This week we revisit an interview with Kevin Grover. You can read the entire interview here.
This week we revisit an interview with Kevin Grover. You can read the entire interview here.
Claire – Hi Don! Great to chat with you. Let’s jump right in. What are you currently writing/working on?
Don – Thanks, Claire. Really nice to meet you. And thanks, too, for the opportunity to talk with The Horror Tree. I’m working on a novel, ‘Dark Voices,’ and also serving as editor for ‘The Thirty,’ a group consisting of me and 29 other writers. We’re lashing together an experimental novel, ‘He Has Stayed Too Long,’ with one chapter written by each of us. I honestly thought ‘Dark Voices’ would be out by now, but ‘He Has Stayed Too Long’ is taking quite a bit of time, as you can imagine. Coordinating with 29 other writers isn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be although everybody involved has been fantastic.
Claire – Tell me about your latest release, ‘Fallen Angels.’
Don – The artist Don Gilbert and I have been good friends since we were in our teens. He came by the house one day to drink whiskey and play guitar and as I was flipping through his sketch pad, I was drawn to a series of bizarre-looking drawings. When I asked him what they were, he said, ‘Fallen Angels’ and we took it from there. ‘Fallen Angels’ are the creatures responsible for every aspect of our lives down to the most insignificant events. Lose a button? A Fallen Angel’s responsible. First kiss? A Fallen Angel’s there. Final breath? Yep—a Fallen Angel. The poems I wrote to accompany the illustrations tell the reader a bit about the particular part of life the Fallen Angel on the opposing page controls and also a bit about how that angel feels about his job.
Claire – Your journals ‘The Meeker Collection’ sound interesting. How did/does your newspaper writing affect your fiction?
Don – Oddly enough, most of my newspaper pieces were in the humour vein and most of my fiction is dark horror. While I was working as the editor of ‘The Wilson County Advocate,’ I wrote a column under a pseudonym every week, usually an entire page, and because I was so completely bored with actual news, I would take the facts, bundle them with fiction, insert my alter-ego into the story, toss in a bit of biographical folderol, and just have a good time with it. The fan mail and the death threats began to pour in (some people have NO sense of humour) and soon ‘Jimmy Joe Meeker’ (that was the name I used) was the most popular writer we had. Once you start writing humour, you can’t stop. There’s a comedian inside me and he’s going to come out whether I’m writing a non-fiction piece for a magazine or writing a horror novel. I enjoy that. Everybody needs a laugh now and again, regardless of what you’re reading, and I’ve never been able to write anything without tossing in a bit of humour, however subtle.
Claire –Tell me about your writing process. Where do you write? When do you write? Do you have any writing rituals?
Don – When the muse visits me, I’m like a man possessed. I’ll write 5,000 words in a day, getting up every hour to spend 5 minutes on the recumbent bicycle so I don’t forget how to walk—but the muse doesn’t visit daily. I don’t force anything because I don’t think, for example, that making yourself write 1,000 words a day is going to get you quality results. There are going to be days when you’re not on, days when you’ve got other things on your mind. Yeah, it’s a job, and it’s a difficult job, but you have to enjoy it. Readers are smart folks—they know if you didn’t enjoy what you wrote and forcing yourself to write when you don’t have the spark is not an enjoyable experience for the reader OR the writer. Having said that, though, my works-in-progress are always on my mind and it’s rare a day goes by when I don’t work. I’m up early. I grab a mug of black coffee, plop myself down in my office, fire up the computer, and I’m off to the races. I use a two-monitor set-up which I find really helps when I have to research something, but I’m still torn about that because I’ve caught myself getting distracted. My office is where my guitar collection hangs and it’s much too easy to be able to grab one when I stumble onto another guitar player on YouTube demonstrating a song I always wanted to learn. It’s easy to be lazy.
Claire – Tell me about your novels ‘Pandemonium,’ ‘Phantom Dead Man,’ and ‘Sarcophagus.’ Where did the inspiration come from?
Don – ‘Pandemonium’ was my first novel and the inspiration came from several old buildings in Lebanon, Tennessee. Spooky, creepy old buildings—McClain School and the Lebanon Hotel. Late one night I went into the Lebanon Hotel—just walked right in—and took a tour of the place. After leaving, I drove to the abandoned school building and found it unlocked, so I took a moonlight tour of it, too. I got home at 2 a.m. and immediately began ‘Pandemonium,’ a story about an incubus in a small, Tennessee town. ‘Phantom Dead Man’ was an experiment in stream of consciousness and it arose from having too much on my plate. I was going to graduate school, working on two horror stories with deadlines looming, writing a how-to piece for a craftsman journal, working on a documentary for public television, and outlining a novel. I sat down one day with all these things whirling around in my head and I just started writing whatever popped in there. The book had a wildly opposing reception; readers either liked it or hated it—there was no middle of the road. ‘Sarcophagus’ came about after a trip to New Orleans. I’ve always been fascinated by the above-ground graveyards there and during that visit, I saw several tombs in St. Louis Cemetery #3 with gaping holes in them large enough for a person to squeeze through—and all the holes looked as if they were made by something pushing out, rather than in. ‘Sarcophagus’ was started on a legal pad the moment I got back to my hotel room.
Claire – Where does your inspiration come from? Do you have a writing ritual?
Don – Most of my inspiration comes from things I see; very little of it comes strictly from imagination. When I see something that triggers a “What if…?” I take out my phone and click a picture of it, but I’m also very old school. I carry a small, brown, leather notebook with me all the time and I’ll scribble the beginnings of the story in there. Once I’m back in the office, I open a document, type my notes into the document, write the first line or first few lines of the story, and save it in a working directory for later. That’s how I keep up with ideas these days and it’s much handier than shuffling through stacks of paper.
Claire – You received some great reviews for ‘Fallen Angels,’ most compliments enjoying the mixture of creepy and humorous. Do you often blend writing styles?
Don – Ha! Yes, the ‘Fallen Angels’ are just like us—some of them are funny, some are sarcastic, some are pricks, and some take themselves way too seriously. I do blend writing styles, though, and I do it with a purpose. Too much of anything is too much. In horror, you need a funny character—not laugh out loud funny, but observationally witty and self-deprecating. When you ask readers to suspend disbelief, you’re asking a lot, so having a character or a scene that’s something amusing out of real life helps the unbelievable become believable.
Claire – Tell me about your chapbooks. I see they were penned in the ‘80’s. Has your writing style changed since then?
Don – My style hasn’t changed all that much, but my focus has changed. I’ve moved away from poetry to fiction mainly because it suits me better. Poetry will drive a person nuts. I have two pieces in the newly released ‘Speculations’ edited by my friend Frank Coffman and I bled over those two poems like I’d been beaten with chains. Thirty lines of poetry and I spent weeks on them. I love poetry; it’s the easiest thing to do poorly, the most difficult thing to do well, and not many people seem to know the difference anymore. Hearing “I don’t like poetry” from people who’ve barely read any is painful, so although I continue to do it, I don’t publish much of it, not even in chapbooks. I still contribute to anthologies but chapbooks seem to be becoming a bit passé. I hope that’s not true, but it’s the impression I get lately.
Claire – Tell me about your avant-garde project ‘The Thirty.’ Who did you work with?
Don – I got this wild idea that it would be very cool to read a horror novel where each chapter was written by a different author; where each author could take the story in whatever direction they wanted. After turning the idea over in my head for a few weeks, I approached the writing community on Twitter with the concept and the response was fantastic. Within just a day or two, I had 35 people on board and the mix was as eclectic as you can get. We have well-known horror authors, we have noteworthy book reviewers, we have bloggers, and we have horror aficionados who’ve always wanted to try their hand at writing but never have. Using some very basic calculations for word count, and realizing we’d lose some participants along the way, I decided on 30 chapters, wrote the first one, and sent it out. The next author in line wrote their chapter, sent it back, and it took off from there. We’re on Chapter 18 now and I’ve been pleasantly surprised, especially at the writing from newcomers—people who’ve never written fiction in their lives. It’s been an amazing, exciting experience. If I mention everybody involved we’ll be here all day, but I do want to say that the “name brand authors” on board have all been extremely generous in lending credibility to the project. We have new writers who still cannot believe they’ve got a chapter adjacent to Jonathan Janz or Chris Sorenson or D.W. Gillespie. This speaks volumes to the support and camaraderie present in the horror community.
Claire –Let’s learn more about you. Who is your favourite author and why?
Don – Wow… It’s incredibly difficult to pick just one, but though it may be cliché, I’m going with the master. If it weren’t for Stephen King, I don’t know what we’d all be reading and writing now. Stephen King took a genre that had been marginalized for two centuries and with raw talent, dragged it into the mainstream and kept it there. At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, I think King is the greatest horror writer who’s ever lived. Sure, he misses the mark sometimes—everyone does—but when it comes to the most important thing in fiction, which is story—story—story, he can pull it off 99% of the time.
Claire – Do you get writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?
Don – I get writer’s block from time to time, but I have the greatest remedy—I grab my Gibson SG, plug it into a Marshall amplifier, and play along with Pete Townshend while The Who blasts “Won’t Get Fooled Again” over the sound system. It works every single time. The neighbours probably don’t care much for it, but most of them have “real” jobs so they aren’t home during the day anyway.
Claire – Writers are weird, right? What’s the strangest/most interesting thing about you?
Don – Most people would never guess, especially from my politics, that I was a United States Army Chief Warrant Officer for 26 years.
Claire – What’s on the horizon for you?
Don – I hope to see ‘Dark Voices’ published by year’s end and also see ‘He Has Stayed Too Long’ wrapped up by then. I’ve got an idea brewing for another book featuring the most terrifying monsters known to humankind: babies.
Claire – And finally, you’re stuck on an island with only one book. What’s the book?
Don – US Army Field Manual 21-76, ‘Survival, Escape, and Evasion’ along with Stephen King’s magnum opus: ‘The Stand.’ Thanks for your questions, Claire—it’s been a genuine pleasure.
Amazon page: http://amazon.com/author/dongillette
Ruschelle: Thank you for stopping by The Horror Tree and sharing a few of your writing secrets. So…do you happen to have at least one big fat writing secret? Lol
Steve: Thank you for having me. Well, I have one main tenet I stick with and have stuck with throughout my years of writing so I suppose it’s worth divulging and that is to always listen to your voice. Writing is always better when it feels truthful and for me, I know it is the truth (at least my truth) when I listen to the voice inside me that guides my character development, plot, pacing, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely open to feedback as my stories develop but ultimately, I have always gone with my gut as to what would be right for the story.
Ruschelle: Tell us about your first foray into writing with your teleplay, Final Transference.
Steve: I was taking a writing for television class in college and as always seems to be the case, my mind went toward developing a horror story. I was living in one of the dorms and so the story developed about two college roommates that upon meeting find they have the ability of telekinesis but only with each other. One of my friends had a crush on a girl I also liked at the time and so that idea of competitiveness developed into the teleplay as a love triangle but with the roommates using their telekinesis as a weapon. I was quite proud of it and got an A-.
Ruschelle: An A- is pretty sweet. You’re a fan of the Twilight Zone. What was it about the series that helped inspire your writing?
Steve: For me there is so much about that show to admire. Visually, one element that stands out is when faces were used to show the emotion of the moment. Of course, the show used exemplary actors who had the skills to pull off the fantasy/horror themes. In my writing, I love creating small intimate moments for my reader so they are invested in what happens next and are right there with the character as the story unfolds. This is the essence of the kind of writing I strive to create. Also, the twist endings have always been inspirational. I strive to find that moment in all my writing where my readers will say, “Oh, didn’t see that coming.”
Ruschelle: There were so many well-written, creative episodes, which was your favorite?
Steve: This is a difficult question because there are so many but I would say Shadow Play is one of my favorites. It is about a man who is convinced that his life and everyone around him are in his dream. He is on death row and he tries to convince everyone that if he dies, they all die with him. I loved the idea of a dream you never wake up to—very scary, especially because it involves your own death.
Ruschelle: Was there an episode you wished you had written because it reminded you of your own storytelling?
Steve: Maybe the one called The Living Doll. I like the idea of an inanimate object coming to life and then being angry at you on top of that. To this day, it still creeps me out and as a side note, I always treat my daughter’s dolls with respect and kindness…just in case.
Ruschelle: How did you choose the stories to debut in your collection, Palate of the Improbable?
Steve: One of the seven stories had been one I had started years ago but was never quite satisfied with, so around that time I decided to re-visit it. Four other ideas for stories came to me around the same time. One story Final Audition was a dream I had and two stories Through A Wormhole Darkly and A Hand is a Terrible Thing to Waste were based on incidents from my childhood that evolved pretty quickly, so all in all these stories were all written within a year’s time so they all were included.
Ruschelle: Do you have a favorite story from your collection?
Steve: I love all my children equally because each one took me to a different place in my imagination and challenged me in different ways; however, the one that I was most happy to see all grown up (so to speak) was Through a Wormhole Darkly because it challenged me in so many ways. I had never attempted a time travel story so it was a challenge to pull it off and I feel very satisfied with how it turned out, particularly its sweet ending.
Ruschelle: What’s the one piece of writing advice you received from a mentor that really resonated with you?
Steve: I’d have to say the idea that story-telling must be full of descriptions that pop. I always strive to edit out words that are wasteful.
Ruschelle: Fun question, if you could be the first person to discover the existence of a cryptid, which one would it be?
Steve: I think the Jersey Devil would a fascinating creature to run into. It is definitely the kind of creature that will give one nightmares.
Ruschelle: You have a cat named Blueberry who uses you as a scratching post. Sounds delightfully evil. Story material?
Steve: Anything is possible. So far, she’s had just a brief appearance in my story Good Night, Sleep Tight, but if she gets a better agent who knows.
Ruschelle: I’ll put my cat’s agent in touch with your cat and they can hash out the details. You won a Quarterfinalist award in a contest writing a script for Two and a Half Men. Kudos! Tell us a little about the script and the writing process you used to pen your script.
Steve: The script was a lot of fun to work through. I sat for hours watching videos of the show to get a sense of each character’s voice and to map out story beats and even learned in the process comedic principles like why words with M or W are funny. I also did a lot of reading out loud to get the timing right. Once I had the idea of the main character Alan going to his high school reunion and getting stuck in an elevator with the girl that ditched him during his Senior prom (real life incident by the way: being ditched, not getting stuck) the rest of the story just wrapped itself around that.
Ruschelle: Do you have any ideas for television scripts? Movies?
Steve: Yes, I do, but ideas are easy. It’s the execution and follow-through that is the tough but rewarding part. I do have a few unfinished movie scripts that I hope I can finish in the near future.
Ruschelle: You are the daddy of a toddler! All parents know toddlers can morph into adorable little monsters and those monsters can be inspirational. So, has yours crawled into any of your stories?
Steve: Yes, she was the yet to be born baby in Good Night, Sleep Tight, also, she was the inspiration for the story Baby in the Mirror. I was up late one night having a particularly difficult time of lulling her back to sleep when I imagined my mirror-self helping put her to bed, but in the mirror. And, she is in a short story called Angel in a Box in which the protagonist wishes her baby never gets old and she never does.
Ruschelle: Speaking of toddlers…you’ve written children books. Are they sweet and shiny books with happy endings or do they channel a darker side? Like… Winnie the Pooh meets Freddy Kruger?
Steve: Hey, that’s an idea…” When the police entered the room, there was Pooh, lying in a pile of his own stuffing. We would need a catch phrase after the kill from the evildoer such as, “How’s the honey, Pooh?” or something cheesy like that. My first published children’s story was about a parrot that wanted to break out of its routine (it lived on a farm with an old man) so it escapes to the neighboring farm for adventure. I have others unpublished that I need to revisit and I’m certain my daughter will inspire me to write sweet happy stories in the future.
Ruschelle: If you could speak with Rod Serling from across the veil, what would you ask him?
Steve: Hey, Rod, I’d love to be a staff writer on the new Twilight Zone, can you put in a good word for me? Or, more seriously, Rod, how did you know when an idea was good enough to put effort into seeing it completed?
Ruschelle: Thank you so much sharing your experiences here at The Horror Tree. Please share with your newfound fans what is next in the writing world of Steve Vasquez?
Steve: I am currently working on adapting my stories from Palette of the Improbable into a film anthology or perhaps YouTube episodes along with working on a second anthology of short stories. It will probably have twice as many stories as my first book.
Ruschelle: Where can your fans find you and your books on the www?
Or on my website: writersteve.com
Selene – Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions! First, tell us a bit about yourself.
Rob – Well, I’m a father, writer, editor, and small town postal carrier—in that order. I grew up (and still live) in Salem, Massachusetts, where, back in 1972, my mom taught her imaginative, energetic, three-year-old son to read in order to give him something to do. I’ve loved stories ever since.
Selene – How long have you been writing, and what about horror draws you?
Rob – I’ve only been writing for about ten years—and I say only because unlike a lot of people I know who’ve been doing this their whole lives, that means I started at forty. As for why horror? I’m not sure. It might be that we write what we know, and deep down I’m just a fearful person. I tend to read eclectically, with fantasy, sci-fi, police/legal thrillers, mysteries and more in both my read and TBR piles, and not everything I’ve written falls into the horror category. For instance, I’m cowriting a YA supernatural adventure series with Stacey Longo at the moment. We’re editing the second book now, while agent-shopping the first—if any agents out there are reading this, I’m right here! The ideas that pop into my head, however, do tend toward the creepy, and so far that’s what I’ve found works easiest for me. I have plans for other genre work in the future, but right now horror just feels like home.
Selene – You have a long publishing history; where would you recommend a new reader start to explore your work?
Rob – Echoes of Darkness. Like I said, I started this later in life, and I was essentially learning to write through short stories. That some of them were being published was incredibly encouraging, but I’ve grown a lot as a writer since then, and looking back at some of them now is . . . well, cringe inducing springs to mind. In 2016, Books & Boos Press allowed me to gather some of those early works together, update them in a way that reflected my greater experience behind the keyboard, and add in a few brand new, not-to-be-found-anywhere-else tales to create a collection I could be—and still am—proud of. Thirteen stories, ranging in length from a thousand to fifteen thousand words? Yeah, it makes for a pretty good exploration.
Selene – Let’s talk about your novella, Friends in High Places. It’s partially set in a carnival. I’ve written a few carnival stories, and your story “The Biggest Little Show on Earth” from Carnival of Nightmares is, while a very different story, also set in one. After decades of carnivals losing popularity (due to people being more ethical, both about the treatment of animals, and of people with disabilities who are no longer considered “freaks” and put on display)…Why do you think carnivals lend themselves so well to horror?
Rob – One of the main ingredients in many horror stories, in my opinion, is isolation. The haunted castle on the moors, the cabin in the woods, the small town you happen upon while driving, all of these popular settings for scary stories (and more, so many more) have in common that they’re in the middle of nowhere, and when trouble strikes there’s no one to call for help. Even stories that take place in the city often have a sense of isolation about them: We can’t go to anyone for help because they’ll think we’re crazy/ they might be in on it/ we’ve done something wrong ourselves, and we’ll be in the soup!
Carnivals, circuses, and other traveling shows essentially are those small towns in the middle of nowhere. They just happen to be mobile. The carnys, or circus folk, or whomever, are like the odd small-town citizens, but worse because they’ve chosen to be together. They’re more like a family than a population, especially looking at them from the outside, and they’re a family that lives by different rules than the rest of us: rootless, essentially modern-day gypsies in the eyes of John and Joan Q. Public. And we, the public, choose to visit this family, often with the intent of letting them frighten us just a little. The roller coaster, swing ride, and Ferris wheel shooting us into the sky. Getting lost in the hall of mirrors. Taking a ride or a stroll through the haunted house.
Is it any wonder that, even without the sideshow and its so-called freaks, in this little town that seems so distant from the city it’s currently plunked down right next to, we’re a little more susceptible to a prod in the nerves? Is it so odd that, surrounded by this family of frighteners we don’t really know or understand, we don’t find it that much of a stretch to think they might be a little more different than they seem on the surface? And if those differences turn out to be darker than we ever dreamed when paying our money and pushing through the turnstile, well really, in the middle of this brightly colored little town in the middle of nowhere, who can we turn to?
Selene – Let’s talk about specific fears. Specifically (!) I, like poor Tagalong Tommy, am TERRIFIED of the Ferris wheel. His ordeal is probably my worst nightmare. What scares you, and how do you tap into that current of fear for a story?
Rob – I too am terrified of Ferris wheels. And roller coasters. And—but the list goes on. I have, however, gone on the damned things, most recently while trying with all my heart not to look like a big pussy in front of my (then) young son. To be honest, I failed. But I did force myself onto a Ferris wheel a couple of times, and what I can remember from the last trip onto the big rig is pretty well reflected in Tommy making himself take a seat. We only see Tommy in that scene, we’re not in his head, but I tried fairly hard to make his actions fit my memory.
Having that memory, I’ll likely tap into it more than just this time. If I have a character who’s afraid of something—and it can be anything—I’ll try to remember what it was like as an acrophobe to be seventy or eighty feet up in the sky, nothing holding me up there but a horribly flimsy-feeling gondola supported by a machine I couldn’t even see most of the time. What passed through my mind? Did I have a physical reaction? Yes, you bet your ass, so what was it? How did I feel? The character likely feels the same way, or at least close to it, and so I’ll write them that way. Or, sort of conversely, I’ll write a scene with those feelings in mind, trying to impart them to my reader. It keeps me from adopting an I’m just writing this scene attitude, and gives me an I need to get their hearts beating faster, and maybe make them feel a little loose around the bowels goal.
Selene – The characters in Friends in High Places are a pretty relatable bunch of kids. They feel like real kids, even if they are sometimes bratty and unlikeable. How do you create believable characters?
Rob – I read them all aloud. I read every word of Friends in High Places aloud during the revision process, multiple times. For certain passages—anything with dialogue—it was very multiple. If characters or their dialogue start feeling fake to me, then they’ll feel twice as fake to readers, and I need to fix that. If they start sounding the same, I need to fix that. If they sound boring, I need to fix that. I’ve heard it said that we should all write the stories we want to read. Well, I like good characters, so I try hard to let mine be that way and write a story I enjoy. If other people like it too, it’s a win-win!
Selene – I also found the plot quite suspenseful, with unexpected twists and turns. And very sad, given the boys’ fates. How do you create suspense in your plots and avoid predictability?
Rob – It’s hard to be predictable when even you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
That’s a kind of smart-ass way of saying I’m a pantser, or discovery writer if you’re feeling fancy. I’ve tried mapping things out—being a plotter, or outliner—but I never stick to the plan very well. For most of my writing, Friends in High Places included, I have a beginning and I have a destination, but how I get from one to the other is pretty much up in the air when I sit down to start. As I learn more about the characters—and they’re quite important to me, as I said above—I gain a better understanding of how they’d react in certain situations, and then their reactions start guiding the story.
Sometimes they’d do something that gets me closer to that destination, but sometimes not, and I’m not going to make them act out of character just to further the plot. That just doesn’t work for me. So instead, I have to work the plot in this new direction and try to bend it—believably—back toward my goal. Sometimes that means involving other characters that would move toward my goal. Sometimes that means creating new circumstances to herd my characters in the right direction. And sometimes that means moving the goal a little. Would you believe the original idea for Friends in High Places didn’t even involve either the Ferris wheel it started at or the building where it ended?
So when that happens, when a character, acting like that character does, makes me say “Well, I didn’t see that coming” as I’m writing it, I feel pretty confident it may take the reader by surprise as well.
Selene – What’s it like working with Bloodshot Books? Pete does quite a lot for the horror community, so it would be nice to give BB a plug here.
Rob – Have you seen the cover on High Places? That’s Pete’s fault. I had another cover artist in mind, one I’d worked with before and been quite happy with, but he suggested Lynne Hansen. I mentioned my guy again, and he pushed for Lynne. I caved.
And then I wound up with this gorgeous cover Lynne decided to release as a numbered print.
On Friends in High Places release weekend, I wound up at an event at the Haverhill Public Library, with me selling my book at one end of the room while at the other Lynne was selling her numbered prints of the cover. It was a lot of fun, sending people back and forth between the tables, and I kind of felt like a star, and the whole thing happened because Pete Kahle at Bloodshot Books decided to give me a new cover artist.
Selene – You have some upcoming author events in May and June. What have you got planned?
Rob – May 5—so I it this might have already happened by the time people are reading this—I’ll be in Salem, Massachusetts at the Old Town Hall, taking part in Cinco de Mayhem, a dark art market being run by Freaks Antiques and Uniques, an oddities shop right there in Salem. Like they say on their website, “If you are looking for oddities, curiosities, bones, skulls, jewelry, dark art, horror, macabre, occult, or just plain old creepy out of the ordinary items you have come to the right place!” I’ll be one of just two authors at the event (the other being Scott Goudsward, event coordinator for the New England Horror Writers) throwing books at passersby. Possibly literally. We’ll at least be throwing candy at each other, because that’s how we roll.
Saturday, June 29, I’ll be at the New England Authors Expo, sitting in at the Books & Boos Press table at Northern Essex Community College–Haverhill Campus―at the Moore Atrium in the Hartleb Technology Center in Haverhill MA. I’ll be selling books and representing S&L Editing, of which I am half, so I’ll be wearing at least two hats that day. The event is free and open to the public, so if you’ll be in town you can wander in at will to see and chat with authors, editors, publishers, and whatnot.
See? I’m old. I even use words like whatnot.
Selene – What do you think of social media’s role in writing? Why did you give up on writing a blog?
Rob – Social media can be a great tool for marketing, spreading the word about what you have going on and coming out. I’ve seen people use Facebook and Twitter very effectively for this. Blogging, too. But it’s not a method that works for everyone, and I include myself in that not category. I am awkward and terrible at self-promotion, which is something I keep vowing to buckle down and get better at . . . but I’m pretty uncomfortable saying Hey, look at me! I’m being great over here!
I’ve had a couple of blogs. The first, While You’re Making Other Plans, went on for years. It was basically a response to the people around me asking the first real question you asked back at the start of this interview: why horror? They, however, seemed to be asking out of concern. I was basically a happy guy, wasn’t I? And I’d always read everything, not just horror, so where did this focus on such dark topics come from? So I started writing WYMOP as a way to show people I could write happier stuff—what folks like my grandparents might think of as more normal—and offer a look into my everyday life, which is pretty different in tone from the fiction I pour out onto the page. A large part of the source material for that blog were things I did with my son, who, though I no longer live with him and his mom, is a tremendo-gantic part of my life. Of course, he grew up and became a teenager, and we naturally began doing fewer and fewer things together. So then all I had to write about was me.
My other blog, Writer in Progress, was intended to be a journal of sorts, very Rob-centric, covering my development as a writer and how I was going about it. So again, all I had to write about was me.
Have I mentioned how uncomfortable I am pointing the finger at myself and making myself the center of attention? This is okay, this interview, because you’re asking me questions and I’m answering them. Coming up with stuff to tell people about myself, essentially saying Here, I know you were wondering this about me, is different, and for me very difficult. I was spending an inordinate amount of time working on those blogs once they were about nothing but me, and I agonized over every sentence, constantly asking myself who really cares about this? Eventually, I was spending so much time working on them—and accomplishing very little—that it was seriously cutting into my time for writing fiction, and to be honest, I’m much more comfortable writing about people other than myself, even ones that come from inside my head.
All that being said, I’ve been thinking recently about starting up Writer in Progress again. Maybe. We’ll see.
Selene – Going from current technology into past technology… Friends in High Places is set in the 1970s (I think. Although it’s not stated outright, Tommy’s mom drives a brand-new 1974 Buick). I’ve been seeing more horror set in the Seventies and Eighties, or pre-cell phones and Internet, and I wonder how much of it is nostalgia and how much is a desire to avoid modern technology in horror plots. What do you think of setting horror in the past?
Rob – Every story has a place and time where it fits in. It just depends on the story. I’ve read period horror set back in colonial times (and earlier), modern stories, and futuristic sci-fi or post-apocalyptic horror, and it all worked because the story fit the setting. The setting for this particular novella was one part influence (I’d recently read Laymon’s The Traveling Vampire Show, a coming-of-age novel set in 1963), one part nostalgia (I wasn’t alive in 1963, but I do remember the later 70s), and one part setup. Lots of things I write are connected, often in ways only I know about as the connections aren’t germane to the stories themselves. In my mind, this story has a connection to another story I’m working on that happens much later in my own particular timeline. The public may never even see that other story, but a much younger version of one of its characters does appear in Friends in High Places. They’re only in High Places for my own enjoyment, but they did have a bit to do with just when the novella was set.
Selene – In the Afterword to Friends In High Places, you mention the requisite “Where do you get your ideas” question. I won’t ask that, since you answered it well in the piece, but what would you say is the strangest or most unusual source of a story you wrote?
Rob – A Long John Silver’s radio commercial. *mic drop*
Selene – Since all writers are also readers, what authors would you say have influenced your work?
Rob – All of them, in one way or another. The most influence, I suppose, comes from writers I’ve gone back to again and again. It’s become a rather hackneyed claim, but Stephen King is a big one. Several of his books are kind of go-to reads when nothing else around me looks appealing. I’ve also read a lot of Scott Sigler, Jeff Strand, Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, and Dean Koontz. But I mentioned earlier that my reading taste is kind of eclectic, so I’d have to include (in no particular order) John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany is my all-time favorite novel), Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker, Patricia Cornwell, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Piers Anthony, John Sandford, Tony Hillerman, Robert Heinlein, Tracey Hickman and Margaret Weis, Joe R. Lansdale, and Janet Evanovich may write rom-coms that are the furthest thing from horror there is, but damn me if she doesn’t write characters that shine and stick in the memory. And this is all just off the top of my head. There have been times when I believe a particular influence was fairly obvious—I’ve already mentioned how The Traveling Vampire Show impacted Friends in High Places, and I have one that I actually think of as my Joe Lansdale story—but they’re all in there. All these and more.
Selene – You belong to a collaborative group of writers, called The Storyside. Coincidentally, some of my online writing friends have recently been discussing the merits of belonging to a writing group. What do you think the pros and cons of writing groups are?
Rob – It depends on what kind of a group you belong to, and what you’re looking for. I’ve been in a few writing groups so far, and they ranged in focus—and I don’t mean to be derogatory, this is just how I think of them—from rah-rah to this is a business.
To cover just the two extremes, in the rah-rah group, everyone was expected to read aloud at the meetings, but no one was looking for any real feedback or criticism; the gatherings were, essentially, something to spur you on to write every week. There were people of various levels of skill and talent (the two are not the same), some of them quite good, but the focus was more on fun than improvement, and a couple of members actually looked down on me for pursuing publication. Everyone else was quite happy there, and were all getting what they wanted at the time: encouragement. And that was fine. I was using the group as a practice ground for reading in front of an audience, but I was looking for something, if not more, then at least else.
Then I discovered The Storyside, were the focus is much more this is a business. The business, I’m happy to say, is in helping its members put out the highest quality fiction they can, in whatever genre they write. There’s a lot more critique and feedback, with the common goal of publication. That’s what I was looking for, but there’s more. It’s a small group, but with our combined social media we can reach a much wider audience when trying to get any kind of message out, and that definitely helps the business aspect of it.
In the end, pros-and-cons-wise, any writing group is going to be what its members make of it. The key is to try to find like-minded people with goals at least similar to yours. If you’re looking for support, try to find that kind of group. If you’re looking for constructive criticism, those groups are out there too. Ditto if you’re looking for a little business help.
And by the way, writing groups can grow and change just as the writers in them can. In The Storyside, we defined some goals and work collectively toward them. I took a course in editing, and the other (much more professional) editor in the group took me under her wing and helped me get much better at that, benefiting me and the group as a whole. A couple of members have gained a great deal of experience in book layout and what goes into self publishing (I plan to delve into this myself sometime soon). One of us is going to school for marketing and analysis, and his experience is helping everyone involved. As strong as The Storyside was when I joined it, its members have looked for the pros they want to get out of working collectively and actively moved in that direction.
Selene – In addition to writing, you work as a mail carrier, and you have an editing service. How do you balance work, family and other commitments, and still have time to write?
Rob – When I’m feeling good, I tend to sleep about four hours a night. Maybe five. I’ve had some health issues recently that, though thankfully minor, have been wearing me down and pushing that number up, and sometimes keeping me from doing anything other than the day job. Hopefully, after a few doctor visits, I’ll be up to snuff again and rolling along. I kind of can’t wait. But whether I’m feeling terrific or not, I try to set aside some writing time every day. I have to punch in at the post office at eight o’clock, but if I get in there by six o’clock, that gives me two hours where I can work mostly uninterrupted. Especially if I’m wearing my headphones. In a perfect world, when I’m feeling good, I try to write in the morning, then edit (or whatever else needs doing, and that might even be more writing) at night. When S&L Editing has a client, thus a deadline, sometimes those time slots will reverse, and I’ll maybe get to my own writing in the evening—or maybe not.
But in that list you gave of what I do, the only inflexible is the day job. My whole family has always been supportive of my need to write, even though some of them don’t necessarily read what I’m putting out. Like I said, I’m a father first, and that does take precedence; but as long as everything that needs to get done does get done I don’t get a lot of pushback when I want to put something off for a bit to work on something else that’s important to me. To be honest, I think I’m hardest on myself when things aren’t getting done. And the L in S&L Editing is Stacey Longo, my editing partner and best writing friend. She’s both a much better editor than me and someone who occasionally makes me a little jealous as a writer, and we both understand this odd balancing act of a life we’ve chosen. We take each editing job as it comes, working as a team and shifting the heavy lifting back and forth depending on who has more time at that moment, and this seems to work for us. It does for me. I’m not sure what would happen if I had to do it alone.
So yes, I’m pretty busy. All the time. But I’ve somehow managed to become surrounded by a pretty good support system where if things start to fall down it’s because I’m the weak link, and I’m doing my best to be the strongest link I can. Some people might point to me and say I’ve been lucky. I might point back at them and say, “You’re right.”
Selene – What advice would you give a new writer who’s starting out?
Rob – Learn to type. Oh, I can hunt-and-peck about ten times faster than I could ten years ago, but it’s still hunting-and-pecking. I think I’d get a lot more done if I was able to focus more on what I was trying to say and less on how I was getting it in though the keyboard.
But that’s just me bitching. Real advice? Always strive to be better. Writing is the kind of thing where you never have to stop trying new things, so never stop trying. Never stop learning. Read and pay attention to what other writers—writers you admire—do. Listen to what people who read your work have to say, both the good and the bad (though listening to the bad sucks, believe me I know), and use what they say as a tool to shape what you do. If you have something edited (And everyone should at some point, no matter who you are. The books Stacey and I write together are sent out for editing and we’re both editors!), don’t just take your manuscript back and say Well, that’s all right then and consider it done. Look at what the editor pointed out, just as you would feedback from beta readers or a critique group. This is someone who’s been training themselves to be a very careful reader. See if they’ve helped identify any of your weaknesses—and then step on that weakness’s neck and crush it under your heel.
And never stop asking questions. It’s a use for social media I forgot to mention earlier, but when you’re just starting out, Facebook can be a fantastic learning tool. Who am I kidding? Ten years later and I’m still using it that way. Whatever you write, whatever genre you like, there’s at least one Facebook page dedicated to it, and there are writers of that genre gathered there. I belong to several, some horror related, some more general. If you have any questions—for instance, I mentioned beta readers a minute ago, but what the hell are they?—you can ask the writing community on Facebook.
Now some newer writers may be saying Dude, I’m so new I don’t even know what to ask about! That’s okay. Don’t panic. We’ve all been there. Again, I direct you to Facebook. If there’s one thing writers like to talk about, it’s writing. You don’t even have to take part in the discussion if you don’t want to. Just watch. Lurk. You might see terms float through the conversation like content edit, or an advance paying out, or even a whole thread about Ingram vs. KDP on customer service, or maybe something else that makes you scratch your head and say “Huh?” Well, now you have something to ask about.
Selene – Thank you again for taking the time for an interview today. Do you have anything else you’d like to mention here?
Rob – Seriously? This thing’s like nine pages long now—if you’ve gotten this far and been imagining me saying all this stuff the whole time, then you’re probably sick of the sound of my voice!
Okay, real quick: if you’re a fan of the carnival theme, Limitless Publishing’s releasing the third book in their Creepiest Show on Earth anthology series in May. Available for preorder on the 4th and releasing on the 14th, it’s called Carnival of Strange Things, and somewhere in that little collection of oddities you’ll find my rather long short story, “The Fate Machine.” Check it out—it’s a fun series.
If newer writers out there have any questions about what to look for in an editor or what to watch out for in a publisher, feel free to go to the S&L Editing website, click on over to the Contact Us page and . . . well, contact us. Whether you’re using S&L or not, Stacey and I don’t mind answering questions to help you make more informed decisions. We don’t know everything—hell, sometimes I sit around just reveling in all I don’t know—but what we do know, we don’t mind sharing.
Selene, thank you for asking me these questions and allowing me to talk your virtual ear off. I appreciate all the time you’ve given me.
Oh! One last thing: if there are any agents out there who might be interested in a funny YA paranormal adventure book starring two teen girls, one of whom happens to be a little living impaired, I may have something for you. Have your people call my people . . . by which I mean me.
Stacey – Hi Meredith, it’s great to have you here! Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?
Meredith – Hi Stacey, great to be here. I’m a freelance editor and writer from Brisbane, Australia.
Stacey – When did you start writing?
Meredith – I’m not sure I’ve ever not been writing. It’s a part of who I am.
Stacey – What genres do you write in and what drew you to them?
Meredith – I’m most often drawn to dark fantasy and horror, with a side of science fiction—probably as a form of escapism from reality, but also because what’s not cool about fae and demons and other dark things?
Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?
Meredith – I love getting lost in a different world, especially when I’ve found the right flow and the right voice for whatever it is I’m writing.
Stacey – What scares you?
Meredith – People. Of everything I’ve encountered in this life, people are by far the scariest. They are unpredictable and oftentimes self-motivated, which can be a terrifying combination in the wrong (or right) situation.
Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?
Meredith – Everywhere, really. Life, the universe, and everything else. Mythology. Wicca. The dark shapes creeping along the road at night. At the moment, I’m playing with the idea of using tarot cards as inspiration.
Stacey – Which authors have influenced your writing along the way?
Meredith – Every author I’ve read has in some way influenced me. A few that come to mind are Kim Wilkins, Tricia Sullivan, and Jeff Lindsay.
Stacey – What’s your writing process like?
Meredith – My process varies depending on what I’m working on. For short fiction, I might start with an image in my head or a single line or a line of dialogue and then just wing it. Other times, I’ll write down a few ideas in a rough structure and then go back to fill it in with words.
Stacey – What was the first story you had published?
Stacey – Do you have a favourite character from your own works?
Meredith – A few, mostly in longer work that I need to finish still. Often, it ends up being quirkier characters in the background that I love the most.
Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish? Why or why not?
Meredith – A few. As a freelance editor, sometimes it can be difficult turning off editor brain. Combine that with ARCs that still need a bit of polish and you’ve got the occasional DNF. A few other books didn’t mesh with my preferences at the time either; maybe they’ll be of more interest at a later time.
Stacey – What’s the last Horror movie/tv show you watched?
Meredith – I watched Pet Sematary the other day (and Us the week before that). It was an interesting experience as I usually try to read the book before seeing the movie, but I didn’t this time. I’ll have to track down the book and see how it tracks the other way around.
Stacey – If you could go back in time who would you go back in time to see?
Meredith – I’m a massive Browncoat, so definitely Ron Glass. I met him years ago at Supanova and he was amazing and so kind. His passing hit me like I’d lost family.
Stacey – What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just getting started on their author journey?
Meredith – There’s no single piece of advice on writing that will fit everyone. So, have fun with it and see what works for you.
Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
Meredith – Sure. The following is from Faetality, a dark fantasy short story I’ve recently had published in Spellbinding: An Anthology of Magic, which is available now on Amazon.
Off in the distance, someone giggled. It sounded almost like an echo, but nothing had come before, so it couldn’t have been. Then another giggle, accompanied by cold wind, rushed straight toward him and past his ear, making him dodge to the side.
‘Is someone there?’
The giggle came again, and something plucked at his hair.
‘Hey!’ He spun around, hitting out at the air with the sheet music still clutched in his hand, but nothing was there.
Thank you so much for your time Meredith! If you would like to find out more about Meredith and her writing endeavours, check out the links below.
Ifs & Maybes (book reviews)
Claire – Hi Curtis! Great to chat with you. Let’s jump right in. What are you currently writing/working on?
Curtis – I’m currently working on the final book in my Bad World series, which is proving to be more elusive than the previous two books. There’s this balancing act of trying to keep the tone of the book familiar without regurgitating the same tropes and techniques from the previous books.
The Bad World books are kind of known for being really over the top, so I feel like I need to make this last instalment absolutely ludicrous, which is fun, but it brings a lot of pressure with it.
I’ve also been taking breaks here and there to work on short stories, and I’ve been experimenting with structured poetry. I guess poetry is a tough market, especially for weird/horror-based work, but I’m finding that I enjoy it.
Claire – Tell me about your latest release.
Curtis – This summer Gehenna & Hinnom books will be publishing a novella that I co-wrote with Doug Rinaldi. The book is called Those Who go Forth into The Empty Place of Gods. It’s a cosmic horror story that follows an underachieving genius who finds himself dragged into a war between an ancient cult of immortals and his own undead Grandfather.
While a palpable darkness hangs about the story, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is a bit of black humor in there, and it draws as much from pulpy b-movies as it does deeper literary horror.
This was an interesting book to write, as I had never collaborated with another author before. Doug and I have similar senses of humour though, and our writing styles meshed well enough that the book doesn’t read like two disparate voices. It was a smoother experience than I had expected, and it forced me to do a lot of conscious thinking about my writing process.
Claire – You write novels, short stories, and comics. Have you always written in multiple styles?
When I first became seriously interested in writing my main focus was on comics. I had this wildly unrealistic goal of writing blockbuster revivals of d-list characters at Marvel. Hellstorm. Morbius. Foolkiller. Sleepwalker. Stuff like that.
During my time as a comic creator I did toy around with short stories as well. I would send a story to an anthology or magazine every so often but would give up after one or two rejections. I just figured it wasn’t my medium.
It wasn’t until I had spent nearly a decade and thousands of dollars pursuing a career in comics that I decided to shift my attention to prose. I had finally sold a short story to a magazine (though the magazine never ended up being published), so my confidence was high, and I had a story concept in my head, but no money to pay an artist to draw the comic. I decided to say the hell with it and wrote the story as a novel instead. Amazingly that novel, The Devoured, got picked up by a publisher within months of my final draft being finished.
Since then I have mainly focused on prose. I love comics, but they are expensive to make, and my short stories and novels just sell better, so that’s what I focus on. I’d still love to play in the Marvel and DC sandboxes someday if any of their editors are reading this.
Claire – Tell us about your writing process. Where do you write? When do you write? Do you have any writing rituals?
Curtis – I have a little corner of the living room set up with a computer desk and my laptop. I’m a stay at home dad, so I spend a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon writing. My routine is pretty basic. Tea or soda to drink with some music playing. The music varies depending on the mood of the project, but I usually listen to classical music or black metal when I write.
Claire – Let’s focus on your novels. ‘It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World’ has garnered a lot of great reviews on Amazon. Tell me about the book. Where did your inspiration come from?
Curtis – It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World was really something I just wrote for fun. I honestly thought it was too weird and that no one would get it, but luckily, I was wrong. It turned out to be my most popular book.
The title is a riff off of the old film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The name inspired the rest of it. I wanted to capture the madcap, frenetic scavenger hunt feel of the old movie, but in a darker way. I chose to populate my story with colourful villains (lunatic nuns, inept occultists, serial killers in love), all vying for an ancient set of cursed artifacts, and let them battle it out.
You can really see my comic book roots shine through in this book. The characters, the settings, the battles – everything is just over the top. It has a very cinematic feel to it as well, and it draws a lot of inspiration from exploitation cinema and Tarantino films.
Bad World resonated with a lot of people because it’s as fun as it is dark. I would say the fun parts of it – the black humor, the snarky characters, and the ridiculous fight scenes – make the really dark aspects of the book stand out deeper.
Claire – The Sequel to ‘Bad World’ is ‘Bad World 2: To Kill An Archangel.’ Had you always planned a sequel? How does it follow the original?
Curtis – I had originally planned it as a stand-alone book, but my publisher pushed for me to make a trilogy because “people want to read a series”. So, I outlined two more books, but then parted ways with the publisher before the first book came out.
When I self-published Bad World it ended up selling really well and people kept reaching out to me, asking for more. I figured I already had two more books outlined, so what the hell.
As for the second book, it picks up five years after the first and focuses on the few characters that survived book 1. The pacing is a bit slower, the storytelling less frantic, and the characters are fleshed out more deeply, but it still manages to one-up the absurdity of the first book, culminating in a Vatican City heist caper and a battle with the Pope.
Claire – ‘The Devoured’ is described as a ‘grim and compelling new vision of The Old West, filtered through Norse and Native American myth.’ It sounds fascinating. How did you merge all those concepts together? Where did the ideas come from?
Curtis – The initial idea behind The Devoured was to tell the story of a man who had lost everything. I chose to make my protagonist a Confederate soldier because it played into that theme of loss. He was a man who’d lost his war, his nation, and comes home to learn that he’s lost his family. He has nothing to lose, which makes him desperate and dangerous.
I also wanted to explore some of the classic themes behind cosmic horror, particularly nihilism and man’s insignificance in the universe. I didn’t want to do a Lovecraft pastiche though, so I chose to delve into the largely unexplored dark side of older religions. Since the story was taking place in the Reconstruction Era, I thought that looking at the elder god concept, or more accurately the concept of the titan or jotun (which more accurately translates into devourer) through the lens of Norse myth for one character and the lens of Native American myth for another would be fitting.
The last thing that I wanted to explore was the Luciferian, enlightenment ideals that went into the building of America. The Old Man, the protagonist, represents these luciferian/promethean concepts of man standing up against a heavenly tyrant, as well as the concept of young gods (modern man in this case) rising up against the titans of old.
Claire – Tell me about your short story ‘Everything Smells Like Smoke Again’ published in Wicked Haunted: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers. Frank Michaels Errington from Cemetery Dance reviewed the anthology and commented that he loved your story.
Curtis – The story is about a woman who slowly goes insane as the ghost of her estranged father haunts her home, or maybe her mind. It’s my most autobiographical story and it explores the repercussions of addiction on one’s family, as well as the toxicity of resentment.
Claire – Two of your stories have appeared in the anthologies ‘Black Pantheons’ and ‘Wicked Haunted.’ Tell me about those stories.
Curtis – Black Pantheons is my collection of weird fiction stories that drop imperfect characters into an uncaring universe, inhabited by malevolent deities. The stories range from haunting melancholy to hardcore occult horror.
My favourite story in the collection is a novella called Paramnesia, and it flips the slasher movie trope on its head, pitting elderly, dementia patients against the evil spirit of a dead cult leader. I largely modelled the structure on the first Nightmare on Elm Street film.
Claire – What do you prefer to write? Novels or short stories?
Claire – I like both for different reasons, but I often struggle with short stories. I have a better grasp on the mechanics of longer form stories, even though they take more time and work. My ideas generally lend themselves more naturally to novels and novellas.
Claire – Do you conduct research for your stories? If so, what kind?
Curtis – I do. It all depends on what the story demands, but I’m a stickler for the details. For the Devoured I had to research the history of the railroad, the civil war, fire arms of the era, Native American reservations, and the Reconstruction Era. It was intensive.
For the Bad World books, I had to research guns, body armour, the history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Vatican security, and the maps of Vatican City.
Last year I spent months researching classical music and goetic demons for a project. Luckily, I enjoy the research.
Claire – Your website includes quotes of praise for your work. What do these mean to you as an another? How do they impact your future writing?
Curtis – They are nice ego boosters, but I try not to let compliments go to my head any more than I let a bad review get to me. I just keep that stuff on my site to try and gain clout and interest from readers. If they see that someone, they respect likes my stuff they might be more likely to pick up one of my books. That’s the theory anyway.
Claire – Let’s learn more about you. Who is your favourite author and why?
Curtis – H.P. Lovecraft is my favourite author. I love his vocabulary and use of language. His imagination is a thing of legend, and the details he denies the reader are scarier than the details that most writers reveal. His work is intelligent, deep, and thoughtful and it touches upon themes that I find myself drawn to.
Claire – Do you get writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?
Curtis – Not writer’s block really, but I get in the way of my own progress often. Either I get caught up on fine details, some logistic that can be fixed later, or I fall into research pits.
Claire – Writers are weird, right? What’s the strangest/most interesting thing about you?
Curtis – Wow, there’s a lot. I’m a teetotaller, and I’ve never so much as drank a beer. That’s the one that raises the most eyebrows, I guess. What else? I used to be in MENSA. My likeness has been drawn into a Spider-Man comic. Other than that, maybe my esoteric interests – underground music, psychology, philosophy, mythology, occultism.
Claire – What’s on the horizon for you?
Curtis – Last year I wrote a novel called Black Heart Boys’ Choir, which is the story of a troubled teenage boy obsessed with a cursed piece of music. To do the Hollywood mashup thing, one might call it a mix between The Music of Erich Zann, American Psycho, and A Clockwork Orange.
It was emotionally exhausting to write, but I think it is my strongest work to date. It’s been very well received by my friends and colleagues who have read it so far. S.T. Joshi has even offered to write the foreword once I find a publisher.
I also have a short story coming out in a few months in the Corpus Press anthology, In Darkness Delight: Creatures of the Night. That’s pretty exciting. The table of contents is very impressive, and Corpus Press is a great publisher to work with.
Claire – And finally, you’re stuck on an island with only one book. What’s the book?
Curtis – Probably Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. I think Gaiman’s versions of the myths are more entertaining and readable to modern readers than the original Eddas, but they still contain the deeper levels of meaning that are present in the original texts. I could be happy reading those stories over and over. I think I could always find something new in them to ruminate over.
Claire – Thanks, Curtis!