead (using advice from a lot of rejection letters!) I put it aside for a few years before someone who had read it before said I ought to try again. So I did and my wonderful agent, Italia Gandolfo saw its potential (or I caught her at a weak moment lol) and took me on as a client. After more pruning and editing, it was accepted by Crystal Lake Publishing.


Ruschelle: You have vacationed in many exotic locales; the Catacombs in Paris, the Pope’s crypts in Italy, the tombs of Egypt. These are definitely, The Horror Tree vacations. So where would you love to visit next? And on a side note, did any of them serve drinks with little umbrellas?


C.S.: One of the places, I would love to visit next is the Palermo Catacombs in Sicily which is creepier and more shocking than most horror movies. But I somehow think, just like the rest, no drinks with little umbrellas lol!

Ruschelle: Have you had any supernatural experiences in any of the places you’ve visited? 


C.S.: Nothing I could class as supernatural and don’t ever expect to see me on Ghost Hunters or any such show due to my cowardice even when I know it’s fake lol. My first visit to the old Leavesden Asylum Cemetery was quite unnerving – I was alone in the silence, the cemetery is surrounded by fields and trees. To walk around and discover each gravestone in the high grass and knowing that person’s previous abode and likely history was unsettling.

In all the places I’ve been there was – probably due to my fascination with all things death-related (not to mention my over-active imagination) – an underlying atmosphere of what might happen next. What if the lights went out in the catacombs? What if the blocks of stone in this narrow pyramid tunnel suddenly drop down and block any exit? I’m scaring myself now lol as perception can be as frightening as the reality (if there is any for supernatural occurrences).


Ruschelle: Your book Power is spelled with a mirror image letter R. Color me intrigued. 


C.S.:  It reflects the way the story develops. At the beginning Maude Caulkin – poor and female in Victorian London – is completely powerless. By the end, in a very gory way that surprised even me lol, that power has completely turned – hence the reversed letter.  



Ruschelle: What was the process you used for penning your novelette, Power comparatively to your novel Belle Vue?


C.S.: Power was written at lightning speed compared to Belle Vue. One very small part of it is actually deleted from the much longer version of Belle Vue when I was pruning like Edwards Scissorhands. As I hadn’t had anything published before and didn’t really know how everything worked such as getting an Amazon or Goodreads author page, this was a way of sorting these things out and me learning a bit more as to how the publishing process works.  But the reality of getting a proper novel to market has shocked me with the amount of work required not just by myself but by Crystal Lake Publishing and my agent, Italia Ganfolfo. I am profoundly grateful for their unstinting support. 



Ruschelle: In December of 2019, Power was NUMBER ONE on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Historical Fiction short stories! WHOO HOO!!  How did that effect you as an author and how did that boost your book?


C.S.: I was on cloud nine for days, nay, weeks lol. Just as with very good reviews, it inspires you and the memories keep you going when you’re having a difficult day – writing or marketing-wise.


Ruschelle: With the upcoming release of Belle Vue in August, 2020, barring a rabid Sasquatch uprising or mole people collapsing the entire infrastructure of the planet, what exciting plans do you have for marketing your book? 


C.S.: Given the current circumstances (and bizarrely, a rabid Sasquatch uprising or mole people collapsing the entire infrastructure of the planet doesn’t sound that outlandish lol) I am currently organising for a virtual launch. This includes interviews such as we’re doing, podcasts and radio appearances, guest posts and a blog tour. I shall put these up on my website as well as my social media pages once I have finalised dates (and to be safe, I shall invite any Sasquatches or mole people who might be interested since sales for debut authors are hard to come by!) 


Ruschelle: What was the best and worst piece of writing advice you ever received?


C.S.:  For the ‘worst’, this was not told to me personally but generally writers are advised to ‘write what you know’ which I find incredibly limiting and given Belle Vue is about murder, satanic orgies and mistreatment in Victorian lunatic asylums I am not putting my hand up to any of these! Just imagine all the classics which would never have been written if the authors had stuck to this ‘rule’ – especially in the horror, sci fi and fantasy arenas such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Fiction is about letting your imagination soar! 

Then to the ‘best’, if you love to write or have a story you want to tell, then – as long as you are enjoying yourself – keep at it. Passion for the process as well as the subject is very important – especially if you want a long writing career. 

Ruschelle: As well as a writer, you’re also a reader. How do you prefer to sink into a good book? Traditional print, e-books or audio?


C.S.: It used to be traditional print and I still love the feel of a book in my hands. Increasingly I am moving over to e-books and find reading fiction on my phone, most preferable. I have a lot of friends who love audio books often to the exception of all else but I haven’t really got into these in the same way. I think it has to do with the way I read – if I am not keen on how the book is written or where the storyline is going then I’ll skip forward and see if it’s worth staying – or not. But I can’t really do that with audio.


Ruschelle: What new works do you have simmering in your cooking pot next? Can you give us a little taste?


C.S.: Belle Vue is now planned to be the first of a trilogy. I am in the middle of writing the sequel – Secret Nemesis is the working title – and in it, the main characters from both the Victorian and present day move to the United States and face a cross-fire of evil and danger. So more research on murder and general skulduggery, asylums in the US and satanic societies that side of the pond.


Ruschelle: How can your newfound fans find you on the www.

C.S.: My website address is – – all the links are there too to my social media pages.

And for those who would like a taster – here is the link to the Prologue and the first 2 chapters –

The Horror Tree Presents… an Interview with Zach Friday and Nate Vice

Ruschelle: Welcome to your Horror Tree Interview. This is my first tag team-INTERVIEW…well except for my brief stint in jalapeno jelly wrestling. But that’s not important so let’s get this party started, shall we? You both teamed up to edit the anthology, Ghost Stories for Starless Nights. How did that come about?

Zach & Nate: We’re both pretty involved with the company and working to release the finished product. Ghost Stories for Starless Nights was already set to be a bigger project so we felt it would be best to tackle it together. 


Ruschelle: What can you tell us about the publishing company DBND? Is it run by the Illuminati? Please say it’s so.

Zach & Nate: All we can say is [REDACTED]


Ruschelle: How many authors submitted to this particular anthology? 

Zach & Nate: We had about 175 authors submit for Ghost Stories.


Ruschelle: What was your story selection process and how long did it take?

Zach & Nate: The selection process is always really fun. We try to keep up with stories as they come in, but it’s easy to fall behind. We like to read the stories separately and then meet up to bounce stories off of each other and see if we agree on them. For the most part, we’re working through the selection process from the first story hitting our inbox to about a week before contracts are sent out. 


Ruschelle: I’m sure all the ones you chose were favorites, hence they made it into the anthology. But which ones really resonated with you as horror writers and readers?

Zach: Of the stories selected, Unwritten Songs by Tim Jeffreys is the one that really stuck with me. I found myself thinking about weeks after I’d read it, it has a unique and interesting take on ghosts and what they want from the other side. 

Nate: The Ink of Inspiration by Jeremy Megargee is one that still sticks with me, without spoiling anything, what the character goes thorough hits home for me in a lot of ways…except for the ending of course. Text Messages from the Problem Solver by Justin Zimmerman is another one because it deals with one of my biggest fears when it comes to death. 


Ruschelle: As editors, what is the toughest part about working with writers? What would you love to tell authors who might be considered for publication?

Zach & Nate: The toughest part is not being able to publish stories we love and want to because they don’t necessarily fit what we’re aiming for on a project. One of the most important things to us as editors is to not come in and drastically change a work. If we feel it needs major changes to be included in an anthology, we’ll usually pass. We don’t want to be the editors that dismantle a piece with a red pen just to end up with something the author isn’t in love with. 

What would we love to tell authors? Submit and keep submitting, get your work out there as much as possible. Every story has a home, you just have to find it. 


Ruschelle: You are longtime friends, sorry your secret is out. Did you find this an easy, natural project to work on together, or did it make you relive moments as kids when you wanted to throw down behind the school dumpster? 

Zach & Nate: Haha no, we work together well. We’ve known each other for the majority of our lives, so for the most part we do a decent job respecting our differing opinions. 


Ruschelle: Have either of you had any actual cryptozoological or supernatural experience?

Zach & Nate: We’ve both had our fair share of strange experiences. One we shared together in middle school led to us hiding in a creek bed from something chasing us through the forest. 


Ruschelle: Fun question- If you could meet any cryptid or famous spook, which one would it be and why?

Zach: Shadow people. Someone needs to stop those bastards. It can be me.   

Nate: Oh, Bigfoot easily. I’ve been obsessed with the subject since I first saw the Patterson-Gimlin film as a young child.  


Ruschelle: From the little bit of creeping I was able to do, Zach appears to be an author. And a, ‘humor/horror’ author to boot. Yes! A writer after my own little black heart. What makes a good, solid story frightful yet funny?

Zach Friday

Zach: I think horror and humor fit together very well. Humor is a way that people deal with stressful, frightening, and horrific situations, so it feels natural for humor to seep through in dialogue and situations while keeping the tone and backbone of the story dark and horrific. I think that’s the main thing that lets a humorous horror story work well. I’m also a fan of juvenile humor worked into clichéd horror tropes.


Ruschelle: Which horror authors do you gravitate towards when reading for your own enjoyment? 

Zach: Lately, I’ve worked my way through Grady Hendrix’s books and I really wish there were more. I’m also always on the lookout for any new horror authors from small presses. 

Nate: Well, my dad is an English teacher, so I’ve always had Edgar Allen Poe works surrounding me. Stephen King isn’t so bad himself. 


Ruschelle: NATE, I was reading somewhere on the not so dark web that when you were a kid, you met Pennywise in a storm drain out in the middle of the woods. Maybe it wasn’t Pennywise. The not so dark web doesn’t always get the facts straight. Care to give The Horror Tree the exclusive?

Nate: Haha! I can’t say I’ve ever run into Pennywise himself, but when I was a child, I woke up to a family member watching the original IT tv miniseries. The first thing I saw was Pennywise sucking a child through a sewer drain… so that didn’t help my love for clowns for sure. Also, I’ve never been able to bring myself to read that particular King novel. 


Ruschelle: Has your creativity been inspired by books, movies or television? Fair warning, there may be a wrong answer. Lol

Zach: I guess I would have to say all three. I think it’s impossible to not be inspired by other mediums (I hope that’s not the wrong answer). I think it’s important to be in the know with what’s popular, to know what others are doing so that your creativity can go its own way or follow suit with a unique spin.  

Nate: I would have to agree with Zach. All three of those mediums have provided inspiration. I would even throw in horror video games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil. They capture the horror imagination well. 


Ruschelle: Alien invasion, chupacabra invasion or insect invasion? They all sound like a good time, I know, but you can only pick one to live through. Which one and why? I took a break from inquiring about zombie invasions. You’re welcome. 

Zach: Alien. No telling what they’ll be and that’s exciting. Unless they’re giants and they just squish us all immediately. Or millennia ahead of us and smite us. But that’s the fun of the gamble.   

Nate: Chupacabra. Only because it increases the chances of Bigfoot being real haha.


Ruschelle: What projects are you both working on that your newfound fans should look out for? 

Zach & Nate: We have some exciting things with DBND that will come out over the next year. We’ll be reworking our pay for authors, novel and collection submissions will be opening, and we have a few things under wraps that we can’t quite mention yet. We also have open submissions for some new anthologies that will be coming out this year and more on the way, including Halloween Horror: Volume II. And we’re very excited about that! 


Ruschelle: Zach- where can your newfound fans find and connect with you?

Zach: Twitter @ZachAFriday and email are usually the best ways to reach me and see what I’ve been up to. 


Ruschelle: Nate- where can your newfound fans find and connect with you? 

Nate: Email. Or Facebook. 


Ruschelle: Thank you both for chatting with me here at The Horror Tree! It’s been a pleasure. 

Zach & Nate: Thank you for the great questions, this has been a lot of fun!