Stacey – Welcome to The Horror Tree, Dan. It’s great to have you. Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?
Dan – I’m from Staffordshire, which is a small county in the centre of England. It’s famous for Alton Towers, Arnold Bennett and a local dish known as an Oatcake.
I started writing full time five years ago after being made redundant from my office based job. I became a full-time dad to my daughter (then aged three) and decided to try creative writing in what little downtime I had.
My first short story was based on a local myth that had always captured my interest. ‘The Legend of the Chained Oak’ was picked up for publication by Scath Beorh (Haunted Magazine), and it all kind of snowballed from there!
Stacey – You’re not only an author but a playwright and screenwriter, as well. Which is quite impressive. What inspired you to make the leap from books to screen?
Dan – The first film happened completely by chance and only came to fruition because of the dedication of the individuals involved in the project. Again, this project was based on my first story, ‘The Legend of the Chained Oak’.
I heard that a film producer had previously attempted to make a film based on the legend, and, filled with the new found confidence a first publication instills, I approached him and pitched my story.
I wrote a screenplay that incorporated aspects of my original short story, but took place in the present.
A lot of people worked hard for free on the film, and we were fortunate to win several awards. The film has since played at festivals worldwide, and I recently sold distribution rights to the Found Footage Critic channel.
I have written several other screenplays, and have seen a stage play of mine adapted to film. ‘Beige’ can be viewed on the British Comedy Guide Website. (Don’t let the comedy aspect fool you – the film is suitably twisted!)
I recently penned a book detailing my experiences as a novice playwright. The Dead Stage, is out now courtesy of Crystal Lake Publishing and contains a wealth of advice for aspiring playwrights.
Stacey – You’ve also collected quite a few awards according to your website. I couldn’t help but see the Bram Stoker award amongst them. What was it like to be honoured in such a way?
Dan – We did win a Bram Stoker for ‘Legend of the Chained Oak’, but it is not the HWA Bram Stoker Award. (I’m still working hard towards that achievement!)
The award we won was presented by the now-defunct Bram Stoker International Film Festival, which took place in Whitby (Dracula fans will understand why) every autumn.
We received the Best short award. The trophy is truly unique, and sits on my desk, reminding me of a time when the words flowed!
Stacey – Which author or playwright living or dead inspires you?
Dan – When I first started to write, Poe, Barker and Lovecraft were a source of great inspiration to me.
As I began to develop my voice, I looked at the work and influence of Arnold Bennett, who is the area’s most prominent author. Bennett inspires me to create opportunities for others; the area I am from is regarded as one of the poorest areas in the country, where literacy rates are low, and unemployment is high.
I work extensively in the local community to promote the art of creative writing and helped initiate both the Arnold Bennett Literary prize and A Poet Laureate for Stoke on Trent.
Stacey – Do you draw inspiration from real life experiences?
Dan – Absolutely. I imagine most writers do. My stories contain elements of my life, good times and bad, as well as the hopes and dreams I harbor for my children.
Stacey – Do you find anything particularly challenging about writing? Do you write daily?
Dan – I don’t write daily. I don’t believe writing should be forced. I wait until I “feel” there is a story to be written. It can take a while…it seems to take longer these days, but I’m in no rush. I’m thirty-nine and believe I have many more tales to tell.
Stacey – Where do you write? Indoors? Outdoors?
Dan – I write from my bedroom. I have a desk with a PC, several notebooks, various bits of stationary and whatever the children have left for me to puzzle over that day.
At one time I had a dedicated office, with a shelf full of oddities I have collected over the years (a memento mori brooch, an electro-shock treatment machine, an infant vampire model etc.), but with an expanding family, space was at a premium and my daughter moved into the room.
Stacey – Do you need music or complete silence to write?
Dan – I have to write in silence. I cannot concentrate if there is any noise. I can’t even edit to music! I don’t notice however as when I work I become totally engrossed to the point of it mentally exhausting me!
Stacey – What’s the best writing advice you could give someone just starting out?
Dan – Ignore what everybody else is doing and write your way. Once finished, leave it to settle a while – you’ll know when to come back for the rewrite because you won’t be able to think about anything else.
Also, don’t strive for perfection, because it is an unreachable goal. Work towards producing a piece of writing you feel is a decent representation of your efforts.
Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish reading? Which book and why?
Dan – I hate to admit, but I’m really bad for this. I find it hard to keep my attention on anything for long. I think this is why I write in short, sharp bursts.
I find collections much easier to finish than novels. I hate to admit it, but I STILL haven’t finished Stephen King’s IT.
Stacey – What’s the last horror movie you watched?
Dan – The Thing, this past Halloween. I saw it as a child and it terrified me. It still stands up today (as does any decent horror film). The film absolutely nails the atmosphere of distrust. Also, it is still suitably gross.
Stacey – What scares you?
Dan – I fear something bad happening to my children more than any threat that may come my way. I think any parent does.
Stacey – Do you believe in writers’ block?
Dan – No, in the sense that if you have nothing to write about, you just need time to go and do other things. Ideas come and go. I find that an idea needs time to settle internally before I will begin the process of writing it. Those times between ideas? Some might call it writers’ block, but I prefer to look at it as your mind having a cooling off period.
Stacey – What are 5 things you cannot live without?
Dan – My family, my imagination-Fuel (I don’t drink coffee) painkillers (I suffer awful migraines) and laughter.
Stacey – Out of your own works, which is your favourite and why?
Dan – Surely the most difficult question of all! I have to say it is always my most recent work because I like to believe I improve with each release. That may not be the case, but a positive outlook is a must if you want to succeed as a writer.
Stacey – What are you working on at the moment?
Dan – I recently finished a story that I wrote for my children. ‘The Necessary Evils’ is a story about two kids who find the entrance to Hell at the bottom of their grandmother’s garden. (The story is a horror of sorts, although nothing bad happens to or is witnessed by the children.) The piece is a comment on the evaporation of innocence, and it is currently with my agent.
My debut novel, The Tainted Isle: English Gothic, is released next Spring courtesy of PS Publishing. The book follows the cases of the UK’s first paranormal investigator, Solomon Whyte, and is based on many, lesser known UK legends.
I’ve also a further novel and novella that I am hoping to place soon!
Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
Dan – Please enjoy this recent short that appeared in my regional newspaper’s Halloween edition!
In the heart of England, lies a forest spanning several hundred square kilometres. Hidden among the birch and bracken of Cannock Chase, are (among other, older things) a disused World War Two airfield, an abandoned 17th century village (complete with cottages, chapel, and a set of wooden stocks), and an unusually shaped rock formation known locally as the Moss-Firth Tower, which can be seen from several miles away.
There is no doubting the area’s natural beauty, though few locally venture into the woodlands by day, and all do their utmost to avoid the area entirely by night.
A legend attached to the Chase, tells the tale of a young girl, whom, pregnant and afraid, was driven from her home amidst accusations of witchcraft. With nowhere else to go, she gave birth in a secluded glade, far enough from the village so that the painful cries of childbirth would be swallowed by the forest.
The baby, cursed with Witch’s blood, was born hideously disfigured. Knowing the community would look upon her son as an omen of ill luck, the girl chose to abandon the child beneath the shadow of Moss-Firth Tower. Praying that the woodland spirits who dwelled there would accept her gift to them, she returned to the village to repent of her evil ways.
The following winter, the girl succumbed to a fever, taking the secret of her son’s fate to her grave.
It was around this time that stories of a fearsome creature began to spread throughout the village. Massive in size and with hideous, pig-like facial features, the beast had been seen skulking in the tree line, watching the children play.
Over the following months, several livestock were taken in the dead of night; their grisly remains found strewn across the ground.
There followed an unseasonably harsh winter, and amidst stories of children disappearing into the woodland never to return, the village was abandoned.
Centuries passed, and untouched by man, the forest grew dense and the secrets of the village and its surrounding area were buried beneath impenetrable brushwood. It remained unexplored until recently, when a group of scouts visited on retreat, with the intention of camping through the night. Of the fourteen boys that entered the forest, only one was to leave.
The surviving boy claimed that, after a day spent wading through streams, climbing trees, and making leaf rubbings, the group, in good spirits, pitched camp near to Moss-Firth Tower. As they settled around the campfire, enjoying their toasted marshmallows and a shared ghost story or two, talk turned to legends of the Chase. Arkela, having been born nearby, began to recount the tale of Pigman, known to all locally as a foul beast, born of the devil’s bride, abandoned and left to forage in the woodlands, several centuries ago.
Arkela stated that many believed Pigman to be responsible for numerous disappearances throughout the Chase’s history (disappearances that scarcely made the headlines, but were well documented in regional folklore) and that attempts to capture the creature had proven futile. He added that Pigman could be summoned by the recital of a rhyme popular in local playgrounds. So long as you were located somewhere within the confines of the Chase, and were sat near to an open fire, saying the rhyme aloud would coax Pigman from hiding.
As boys will be boys, they dared Arkela to recite the rhyme aloud:
“Pigman, you’ve no family,
None love you, that I can see,
Pigman, such a tragedy,
Won’t you come and play with me?”
According to the boy, there was a long silence, where only the crackle and spit of the fire could be heard. The boys looked at one another, nervously waiting for someone to speak, fearing something dreadful might happen if they did not.
It was then that a pitched squeal erupted from behind them, and from the shadows came a lumbering shape, its flesh slick with sweat, its pinprick eyes reflecting fury and fire, its snout-like nose, twitching, and its yellowed tusks dripping with saliva.
It squealed a second time, flinging an upturned tree stump in the air as it did so, flinging lumps of damp soil this way and that.
The Scouts fled, scuttling off in all directions, but the boy, transfixed by terror, remained. The creature ignored him, its attention focused firmly on the fleeing scouts. To its left, one of the smaller scouts had fallen, his ankle caught among a tangle of shrubs. The creature lumbered towards him, and, with a sickening pop, brought a gargantuan fist crashing down onto his head.
It was at this point that the surviving member of the scouts passed out. When he came too, the camp was completely ransacked. Torn tents and a mix of personal belongings littered the clearing. Among them was a small, blue teddy bear, its seams split down one side, the exposed stuffing matted with blood.
It is said that Pigman’s squeals can still be heard echoing through the forest, should you pass their outer limits after sundown. Ask locally after the creature and many will laugh in your face, and call you a fool. Ask them to join with you on a walk through the forest, however, and they will quickly fall silent.
If you are to take away anything from this tale, heed this warning: if you feel eyes upon you while braving the woodland of Cannock Chase, if you hear a shrill squeal and a rustle of bushes, then, by all means, do be afraid. Tremble, cry, even close your eyes; but do not run, for those that do seldom survive the Pigman of The Chase.
Thank you so much for your time Dan! If you would like to find out more about Dan and his writing endeavours, check out the links below.
Lucien – It would seem that you have a wide variety of interests including software engineering and bug hunting. How is it that you came to pursue writing?
Marc: I was originally a Philosophy student. I have a BA and I was pursuing a PhD when I had the dreams that led me to write my first novel, a fantasy story called Unbinding the Stone. I don’t usually remember my dreams, so I mentioned them to my wife, who uttered those fateful words, “That sounds like it might make a good book.” A few days later the first sentence popped into my head. I wrote it down and said, “What next?” I hate descriptive prose and didn’t want to write it, so I ended up creating a technique for describing the setting in terms of what the character is perceiving, not necessarily what he sees and certainly not what I see. Everything in the story is presented from a character’s POV, making the book not only character-oriented but character-driven as well, something that suited my philosophical outlook very well. It was not a technique I’d seen in any of the books that were available at the time. That’s probably what kept me going as a writer, beyond that first book, the fact that I was writing stories that I wanted to read.
Lucien – Does your bug hunting and/or engineering background come in handy in your stories?
The two have a lot in common, if you think of bug-hunting as looking for editing problems, which they often are. The skill sets overlap. For me writing and editing a novel involves following the logic of the story. When a story has a logic failure it trips me right up, and a computer program is often the same. I have also noticed a number of occasions when the story itself contains elements that are similar to what you might see in a computer program, but I try to avoid doing that.
Lucien – It also looks like you’re a bit of a genre hopper between fantasy, science fiction, and even paranormal based stories. What are your favourite aspects within of these genres? Do you have a favourite of the three genres you write for?
I started out in fantasy, which is a great genre for presenting abstract concepts like good and evil, right and wrong, in concrete terms. The downside is that you have to make up everything about the world yourself. That’s one of the benefits of writing from the perspective of the characters, I don’t have to invent everything, just the part that matters to them, which is also the part that matters to the story. If I genre-hop it’s partly because I hate doing things I’ve done before, so I’ll switch to a different genre simply for the variety of it. I think the different genres also force me to come up with different structures for my stories. The more ‘real-world’ the story, the more structurally complex they seem to be, at least to me.
Lucien – Who would you consider to be your top three influencers in your work?
This is probably the hardest question to answer, since I try to be as different from everything I’ve already seen as I can be. So to me an influencer would be a negative influencer, someone I tried not to be like, and there can be lots of reasons for that. I remember one book I kept available when I was writing my first novel because I thought it was very badly written and kept it as a bad example, but I may think they’re good writers in a style I don’t like, or I like the style but try to avoid being like them. I don’t know that anyone did or does what I do.
Lucien – Do you have any advice for new authors? Or advice you wish you had when you were starting out?
Do it for love. Remember that you are your own first reader, so write a book that you want to read. Writing to a demographic is writing for nobody, and nobody might like it.
Lucien – On your website you state in your About section that “the story and the storyteller should be the same thing”. Can you elaborate on that in terms of relating your real self to your stories? Do you think it’s easier or more challenging to put yourself into “genre fiction” rather than something like contemporary fiction?
The Character should come out of the storyteller, and the story should come out of the character, that’s what I mean by character-driven stories. When I create a character I don’t think of the plot and pull together all the characteristics my hero will need to handle it. I rip a hunk of my soul out and throw it on the page, then watch it to see what it will do.
I don’t write fantasy novels, I write novels about people who live fantasy lives. They get lemons and they make lemonade, but the lemons are fantasy lemons. The lemonade making is the same as anything any of us would do. My werewolf novel isn’t about the werewolves, but the people who become werewolves, the guy who hunts werewolves. How do you go through those 29 days, knowing that on the thirtieth you’ll turn into a ten-ton death machine? How does the hunter deal with his 29 days, knowing that on the thirtieth he’ll have to kill someone who’s innocent all the rest of the time?
I don’t think I’ve ever written contemporary fiction, but I think that I’m taking a contemporary fiction approach to genre fiction, if that makes sense.
Lucien – You have written for both long and short form narratives. What’s easier for you to write, novels or short stories?
Short stories are good for the more straightforward stories. They don’t have the room to get overly complicated plot-wise, but good strong characters will really shine in those. I have a dark sci-fi series of short stories I’m doing for a new magazine called Black Infinity. I’m not normally a dark writer, so it’s good practice for me, especially since it’s a series, so I can develop the MC over the series while focusing on a particular conflict in any particular one.
Novels are good for really getting deeply into the minds of the characters, especially in combination. That’s where the stories become the most interesting, since each character has their own plot, which may have nothing to do with the MC’s plot, and how do they react to each other? The longer the form the more characters can be brought into play. Novels take me much longer to write, though, years, whereas I can put together a short story in just a few weeks.
Lucien – Which of your stories would you recommend to a new reader who wanted to get the best example of your style?
My style is always evolving. Each book changes me as I write it, and I never write the same way twice. I would recommend my second fantasy novel, A Warrior Made, sequel to Unbinding the Stone, but just a little more intricate, the beginning of my experimentation with structure. For short stories you can try Boarding Party, which appeared in Black Infinity 2. It’s a science fiction story with a darker tone (creepy monster slime). On the comic side I would suggest Steampunk Santa.
Lucien – You can learn more about Marc and his work via his. Links to both his website and where to buy his books are below.
Hi Eric, and welcome to Horror Tree! I’m so glad I get to finally sit down and talk to you. It’s been quite the lengthy experience researching all your many books and tracing your career. Coffee or what type of drink to start?
Eric: I’m a coffee person too though I typically prefer mine cold and black.
Erin: Wonderful, we’ll have coffee then, yours cold and black, mine hot with plenty of cream and sugar. Now that we’re settling, let’s jump right in! Firstly, Eric Brown is a common name even in writing and film, so let’s set it straight which Eric YOU are Eric S. Brown. Tell us a short bit about yourself and what you do.
Eric: I’m a professional horror and science fiction writer living in rural North Carolina. I’ve been a comic book collector since I was four years old, am a diehard BSG fan (or Colonial if you prefer) and am married with two children and two cats. In the last seventeen years I have had over one hundred novels and novellas published along with over five hundred short stories. I’ve also edited a handful of anthologies and currently write ongoing columns for both a local newspaper and Altered Reality Magazine. I’ve written for places as large as Simon and Schuster and Baen Books and places as small as Great Old Ones Publishing and MoonDream Press. As long as there is a paycheck involved, I will write for just about anyone. I became a writer because of my love of genre fiction and comics but it was reading the works of David Drake that taught me how to write. The man is my personal hero of the writing world and I have had the pleasure to meet and work with him on various projects several times. And I suppose I should mention that some of work has been adapted into film. “Bigfoot War” was the first (and most infamous) of those but “Werewolf Massacre at Hell’s Gate” and “Cult of the Shadow People” were produced by a smaller company as well.
Erin: I’ve scoured through your Amazon and GoodReads and other such pages and my eyes started to bug out realizing how many books you’ve written. From bigfoot to underwater creatures, what is your favorite to write about?
Eric: My favorite changes all the time. I spent eight years writing mainly just zombie stuff, then several more years doing pretty much nothing but Bigfoot horror. This year at least, Mecha, vampires, and psionics have been what I have enjoyed most. I had wanted to do a novel that combined all three of those for a long while but never found a publisher crazy enough to take something like that on until I met Chris Kennedy. His company is truly amazing. I had already done a short story and a book for his Seventh Seal Press imprint set in the best-selling Four Horsemen universe, so I pitched my idea to him and we settled on a deal for a novel entitled “Psi-Mechs Inc”. I wrote the first Psi-Mechs Inc. novel in about a month. When it was released, it did well and was expanded into a trilogy including the sequel novels “Darker Nights” and “The Vampire War.” Chris’s Blood Moon Press imprint released the entire trilogy this year. After that, I went on to write a purely SF novel for Theogony Books, entitled “Miranda’s War,” that is set for release this December 21st. I owe Chris a lot not just for having faith in my work but convincing me that I could write full length novels. Up until “Psi-Mechs Inc.,” I had never written a full-length novel on my own without a co-author but thanks to Chris, I’ve hammered out four already this year.
Erin: Where do you get your ideas for them from and how do you structure your work. Do you outline or write at will?
Eric: I grew up a horror, SF, and comic book geek so I like to think I am pretty well versed in those genres. Coming up with ideas isn’t really a hard thing. I just think about what I would like to see out there as a fan and run with that. In addition, I have gotten to a point with some publishers like Severed Press where I just write whatever sort of book they happen to need at the moment. Sure, it takes some creativity out of things in a sense but it allows me to write full time knowing I will Lord willing have work that is waiting for me when I finish whatever current project I am doing. As to outlining, I have done it but I usually don’t and certainly never on anything smaller than a full length novel.
Erin: What advice do you have for other writers who want to write good action sequences into their books?
Eric: Read David Drake, especially his Hammer’s Slammers series. The man couldn’t write a bad action scene if you held a gun to his head and threatened his life over it. Reading his work is how I learned to write action.
Erin: I saw that the first book in your Bigfoot Wars series was made into a feature film by Origins Releasing. What was the process for you like? What did it entail?
Eric: It all started kind of strange. Studio 3 Entertainment was making a new “Legend of Boggy Creek” film and the director was looking for someone to do a novelization of it. At the time, “Bigfoot War” was huge and fairly unique. He found me because of that book and not only hired me for the novelization but optioned “Bigfoot War” at the same time. Two years went by and I figured nothing would ever come of the option then one day I got a call out of the blue telling me that the project had been given the greenlight. I had my contract a day or two later and got paid for the rights that summer. It was a pretty amazing experience to sell movie rights. I think every writer hopes for that on some level. I however made the mistake that a lot of writers just getting into movies make and allowed the number of zeroes on the check to blind me to the fact that I would have no creative control on the project. I hated the movie but remain thankful for it to this day because that check bought my family and I a lot of freedom for several years. And keep in mind that beyond signing the contract and cashing the check, I had no involvement with the movie whatsoever.
Erin: I saw that one of the executives during the announcement of the film in 2013 said “It seems that interest in Cryptozoology and creatures such as the Bigfoot is timeless and evergreen. It never dies.” Do you think that’s still true, and if so, why?
Eric: I think so. People are always going to be fascinated by the unknown whether that is space travel or monsters lurking in the woods or sewers. There is a great escapism to spending your time reading, watching, or dreaming about those types of things.
Erin: Just this year, you’ve released I believe at least ten creature novellas and novels mostly all from Severed Press, from Sasquatch to Kraken. I am most excited for Terror Krakens, as I love anything ocean or sea horror/thriller. Firstly, how are you so prolific? What is your writing schedule entail that you can publish so many books?
Eric: Actually, I have had fifteen new books released this year as well as an anthology I complied for Crystal Lake Publishing. I have two more books slated for release by the end of the year as well. As to how I am so prolific, well, I have bills to pay and kids to feed. Not much of a choice really. One had to work to keep the money coming in. It doesn’t hurt that I really enjoy what I do most of the time either. I don’t really have a set writing schedule. I just get try to dive straight into writing as soon as my wife and kids are out the door in the morning. I like to aim for at least three thousand words a day but that doesn’t always happen. Some days it’s a struggle to get just a thousand and others I can do five thousand or more easily. I’ve been told I am a fast writer, but I don’t see myself that way. I tend to think I am a slacker and know that I could do more than I do if I didn’t read so many comics, etc.
Erin: Oh, wow I counted wrong then. That’s a lot of books! Secondly, how do you research for these various titles and provide examples?
Eric: Yeesh. I don’t really research at all for my monster books unless it’s military jargon or weapons. I’ve been doing monsters for so long now I am comfortable just writing most of the time. For other books like “Casper Alamo” though, I really had to learn a lot. I wanted to retell the story of the Alamo with Mecha vs. Aliens while keeping it as close to the real-life battle as I could and spent hours learning about the Alamo and its defenders.
Erin: You also released “Beyond Night” in collaboration with co-author Stephen L. Shrewsbury, which I found interesting myself upon its release as it has fantasy, action, sorcery, horror, historical fiction all rolled into one novel (meshing a lot of my favorite genres together). In the back-cover copy for the title it states: It’s Bigfoot War mixed with Lovecraftian horror on the edge of the Roman Empire. How do you come up with scenarios like this and how do you convince a publisher to take something like on?
Eric: As I have mentioned, I love the works of David Drake. Dave has written a good deal of Roman books over the years and I really wanted to take a stab at following in his footsteps in that regard. Dave is a real scholar while I am just a geek who writes stories so that where Shrews came in. He knows his history, so we tackled that one together. “Beyond Night” is a very Robert E. Howard/David Drake style book. As to how I convinced the publisher, I have no idea. I just asked them and they said yes. I guess looking at my past books they hoped I knew what I was doing.
Erin: How much research and planning went into it? How did Stephen and you handle co-writing this? What was the process?
Eric: Shrews (Stephen) carried the weight and did all the hard work on the novel. History is his thing. I just came up with the story idea, turned him loose on it, and added a lot of angry beasts tearing folks apart.
Erin: You have co-authored many other things with various authors as well over a 17-year career. Do you like working with a co-author? What are the positive merits you love and what are the challenges?
Eric: I love working with other writers. It’s always cool to blend two different styles of writing and ways of approaching a given story. The most challenging part for me is usually waiting on my co-author’s next section to come in. I can be pretty driven to get things done and move at a decently fast pace.
Erin: What would you tell someone who is hesitant to co-write a book with someone else?
Eric: As long as you make sure the person you’re working with is someone you’re comfortable with, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you from doing it. Just know that the book is a team effort and expect to be ready to compromise when you need to.
Erin: I noticed you often mix history into your various books and it’s safe to say you write across several genres with many of your books. What do you think this lends you as an author as opposed to someone who writes strictly only one genre?
Eric: Nah, not really. I just write what I enjoy whether that’s Roman soldiers, old west gunfighters, or the battlefields of World War II. I’ve always enjoyed reading period stuff so writing it was just something that came naturally to me, I guess. As to your question, I have always believed that a writer can write anything if they put effort into it. Having a varied background in my own fandom though I think may allow me blend things in ways that other writers might not.
Erin: To go back to the beginning of your career for a moment, many say in 2003 with your first book, you become an expert on the zombie genre. How did evolve? And then how did (it seems it did) your work evolve out of the zombie genre?
Eric: I count it as 2001 with the publication my first story in Burning Sky magazine # 9 which was indeed a zombie story. When I started out, I wanted to be a Military SF writer like David Drake but lacked his real-life military background. At the time, I lived and breathed zombies. I watched all the movies and read most of what few books there were back then as it was before zombies were mainstream. And since it was my zombie stories that sold, those are what I wrote. Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing them too. After eight years of writing tons of zombie stories, people in the small press just started calling me “the king of zombies.” Of course, again this before or right as they were making a comeback.
As the sub-genre really got popular again, I switched over to writing Bigfoot Apocalypse books like “Bigfoot War.” I credit a lot of folks thinking I am an expert to Jonathon Maberry’s book “Zombie CSU.”
I had taken some extensive time away from writing when my son was born and was shocked when Mr. Maberry wanted to interview me in the book. I ended up having a larger interview in it than Robert Kirkman (mind-blowing but true!) After that, Simon and Schuster hunted me down and picked up the rights to “War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies.” I didn’t even have an agent. I had to get one just to work with them even though they came to me. That was the peak of my time writing zombies and by then I was tired of them as a writer and moved on to Bigfoot horror and other things.
Erin: How did it feel to write a book with H.G. Wells? *wink* In all seriousness, you did technically as I noticed your “War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies” you had written years ago, in which you interspersed content in the way of “Pride of Prejudice Zombies,” correct? That’s pretty interesting! What was that writing process like and how did you make it flow so seamlessly? Were there any rules you had to follow?
Eric: Well, he was dead so I pretty much had control. I was hired to rewrite “War of the Worlds” into a serious zombie apocalypse novel, not just a parody like the ones that were being cranked out at that time. It was a very easy gig. All I had to do was rewrite an existing novel adding lots of undead and gore along the way. I want to say it took me about two weeks to do it. It was a crazy small amount of work considering what I got paid. As to how I made it flow, I just re-read a lot of Wells before I started and did my best to mimic his voice.
Erin: How important do you think it is for an author to find a saleable niche? Do you write what you love or write what sells and in your case is it both?
Eric: I write what pays the bills first and foremost. As a family guy I have to. That said, I really look forward to when a publisher agrees to let me do something I want because of the sales on the things I did for them. Even while I am cranking out whatever books the publishers I work with need, I am usually dreaming about the next project that’s something I just really want to do like “Bigfoot War” and “Psi-Mechs Inc.” were.
Erin: Of your various series, which monsters do you like best personally: Bigfoot, Megalodon, Kraken, Kaiju, etc. and why?
Eric: I owe a great deal of the success I have had in my career to “Bigfoot War” and it was a very personal book for me as well. That said, I like writing mecha and genre bent, war stories in general more than anything else.
Erin: Which ones are most popular with the public or readers?
Eric: “Bigfoot War” remains the most popular of everything I have done even surpassing my mass market novel with Simon and Schuster or the stories I have done for Baen. “Bigfoot War” was very unique and different when it was released all those years ago and it’s still, I am told, a very fun horror read today.
Erin: This year also saw the release of your collected stories of The Monster Society from Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press, whom you wrote stories for under his 1632 Grantville Gazette universe. Because I love history, it sounds intriguing to me. Can you tell me a bit about both, the latter first, and then about your collected stories you released this year….
Eric: I am a fan of Baen Books largely because of David Drake and though he’s my favorite, he’s not the only Baen author I read. I had read and liked Eric Flint’s 1632 series and randomly met the editor of the Grantville Gazette at a con. He asked me to try my hand at a story and before I knew it, I had over a dozen stories published in the Gazette. Nine of those were about a group of kids who are heavily into LARP (live action roleplaying) and made up a series entitled The Monster Society. The series was shockingly well received by readers of the Gazette despite being more of a coming of age tale that just happened to be set in Flint’s world than any actual alternate historical events. And as you mentioned, the collected edition of them was just released by Ring of Fire Press this year. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys stuff like “Stranger Things,” odds are you will enjoy them too.
Erin: I know I’ve exhausted you with these questions, but I think researching how much content you put out exhausted me. 😊 In all seriousness, do you do this for your actual day job? If so, what advice can you give to other authors about writing process, quotas, and the business to help them formulate decisions on becoming a full-time writer?
Eric: Writing is my day job. It’s not always easy but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I feel very blessed to pay the bills making up stories. If you’re a new writer just write every day, as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to send your work out to editors. Don’t waste your time with writing groups, family members, or friends reading it. Get it into the hands of someone who can buy it.
Erin: Any rituals or quirks to your writing process?
Eric: Yes. I write in my car. It started when I was the assistant manager of a video rental store and would write in the parking lot outside of it before going home every night. My car just became my “zone” for writing and has stayed that way ever since. I also like to listen to music while I write, mostly Rush.
Erin: What’s next for you in 2019?
Eric: Not sure yet. I am at work on a new Bigfoot book currently and my next SF novel, “Miranda’s War,” is slated for December 21st release at the end of this year. I guess we’ll have to wait and see together.
Erin: Thanks so very much Eric for being patient with me and answering all these questions. Congratulations on such an extensive career and best wishes for the future!
Eric: Thanks for having me over. This was fun.
Eric S Brown Biography –
Eric S Brown is the author of numerous book series including the Bigfoot War series, The Psi-Mechs Inc. series, the Kaiju Apocalypse series (with Jason Cordova), the Crypto-Squad series (with Jason Brannon), and the A Pack of Wolves series. Some of his stand alone books include War of the Worlds plus Blood Guts and Zombies, Casper Alamo (with Jason Brannon), Sasquatch Island, Day of the Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Crashed, World War of the Dead, Last Stand in a Dead Land, Sasquatch Lake, Kaiju Armageddon, Megalodon, Megalodon Apocalypse, Kraken, Alien Battalion, The Last Fleet, and From the Snow They Came to name only a few. His short fiction has been published hundreds of times in the small press in beyond including markets like the Onward Drake and Black Tide Rising anthologies from Baen Books, the Grantville Gazette, the SNAFU Military horror anthology series, and Walmart World magazine. He has done the novelizations for such films as Boggy Creek: The Legend is True (Studio 3 Entertainment) and The Bloody Rage of Bigfoot (Great Lake films). The first book of his Bigfoot War series was adapted into a feature film by Origin Releasing in 2014. Werewolf Massacre at Hell’s Gate was the second of his books to be adapted into film in 2015. Major Japanese publisher, Takeshobo, bought the reprint rights to his Kaiju Apocalypse series (with Jason Cordova) and the mass market, Japanese language version was released in late 2017. Ring of Fire Press has released a collected edition of his Monster Society stories (set in the New York Times Best-selling world of Eric Flint’s 1632). In addition to his fiction, Eric also writes an award-winning comic book news column entitled “Comics in a Flash” as well a pop culture column for Altered Reality Magazine. Eric lives in North Carolina with his wife and two children where he continues to write tales of the hungry dead, blazing guns, and the things that lurk in the woods.
Claire: Hi K.R! Great to chat to you. Let’s jump right in. Tell me about you!
K.R. Rowe: Hi Claire! Thank you so much for having me. I’m honoured to be interviewed here at The Horror Tree. I’m a wife, mom and lover of the mountains and all things outdoors. I am fortunate to have two precious rescue chihuahuas and one ornery cat. I also love horror, heavy metal, animals, cheesecake, Milkduds, and writing. In my spare time, I love to hike and occasionally kayak. If I don’t get my outdoor time, I start to have withdrawals. 😊 I was born and raised here in Chattanooga and have family throughout the South and the Appalachian Mountains.
Claire: What are you working on at the moment? Would you like to tell us what it’s about?
K.R. Rowe: I’m on my fourth novel now. The first two, Amber and Blue and its sequel Victory, are romance/suspense but the third, Blood of the Sixth, is paranormal horror. My fourth will be paranormal horror as well. If I had to choose my favourite, I think it would be Blood of the Sixth.
Claire: Tell me about your books. You feature ‘Blood Of The Sixth’ and ‘Amber And Blue’ on your Facebook author page and describe them as Southern Gothic. What do you mean by that?
K.R. Rowe: Amber and Blue and Victory are romance/suspense/action. Blood of the Sixth is paranormal horror, and one reviewer has described this one in particular as Southern Gothic. The setting is the fictional town of Port Bella Rosa, Louisiana. Southern Gothic Horror is described as having a setting in the Deep South with characters who are usually complex and often mentally unstable. I didn’t realize that Blood of the Sixth would be considered Southern Gothic at the time of writing but many of the elements do fit within the style.
Claire: You describe your genre on your Facebook author page as romance/action. How do you blend the two?
K.R. Rowe: Sometimes love makes people do crazy things, and in Amber and Blue and Victory, you will find this to be true. I think excitement and romance go hand in hand, so the action is a natural by-product of the mix.
Claire: What advice would you give to authors who want to fuse the two genres together? Or any two genres?
K.R. Rowe: My advice is to let the story flow naturally. If you end up with action in your romance, then it was meant to be.
Claire: Do you find it difficult to write different genres?
K.R. Rowe: Not at all. I love romance, and I love horror. I think if you look closely, you will find a little romance in my horror as well.
Claire: Tell me about the inspirations for your books. You mention the Appalachian Mountains on your Amazon author page. Has this location always inspired you? What else do you draw inspiration from?
K.R. Rowe: The Appalachian Mountains played a huge role in Amber and Blue as two of the main characters met there. The first scene in Amber and Blue was inspired by The Fontana Village Lodge. A lot of inspiration comes from music as well. One of my favourite characters in Amber and Blue is a psychopath inspired by the song Possum Kingdom by the Toadies. I draw inspiration from multiple places, many of which are right here in my hometown of Chattanooga. For instance, a tree growing along the side of the highway once inspired one of my flash fiction stories, and a photo of an umbrella discarded on cobblestones inspired Blood of the Sixth.
Claire: Do you conduct specific research for your stories?
K.R. Rowe: I do a lot of research online. I do love to visit the places I write about as well, even if these places have inspired a fictional location. I’ve been to the mountain lodge, and the bunkers mentioned in Amber and Blue and I have also visited Old Montreal in Canada. It is a beautiful city, and I am anxious to go back.
Claire: Tell me about your writing process. Do you set aside time to write? Do you write on a schedule?
K.R. Rowe: I work full time during the day and recently I have been so busy it is difficult to find time to sit down to write. I rarely write on a schedule. I will find time in the evenings usually when dinner is done, and things are quiet.
Claire: You’ve received great reviews on Amazon. How important do you think reviews are for authors? How important are reviews for you?
K.R. Rowe: I think reviews are very important. I do pay close attention to what people say, good or bad, and remember it while writing my next novel. Although I can’t please everyone, good constructive criticism can be a great learning tool.
Claire: How long have you been writing? Have you always written romance/action, or did you develop your niche over time?
K.R. Rowe: I’ve written poetry since I was in my early teens, maybe longer but I can’t remember anything specific before then. I also wrote short stories about my friends as a teenager and odds and ends throughout my adulthood. I didn’t become serious about novel writing until around 2010. I enjoy a good romance and I think that the genre came naturally, but I ended up killing a lot of people in my books and wondered why I was writing romance! Haha! I switched gears to horror and find that I absolutely love writing the genre as it allows me more creative freedom.
Claire: Tell me about your protagonists. Do you base them on people you know? Or are they purely fictitious?
K.R. Rowe: Although many are named from people I know, my characters are purely fictional.
Claire: You mention in your website bio about spending free time with your family. How important do you think it is for writers to take time away from writing to delve back into ‘the real world’?
K.R. Rowe: Oh, it is very important. It is great to live in the fictional world in my head for a little while, but we only have one life to live, and we need to live every second to the fullest. It is important to spend time with loved ones because we will never get that time back.
Claire: Writers are weird, right? What’s the strangest/most interesting thing about you?
K.R. Rowe: I have a foul sense of humour and am difficult to offend. 😊
Claire: Tell me about your future projects.
K.R. Rowe: Currently, I’m working on my second horror novel. It is paranormal, much like Blood of the Sixth and if you like demons, you’ll enjoy this one. I hope to have it ready in 2019 or 2020.
Claire: And finally, you’re stuck on an island with only one book. What’s the book?
K.R. Rowe: 101 Ways to Cook Fish! 😊
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/K.-R.-Rowe/e/B00BF3AURE
Email: [email protected]
Selene: Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thanks for agreeing to this interview today. First off, tell us a bit about yourself.
Andy: Thanks for having me, Selene. Well, really, what to say? I always feel like people want a confession when they ask someone who writes horror to talk about themselves… like I’m going to admit to some dark secret that explains why I write what I write. Unfortunately, I don’t have any secrets like that. I’m just a huge fan of the horror genre and community at large. By day, I’m an elearning developer, which I swear is more exciting than it sounds – for me, anyway. I create online training with a focus on user experience. I try to make training interesting for the users. From the feedback we get, I think I’m mostly successful. Beyond that, I’m a cat loving, coffee addicted, book collecting, movie nerd and pop culture geek. I get excited about some of the stupidest things. I am also closing in on 9 delightful months as a newlywed. That’s really the biggest and best thing I’ve got going on right now.
Selene: How long have you been writing, and what draws you to the horror genre?
Andy: I think everyone wants to say something like “I’ve been writing all my life” and while that’s sort of true, I’ve only been really serious about it in last handful of years. I went to school for film and that really rekindled my love of storytelling, but film is a much more involved medium – there are budgets and crews and a cast… it’s too much. Writing is unbridled. Whatever you want in there, it suddenly exists.
If I wanted a monster in a film, I needed to come up with a concept, hire an artist to create it, get a special effects team or a CGI team to bring it to life, then we have to shoot the scenes… like I said: too much. If I want a monster in a book, I come up with it, and then I decide how much to tell. The great thing is that sometimes it’s what you don’t include makes it that much more powerful. Your brain will start filling in the gaps and suddenly things are more horrifying than I could ever come up with.
It’s less that I was drawn to the genre and more that I’ve always been here. I grew up watching horror movies with my dad, my aunt bought me Stephen King novels for every birthday and Christmas, my uncle took me to my first haunted house… I come from a long line of weirdos, so it was just kind of natural to be part of it and embrace it. There’s a very unrepeatable exhilaration to being scared. It doesn’t happen often for me, so I’m always chasing it… maybe that’s why. My wife would tell you that my scare is broken. I think it’s been broken for a long time, that’s probably why I’m always chasing the scares.
Selene: I read your story “The Christmas Miracle,” in the Mutate anthology. Let’s talk about body horror. How do you approach writing visceral scenes?
Andy: So, visceral horror is really not that much of a stretch when you realize how terrifying the human body is on its own. We are all just walking sacks of blood and meat, and any number of our organs are just waiting for the right moment to kill us. Everything about humans is terrifying. Everything that we do and are is a nightmare when you think about it.
So, what I like is the juxtaposition of something so natural and beautiful – like pregnancy – and adding an inhuman element to it, something unnatural and monstrous, as happens in Christmas Miracle. From there, I’m just following the natural progression of things in the story.
I don’t rely on body horror very often. I try to limit myself because it’s something that can be overdone so quickly. But sometimes I get an idea to play with something ugly and perverse. It gives me a chance to play Frankenstein from the safety of my own mind.
Selene: In the bio included in the Mutate anthology, there’s a mention of your 2013 novel Empty Hallways (which I grabbed over on Kindle but haven’t started reading yet!). Is it true you wrote it for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? Since it’s November, and some of our readers are probably deep in their word counts, let’s talk about that. Do you participate every year, and how does your NaNo process work?
Andy: Actually, all of my novels started as a NaNoWriMo challenge. Those 30 days are key for cranking out a fast first draft and putting an idea out of our head and on paper. I try to participate every year. I’ve got a great story that I’ve started working on for my fifth novel and next NaNoWriMo challenge… my tenth, maybe?
As far as a process, I’m what the NaNoWriMo community calls a Pantser – as it “by the seat of my pants”. When I was gearing up to write Empty Hallways, all I had was a title and the desire to write a ghost story.
So, it’s not much help to anyone on the receiving end of this advice, but really: it’s writing. Just write. Put it all down, one word at a time and keep going until it’s done. That’s the whole secret. It’s not even my secret. I’m pretty sure that’s advice from Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing (It is: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/09/28/neil-gaiman-8-rules-of-writing/). But it’s solid advice that will get you through 30 days of NaNo. Don’t think, just write.
Selene: Speaking of November, you’ve got two author events upcoming in the next few weeks. Now’s the time to promote them, for any of our readers in your area.
Andy: Ah, thanks so much! I’m really excited about these events.
November 11, I’ll be in Monroe, Michigan for Writers on the River (https://monroe.lib.mi.us/events/writers-river), hosted by the Monroe County Library System. It promises to be a great time, with a couple of my favorite local authors: Peggy Christie and Chad Erway. This is my first time at this event, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for an amazing day with about 30 other authors.
November 17, I’ll be taking over The Scriptorium (http://www.greywolfepublishing.com/scriptorium-calendar.html) in Clawson, MI. The Scriptorium might be the best thing to happen to Michigan authors – Diana loves her authors and does so much for them, including letting them takeover the store to promote themselves. So, I’ll be setting up camp, ready to chat, sign books, and who knows what else we’ll do with the day. In the afternoon, I’ll be relieved by Andrew Lark, another fantastic local author. I’m looking forward to chatting with him for a while and hearing about what he’s been working on.
And that’s it for the year. My next event isn’t until 2019, but they’ll all be announced on my blog.
Selene: You’ve got a new novel coming out soon. Tell us about that.
Andy: Yes, Threshold comes out February 14, 2019. Threshold is the story of a mirror, but much in the same way that Empty Hallways is the story of a hospital. Cate is willed an antique mirror by her grandmother, but finds that the mirror has a dark secret that may have led to the death of her grandmother and many of its previous owners. While Cate tries to uncover the mirror’s secrets, her life is ebbing away as she is haunted by her own reflection.
There’s a presence that thrums through this story that gave me the heebie jeebies while I was reading it over through the drafts. Sometimes my imagination runs away with me. Mirrors don’t usually freak me out, but after writing this novel, I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at one the same way again – literally. But at the heart of it, like all of my stories, there’s a human element; a love story. It’s possibly my favorite thing about horror – not the scares, but the raw emotional value that I hide in the stories.
Selene: Here’s a standard “author question.” What do you like to read, and where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
Andy: I read a lot of different genres, and different stories. Your audience may think the worst of me, but I judge books by their covers. If I think a cover looks good, I’ll pick it up check out the blurb. If I like the blurb, I’ll read it. Or I’ll pick up the books my wife likes to read. It gives us something more to talk about – or inside jokes. Readers have the best inside jokes, like codewords that get you into a secret society.
More recently, I’ve been introduced to the Skulduggery Pleasant series, The Kingkiller Chronicles, and I’ve been slowly working my way through Stephen King’s early works and the Dresden Files from the beginning.
I get inspiration from everywhere. Anything can be twisted into something else. A mirror can be turned into a portal to another world. A hospital can hold a dark secret. People can be dangerous and ugly and monstrous behind their smiles and kind words.
Selene: Your other novel, House of Thirteen, is the first of a series, and At Calendar’s End is a limited series which takes place (and was published) throughout a calendar year. What are some of the pros and cons of writing a series, versus a stand-alone story?
Andy: The obvious pro is that you don’t have to quit working with characters that you adore. I really did fall in love with the characters in House of Thirteen. It was already hard enough for me to end the first book, if that had been it, I think I would have been crushed. I’ve been working slowly on Book Two, which means I do a lot of rereading through Book One… I can understand why it’s the fan favorite, there are some really wonderful characters in this story, and every now and again I’ll reread a passage, a little amazed that my writing is as good as it is.
It’s nice to have something familiar that you can drop back into and start writing without any need for world-building and origins and character introduction.
I think the downside to writing a series of any length is the struggle to keep the story going. There are times – especially on a project like At Calendar’s End, where it was tough sometimes to juggle such a big cast of characters and keep them interesting. Calendar has a cast of 13 characters, plus incidental characters scattered throughout. But thirteen characters is a hard crowd to keep shuffling around. You have to come up with things for them to do because people don’t just stop existing because you aren’t paying attention to them. It gets to be maddening when you’re trying to keep everyone straight and how you are going to keep everything moving to the end of the story. To borrow a phrase, it’s a lot like herding cats.
Selene: For At Calendar’s End, you worked with a cover artist, Brian Ritson. What was that like? Would you consider further collaborations, or a graphic novel?
Andy: I love working with Brian. We’ve known each other for a long time; he’s one of my dearest friends. He’s been my cover artist since I started publishing. He did the covers for Empty Hallways, and House of Thirteen, and he’ll be doing my covers until he doesn’t want to anymore.
It’s kind of to the point where I can give him what I’m thinking about for a cover – I can give him a crappy sketch – and just know that what he’s going to do with that is going to be awesome and exceed my expectations.
When I approached him with my idea for At Calendar’s End, I was sure he was going to turn me down. It was so much to ask. It was a taxing project, and it’s a lot to ask of an artist, but Brian worked magic. Sometimes all I had for him was a description of a character and nothing else. A lot of the art is his – not just his as in he did the art, but his as in he actually came up with the ideas, what the characters look like, and the execution of the whole cover design. The coloring book for At Calendar’s End was all his idea. (http://a.co/d/j5YRCOM). It’s brilliant. You never think you’re going to have these accomplishments, like “a coloring book based on your work” until suddenly there it is.
But yes, I will collaborate with Brian until he is done with me. It’s always a pleasure working with him, and a delight seeing his art come to life. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his art on Threshold.
Selene: Speaking of collaborations, your wife is an editor. Do you enjoy working with her, and her advice (as Stephen King says about his wife’s suggestions, even when they’re great his first response is “Yeah, but…”)?
Andy: I feel like saying anything but “yes” to this question is kind of a trap. Seriously though, yes, I love working with her. She is a non-stop supporter. She’s been there since all this author nonsense started. I don’t think either of us would have it any other way.
There are these moments as a writer where you have to take a breath and just step away. Those moments are super important when your editor is telling you things you don’t want to hear about your writing. The truth is that 99% of the time, the editor is right. They know what they are talking about. This is their job, and you just have to stop and accept that they aren’t criticizing your work because they want to hurt you, but they are invested in this project alongside you. They want the story to succeed as much as you do.
That doesn’t mean it is easy to take criticism.
The wonderful thing about having Bailey as an editor is that she knows how to wrangle me. Yes, she is my editor, but she is also my wife and my support system, both life and work. She knows how to talk to me about changes that need to happen. You could call it babying. She’s really good at it. But there have been arguments. There are these moments where she is trying to talk to me about my characters and I don’t want to hear it. It gets a little tense and I have to remember that Bailey the Editor and Bailey the Wife are separate people. And then, there are times where I know what the story calls for, but she is invested in the characters and doesn’t want anything to happen to them, then she has to remember that Andy the Writer and Andy the Husband are separate people – and both of them would like to live through the tragedies that befall the characters.
I totally understand that “Yeah, but…” Stephen King is talking about. It’s in the same bundle of nerves as “you just don’t get it…” but they do, and you as the writer just need to take a breather and give it time, because Bailey can tell you… it might be an hour, or it might be a day, but at some point, I’m going to come back and tell her that she was right and I’m going to make the changes she told me to.
Selene: You’re also a former student of film, and have made a short film called Atlas. How does working on a film differ from writing prose, and how might film influence your other work?
Andy: Writing has no budget. If you want it, you only have to describe it and it’s there. It’s an amazing weight off your shoulders. Film is a much more difficult discipline because of all the parts and people involved. It’s also much harder on the writer creatively.
When you write, you’re playing a film in your head. You’re describing scenes playing on your mind’s eye. But when you write a script, you’re providing cues and dialogue – and all of that is subject to change. You may think you know how it’s going to play out, but that’s the version you see in your head. Add in a director with his own sense of the scene, actors who have their own take on characters and delivery, a budget that may not have the money for the setting you wanted, etc… suddenly, that scene in your head looks a lot different from the scene that is actually being shot.
When Nathan Porter and I wrote Atlas, he was a super hero that could do everything. The trouble was that we were working on a micro budget and it was just the two of us shooting; the two of us would be doing the post-production, too. Suddenly, we’re making executive cuts to figure out what Atlas can do within our constraints.
On the other side of that, when I write a novel or a short story, I’m still seeing the movie play out in my head, but the story I’m writing is me telling you what that movie looks like. I’m going to tell you all the details you need to hear in order to get the story the way I want you to get it. I know you’re not going to get everything. That’s just how it goes. But I’m going to give you the important details and let you fill in the rest. It’s still my movie, and you’re seeing it mostly the way I wanted you to.
Selene: Your bio mentions you returned to school relatively late, and eventually obtained two film degrees. What was it like going back to school “late,” if that means you attended as a mature student? Do you find you use what you learned in your writing process?
Andy: I was in my late-20s when I went back to school for film. I was years older than most of the people in the program. It wasn’t that much of an issue, especially among film geeks. We’ve all seen Lynch and Kurosawa and Citizen Kane and all those movies that appear on all of the “greatest films” lists. Age didn’t really enter into it except when you’re trying to market to a specific audience.
I definitely use what I learned in my film classes. Setting the mood of a scene is exceptionally important. Film and prose are both, at least in my case, character-driven. Ideas translate very well between the two media, the only thing that really changes is the execution.
Selene: Let’s talk about setting. You live in Michigan, and your story in Tales of Horror On Halloween Night was set in Detroit. Do you “write what you know” with your settings, or do you like to explore stories set in different places?
Andy: I prefer to piecemeal my stories. I take a little of what I know and a lot of what I want to say, and I try to find a happy balance between the two. There’s very little of what I know in The Nain Rouge Incident, except that I really wanted to play with some Detroit legends, so this seemed like a really good place to start. Really, I’m combining a couple of pieces of Detroit folklore: the Nain Rouge and Devil’s Night. They worked really well together – at least I felt so. The story is also a period piece set in early-century Detroit. I have done very little historical research, but I also feel like that isn’t as necessary for the kinds of stories I write as it might be for some other writers.
I’m not writing for accuracy, I’m writing for entertainment, so I tend to cobble a lot of information together for my stories, settings, and characters, and a majority of it gets thrown out because it’s extraneous. There’s no place to fit it in without cramming it, so I leave it on the cutting room floor.
Selene: What about characters? What kinds of characters do you like to write about, and how do you come up with their personalities and choices?
Andy: I write what I want to read, so a lot of these characters that I am coming up with I either think are underrepresented in the stuff I am reading, or I think there is a really cool idea for a character and I try to build a story around them.
I have a lot of fun writing 20-somethings. I like putting that youthful lens on the world and trying to see it with that same frame of reference I had when I was just starting to figure things out. There’s a lot of room for bold assumptions and terrible mistakes and everything seems so much more drastic when you’re in that grouping. The highs are higher and the lows are lower, and it just makes for more compelling characters.
My favorite themes are mortality, identity, and love. I like exploring these, whether they are all crammed together, like in Empty Hallways, or they are all unknown and out of reach, like in House of Thirteen, I like to give characters some position within those three themes.
In House of Thirteen, Ren dies and comes back – right from the get-go, she is dealing with her mortality and in the process, kind of loses herself and her identity as a person because of this new phase of her life.
Mostly, I let the characters define their own personalities. It usually comes out in the dynamics between characters. Certain stories need certain people, and those people need other characters to play off of.
In Threshold, Cate and her boyfriend Lucas have a playfully antagonistic relationship. They’re invested in the relationship and in love, but at the same time, they are wrapped up in who they are as individuals, not as a couple. Through the story, they start to feel things out and understand who they are as individuals and as a couple – because and in spite of the true antagonist of the story.
Selene: What advice would you give a writer who’s just starting?
Andy: Write the stories you want to read. Look for inspiration for those stories. Watch tv, and movies, and start looking ahead of the plot. Try predicting the story and see where your story diverts from what you see. Take those predictions and start your own stories. Just one good idea will unfold into a story for you.
Come up with what-ifs, swap characters out of existing stories, combine two pieces of pop culture and create something new. Tell the story from a new perspective, maybe it’s the villain’s story… maybe it’s the dog’s.
Write a story that you get excited about telling. It doesn’t matter what it is; it only matters that you write it.
And the best piece of bad advice I can offer is this: write what you want to write, what you enjoy writing; don’t write what you think is going to sell. Sure, it might be the harder road, and there might not be any success in it, but the reward is its own. You’re not chasing anyone; you’re not rushing to keep up with tropes and genres. Do your own thing. Make yourself happy.
Selene: Thank you again for answering my questions. Do you have anything else you’d like to talk about?
Andy: I would love to just put it out there that the people of NaNoWriMo work their butt off every year to put this program on for the rest of the world. If you can, show them a little love and buy a tshirt or a coffee mug from their store to help keep the lights on. Then, find your local NaNo chapter and sign up. Show some support, go to the meetings, get involved. You may be a good writer on your own, but you’re a better writer with a community. I tried and failed to win NaNo for years before I finally found my people. I finished that year and six months later put out my first novel.
It’s not a gimmick. They don’t ask me to advertise. This is a community of writers, both hobbyists and professionals, that love what they do and want to encourage and pass it forward.
I believe that the world needs more stories, and we’re not going to get them if people aren’t writing them.
Thank you for having me, Selene, it’s been a pleasure.
If you would like to see more of Andy’s work, check out the following links:
Blog, books, and events: www.happierthoughts.com
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Andy-Lockwood/e/B00EZAVBEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_7?qid=1541565793&sr=8-7
Bailey’s editing site: justduckyediting.com
‘Cellar Door’ is the second release from Chimera’s Comics and is a collection of darker horror comics inspired by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft’s works and the ‘Twilight Zone’! The concept of the collection is that “in “Cellar Door,” an author retreats to a secluded manor to overcome his writer’s block. There he meets a hungry reader literally foaming at the mouth for his work. What follows are 15 stories the author must “feed” to his reader to keep himself alive.”
It is a fun anthology graphic novel in the works that should clock in at roughly 140 pages which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter and will include 15 works of terror. Initially, a chain of comic shops in the suburbs of Chicago, the company has grown into a publishing house that has caught our eye.
Today, we’re sitting down with Carmelo Chimera who is a co-founder of the shops and publishing house!
Stuart Conover (SC): Carmelo, Thanks for sitting down with us today! Could you tell our readers a bit about how the idea for this collection came together?
Carmelo Chimera (CC): Thanks, Stuart. This collection grew out of our first work because we built a pretty large following around “Magnificent.” My friend Ryan Fleharty, who wrote one of the Cellar Door stories, pushed me to spearhead it. And it turned out, in our community were a lot of talented creators with a real passion for horror. So it felt a lot like a bunch of friends sitting around a campfire telling stories until finally, someone wrote it all down.
SC: One of our favorite “Trembling With Fear” contributors, Kevin M. Folliard is part of this project. How did you go about bringing the writers into the project which are attached to it?