The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Shannon Lawrence

Selene – Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thanks for agreeing to this interview! First off, tell us a bit about yourself.

 

Shannon – Hi, I’m excited to be here! I’m a mom of two, hiker, horror author, and over-thinker who loves research and freaky things. I live in Colorado Springs, in the foothills of the Rockies, and I love the rugged beauty of the area. I do miss the ocean, having always lived on the coast before I came here, but the mountains have claimed me, and I’m not sure I could leave them.

 

Selene – How long have you been writing, and what draws you to the horror genre?

 

Shannon – Like most of us, I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but I started writing for publication about four or five years ago, and that’s also when I started actively submitting short stories to magazines. As for what draws me to horror, I got hooked on it as a kid when I’d read historical “real” ghost stories and collections of horror short stories for middle grade, which mostly consisted of urban legend-type tales. I discovered Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe in elementary school, and I was hooked.

 

Even before I started reading these stories, though, I had a grandmother who used to take me to horror movies. She loved them. My mom used to get so mad at her! I was five years old when she took me to see Cat People at the theatre. Given, my parents had shelves full of horror novels by King and Koontz, and they never restricted my reading (though I snuck my first few Stephen King novels—better to apologize than to ask permission?)

 

Selene – I bought a Kindle copy of your collection, Blue Sludge Blues, and read a few of the stories. The next couple of questions will deal with that collection. Do you write only short stories, or do you work in the longer form, as well? What about short stories appeals to you?

 

Shannon – I’m actually shopping a novel to agents now, but my first love is, and always will be short stories. I can tell so many more stories and meet countless characters, all in less time than it takes to write a novel. It’s a bit of an addiction, really. There’s no roller coaster like the short story roller coaster of writing, editing, submitting, getting rejected, submitting, getting published, and having all these exciting book/magazine releases interspersed through it all.

 

Selene – Your stuff has a very visceral quality to it. By that, I mean I was eating and had to stop! Stephen King famously said, “If I can’t terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I can’t horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out.” Let’s talk about the use of gore and other sensory descriptions (especially smell) in your work.

 

Shannon – I like to try to engage the senses in my stories (whether I accomplish it or not is another story) for exactly that visceral reaction. The title story, “Blue Sludge Blues,” started out as an experiment in how people would react to an assault on the senses. It was also my attempt to stop holding back. I got to read the story in front of a room full of people at an open mic before I’d completed it. Hearing and seeing their reactions was amazing.

 

I feel like engaging the senses further engages the reader. Or I hope so, anyway. The sense of smell is often tied together with memory, and it can influence the way someone responds when they’re reading, especially if it’s a familiar smell.

 

Horror is about making people uncomfortable, often to make them think about things in a way they might not have before. Hitting them in the senses, the things that control their mental responses to a point, is a way of doing this. But I like to use the senses in positive ways sometimes, too. Sprinkling in positive sensory experiences can make it all the more extreme when things go wrong.

 

Selene – Further to the “gore” question, there are different types of horror, from splatter up to stories that are more psychological, with little violence at all. How would you classify your work, and how do you create the “creepy” factor in a story? Particularly given a short story has much less room to build suspense than a longer novella or novel.

 

Shannon – My earlier stories, which are the ones in “Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations,” leaned toward the more visceral, though there are also psychological horror stories in there (“Salvation Lottery,” for one.) Recently, I’ve been writing more psychological, quieter horror. At first, it wasn’t intentional; that’s just what started coming out when I’d sit to type. I’m now purposely pursuing that as a learning experience. I consider most of my horror to be what I term blue collar horror. It’s meant to get to the point and, hopefully, to entertain and satisfy the need for a monster, whether furry, tentacled, or human. Nothing flashy. After all, the first horror authors I read were King and Koontz, and I’d very much consider them blue collar horror (though I also think both are beautiful writers, and revisiting their older works lately, I’m really seeing that where I’d forgotten it existed).

 

On creating the creepy factor, I try to think of something that gets a reaction from me, to begin with. If I can’t at least emotionally understand why something would be scary, I don’t want to write about it. It’s why I haven’t done a clown story yet. If and when I do, it will mean I can finally empathize with why a clown is scary. Right now, the fact that they scare other people makes me love them, but I don’t think I could scare someone with a story about them without that intellectual understanding of why they would be scary.

 

The beauty of a short story is you have fewer characters to work with, and less expectation of story cushioning via sub-plots. I can get to the creepiness of a situation faster because I have to set the scene faster and simpler. There’s not a chapter to introduce the main character and their current situation: there are a couple paragraphs.

 

Selene – I’ve noticed that several of your characters are unnamed, or only identified by a first name. Why is this, and is it intentional? How do you approach character creation?

 

Shannon – I’m not sure it’s ever been fully intentional, but I find it can be disruptive to getting into the character’s head as a reader if there’s too much to identify them and set them too far apart from me. As a reader, I need to be able to empathize with them, but if I can identify with them, find some common ground, that’s going to draw me in even more. I want the character to matter and be someone the reader can feel for, and I want them to have a story of their own, but I also want the reader to be able to put themselves in their place, to feel afraid for them.

 

For character creation, I usually jump in with the beginning of the character in my head (I’m a pantser), and then I figure out what their story is outside of what they’re about to face. Is this terrible thing happening to them something that has encroached on their current, normal life, or is it because they changed something, went somewhere new?

 

Selene – “Where do you get your ideas?” is a common question. But at the back of Blue Sludge Blues, you include a “Story Notes” section that explains some of your processes. Have you had much feedback, and how are the story explanations received?

 

Shannon –Surprisingly, I have heard privately from a few people who liked that I put the story notes at the end, and I think one of my reviews even mentioned it, so I definitely plan to do that again in the future. I’ve heard most about the notes on “What the Fire Left Behind,” because that was one of my most personal stories in the collection. I wrote it to exorcise the anxieties left behind when I fled the Waldo Canyon Fire with my family. It was a terrifying experience that still haunts everyone who experienced it firsthand, and I needed to write it out.

 

The whole reason I did story notes in the first place is that I enjoy it when other authors do it. Often, in anthologies, the story notes are right there at the beginning of a story, and there’s something slightly more intimate about knowing what influenced or inspired the story, and what the author was thinking when they wrote it. It often gives more insight into the story itself and can change the meaning of it when re-read.

 

Selene – The Story Notes on “The Salvation Lottery” mention you wrote the story based on an idea for an anthology whose deadline passed. I’m terrible with deadlines, and I do this all the time! (Write stories on a theme, but don’t submit because the call is closed). How do you deal with deadlines and the realities of writing on a time limit?

 

Shannon – I’m actually someone who works best with a deadline (and not a self-imposed one, either). I thrive most when I’m most limited. I was one of those people who could write insane, A+ papers the night before they were due because the pressure made me work harder than I would have had I done it in advance. So far, I haven’t had many strict timelines or deadlines for writing, but I’ll say that the earlier in the process I see a story call with a deadline, the less likely I’ll write it or that I’ll like what I end up writing. So if I see a call now that’s due six months from now, even if it inspires an idea, it’s probably not going to happen. If I see a call tonight for something due two days from now, I’ll write that story and end up loving it. There’s something about the pressure. Those ones are more likely to make it into the final product than the ones I had months to work on, too.

 

Selene – Let’s talk about story setting. Your blog mentions you live in Colorado, although the stories I’ve read of yours didn’t mention specific locations. One of the peculiar constraints I’ve found of the short story form is that there isn’t a lot of room to describe place settings or surroundings. How do you let the readers know where the story is set, or is it better to have an “every town” fictional setting?

 

Shannon – There are some stories where I think the “every town” setting is best, because in horror the more you can make the reader feel like this could actually happen to them, the better. I’m a fan of normal settings versus, say, a cemetery, because someone’s more likely to be walking down a suburban street than frolicking in a cemetery. Therefore, it will feel more real with a more mundane setting. I do try to set a scene as far as the type of surroundings the character happens to have around them. Are we in the woods? If so, there will be trees, piney scents, birds chirping, leaves crunching underfoot, wind soughing through the leaves, etc. Are we in suburbia? There will be pavement and manicured lawns, the scent of grass clippings and grilled meat, other people’s voices drifting out of their windows. All of that can be set fairly quickly, and if it’s a familiar type of place, little work has to go into it to make the reader fill in the rest of the blanks.

 

Selene – If I have this right, Blue Sludge Blues contains some previously published stories and some newer ones. Did you self-publish, and why did you go with self-publishing, instead of approaching a “traditional” or other publisher?

 

Shannon – It contains mostly previously published stories, but I put in, I think, four new stories for those who’ve purchased the other publications I’ve been in. I wanted them to have something new to make it worthwhile. Some of the stories had been in magazines that have gone out of print, so the stories can no longer be found any other way, and I didn’t want them to disappear. Plus, there’s something special in having a book with just your name on the front. I was tired of going to signing events and having people look at the book that caught their eye first then call me by the editor’s name, and then having to explain the situation.

 

I did self-publish for a couple reasons. One, I wanted to learn how to do it, to experience that process. Two, I wasn’t sure if there was a point to going through a traditional publisher with a bunch of stories that had already been published by someone else. Would they be interested? I can’t see why. And why let someone else once again profit off my stories, when that had already happened, minus whatever payment I got, with them the first time around? I’d like to embrace the hybrid style of publishing, where I go traditional for some pieces and self-published on others, and I’m really curious to see which ends up being the most rewarding. I’m too early in the game to say yet.

 

Selene – A general “writer” question here. Since all writers are readers, what do you like to read?

 

Shannon – I read pretty much everything, but the genres I read the absolute most are horror, urban fantasy, mystery, and thriller. I’m actually doing a study project with a couple friends where we’re working through a list of 100 Best Horror Novels put out by Nightmare Magazine a couple years ago. I’ve discovered authors I had no idea existed, and I feel it’s greatly expanding the type of horror I write and my understanding of horror, the definition of which has broadened since I started this project. I’ve stopped saying, “That’s not horror!” quite as much as I used to.

 

Selene – You’re involved with a couple of local writing groups (Mountain of Authors, The Rocky Mountain Writing Group). Tell us about these groups and the workshops they offer.

 

Shannon – The groups I’ve mostly been involved with are Pikes Peak Writers and Pikes Peak Pen Women (a local branch of the National League of American Pen Women). I was a volunteer for Pikes Peak Writers for many years, and even served on their board of directors, but quit last year so I could focus on writing. They hold an annual conference in April, which was once called the friendliest writer’s conference by Writer’s Digest, and they do a variety of monthly programs, like an open mic, open critique, a writer’s night for discussions about writing with any topic requested, Write Drunk Edit Sober, and Write Brains with a guest speaker, all of these monthly and free. It’s not just a writer’s group, but also a supportive writing community.

 

Pikes Peak Pen Women is focused on those who are already published. They do a monthly luncheon with a guest speaker, and a lot of community outreach, such as a program doing poetry in the schools, where they introduce kids at poorer elementary schools to writing poetry and even getting it made into books at the end of the program. They also buy books to be distributed at these same schools. The interesting thing about this group is that, despite its name, it’s multi-focused on women in the arts. Membership consists of writers, musical composers, and artists/photographers. There are a lot of inter-arts programs to mix the various art forms together. This is an older organization, created when women weren’t allowed in various press clubs and men’s writing and arts groups, and it has a rich history. They have branches in different states, so anyone wanting to join could look up whether there’s a branch near them.

 

I’m part of an online blogging group called Insecure Writer’s Support Group, open to any bloggers. They do a monthly blog hop where writers talk about their insecurities and offer each other support, and they now do an annual anthology members can submit to. I mention this group since it’s not limited to Colorado Springs, and it’s easy to get involved, no matter where someone is, so if you don’t have a local writer’s group, check out the IWSG.

 

I’m fairly new to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, though there’s a lot of overlap between that and Pikes Peak Writers, but they also hold an annual conference and have monthly free and paid programming, and they’re a great group, too!

 

Mountain of Authors is an annual event put on by Pikes Peak Library District. PPLD does a lot to work with the local writing community, and even provides space for Pikes Peak Writers to hold some of their events.

 

The short version (too late) is that I live in an area with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to having a thriving writing community. I know not everyone is this lucky. There’s a lot to choose from here (and I’ve just scratched the surface—there are other organizations!) It’s a fantastic place to be a writer.

 

Selene – Your blog mentions some pretty scary experiences, including almost being kidnapped, being in the car when a serial killer came after your mom (!) and being chased by a shark. Now I really want to know the story behind these details. Do you think these scary experiences have shaped any part of your writing interests?

 

Shannon – I’m sure they have! I’ve lived a pretty interesting life, with lots of crazy experiences, and pieces of those experiences sometimes end up in my fiction. There are several stories in my collection that were inspired by real-life events, even if it was just a small piece of the real occurrence. I moved more than some (and less than, say, military families), so I got some incredibly diverse life experiences that people who’ve lived in one area might not have. It’s given me a different way of looking at things.

 

Selene – The profile also mentions you’re a fan of unsolved mysteries. I enjoy watching conspiracy videos on YouTube, but my favourite mysteries are the ones collectively solved many years later. What’s your favourite mystery, and in a story, do you think it’s better to “tie up loose ends,” or to let the threads hang?

 

Shannon – I do love unsolved mysteries! My grandmother (not the one who took me to horror movies had a bunch of books chock-full of things like the Bermuda Triangle and the lost city of Atlantis, stories we all grew up with. She also had a subscription to Fate Magazine. I especially love a good creepy mystery, like what happened at Dyatlov Pass? What happened to the Three Flannan Isles lighthouse keepers? There’s a blog challenge that happens every April called the A-to-Z Challenge, and sometimes people pick themes. In 2013, I chose Unsolved Mysteries as my theme and did posts on mysteries like those above, plus Natalie Wood’s death, Edgar Allan Poe’s final days, the Mary Celeste, etc. There was one for each letter of the alphabet, and it was a ton of fun reading up on those.

 

Sometimes I like to leave threads hanging in stories, and sometimes it seems most appropriate to tie it up in a neat bow, though if I can do that and still leave some doubt, that’s the best.

 

Selene – Another “general writer question.” What advice would you give a writer who is just starting out?

 

Shannon – My advice would be to read a lot and write a lot, but it would also be to SUBMIT. The number of people I know who have been writing as long and longer than I have, and who have not sent in anything for submission in all these years is staggering. Put yourself out there! Harden yourself to rejection, because it’s absolutely not personal. You can’t succeed without putting yourself out there, even though it means risking failures (yes, plural). Also, never stop learning. Even Stephen King has things he can learn, and he’s been in this game for decades. Like any other job, you should always be learning how to do it better.

 

If you can, find a local writing community. If you don’t have one, consider creating one. Your local library might help you out. Oooo, and another one: don’t pass up opportunities just because you’re scared. The yeses I’ve given have led to so many wonderful things, like writer’s groups, conferences, speaking gigs, signing gigs, podcast interviews, and invitations to anthologies. Try to push yourself to read new things and to write the things you aren’t most comfortable with. And if you start to lose your passion, rediscover it before moving on.

 

Selene – What’s next for you, and do you have anything else you’d like to share with our readers? Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions today.

 

Shannon – Thank you for the great questions! Currently, I’m working on a horror comedy novella about killer squirrels, and I’m still actively writing and submitting short stories. I’m looking at putting together a craft book on short stories, and I hope to put out a collection of short stories either annually or bi-annually as long as I have the rights back on enough stories. Also, I’ll be a guest on the Horroraddicts.net podcast July 21, and a panellist at Denver Comic Con in June, and I’d love to meet anyone attending.

 

 

 

If you would like to find out more about Shannon and her work, you can follow her via the below links:

 

Website: thewarriormuse.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewarriormuse/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thewarriormuse

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thewarriormuse/

 

 

 

The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Nina Johnson

Alyson – Hi Nina and welcome to the Horror Tree.

Can you tell us something about yourself? Your beginnings? And how long you’ve been writing?

 

Nina – As a child, I had vivid nightmares – the kind where I’d fall out of bed terrified. I also had an active imagination, so I’d see things. This combination filled my head with eerie stories I sometimes wished were true.

I was the oldest child in my family, but I had a dream where a young woman visited me at night and told me she was my big sister. She would sneak me from the house and we would fly through the night on vigilante adventures. As a Catholic second-grader, I’d share this story on the playground to such an attentive group of friends that I’d add chapters on the spot. Eventually, the nuns took me aside to verify if these stories were true. “The other children are afraid these are real. Maybe you should just write your stories down.” It was a thrill to keep their attention, to seize their imaginations, and to give them a little scare, so I began to write.

 

Alyson – Growing up which books made an impact on you? Who were your favourite authors?

 

Nina – My first chapter book was a Nancy Drew mystery. I devoured those and the Hardy Boys series. My English Nana sent me a book of fairy tales – not the Disneyfied versions – the original, nitty-gritty, little mermaid getting her tongue cut out tales. I loved them! And while I loved ghosts, I also adored the Christopher Robin poetry of A.A. Milne and stories about fairies and the Borrowers and the little people who created magic around us. I was also obsessed with illustrated encyclopedias. I memorized all the ordinary and exotic animals and plants I could the way other kids memorize train or baseball facts.

 

 

Alyson – Have you always been interested in history and legend?

 

Nina – I remember being fascinated by early American history because the stories were about people who left England to come to America. Like my mother, I imagined. She left her mother, her brothers and sisters to come to the USA and this both amazed and terrified me. My fascination was cemented by 4th grade when Indiana schools require a year of intensive Indiana history lessons. This included not only reading history, but creating drums, dioramas of battles, and even cooking old recipes. This made history very real to me.

 

Alyson – How much does living in Indiana, USA influence your work? The physical geography of the area for instance?

 

Nina – I grew up roaming the woods around our house, creating make-believe lands, climbing trees, and adventuring to creeks to watch tadpoles. While I enjoyed this freedom, there were dangers. A fire raged through those woods and threatened our home twice. One beautiful day, I happened upon a dead wild turkey. A local boy had shot it, stripped all the feathers, and left it sprawled on a fallen tree. It was gruesome and a waste. I’ll never forget it. The Indiana landscape, the contrast of natural beauty and danger, always sneaks its way into my work.

 

Alyson – I was intrigued to read on your blog about your volunteer work at Indiana Cemetery Works, on headstone restoration, could you tell us more about this?

 

Nina – Indiana Cemetery Works is dedicated to keeping historic figures alive by maintaining their burial sites. I restore headstones by removing lichen, walnut stains, and general dirt and grime. We also reset stones that have heaved over and mend cracks. We’ve been fundraising for a special lift to assist with the larger stones and obelisks. It’s quite dangerous work, actually! For years, we’ve focused on the anti-Slavery Friends Cemetery. This is the final resting place of Quakers who were excommunicated for assisting in the Underground Railroad.

 

Alyson – Do you watch supernatural/horror films? Which are your favourites? And do they inspire any of your stories? (One of your recent Facebook posts references du Maurier’s Birds – which was filmed by Hitchcock)

 

Nina – My mother introduced me to Hitchcock and other horror films when I was very young. I remember watching black and white films, introduced by a host called Svengoolie. He’s a Chicago legend. My sister and I loved his camp humour and we’d create colouring books about the films. The Hand, The Brain, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Really junky horror, but we loved it. I still love horror films, but I watch less slash and gore and more supernatural, psychological suspense like Babadook, The Witch, I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House.

 

Alyson – Do you have a particular routine to your writing day? Or a special place you write in?

 

Nina – I’m lucky to have a wonderful home office. Truly, it’s the office of someone much more successful than myself. A lovely napping sofa, books everywhere. But if I need a fresh look at a story, I sometimes tote my notes to other locations. I’ve written in coffee shops, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the Crown Hill Cemetery.

 

Alyson – How much research do you do for your (writing) projects?

 

Nina – It depends on the story. I use two monitors on my desk. If a story’s set in the past, I’ll research clothing, slang words, architecture, and even play music from that time on one monitor while I write on the other. It’s as close as I can get to time travel!

I also regularly visit sites of local legends or participate in ghost investigations. The locations fill my brain with scenes, vivid details, and the experience reminds me of those little things that can terrify the most reasonable mind.

 

Alyson – Your short story ‘Frigid’ won Mythraeum’s Pygmalion contest and has been filmed as a short film which I gather is now being edited; is this a first for you? When will the film be released? How involved in the filming were you?

 

Nina – Yes, this is my first story to be made into a film. I hope there will be many more! Mythraeum purchased the film rights and producer/writer Leslie Hedrick adapted it into a screenplay. A story takes a new shape as it shifts from page to film, so my goal was to be the easiest writer for a filmmaker to work with. I didn’t want to stunt the next steps in the creative process.

For the casting call, Leslie explained naming my main character would help the actor connect to the role. She’d chosen the name Henry. I was thrilled because, of all the names she could have chosen, this name holds special memories for me. This confirmed my story was in the best creative hands for this project!

I didn’t make it out to Colorado for the filming days, but I was kept in the loop with regular updates. At one point, filming was delayed because the lake wasn’t frozen enough. At another point, a main actor had to be replaced due to laryngitis.

The release date hasn’t been confirmed yet, but I am forwarding information to Mythraeum and Loste Films so it can be entered in the film competition for StokerCon 2019. It may be entered in other film festivals as early as late 2018. Here’s Loste Films’ award-winning horror short Turn Around from 2016:  https://youtu.be/js2932fcKOU

 

 

Alyson – Writing is a solitary business – how do you interact with other authors?

 

Nina – I belong to a local writer’s group where we simply encourage each other to keep writing. I attend some author conventions and, specifically, am attending StokerCon 2019. I enjoy supporting other authors by reading and reviewing their work – especially those who publish independent or through smaller presses.

 

Alyson – What projects are you currently working on?

 

Nina – My first dark science fiction story “Regolith” is coming out this summer in the Terra Nullius anthology. It’s one of three amazing science fiction anthologies being published by Kristell Ink this year.

I’m completing my first short story collection this year: Frigid and Other Cold-Hearted Stories. It features my original story with a bonus scene plus new as well as a few previously published stories about characters who commit cold-hearted behavior.

I’ll follow up with a collection focused on ghosts and the supernatural and I’ve started a narrative memoir filled with stories and photos from my ghost investigations.

 

Alyson – What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Nina – Read writers you love and try to figure out why you love their stories. Then, make time to write. Write absolute rubbish just to get your story down. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write, write, write. And don’t get discouraged if your idea isn’t “new”. No idea’s truly new. It’s all been done. It’s your point of view, your voice, your unique angle that matters, that makes it fresh. Go ahead. Write about vampires and zombies, just make them yours.

 

Alyson – Where can readers follow you online?

Nina – I love to read a range of books, not just horror, so I post about books a lot. The rest of the time it’s cats, coffee and tea! Feel free to follow me:

Web page:https://knjohnsonauthor.com/blog/

 

Facebook:https://m.facebook.com/knjohnsonauthor/

 

Twitter:https://twitter.com/kninaj27

 

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/KNJohnson

 

Instagram:http://www.instagram.com/knjohnsonauthor

 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/K.N.-Johnson/e/B01KUNOBP6

 

 

 

Guest Post: By No Means an Expert

I sit, in my desolate room, no lights, no music / Just havoc / I’ve killed everyone / I’m away forever, but I’m feeling better…” – Sugar by System of a Down

A strong line from a song always puts me in a great writing mood. All writing, good or bad, has a beginning. It may start with a concept/idea: Santa Claus must defend the world from vampires on Christmas Eve; or a feeling: sad; scared; lonely; brave. Once a story begins, it usually takes on a life of its own.

The tale weaves itself into a tapestry of rich character development, witty dialogue, and the occasional plot twist (Rudolph was the head vampire all along? Say it ain’t so!). Hearts and souls pour into this magnum opus. The life created from this Franken-story leaps off the page. Eventually, the author sits alone with this masterpiece. Uncertainty settles into a creative mind as the struggle begins to find out how to get the words out to the world. What do 99% of all new writers do? To the interwebs, Batman (and by “To the interwebs” I mean run Google search for editors/publishers).

This holy grail of stories is sent off to at least two dozen randomly chosen editors; and that BuzzFeed article you read about how to write the perfect introduction letter is sure to give this manuscript an edge. Assuredly, one or all of the editors will fall in love with the pages and boom paycheck city! Two dozen rejections later a writer’s hopes and dreams are dashed on the rocks, buried beneath the waves, and carried far out to sea (back to 3rd shift at the bottle cap counting factory).

One question remains, why did I even start writing in the first place?

In the short time that I have been pursuing a writing career, I’ve noticed the story above hangs like a boat anchor attempting to drag down every author/writer. It’s the big, evil bogeyman feared by everyone. Your heart and soul are on display for all to see only to be rejected, “…we are not accepting stories of this type at this time…” or “…Thank you for your submission. We are going to pass on your story at this time…” It’s almost a horror story within itself.

Questions arise: How is success defined? More importantly, how can writers lay a positive foundation that will help them grow as an author and network with the people who can provide the best help?

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Stuart Conover (if you’ve read anything on the horrortree website you might know who he is) and sharing an overpriced Starbucks beverage (Venti Chai Latte is my favorite). We talked about many things: horror movies, books, writing, his website, my website, future writing plans, why a stranger known only from social media can meet with him so easily. I told him about my plans to lay a solid career foundation built on quality writing and making networking connections with other readers, writers, and authors.

The one topic we discussed that struck a chord was about social media and its relationship to the writing world. There is no better way I have found to push ideas and stories than to turn to one of the many available platforms. The communities are robust and can be intimidating for a beginning writer. I was lost in the ocean for a few months before I found a comfortable groove.

Arguably, the most popular social platforms available for writers I’ve experienced include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wattpad, Google+, and SnapChat. The primary one I utilize is Twitter. It speaks to my humble beginnings in flash fiction. It forces me to choose words that carry the most considerable impact, the best descriptions, and utilize the proper tags. Over time, I have assembled a group of writers, authors, publishers, copy editors, and enthusiasts that show support when I need it and they are not afraid to call me out on any writing missteps.

My usual writing routine includes daily story posts in my social account (@ArthurUnkTweets) and vain, ego-driven attempts to write original content on my blog (https://arthurunk.com) once a week. I enjoy putting in work daily and making connections with other writers/authors across all genres. We share stories, successes, fears, failures, and information about the overall process of writing.

I did not realize it at the time, but I’ve become heavily involved with various writing communities. I could expound on each social platform at length discussing the pros and cons of each and churn out a 10,000-word article, but today I’m going to focus on just one, Twitter (and attempt to keep it under 2,000 words).

Twitter best falls into a category known as flash or micro-writing. There are no rules for what you put out into the world but be prepared to receive unsolicited feedback and the occasional troll. Twitter is a free platform for anyone to use and I often see publishers and independent authors push books, stories, and ideas out to the public. The writing process on Twitter is different because you only have 280 characters in which to write a story. It is half an elevator pitch at best; a blurb of a blurb.

The popularity of what I write on Twitter is relative to the quality of content; the hashtag used, the amount of material produced, how often content is created, and interactivity with the community at large. In other words, I write a lot of words, I tag it according to the subject, prompt word, or genre I’m writing in, I’m commenting on others’ writing, and responding to comments on my written work. It can seem overwhelming, especially if you try to follow this regimen of spending anywhere from an hour to two hours every day writing and responding.

“Hey Arthur, I heard you mention hashtags. What the heck are hashtags and how exactly can they help me?” I’m glad you asked random person I just made up (being a fiction writer gives me the latitude to create whomever I want, whenever I need to).

Hashtags are the lifeblood of Twitter. Essentially, it’s a keyword or phrase written preceded by the number symbol (#) or hashtag as the kids these days call it (#Excited #Family #Writing #Robots #Science #Hashtag). Things get even more fun when you include multiple words and phrases (#SorryNotSorry #EatAtJoes #DadLife #AsManyWordsInARowAsYouCanThinkOf). Each hashtagged word turns into a search link (and words like “hashtagged” get added to my personal dictionary because Word doesn’t recognize it as a real word). Clicking on the link lets you see who else is writing about the same subject. The # helps your work appear in other newsfeeds. Remember on Twitter there are only 280 characters to express a story or idea. Tag what is relevant to the written subject or theme. One or two works fine; beyond that, you risk compromising your message.

Hashtags are one of the most important things to get your writing noticed on Twitter. Unless you have a million followers, then anything written can get lost in the Twitterverse without the proper tag. I regularly search out specific hashtags to support the writing communities I follow: #vss365 (very short story 365 days a year); #SockItTueMe (stories based on new prompt words every Tuesday); #SciFiFri (weekly science fiction stories every Friday); #SlapdashSat (no themes, no prompts, just stories); #SeduceMeSunday (romance or erotica theme with a weekly prompt); and many, many more. My level of interaction with the writers and authors who participate is critical in building and keeping relationships within those communities and the writing community at large.

If you are an independent writer and not on a social site, you are missing out on a golden chance to connect with the people who read your work and build a solid fanbase. There is something special about being able to communicate with someone who is creative. You can gain insight or express gratitude. It is comforting to know that there is a human connection to the words written or the hand that holds the brush. A few people who like my style of writing contacted me via Direct Messaging and ultimately hired me for a few writing projects.

If there were no such thing as social media, I would still want to be a writer. I write for an audience of one unless someone has commissioned me to write for them. I also regularly participate in a few other flash communities on the web: AdHoc Fiction, Microcosms, HorrorTree, Spillwords. I don’t place all my eggs in just one writing basket.

In my humble opinion (IMHO as the millennials call it), there are no hard and fast rules on how to leverage a social media account to your advantage. The following are suggestions that I apply to stay true to myself and generate the type of success that I am looking for:

– People respect professionalism, always present yourself in a professional manner

– Never insult your fanbase

– Keep your profile public

– Always use hashtags on Twitter, but don’t overuse them

– A well-placed picture or .gif can help get your work noticed just like a good book cover

– Participate regularly

– Respond to comments (even if it’s just, “thank you for your support”)

– Do not ever try to be fake or fool the community

– Remember you are using the platform to write, not debate, don’t get drawn into unwanted arguments

– Be prepared to receive negative feedback

– Use the block button liberally

– Watch out for bots and scammers

– Try to use proper grammar and syntax, but realize that you will still make mistakes

– Proofread your work, then reread it, then read it one more time before hitting send

– Don’t work so hard to be unique, be genuine and the right people will notice

Most of what I’ve written here may seem like common sense to most, but I have been guilty of violating several of the above-imposed rules at one point or another. I have a plan for my continued success, and I strongly encourage anyone reading this to make a plan that fits your style. Writing can be a terrible storm that leaves several bodies in its wake. There are a chosen few that have learned how to weather the storm and ride the waves to great success.

If I knew for a fact that nothing I ever wrote would ever be published, I would still write. Writing is my escape from reality and my main therapy tool to stay sane. I am grateful for every opportunity, but I understand that behind every success there is a foundation of many life experiences, hard work, and discipline. Above all, I remember that I am by no means an expert…yet.

Arthur Unk

Arthur Unk

Arthur Unk lives and works in the United States, but dreams of a tropical, zombie-free island. He hones his drabble skills via the Horror Tree Trembling With Fear (Dead Wrong, Flesh of My Flesh, The Tale of Fear Itself, and others yet to come) and writes micro/flash fiction daily. His influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and life experience. You can follow his work from all around the web via his blog at http://arthurunk.com or read his many, many micro-stories on Twitter @ArthurUnkTweets.

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Kenneth Goldman

Stacey – Welcome to The Horror Tree, Kenneth. It’s great to have you. Tell us a little about yourself?

 

Ken – Since you asked, I’ll brag a little.  I’ve written almost 200 stories and counting reprints I’ve published over 860 of them. That includes two novels (OF A FEATHER and SINKHOLE), one novella (DESIREE), and three anthologies of short stories (YOU HAD ME AT ARRGH!!, DONNY DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANY MORE, and STAR-CROSSED).  My bio could read: Ken Goldman is famous but nobody knows it.

 

Stacey – You have quite an impressive list of titles under your belt according to Amazon. How long have you been writing?

 

Ken – This is no lie. I began writing before I learned to write. I was drawing pictures of my ‘stories’ before I entered kindergarten. But semi-professionally, I started writing and having my stories published back in 1992.

 

Stacey – Of your numerous books and stories, which one is your favourite and why?

 

Ken – That’s like asking which of your children do you like best.  But okay – I guess it’s my novel OF A FEATHER because I have this love of birds and until last week I always had a bird in my home. Sadly, my parrot, Baby, passed away last week at the age of 35 years. Ever seen a grown man cry?  It isn’t pretty.

 

Stacey – Do you draw inspiration from real life experiences?

 

Ken – I draw my inspiration from just about anything. A photo can inspire me, or a magazine, album cover, or graffiti on a bathroom wall.  I’m extremely visual, and I’ve been told that my stories are like watching a series of snapshots. Of course, real life experiences are inspiring also, and I base almost every character I create on people I know.

 

Stacey – Do you find anything particularly challenging about writing?

 

Ken – I find that getting a new idea for a story is always a challenge, more than actually writing the story itself. A writing instructor taught me that just about every idea or story has been told in one form or another, that a good writer has to discover a new slant. JAWS? Think MOBY DOCK.  E.T.?  Think LASSIE.  THE SHINING?  Think every haunted house tale ever written, then magnify it to hotel size.  Get it?

 

Stacey – Do you write daily?

 

Ken –  I put in at least an hour a day either writing something new, rewriting or editing something I’ve written, and/or searching for new markets to which I can submit my work.  I find the whole writing process therapeutic (and it’s cheaper than therapy), so I don’t mind working at something I enjoy.

 

Stacey – Do you need music or complete silence to write?

 

Ken – Music sometimes just before I write, then SILENCE PLEASE.

 

Stacey – What’s the best writing advice you could give someone just starting out?

 

Ken – Writing is rewriting.  Think you’ve finished that novel with your last sentence?  NOPE! You have to go back, trim the fat, and admit that there are parts of your story you don’t need or that just plain suck. (Stephen King calls this process “Kill your darlings.”)  In other words, you have to be brutally honest with your writing. Don’t count on Mom, your pals, or your spouse to be completely truthful about how much they like what you’ve written.  A writing group is often helpful if you can find one, and if you can handle brutal honesty.

 

Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish reading? Which book and why?

 

Ken – Hate to admit this, but Stephen King’s BAG OF BONES just didn’t do it for me. I had a hard time relating to the pathetic main character. I did finish it years later and it really wasn’t all that bad.

 

Stacey – What’s the last horror movie you watched?

 

Ken – Just saw A QUIET PLACE. It’s one of the better horror movies I’ve seen recently with a unique and effective take on the effects of silence.

 

Stacey – What scares you?

 

Ken – Besides Donald Trump? I have a major fear of being injected with a needle, and I come close to passing out when I have to get an injection, especially with blood work.  The scene in THE EXORCIST that got to me wasn’t the girl’s head spinning or the green vomit.  No, it was when Regan gets a needle injected into her neck. YECCH!

 

Stacey – Your book Of a Feather really caught my eye. I love ravens, myself. What drew you to write a novel that focuses rather heavily on birds?

 

Ken – As I mentioned above, I’ve always had a love and interest in birds, and I’ve had a domestic bird in my home since I was eight.  My parrot, Baby, was an amazing creature – intelligent, amusing, and somehow insightful enough to tune into my own moods.  Not to get maudlin, but I know birds have this instinctive fear of being held in such a way that their wings are prevented from allowing them to fly off.  Baby passed away a few days ago while at the bird hospital, but just before the end he climbed into the crook of my arm and allowed me to hold him for an hour just stroking his feathers. It was as if he knew this was a special moment, a very poignant moment for me and one that brings tears even as I write this.

 

Stacey – You talk about the Thunderbird, which comes from North American mythology. What drew you to this particular myth?

 

Ken – Thank the internet for this one. I needed a reason the main character, Socrates Singer, had this ability to control birds.  I discovered the Oglala tribe’s Indian mythology behind Wakinyan, The Thunderbird, a tribal god whose ability is to recognize evil and destroy it.  But Wakinyan is not always reliable and sometimes could be evil itself. That worked perfectly!

 

Stacey – What are you working on at the moment?

 

Ken – I’m between short stories.  Just finished one called “Death Bed Scene” about a father’s terrible death bed confession. When I feel energized and inspired enough, I’ll tackle another novel. I’m searching for ideas right now.

 

Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?

 

KenOh yes!  This is from my latest novel SINKHOLE (Bloodshot Books), which features slug-like creatures that steal parts of your brain – and your soul.  Here’s a little taste:

 

Gina slipped into a pair of hip huggers most women past thirty would have had difficulty getting away with. She brushed her hair (counting to thirty strokes, as was her ritual), then headed to the bathroom for a quick freshening up. The water remained off, but a little cosmetic handiwork was doable. With a strategic floral spritz of Shalini behind each ear (and one between the silken skin of her girls), she checked her image in the bathroom mirror. Yes, she was good to go, but for one delicate matter.

It was a less than feminine consideration, but she had been out earlier to ask about the excavation’s progress. The morning had been humid, and Gina had perspired a little. Those nasty lady pits required a few delicate scrubs. The water wasn’t running for a shower, but her trusty baby oiled loofa remained damp enough to do the trick. Pulling the shower curtain, she reached for the pink sponge.

Something long and black slithered along the shower head. Having no time to react, Gina managed a gasp. As if it saw her, the dark thing’s mouth hooks extended and opened wide.

Curling itself, the small creature dropped into Mrs. Regina Campbell’s scalp.

 

Thank you so much for your time Kenneth! If you would like to find out more about Kenneth Goldman and his writing endeavours, check out the links below.

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Sinkhole-Ken-Goldman/dp/1947522000/

https://www.amazon.com/Feather-Ken-Goldman-ebook/dp/B00HMR47OY

https://www.amazon.com/Ken-Goldman/e/B004QVWTTE.

The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Michael Kamp

Ruschelle: Was there an event, movie book or supernatural experience that happened in your life when you knew you wanted to write in the horror genre?

 

Michael: Not really. Ever since I was a child my imagination has been fascinated with the morbid, so when I began telling stories and exploring that path, it was usually horror. I did have the experience most wanner-be writers have – picking up a book at the library and afterwards thinking: “I can do this better. Heck, I am doing it better.”
Ruschelle: You’ve mentioned in previous discussions that you feel that not all of your books would translate well from Danish to English.  Is it more than just the language barrier?

Michael: Yes. Most of my stories are part horror, part social commentary and since Danish and US societies are pretty different both in function and mindset, some of them don’t translate very well. For instance, my award-winner Samlerne (The Collectors) deal with the newly emerging role for fathers and men, where the main character feels adrift and has a hard time connecting with his family. He has to try and fix a dysfunctional marriage and be a positive role model for his children, who are slowly becoming strangers to him.
And all that is before I even introduce the outside threat.

While a lot of things would be similar (I assume) in the US, I’m just not familiar enough with the nuances of US family life outside sitcoms. So I don’t know how well it would reflect reality in a US setting.

Ruschelle: Is the foreign market tough to break into? Is it just the English market or is it across all foreign speaking nations?

Michael: It is insanely hard. I’ve only tried the US market so far – I simply haven’t had the time to look elsewhere – but the US market is crazy. I’m not only back to square one as a totally unknown – that’s to be expected – but the way I made a name for myself in Denmark doesn’t really transfer to an overseas market. I can’t network at Cons, I can’t attend readings and get on panels because I’m on another continent. I mean, sure I could go there, but I’m not made out of money, so I haven’t made that investment so far.
The main obstacle to getting anywhere in the English market is to get people – any people – to read your stuff. It doesn’t matter how talented you are – if there are thousands of other writers giving their work away for free and promoting their own titles next to you, you simply drown.
My first title in the US market, Clowns, did get really good reviews and very positive feedback – but not enough to trigger the famous Amazon Algorithm to make them promote the title.
I had to sit down and make a plan for the next several years on how to tackle this challenge. We’ll see if it makes any difference 🙂
I did write a fairly long article on the process of getting a title on Amazon and what I learned along the way. Maybe it can help someone out there?

Hunting the Beast


 

Ruschelle: The American tradition of Halloween has made its way to Denmark. I KNOW you are a Halloween lover. What are you and your fellow Danes enjoying from this horrific holiday?

Michael:  The main attraction is that adults are allowed to join the fun. I love decorating the house with all things spooky and think of new ways to outdo last years Halloween. Our own version is called Fastelavn and takes place in February, but that is for kids only. Adults are considered weird if they want to be part of it.
Since Halloween is new here, we get to define it ourselves and a lot of us has jumped on the opportunity.
And I’m passing it along to my children. Only Christmas can outcompete Halloween in our house. And I don’t see it challenging Christmas unless we begin giving Halloween gifts. 🙂

 

Ruschelle: Halloween gifts! That would be awesome. Giving each other skulls and vampire teeth rings and other macabre stuff. Sign me up when it happens. You have made a name for yourself in the Danish market. You have won the Best Danish Horror of the year in 2015 which you mention is the equivalent of the Bram Stoker Award here in the US to back that up.  Kudos! What would be next on your goals to slash and conquer on your bucket list?

Michael:  Thank you 🙂 Well, I am very ambitious and there’s not a lot of places to go further in the Danish market. Not as a horror writer. It is one of the reasons I try to go abroad.
My ultimate ambition is to one day win the coveted Bram Stoker Award myself.

A bit more realistic, but still very ambitious, is to get on the shortlist within the next five years.

That is also my plan for getting attention in the US market. Just go win an award, haha. 🙂

 

Ruschelle: I read somewhere where you said that the Danish swear more than in America. Explain please or should I say, ‘explain dammit?’  The way I swear, I must be part Danish….

Michael:  I’m not sure why, but Danes have a totally different relationship to swearing. I think it’s because we are a more direct society. Danes are often considered rude and foreigners can have a hard time adjusting in the workplace. We talk to each other as a close family can do because we consider each other equals.
It can be pretty off-putting and Danes abroad have to make some serious adjustments to not mouth off to the boss.
For some reason, we use a lot of English swearwords in our daily lives – probably because they don’t sound ugly to us. It’s common to see parents drop the F-bomb in front of their kids and the kids themselves use it freely.
Calling someone a “Kælling” (our version of bitch) is frowned upon – that is just rude and considered uneducated, but calling someone a motherfucker – meh, that’s just colorful language.
I need to pay a lot of attention to swearing in my stories, because the US market reacts much, much stronger to it than I’m used to.

 

Ruschelle: You have a pet troll!  Tell me about him or her? How the hell did you catch one?

Michael:  Trolls are a bit tricky. They keep to dank and dark places but with patience and plenty of treats they can be lured into the family.

They will only eat live prey, but they are not particularly bright, so if you jiggle a piece of meat just right, they will accept it. It’s nice. Keeps mouse away.

 

Ruschelle: If one will do housework, ship it over to me. You established the Danish Horror Society in 2011 and your membership has grown from a few bloody trickles a generously gory splatter.  You had one of your most recent meeting at a castle!  How gnarly is that? Tell us a bit of what the society does for each other as well as the genre of horror?

Michael:  The Danish Horror Society was created to bring attention to the horror genre as fiction for adults. In Denmark, there’s a tendency to place all of the fantastic genres in the children’s section of the library.

It is changing – in part because of the society – but back in the day one of my colleagues found his new title prominently displayed at the “New Titles” table in the children’s section. But the title in question was borderline splatterpunk and featured several mutilations.
They hadn’t really read any of it – they just assumed it belonged there.

It’s a bit ironic that I’m a co-founder and yet today it’s me writing to the children and YA segments.
We use the society to network and help each other out. If a library or a school needs one or several horror writers for an event, they tend to call the society.
It’s not just for writers, though. Everyone who deals with horror in some form are welcome. Journalists, bloggers, filmmakers.

Crime fiction reigns supreme in Denmark, and the Danish Horror Society has joined forces with the biggest crime fiction con around here, Krimimessen, so we get to participate with our horror alongside hundreds of our colleagues in crime fiction.

The castle was a nice touch, but it’s really one of our members who happen to live there. Yeah – she lives in a castle. (Add to bucket list.)

 

Ruschelle: Your recent 2017 offering, Clowns or Klovn (in Danish) was written for young adults. Do you find it easier or more difficult to write horror for youthful readers?

Michael:  It’s mostly easier. I never hold back, so I can tell almost the same stories I would tell adults, I just have to make a few adjustments. The teenage years are filled with angst and strange new things, so horror stories are a perfect fit.

And children are much easier to set up for scary stories since they are fairly helpless on their own and that makes creating a threat much more fun. I tend to think of my own childhood and the fears I had and just go: “But what if it was real?”

Children and YA are a ton of fun.

 

Ruschelle: Are there differences in YA for Danish compared to English? Can you get away with more blood and guts?

Michael:  There’s a huge difference and that took me by surprise. Clowns are considered a book for children in Denmark, although it does move into a grey area with the amount of gore. To be truthful it probably too gory for children who do not love the macabre.

But when I began sending out review copies in English, I got several replies that I must have made a mistake. This was no children’s book.

It turned out that no-one mentioned kids being eaten alive on-scene, but the amount of swearing put it in YA territory and sometimes straddling the border even with that.

My whole compass for judging my target audience was turned upside down. I had not even considered the swearing might be a problem. At all.

In Denmark, we try to shield children from violence and pornography, but swearing and nudity is perfectly fine. Several Danish movies for children, particularly older ones, has full frontal nudity and everyone swears like sailors.

It’s changing with globalization, but it’s still a real challenge I need to wrap my head around.

 

Ruschelle: How many of your novels and short stories that you’ve written do you have proudly displayed on your bookshelf?

Michael:  All of them. 🙂

I’m terrible at being humble (which is bad for a Dane). I’d prefer both my books and awards to be prominently displayed in the living room, but wife says no. They are exiled to my office space alongside my horror posters and other gory knick-knacks.

 

Ruschelle: Of all the novels and stories you have written, which one was the easiest to pen? And on the flip side, which one was more of a struggle? Be it internally or physically?

Michael:  The easiest by far was Clowns. It took me a month because it mostly wrote itself. The premise was so simple. It was the height of the Scary Clown epidemic and we had tons of them in Denmark.

So one day I wondered: “What if those clowns were not guys in suits? What if they were real?”

I pitched it to my publisher and they loved it.
It was actually named Best Horror Title for Children 2017 by a group of libraries, which makes me very proud.

The hardest was Samlerne (The Collectors). That was so personal dealing with all those fears of losing one’s family and how to navigate as a man in modern times and it made the transition into the horror difficult. I struggled for months getting through the second act before it picked up speed in the third.
It was worth it, though, since it went on to win the national award.

It was by far my most ambitious project and it took so much more effort than I had anticipated.

 

Ruschelle: What is it you love about Danish folklore?

Michael:  It’s morbid and multilayered. Danish winters are long and dark and the old days were pretty violent. Stories of what lurks in the night are very popular and it seems everywhere you go, there’s something waiting to kill you (or snatch you away).

Nøkken (a water spirit of sorts) lurks in streams and rivers waiting to lure children to their doom. Elves in the forest can be cruel or kind. They are inhuman, so you can’t tell. Gravsoen (The Grave Sow) is a gigantic, black sow infused by evil that stalks cemeteries and other dark places at night.
Trolls and curses and undead critters rising from the grave.
So much material to choose from.

And it’s particularly interesting that we had the change from paganism to Christianity only a thousand years ago. Much of the old ways made their way into folklore and you can see how that shaped a silent conflict for centuries when symbols and names changed the meaning and became infused with the either the new or the old.

Fascinating.

I’m actually researching right now as I’m writing a Christmas themed story. I had to learn if there were any grim traditions concerning Christmas, and yep – they delivered.

Turns out families would light candles and put them in the windows to guide the dead family members home, to join them at Christmas. In some areas, they even made room in the bed for the dead. I need to look into this in greater detail.

 

Ruschelle: If YOU could go back and create Danish folklore, what creatures would the old books be filled with?

Michael:  As a huge fan of Lovecraftian horror, I bemoan the lack of formless terrors. I would definitely add more tentacles and creatures with an uneven number of eyes.

 

Ruschelle: I watched a video interview where you mentioned attending seminary school. Very interesting for a horror buff! How has that shaped the way you interpret horror? 

Michael:  I’m not sure it translated properly. I studied to become a teacher and taught for 8 years. That certainly showed me a plethora of teenage angst to exploit in future stories. It gave me a lot of insight into the teens of today and the world they try to navigate.

 

Ruschelle: Ehhh….I thought you were going to be a priest. I guess not. Lol. Damn translations!!! But I’m going to with my next question anyway because…why the hell not?  It’s still a valid question.  So…Has that experience (now recognized as becoming a TEACHER )played out in any of your stories? 

 

Michael:  Several of my stories are centered around school and kids going to school. School are scary places, even before I add the supernatural ingredients. I really cared for my students, so it gave me a way to write nuanced characters instead of just “the bully” and “the jock” etc.

One of my novelettes, Decay, is told from a teachers perspective as he watches his students turn to zombies one by one, and yet no-one else seems to care.

That one should hit the English market within some months.

 

Ruschelle: Okay, which movie badass is the most hardcore?  For example; Michael Meyers, Jason Voorhees, Pinhead or Freddy Kruger? Please don’t tell me Chucky….

Michael:  That has to be a tossup between Freddy Krüger and Pinhead (yeah, I know his name is Hellpriest, but Pinhead sticks.)

Both are iconic and represents an existential threat. You can outrun Jason and Meyers (until he teleports), but you can’t escape your dreams. Or Hell.

I like my horror with the imagination cranked up to 11 and both dream sequences and punishments in Hell satisfy my joy of seeing new and terrible things.

As a character I really like Jason, but I was never a fan of the movies. The slasher genre is one of my least favorite, but Jason himself seems to embody horror in a pop-cultural way.

 

Ruschelle: If you could go anywhere in the world to research and immerse yourself in a culture or a lifestyle for an upcoming book, where would it be?

Michael:  I’d go to Japan. It’s the most fascinating culture I know of and they have a ton of scary traditions. I would like to spend some serious time connecting with that culture, both the traditional and all the crazy stuff we see on TV.
I think it could be a really interesting backdrop for a novel if I got it right.

 

Ruschelle: Is there a horror topic that you would consider too taboo and NOT be able to craft a story behind it?

Michael:  Yeah. I won’t use the death of an infant as a shock effect. Becoming an adult and particular a father I have seen the devastation such things cause in the lives of the parents. I just don’t think the gains of a story could be worth the pain it might inflict on a reader to be worth it.
I want to scare my readers.
I want to give them nightmares.
But I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want to cause real-world pain with made up stories.

That’s just not worth it.

I kill plenty of children in my stories and several of the stories are centered around grief and the loss of loved ones, so I’m not staying away from the subject. It’s just not worth a casual reference.

Plus it’s lazy writing.

 

Ruschelle: What offerings do your newfound readers have to look forward to?

 

Michael:  I had planned to put out two titles at the start of the year, but now it’s already April, so … Decay is translated and on its way and one of my YA titles have been planned, but I have not actually translated the bulk of the text yet.
I usually translate the text myself, then hire an editor to weed out weird Danish syntax and making sure everything is on par with a native English speaker.
The YA novel is called Moln in Danish, but that is a terrible name, so I need a new one for the English market.

I tend to struggle with titles.

But right here and now I have an online comic out which can be read for free. “Monster” deals with children growing up in a family with alcohol issues and how that can manifest itself as an actual monster.

Monster

 

Ruschelle: Thank you so much for chatting with me!

 

Michael:  Likewise. That was some really interesting questions.

You can follow me on-line to keep up with this northern writer 🙂

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaelkampforfatterside/
Homepage: http://www.fromthefrozennorth.com

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