The Horror Tree presents an interview with Tim Meyer
New Jersey horror author Tim Meyer is a self-professed “coffee connoisseur” and “beer enthusiast” who likes his coffee like he likes his beer.
“Coffee, black,” Meyer said. “Not a grain of sugar, not a drop of milk. The bitterer the better. That also applies to my beers. I’m a huge IPA fan, so pretty much any IPA with a high IBU will do. Really digging this tangerine IPA that New Belgium recently put out. New England IPAs are also my go-to.”
Meyer’s tastes are more eclectic when the topic is writing. He “prefers to blur genres and let the story fall where it may.” With his latest book Dead Daughters, the story falls into the thriller category.
Released April 16 by Poltergeist Press, Dead Daughters is about the Lowery family, who are living the American dream in New Jersey. However, a blank envelope in the mail upends their ideal life.
Early reviews for the book are positive. Horror author Hunter Shea wrote in a Goodreads review: “By far, Tim Meyer’s best book to date.”
Meyer isn’t one to judge his own work, but he did spend more time writing Dead Daughters than any of his previously published books. His other titles include Kill Hill Carnage, The Switch House, Sharkwater Beach, and In the House of Mirrors.
“I think it’s easy for an author to say ‘my newest book is my best book.’ And for many reasons, the biggest being that writers are constantly getting better and honing their craft each time out,” Meyer said. “So, naturally, the newest is always going to be the ‘best’ thing they’ve written.
“But with Dead Daughters that wasn’t the case. I actually wrote the book four years ago, before stuff that was published in 2019. Publishing-wise, it’s my latest release, but it wasn’t the book I wrote last. As for what I think of it in relation to my other works – I honestly can’t say, mostly because I’m too close to my stuff and they’re like my children. I can’t choose one over the other.
“I can say that Dead Daughters is a book I put a lot of work into (a substantial outline, four completely rewritten drafts, and about eight revisions). It caused many gray hairs and near panic attacks. It’s the most time I’ve ever dedicated to a project, for sure. Ultimately, I try to put out the best book possible and let the readers decide what my ‘best’ work is.”
As a writer, Meyer’s goal is simply “to tell a good story that keeps the reader turning the pages.”
“That’s it,” Meyer said. “Pacing is important to me. Personally, as a reader, there’s nothing better than a book you never want to put down.”
Meyer’s writing influences are classic horror authors.
“I’ve always been a big reader and have had a wide range of influences,” Meyer said. “Early on it was R.L. Stine and Goosebumps that really kickstarted my love for reading and all things horror. Eventually I graduated into Peter Benchley and Michael Crichton novels. After that it was Stephen King and Stephen King for a long time. In my early twenties, I discovered Robert McCammon and Clive Barker, and those two really opened up worlds for me. And it was Brian Keene’s The Rising that really influenced me to start writing. His work also turned me onto Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum, and I fell in love with their writing styles.
“I just loved how they could tell these really intense stories that were easy to digest. They didn’t beat the reader over the head with pages and pages of descriptive narrative that clogged the flow of the story. Later on, I grew to appreciate that style as well, but back then I was really into page-turners, stories that moved lightning quick. I think those really helped give me a sense of the style and voice I wanted to use to tell my stories.”
The last four sentences in Chapter One of Dead Daughters illustrates a cinematic style of writing. So, what films and TV shows influenced Meyer as an author?
“Oh, man. This is a tough question because I could literally list pages and pages of cinematic influences,” Meyer said. “It probably wouldn’t surprise you that I’m a huge horror fan, mostly of stuff that came from the Eighties. Carpenter and Romero were huge for me. I remember watching Jaws when I was really young – too young, probably – and the scene with Quint getting eaten scarred me while simultaneously stirring my interest in the genre.
“I still think The Exorcist is the scariest movie ever made. Recent film favorites include The Descent and Hereditary, two of my favorite films of all time actually. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan movies – every film he’s done is nothing short of genius.
“TV shows? Well, Lost is my favorite show of all time, so that. I’ve watched it four times through, I think, and it’s still my favorite despite certain flaws. Grew up on X-Files, so that holds a special place in my heart. Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul are all masterpieces. I could go on forever, but I think you have more questions to ask.”
The Horror Writers Association announced the Bram Stoker Awards winners on April 18th, which is as good a time as any to check the pulse of the horror genre. Meyer’s prognosis? It’s strong.
“Now is the best time to be a horror fan,” Meyer said. “There’s so much content out there. And really good content too. I’m constantly inspired by the quality of work coming out across the genre. So many good and diverse stories being told, new voices and old pros alike. Horror is in a happy, healthy place, and as our society changes and grows more uncertain, people are going to continue to look for an escape, so be there for them and bring your ghosts.”
Since Horror Tree is a site that supports authors with markets and writing advice, Meyer shared a tip for new writers.
“I think there’s a ton of writing advice readily available on the Internet, so I’ll spare you the obligatory ‘read and write every day’ (any writer can improve by doing a lot of both) response and drop a bit that sometimes gets overlooked when new authors are looking to break in – treat others kindly and build solid relationships with people,” Meyer said. “Publishers, editors, fans, other authors – follow them on social media, interact with them in a positive manner, and treat them with the utmost respect. Nothing can burn a writing career to the ground faster than being a complete dick.”
Currently, Meyer is working on multiple projects.
“Lots of things in the works,” Meyer said. “I have a story in Beers and Fears: Flight Night, an anthology that consists of four interconnected novellas from myself, Armand Rosamilia, Chuck Buda, and Frank Edler. We’re starting a new subgenre called Beer Horror and it’s a lot of fun.
“I’m currently working on a short novel that I’m co-writing with Chad Lutzke. It’s called Wormwood and there’s not too much I can say on it right now, other than it’s coming-of-age and it’s dark. Probably the darkest thing I’ve ever written. No clue when that’s coming out as we’re still working on it, but if I had to guess – late 2020 or sometime in the first half of 2021.
“I spent all of last year working on a really big novel, my longest so far,” Meyer said. “It’s just shy of 200k words. The novel is titled Malignant Summer. It’s also coming-of-age, in the vein of It and Boy’s Life. It’s a supernatural horror novel based on my real hometown in the late 90s and the true events of the chemical plant that poisoned the local water supply. I’m really proud of it and I hope it lands with a publisher soon! Other than that, I’ve got several novels outlined. Just waiting to see which one whispers to me.”
On April 17th Meyer tweeted: “Today I outlined the first book in a horror/fantasy series I’m hoping to write, so…scratch another quarantine project off the list!”
Speaking of quarantine, has anything surprised Meyer during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic?
“I think, honestly, the biggest surprise is how some people have reacted to the virus, how careless they’re being with their lives and the lives of others,” Meyer said. “How people have been so willing to ignore science and logic just to hang onto some semblance of normality.
“It’s been an interesting and terrifying observation, watching these clowns gather publicly and protest, putting their lives and – more importantly – innocent people at risk. It’s been very shocking to me. I can’t believe it’s taken a pandemic for us to realize that horror movies have gotten it fairly accurate over the years – people will enter the big scary haunted house that says ‘DO NOT ENTER, YOU WILL DIE.’
“Personally, not much has changed other than not going to my day job. I’m fortunate enough that I can stay home and write and be with my family until this whole thing ends, whenever that will be. Hopefully soon, but who really knows? The scariest thing is the unknown, and I think there is so much uncertainty with COVID-19, how little we know about it (which is also shocking to me, but then again I’m no scientist) and how it will impact society going forward. All I do know is that, on the other side of the tunnel, I hope I have some really cool stories to share with the world.”