<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - INTERVIEWS]]>Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:44:10 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[SANDBOX HOPPING WITH PHILIP FRACASSI]]>Thu, 08 Jun 2017 05:26:37 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/sandbox-hopping-with-philip-fracassiInterview by John Boden 
Philip Fracassi is an author and screenwriter, lives in Los Angeles.

His brand-new collection of stories, BEHOLD THE VOID, was published by JournalStone on March 10, 2017. He has a novella, FRAGILE DREAMS, that was released in November 2016, and a second novella, SACCULINA, was published  in May 2017, both from JournalStone. He is published in several current and upcoming publications, including Strange Aeons, Lovecraft eZine, Ravenwood Quarterly and Dark Discoveries Magazine. See his completely bibliography here.

He has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years and was the founder of Equator Books, a publishing house and rare, out-of-print bookstore in Venice, CA.

Prior to publishing, he spent seven years as a live music producer for House of Blues Entertainment, producing concert DVD’s for The Psychedelic Furs and Public Enemy and more than 3,000 live internet broadcasts with bands such as The Cure, Motley Crue and Depeche Mode.  He also produced the first live streaming concert ever broadcast over the internet.

Philip currently works full-time in the film industry and on his writing.  His screenplay credits include “Girl Missing,” distributed by Mar Vista Entertainment (2015) for Lifetime Television and “Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups,” distributed by Disney Home Entertainment (2012).  Films in development include “Escape the Night,” “The Boys in the Valley,” “Gothic,” and “Vintage.” Visit his IMDB page for more on his film projects.

His debut horror novelettes, “ALTAR,” and “MOTHER” are currently available as individual  Kindle eBooks via Amazon.com. (NOTE: Both of these stories are included in “Behold the Void”).
You can follow Philip on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@philipfracassi).


Read Tony Jones' review of Sacculina here 
 
JB: I have read and enjoyed everything you have released so far, and count you among one of my closer friends in the business. We chat and talk shop regularly. I still find it extremely interesting that you balance two careers--both of them as a writer--but on wholly differing sides of the field. Horror and family films are about as opposite as you can get. Care to explain a little of how this works for you and how you keep from going insane?

PF: To be a working screenwriter, you have to be adaptable to the content, and you need to have a large cache of voices and character sensibilities in your head. An army of them. It primarily comes down to compartmentalization. It is hard for me to switch from one script to another, or from a script to a short story or novel, because it’s mentally jarring. So I try to work on one project at a time, one “tone” at a time. So today, it might be kids. Tomorrow, a screenplay. The day after, a horror story. If it’s kids, then my mind thinks like a 6-year-old. If it’s horror, well, my mind still thinks like a 6-year-old, but writes like a 40-year-old. What are the primal fears you have as a child? Because the bad news is whatever those deep-rooted fears are that you had growing up? Guess what – you still got ‘em. So I exploit that as best as I’m able. Whether it’s to make you laugh or make you cry, I’m preying on your childhood. I’m preying on your primal self.

JB: Your debut novel, The Egotist, while being what you tout as a "literary novel" and not horror is not without its moments of pitch black humor and often uncomfortable nastiness. The fictitious memoirs of a right bastard so to speak. How was that to write and do you think you'll venture back into the non-horror end of the pool?

PF: The Egotist was my first novel. And I’m very proud of it because, like a first-born who is a little slow and ungainly, it’s still the first, and there will always be that connection. That said, it was self-published, it sold a thousand copies, and now it’s out of print. For now anyway, I’m going to keep it there.

In the 90’s and early aughts I was all about literary stories and novels. I actually wrote three novels during that span. The Egotist, Don’t Let Them Get You Down, and Happy Holly. They’re all pretty good in their own way, and some day – who knows – they may see the light of day. With a serious rewrite first, of course.

In regards to future work, I’m all about the horror and genre spectrum. I want to play in that sandbox for a while. Noir, crime, horror, supertnatural thrillers… that’s my wheelhouse until the muse says differently. That said, the last few short stories I’ve written, although dark, could likely be classified as literary. Who knows? I don’t track it too closely… whatever comes, comes. Some editors are okay with that, and like seeing something a little bit different. Other editors want the same movie they just saw, and that’s fine, but to me it’s a bit boring. I’m always going to be pushing to do something different.

JB: I read Mother and Altar almost back to back and adored them both. I have also had the pleasure of reading in early stage, almost all of the stories that appear in Behold The Void. While your style has remained yours, I have noticed an almost surreal tone creeping into much of your more recent work. Is this a conscious effort on your part , to kind of up the weird?

PF: I don’t think of myself as a writer of the Weird. I think of myself as a horror writer. If you had to sub-classify it, I’d say I’m a writer of supernatural thrillers.

But like I said earlier, I try not to worry about classification. I write what feels good. What makes sense to me in the moment. Sometimes that means a creature-feature like SACCULINA, sometimes it means a more internal story like FRAGILE DREAMS, and sometimes, yeah, I like to break barriers a little bit. I wrote a story called ID, that is appearing in a Necronomicon anthology this year, that is a very non-traditional horror story, and could be considered somewhat deconstructionist. Other stories may dip into surrealism, but I’ll never forgo a linear plot. I’m here to entertain, not fill your time with what I call “nowhere prose.” I’m here to tell you a story.

But at the same time it’s important to push yourself. Lately I’ve been integrating layman's elements of noumenon according to Kant and playing a bit with deconstructionism as a tool versus as a form of critique or analysis. Trying to integrate an "unreliable author" element - sort of taking the unreliable narrator to a different level. Pecking at the fourth wall. I’ve been playing with adding layers of subtext without making the story too obtuse or abstract. A satisfying narrative with more going on beneath the surface if anyone ever cared enough to dig deeper, but hopefully those layers add a subconscious heft to the more obvious beats.

I was chatting with someone recently who had read MANDALA, the final story in BEHOLD THE VOID, and they were so entertained that they sort of flew right by a critical development of the finale. But that in no way impaired their enjoyment of the story, which is on its surface a pretty straight-forward thriller. But on a re-read, or critical read, there’s a hell of a lot more going on. All that pretensious writer-y stuff said, the next story might be about brain-eating ants. Period. I guess I like to keep all doors open.

JB: Who and what are some of your biggest influences on all of your writing--and who are some of the new crop that you're digging on? I ask because I love the answers to these sorts of questions in interviews I read, and usually end up grabbing a notepad and writing down a handful of folks I've never read.

PF: Grab your notepad and write the following: Laird Barron, Laird Barron, Laird Barron.

Brian Evenson is so talented it hurts. John Langan. Dennis Etchison. Ray Garton. Ralph Robert Moore. Stephen King. Cormac McCarthy. Rick Bass. Annie Proulx. Jeffrey Ford. Nathan Ballingrud. Ernest Hemingway. J.D. Salinger. William Faulkner. Raymond Chandler. Dashiel Hammett. Bentley Little. Flanner O’Connor. Richard Matheson. Robert McCammon. Frederick Exley. John Fante. Charles Bukowski. Graham Joyce. Influencers all.

New crop? Hard to say, I read a lot for research purposes, so I read very little from new authors. But of what I’ve read the last few years, I’d go with Christopher Slatsky, Michael Wehunt, Jonathan Raab, Rich Hawkins, Ted Grau. I enjoy Nick Cutter, S.P. Miskowski, Ronald Malfi, Joe Hill. Books by Bracken MacLeod, Tom Deady, Alan Baxter, Josh Malerman, Paul F. Olson have knocked me back on my heels. I could go on forever. There’s no shortage of great work if you know where to look. Ask me this question in a month and I’d have a whole new list. We readers are a blessed folk.

JB: Where do you stand in the battle lines: The horror is dead/Nobody buys or reads books anymore/Nepotism and support are synonymous people who dont share opinions cannot possibly be friends...so many quibbles and quarrels these days.  Pick one and throw your stones.
 
PF: Haha… I prefer to avoid this sort of thing. Especially in social media. You know how people say you should never have a serious discussion or argument over email or text because it negates the context of inflection? I feel similarly when it comes to expressing views of importance on social media. You wanna have a beer and talk politics or the state of horror? I’m all in. You want to tweet or post on Facebook? Here’s a picture of my cat, my new book, and what I made for dinner. My dogs don’t fight. My dogs write.
 
 
JB: Where do you see yourself, in regard to your wiritng in the next five years. Considering that you've really kicked ass in the last year alone.  I mean. In just under a year an a half, that Im aware of, you've kicked out three novellas, a collection and have a new novella that just dropped.  That is pretty damned impressive.
 
PF: I’ve been lucky to find homes for the work, and fortunate to find publishers and editors willing to publish my stories. I’m not sure what the future holds. I have a few ideas about what I’d like to do, but other than one-off shorts, nothing under contract. I have some stories already sold for anthologies and magazines coming out in 2017, and I’m still writing new stories that I’d like to find homes for. But I’m also a screenwriter, so I have a few projects that are drawing deep breaths on that side of things that need my attention, and I have a couple novels that need my attention. Since signing on with an agent last year, my focus has shifted somewhat to writing a novel, and I have a big doorstop-type horror novel currently being shopped that I think will be a lot of fun. In the next five years, if I get a novel and a handful of stories into the market, maybe a 2nd collection at some point, I’d be thrilled.
 
JB: I ask this in every interview, because I'm a big old music nerd. Do you listen to anything while you write and if so, what? 
 
PF: I can’t listen to music with lyrics. Way too distracting when trying to formulate a sentence of prose or a line of dialogue. I can’t listen to stuff that’s too sleepy, or too aggressive, because again, distracting. Rachmaninoff is my go-to. But depending on the mood of the story, I’ll put on Audrey Fall, Russian Circles, Explosions in the Sky, Seas of Years, Survive, U137, Red Sparowes… I also listen to a lot of Trent Reznor’s stuff. The soundtracks but also an album of NIN instrumentals he did called “Ghosts.” Other soundtracks that get play are Roque Banos’s “Evil Dead,” Disasterpeace’s “It Follows,” and Johann Johannsson’s “The Theory of Everything.” All this is on Spotify if interested.
 
 
JB:  I want to first thank you for taking the time to bat around my questions and second let you know how much I enjoy your work. I can say I have enjoyed everything I have read.
 
 
PF: I appreciate the interview. I’m a big fan of Jim and the Ginger Nuts of Horror website. There are a lot of folks studying the genre right now – and sites like Ginger Nuts, This Is Horror, Smash Dragons, Shotgun Logic, Dark Musings, RisingShadow… I could go on forever, are all such great resources for fans of horror worldwide. It’s always staggering to me when someone wants to write a review of one of my books, or do an interview like this one. I’m just incredibly grateful. It sounds cliché, but I’m so humbled when readers buy my books, or post about them, or write and review them. The best thing I can do to show my appreciation is to keep working as hard as I can, write the best stuff I can, and keep the red meat coming. I don’t want readers to starve. I want them belly-full, gorged, with fresh blood on their faces. And hopefully a grin. Or, at worst, a grimace. Thanks for having me.
 
 
Philip Fracassi's work is available as follows:
The Egotist is available from Equator Books
Mother and Altar are both available from Dunhams Manor Press
Fragile Dreams, Behold The Void and Sacculina are all available from Journalstone Publishing

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"SACCULINA is a smart, terrifying, and poignant tale of creeping menace. I devoured it in one frenzied sitting... this Fracassi guy is damn good." --Richard Chizmar, author of A Long December and co-author (with Stephen King) of Gwendy's Button Box 

When Jim's big brother Jack is released from prison, the brothers - along with their broken father and Jack's menacing best friend - decide to charter an ocean fishing boat to celebrate Jack's new freedom.

Once the small crew is far out to sea, however, a mutant species rises from the deep abyssal darkness to terrorize the vessel and its occupants.

As the horror of their situation becomes clear, the small group must find a way to fend off the attack and somehow, someway, return to safety; but as the strange parasitic creatures overrun them, they must use more extreme - and deadly - measures to survive.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT PHILIPS BOOKS ON AMAZON 

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<![CDATA[JEREMEY HEplER TALKS ABOUT THE BOULEVARD MONSTER]]>Wed, 07 Jun 2017 09:17:35 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/jeremey-helper-talks-about-the-boulevard-monsterInterview by DeAnna Knippling
DeAnna Knippling makes her Ginger Nuts of Horror interview debut with an in-depth and entertaining interview with Jeremy Hepler about his latest novel The Boulevard Monster.  

Native to the Texas Panhandle, Jeremy Hepler now lives in a small rural community in central Texas with his wife Tricia and son Noah. Throughout his life, he has worked jobs ranging from welder's hand to health care assistant, but writing has always been his passion.

Jeremy is a member of the Horror Writer's Association (HWA) and is currently working on his second novel, Demigod Dreams. In the last five years, he has had twenty-four short stories published in various small and professional markets, and in 2014, he placed second in the Panhandle Professional Writers Short Story Competition

His debut novel, The Boulevard Monster, published by Bloodshot Books, is available now on Amazon and you can read DeAnna's review of it here.  
I read elsewhere that this is your first novel.  Is this really your first novel?  My first novel was terrible.  What road brought you to writing such a good one?  Short stories?  Poetry?  Deal with the devil?  Did you sacrifice your real first novel on a bloodstained altar?
 
This is actually my second novel that I’ve written. I wrote the first and then entered it on #PITMAD on Twitter— a contest where published authors offer to mentor new authors if they choose your pitch. You then work with the published author for months, and they help you edit and revise your novel. The novel I submitted won a spot. It was a supernatural mystery, but like many new authors, I changed and tweaked it to fit what I (and my mentor) thought agents or publishers would like better. In the end, my story wasn't MY story anymore, so after a few rejections, I put it away. Looking back at it, I probably should consider burning it on an altar, but someday I hope to go back to it and pick out the gems and rewrite it with the darker, weirder elements reinserted like I'd initially planned.      

THE BOULEVARD MONSTER is my first published novel, though. I had been writing short stories for years, and once I started getting published in anthologies alongside people like Joe McKinney and Jeff Strand and Cat Rambo, I felt confident enough to start a novel. But after the #PITMAD experience, I wanted to write the story I wanted with no outside influence. Years earlier I had started a short story after I saw a couple of Hugh's Construction trucks parked on a site where a new strip mall was being constructed. Three or four of the workers were standing by the truck, laughing and eating, but there was a separate worker off in the distance behind a porta potty, digging with a small shovel. The digger kept glancing at the others, and he appeared both paranoid and unhappy. I had been brainstorming ideas for an anthology I wanted to submit to,so later that afternoon while my son napped, I started writing a story about the worker, his relationship with the other guys, what he could've been burying, and how that linked to why he looked so paranoid and unhappy. When I reached the 10,000 word mark, I knew it was too deep for a short story and set it aside because I wasn't confident enough to write a novel.When I was ready to start my second novel six years later, I pulled it back out and took off with it.

PS: I've offered the devil a deal, multiple deals in fact, but he hasn't responded, yet.J
 
One the things that impressed me the most about your story was that you had a simple (although perhaps not easily-written) solution to the problem of people making stupid choices in horror novels:  you made your protagonist a genuinely nice guy.  Was that intentional?
 
It was somewhat intentional. I needed Seth to be relatable and likable. I needed him to be believable. Since I was going to tell the story from his point of view and tell all the horrible decisions he'd made, he couldn't be seen as a pure idiot, or evil, or an arrogant asshole. I neededhim to be an everyday guy, a neighbor, someone who would do anything to protect his family or help a friend when he could, in order for the reader to be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and pull for him despite his horrific, selfish choices.
 
Tell me more about where Lurth came from. 
 
Lurth stemmed from the word lummox. When I started the original short story, which I titled FOR LOVE AND MONEY, I began with a description of Seth, labeling him a lummox based on the walking habits of one the construction workers I'd seen that day. As I continued to explore his life, the word lummox blossomed into something that connected him to his mom and separated him from his dad. I like to believe it was Seth's mom who invented Lurth rather than me. It was born out of her love and sympathy for him. She mixed lummox and earth together and named their "secret planet" in order to give them a special place to connect, a home within a home, as well as a place that explained away his dad's hurtful words and actions.
 
Did you consciously pace the tension in your book, or just let it flow?  I often have to take breaks from thriller books--read a chapter, read something else for a while because the writer doesn't release tension very often, and I get twitchy.  There were two places at the end of The Boulevard Monster where I had to put the book down for a moment, but by then I was hooked enough that it was maybe a minute at most.  I read this in two sittings, which is rare for me on any book with thriller elements.  How did you do it?
 
I'm glad you enjoyed the pacing and the tension of the climax so much!
When I did the initial writing, the vomiting of the idea, I didn't think about pace or tension; I just wanted to get the entire story out. I let it flow, like you said, but in the editing and revising process, one of the elements I developed and worked hardest on was pace and tension. I tried to make sure that each character and chapter had a driving purpose, and that each chapter and character left you intrigued, wanting to know more. Since my protagonist was working hand-in-hand with my antagonist and they weren't pitted against one another for large chunks of the story, I needed to keep the pace and tension as tight as I could in other areas (Seth's internal struggle, mostly) in order to keep the story flowing, and at times that was my biggest challenge, but also a great learning experience. 
 
Openings:  One of the things that I've been trying to point out to people is that in a good book opening, it's very hook-y to explain the rules of your book in an opening.  When I read yours, I laughed out loud, because it was almost a textbook case:
 
My name's Seth Fowler, and I'm not delusional.  Not in my understanding of the role I played in the Boulevard murders, or in my understanding of what telling my story can accomplish.
 
Did you do this on purpose, or was it more of a challenge to see how much of the story you could give away without blowing the ending?  What's your theory on the openings of your stories?
 
I really didn't do it intentionally or as a challenge. My original opening was the first chapter, "Corpse in a Burlap Sack," but after rereading the story, I felt that there was something missingat the beginning. I needed something more. I needed for Seth to give a brief explanation as to why he was sitting in a rundown hotel typing his story on a laptop. I needed him to give just enough to pique interest in Luther and the birds and his role in the Boulevard murders in order for it to be believable. If the reader was to believe he really did write this for his wife and daughter, and that the media and cops were investigating him, I felt he needed to give at least a hint of that in his explanation in the beginning. I wrote and rewrote the prologue probably twenty or thirty times, took it out and put it back in time and again. In the end I felt it had to be included to make the story complete,to make the beginning and the end come full circle, much like Michael Laimo did in DEEP IN THE DARKNESS and Anne Rivers Siddons did in THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR, two great first-person novels where the protags start with an intriguing prologue that hints at what led to their current situation.
When it comes to opening stories in general, I feel like there are many good ways to hook a reader. When I write third person, especially in short stories, I typically jump right into the action, but when I write first person like with this story, I feel like a direct, subtle, personal approach to the protagonist's dilemma can be just as effective.
 
And last but not least, the bonus question: Is there any note that you'd like to leave your readers on?  (Hint:  the additional promo question.)
 
If you want to buy THE BOULEVRD MONSTER, ask me any questions, tell me what you think of my writing, or simply follow my work, here some links you can hit me up on:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeremyHepler
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeremy.hepler.5
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/jeremyhepler
Wordpress: http://jeremyhepler.wordpress.com/

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I KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD ABOUT ME

You say that I am a madman. You say that I am dangerous. You say that I am the one who has been abducting women, slaughtering them, and burying their corpses all around this city for years. You are wrong, because only part of that statement is true…

I AM NOT A KILLER

I know that you probably won’t believe me. Not now. Not after all that has happened, but I need to tell my side of the story. You need to know how this all began. You need to hear about the birds, but most of all, you need to understand…

I AM NOT THE BOULEVARD MONSTER

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DeAnna Knippling is a writer and editor of dark speculative fiction, mystery, and horror.  She has ghostwritten over a million words since 2013, and has had multiple short stories published in Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Black Static, and more.  She's currently working on a series of cheesy 80s horror novels involving fairies.  The first novelette, By Dawn's Bloody Light, about three women who take revenge on a serial killer, will be released July 1.  You can find out more at www.WonderlandPress.com.  You can also find her on Facebook andTwitter.

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<![CDATA[FIVE MINUTES WITH: RAVEN DANE]]>Thu, 27 Apr 2017 10:06:24 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/five-minutes-with-raven-dane
Raven Dane is a UK based author of dark fantasy and steampunk novels and horror short stories.  Her first books were the dark fantasy Legacy of the Dark Kind trilogy, Blood Tears, Blood Lament and Blood Alliance. These were followed by a High Fantasy spoof, The Unwise Woman of Fuggis Mire.   Her steampunk novels so far are the award winning Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron and sequel Cyrus Darian and the Ghastly Horde. She has had many short stories published, including one in a celebration of forty years of the British Fantasy Society and in many international horror anthologies. Her story Constance Craving is featured in Billie Sue Mosiman’s anthology Frightmare, Women in Horror which is on the short list for a prestigious Stoker award for anthologies.  In 2013, Telos Publishing brought out her collection of Victorian ghost stories, Absinthe and Arsenic and in 2015, the alternative history/ supernatural novel, On Death’s Dark Wings.  The latest in the Cyrus Darian series is due out in 2017.

Raven is currently working on more short stories and a post-Apocalyptic steampunk novel.

Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
 
Hi, I am a batty, ageing disgracefully woman who lives in a small market town in
The Chilterns, Buckinghamshire, known locally for her multi-colored hair, Goth clothes and too much pagan jewelry.  I have a son, a menagerie of pets, horses and a tankful of tropical fish, all called Neville. The fish that is, nothing else is called Neville.  I am half Southern Irish, half North Welsh, so a true child of the Celtic Twilight. I began my working life as a cub reporter with a local newspaper in Essex and went on to feature writing for magazines and PR jobs. I have also been a library assistant, a shop worker and a qualified horse trainer and riding instructor, specializing in film and stunt work.  Enormous fun, teaching the stunt people to fall off and the actors to stay on their horses.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I used to be far more active, charging about the countryside on horseback but now have more sedate activities, reading, cinema, making truly awful art and craft items and taking part in local amateur dramatics. I love playing the annual Panto baddy…oh yes I do…. I am also a keen member of the British steampunk community, attending as many gatherings as I can…such splendid fun and lovely people.

Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?

Early on it was fantasy and SF. I was an avid and precocious reader, working my way through all the adult SF and fantasy novels at our local library as a child.  Later employed there as a library assistant, I read a wide range of genres that added to my influences.  I have always soaked up film and TV, the darker the better, again from an early age.  I remember being a five year old, sneaking downstairs with my brother to peer through a gap in the living room door to watch grown up TV, frightening ourselves with Quatermass and scary films. I also had an early empathy for the baddies…Frankenstein’s monster did not ask to be made, or the Werewolf to be bitten on an ill thought out stroll through moonlit woods. Nor did poor King Kong want to be hauled off his island in chains by horrible little humans.
 
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

Gosh, such huge subject in a five minute interview!  So many people shy away from horror as readers, perhaps put off by images of torture porn and slasher movies. Others love that subgenre in both books and film. Many do not realise horror fiction has so many aspects beyond the clichés and well-worn tropes. For example, someone may not enjoy splatter and gore novels but be an avid reader of creepy, atmospheric ghost stories. The range is huge, with so many cross overs into SF, fantasy, political and ecological thrillers and alternative history.   I also feel readers are often content to remain in their comfort zone with their choice of horror books. I am certainly guilty of that and this could mean missing out on wonderful stories and exciting authors. This is why I enjoy reading the other contributions in anthologies I have stories in; they bring an awareness of other, very different visions in horror. For example Bizarro is a sub-genre that is totally unknown to me, but it led me to read Ricochet, a novella by Tim Dry which I thoroughly enjoyed. I think horror is a much misunderstood and too easily dismissed genre especially among the literati…their loss.

A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?

I can already feel a strong growth in very dark, politically triggered satire and also dystopian horror happening.   For example, I leapt at the opportunity to submit to a recent call for Trump-inspired horror anthology. I have never felt such an urgent need to vent my anger and fear, the story wrote itself. The negative energy being released by these bizarre, morally bleak times is feeding imagination all around the world and is the only form of protest for many people in repressive societies. It is empowering, important and much needed.  This movement is already at work in art, film and TV as well as literature. I was delighted to see the direction that season four of the popular Marvel’s Agents of Shield is heading - to an alternative America, where Hydra is in control and the nation is under a repressive fascist regime. There is a resistance movement in the series, perhaps something to give hope in an increasingly dark, dangerous world. That you are not alone in being appalled by these changes.  #resist

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

Early days, anything written by Ray Bradbury, Alan Garner and Anne MacCaffrey.  I would say Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes’ was the ultimate early influence and still is.  I can still hear the skewed, backwards music of the carousel in my mind.  I love dark carnivals, circus and theatre in my stories. As a teenager, I loved reading Edgar Allen Poe, Michael Moorcock and Mervyn Peake. I also was addicted to old black and white horror films and TV series like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and The Invaders.  My early love of  the work of Jules Verne, HG Wells and MR James all helped add inspiration to my later steampunk  novels and Victorian ghost stories

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
 
I am useless at this at the moment!  Increasing age and infirmity has turned me from a voracious reader devouring several novels a week to one struggling to get through anything.  So frustrating!  I don’t think the ‘scary as hell’ and incredible Adam Nevill counts as an upcoming author anymore, but his books blow me away at their brilliance and my need to sleep with the lights on.  I must find time to discover new writers and I am open to suggestions. I am looking for quality writing and horror that is high on chills and scares and low on entrails and brain splatter.

How would you describe your writing style?

Hmm, difficult.  Ray Bradbury made me fall in love with the beauty of the written English language but I am also aware from my journalism training never say in ten words what you can in one.  How about lyrical but also spare and fast moving?

Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?

I welcome all reviews, good, bad and indifferent but my favourite has to be a one star review of Blood Tears from an American reader. I cherish it for its inspired insanity and introduction of the word ‘flusterated’ and his/her desire to throw the book across the room.
 
As a newbie with only this, my first novel, a wonderful review of Blood Tears by Karen Stevens for the British Fantasy Society was truly life changing.  I’ve chosen one section of the long, detailed review.
 
‘I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Tears; a fast paced and taut story, I was hooked from the first few pages. The characters, both vampire and human, are that rare breed: characters the reader can emphasize with and care about, and the story itself is beautifully written. Raven Dane clearly knows her subject very well, and she tells her story with a deft, sure touch which is a pleasure to read.
I can’t praise Blood Tears too much; over the years I’ve read dozens of novels about vampires and would rate this book among the top five.’

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

 I love the actual writing, but like so many others, I find composing a synopsis is like pulling teeth.  They are so important which makes the pressure to get it right almost unbearable. I would happily pay money I haven’t actually got to have someone write mine for me.  The other is promotion, which is idiotic in my case as I have a past career in journalism and PR.  Publishers play their part of course, but these days in an over-crowded and competitive market, no author can live in an ivory tower and expect to sell books.  There is no easy answer to this, I cannot bear those who spam Facebook and Twitter trying to sell their books, usually just to other writers. Before the arrival of eBooks and self -publishing, I was doing well with Blood Tears just from word of mouth from online forums and attending events like Whitby Goth Festival and the Elf Fantasy Fair in Utrecht to do signings. Now, non-celebrity fiction authors can feel overwhelmed by an ever increasing tidal wave of books.  No matter how hard you wave, no one can see you in the flood.  Trouble is I am far too old to sleep with a footballer, tell all in a tabloid and end up a ‘celeb ‘in the Big Brother house with a huge book deal at the end.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

Torture porn, especially involving children or animals.  

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

I spend a great deal of time and research getting names right.  The criteria varies,
I did a lot of research for my alternative history novels and stories to get time appropriate names. One of the pivotal characters in Death’s Dark Wings is called Brandan, an Irish mercenary warrior, which means Prince of Ravens, the original title of the book.  Sometimes I struggle to get the right name; others seem to be channeled directly from an alternative universe…Cyrus Darian just popped out of nowhere and was perfect. He is Persian, so he was named after a great Persian king and a real town in Iran.
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

I have become braver and more confident and able to take on writing challenges well out of my comfort zone. One of the main factors to this has been the demand for my short horror stories over the past three years. This was unexpected and exciting and pushed me from being a fantasy only author to a newbie horror writer. I could never have written short stories at the beginning of my career, it is a very different art form with a specialist set of skills I simply did not possess.  Time, experience and more confidence has helped me make the transition. The next hurdle to overcome is to be able to write a whole horror novel. This could take another ten years though…I need to be able to learn how to develop suspense and growing terror over a longer time frame. I may never be able to.  That’s OK, it will be an interesting challenge.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?     
 
Stamina, perseverance, talent, imagination, humility combined with passion, an ability to accept and learn from criticism and advice yet still have total belief in your worth and work.    And a good PC or laptop that won’t crash and obliterate your work, with plenty of backups.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

‘Finish the bloody thing!’ and ‘don’t be afraid to kill your babies’…from my non-fiction writer father, my harshest and best critic.  
 
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

With gritted teeth, dogged determination and a big smile. My strategy has always been getting out and about as much as possible to meet my existing readers and make new ones at events and conventions. I prefer comic cons, SF and fantasy events to mainly author gatherings like Edgelit.  They can be good for making contacts but for exposure and sales, I’d rather go to events like SF Weekender and the huge Asylum Steampunk event in Lincoln. I am not shy in engaging with total strangers, chatting to them and making a friendly connection with them.  On line social media, like Twitter and Facebook is a desert zone now. Too many voices clamouring to be noticed.  Meeting new people face to face is my preferred method of getting my work noticed. I have a talking raven automaton in a cage on my table, which is a great ice breaker too!

The other thing I rely on is successful short story submissions; many are international like the anthologies edited by Dean M Drinkel and The Tales From the Lake series of anthologies from Crystal Lake, a wonderful, positive way to get work better known beyond these shores. The only PR where you also get paid.
 

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?

Mine certainly do!  I have two favourites, both unredeemable bad boys and rivals for my attention. My insecure, reckless, drug-addled, Dark Kind blood drinker and male whore Jazriel and the all too human Cyrus Darian, alchemist, hedonist, liar, murderer, necromancer and thief.
I don’t actually have a least favourite character to be honest.  I don’t think I could write a character that wasn’t enjoyable to work with, however repellent. I try never to have two dimensional characters in my work, even the most minor ones have a backstory which I may not use but gives them a solidity and purpose.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
 

You do love the tough questions!  As you mentioned before, to many of us, our characters are like children, and so picking the work I am most proud of seems a betrayal to the others.  I love them all.  Blood Tears was my first published novel in 2006 and has never stopped selling. Cyrus Darian and The Technomicron won the VSS Steampunk Novel of the Year award in 2012 up against work by Jonathan Green and Gail Carriger. But I guess it has to be my collection of Victorian ghost stories Absinthe and Arsenic. I have no idea where the flow of inspiration came from but it felt like magic at the time and many readers love the book as much as I do...

And are there any that you would like to forget about?
 
Most definitely!  My first ever novel, Starborn, was a space opera of vast length and even vaster pretention. It was utter pants. It was written on an old tripewriter, there was only one copy of the weighty MS and one day it vanished.  To this day, I have no idea how such a large, weighty lump of A4 paper could disappear in such a small house with not even a dog to eat it, maybe I had a critic among the house ghosts. It had taken five years to write between commuting to and working in London and I was devastated. Its loss was the best thing that could have happened to my career. Once I recovered, I began working on the gothic dark fantasy Blood Tears and the rest as they (whoever they are) say is history.

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?

I would recommend Absinthe and Arsenic, my collection. It is easy to dip into, has varied stories and was written with much love and passion. It has had nothing but excellent reviews and recommendations too. It is a book I am proud of and happy with the content, a rare thing in a notoriously insecure profession.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
‘I remember it rained. The morning my wife washed away with cigarette butts,  crisp packets, a few fallen leaves. Sluiced down a nearby drain with three teenagers and an elderly couple, their remains merging briefly in a swirl of grey sludge. At least she was not alone during her last moments above ground.’
 
From ‘Chalk Face’, a short story that appeared in Tales of the Lake 2, published by Crystal Lake.

Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?

My last book was the alternative history/supernatural novel, Death’s Dark Wings. It is set in the year before and during the Norman invasion of England and in an alternative world where Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany are still openly pagan. It combines old earth magic and mythical creatures of the time, with the events leading up to the invasion.  It has a decidedly different ending to the actual 1066 conquest.

I am currently working on more short stories submissions and hoping for a return of my creative and physical energy to continue work on a novel in progress.  Set in a brutal post-Apocalyptic world, centuries after a disaster hit in Victorian times,  one caused by Cyrus Darian meddling with occult forces beyond his control. He is the man who broke the world.
 
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?

It has to be the well-worn cliché of idiotic  ‘teenagers’ who always look about thirty, going into spooky woods in the dark and splitting up to make it easier for the monsters , aliens, zombies, chain-saw wielding maniacs to kill them, one by one.  After the excellent take on this in the film, The Cabin in the Woods, no more of this cliché need to be made. Time to bring something new to the table.

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

I loved Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel. I was drawn to it after the excellent BBC series based on the book and loved her atmospheric, dark yet playful depiction of an alternative time  in history where magic existed. Just wish I had written it!   I am currently reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods after many recommendations and struggling to be captivated by it. This could be totally down to me. My heart condition makes me get tired  very easily and this effects my concentration.  I will persevere though.  An author of his stature deserves that.
 
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?

‘So, Raven, what do you think of Guillermo Del Toro’s choice of Tom Hiddleston to play Cyrus Darian in the forthcoming film?’

An answering silence….as too overwhelmed by such an awesome prospect…
 

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From deep within a dark dimension beyond all that is known by the world of men, the soul of a great raven broke free, tearing through the Veil between worlds. The brutal rent in the Veil gave out a scream of warning resonating through the minds of human and Sidhe alike. The eerie sound tainted all souls, though only a few could hear it, and even fewer understood its meaning.

The raven’s cold, jet eyes took in the world of the living beneath the steady beat of its great wings. Its time was near.

Death’s Dark Wings is a bold and visceral revisiting of the story of 1066, in a world where magic and technology clash.


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<![CDATA[THE CREATURE BELOW: AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR STEWART SPARKE]]>Mon, 10 Apr 2017 10:33:43 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/the-creature-below-an-interview-with-director-stewart-sparke
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Stewart Sparke is an Independent Filmmaker from East Yorkshire, UK. Stewart studied an BA in Film and Television Production at York St. John University before studying a MA in Directing Film and Television at Bournemouth University. In 2012 he co-founded the film and animation production company, Glass Cannon, based in York, North Yorkshire. Through Glass Cannon, Stewart has directed a number of short films and continues to work with local talent to produce ambitious film and television projects on a small budget.  His  feature film The Creature Below released in February is a wonderful creature feature tribute where a young scientist discovers a malevolent entity which sets her on a bloody descent into the jaws of insanity.
It must be an odd time for you, with the lead up to the full release of "The Creature Below." How are you feeling after having a great critical response to the film at film festivals, that the film is now about to see a wider audience?

It’s been absolutely fantastic to see the buzz about The Creature Below online and the reaction from our world premiere at Frightfest last year. When we (myself and writer Paul Butler) first set out to make our first film we just wanted to get it made and now that it’s getting traction in the horror community we are just overwhelmed and very excited that it’s now getting a DVD & VOD release. We always wanted to make a film that we really wanted to see and thankfully it seems other people want to see it too!


How does releasing your film through the festival circuit help a relatively new director?

The festival’s we attended were an absolutely fantastic experience and I would recommend any first time directors go to them, even if your film is not shortlisted. Frightfest was fantastic for meeting other people who are doing exactly the same thing we are and everyone was very down to earth and approachable. I met some amazing people there and made contacts that I hope to work with in the future. The festivals were also an essential part of spreading word about the film. The fact that we got into Frightfest, which is a very big genre festival here in the UK, was a huge badge of honor for the film and the Creature Below got to play next to some spectacular, big name horror films.


I have a vague recollection of the film being called "The Dark Below" when the teaser trailer was first released, is this correct and if so what brought about the name change?

When we first began production the film did have that title as we thought it was very mysterious and invoked images of the unknown deep beneath the oceans. Unfortunately, since we were living in our very own British filmmaker bubble we didn’t realize that a film based in the USA already had that title and was hitting festivals later that year. We started working on alternative titles as soon as we found out and didn’t stray too far in the end, settling on The Creature Below. Speaking to a lot of my indie filmmaker friends, title changes seem to be quite common when their film’s finally get distribution and I’m very happy with the title we have ended up with.


How did you and the writer, Paul Butler come to work on this? 

Paul started working with me back in 2012 and whilst we made a number of short films together we always wanted to make a feature. Finally in 2015 we believed we had enough experience (and saved up enough money) to make something. Paul had a script about a love triangle in a domestic setting that had elements of horror but I suggested that it needed something else to make it more unique. I had also been reading a lot of H.P. Lovecraft at the time and that inspired us to draw inspiration from his work. Thus, the love triangle between three people became two people and an unnamable creature from the depths! We thought that was a fun and exciting idea and not something we had seen very much.


The film itself is a triumph budget versus payoff, did you really make this film on a budget of £12,000?

With this being our first film and only having a handful of short films under our belt we knew that getting funding would be quite hard. At the same time we both worked full time day jobs so we began saving money from each paycheck to finance the film ourselves. When we finally had enough saved up we both took two weeks vacation from work and shot almost everything in just 14 days, picking up anything we missed on weekends and evenings after work. I’m proud to say that we kept to our £12,000 limit and it was a very valuable learning experience trying to keep it under control!


That's incredible, what were the biggest challenges that faced you regarding keeping the budget under control?

There are so many little things that added to the cost that are easy to forget about when you are in the planning stages. Transport and accommodation was one of the biggest to consider as our cast came from all over the UK so it was important to make sure we could afford to bring them to us and give them somewhere to stay. Making sure that all their scenes were shot consecutively was essential as was ensuring we had all the footage we needed since bringing them back would have cost much more money. Also, buying little things like paper towels to mop up fake blood were always chipping into the budget and planning for these things early on are essential on these types of films! Overall though I think we did a good job of budgeting the film considering this was our first and if I could give any advice to someone planning to self finance their first feature they must account for essential paperwork like insurance and any licenses they will need to pay for, even into postproduction.


With the film being made on a shoestring budget, and in those fleeting moments of spare time, did you ever hit the "creative wall" and feel like enough was enough?

There were certainly times when myself and Paul were very stressed and felt like the whole world was caving in around us but the great cast and crew were always there to support us and could always lift our spirits when things went wrong. I found that having a close collaborator like Paul to share my concerns with and come up with solutions together was essential.


One of the themes of the film is the lengths that people will go to hide and develop their own obsessions, were there any parallels in the film and your own obsession to get the film made?

You could certainly say our obsession to get the film made is paralleled in Olive’s character. Most of our spare time for a year was spent on the film to the extent where I didn’t really have a personal life during that time! Also, having a full time day job at the same time meant that as soon as I got home from work I would start work again and my Playstation gathered a lot of dust over the year. After the brief 14 day shoot I became like Olive hiding away in the dark editing the film and became obsessed getting it to a standard I was happy with. It was a tremendous learning experience where I feel like I emerged as a completely different person and now that it is soon to be released it’s like a big weight has been lifted! Having said that, I can’t wait to get started on the next one and for the obsession to begin all over again.


The film follows an exciting and much-needed trend in films with having a strong and independent female lead. Was this something you intended to go for from the start? It must have been easy to have Olive fall into the trap of being another victim on the screen?

We knew a female lead was a must once we started writing the script as the maternal themes we wanted to play with were essential to the story and Olive’s growth as a character. Paul and I watch horror films together regularly and so often in horror we see female characters reduced to eye candy, running a screaming while the men save the day. There have been fantastic examples of how it should be done with films like the Soska Sister’s American Mary which was a big inspiration to us. We actually wrote the male characters as more of a stereotypical ‘female in a horror film’ role whereas Olive and Ellie were two strong women who know what they want and how to get it.


One of the things I loved about the film was the subtle references to many of the genres great films. In particular, the way in which the creature has at least three three distinct stages of its lifecycle. Was this a deliberate nod to the Alien franchise? 

Alien is one of my favorite films so it’s probably not a coincidence! I’m a big fanboy when it comes to creature features as is Paul so we wanted to do our own take on the sub-genre. Giving the creature a lifecycle was not only a great opportunity to have more monsters in the film but also as the creature grows larger so do the stakes in the film and the creature’s influence over Olive’s mind.


And like Alien, you tease the audience with a deft hand with a slow reveal of the creature in all it's glory. While some of this must have been down to budgetary constraints, I can't help but feel that there was also a feeling of as soon as you have the big creature reveal, where do you go next. I strongly believe that the more you see, the less impact a creature has. Is this something you felt as well?

One of the reasons I liked Cloverfield so much is that we go such little glimpses of the creature that it let our imagination fill in the gaps. We heard its roar and saw the destruction in its wake but only got little teases of claws and teeth and it gave the creature a brilliant mystery and made you want to know more. Obviously the budget of the film was on our minds while writing the film and the practicalities of filming with a huge puppet add to the challenge. However, I still feel that by the end the audience deserved to stare it right in the face and I think we showed just enough to keep it mysterious. The teases of the larger creature throughout the film do work much better in building tension and anticipation of it’s reveal and it was a real balancing act all the way through to editing of how much do we show.


The creature design is excellent, in particular, I loved how in the early stages of the film the creature comes across as sympathetic being, not quite as cute and adorable as a lost kitten. Much of this sense came from the sounds the creature made. What did you use to create those noises? 

Dave Walker our composer made the sounds of the creature vocally and combined them with real animal sounds, one of which I believe is a baby Crocodile. He did an absolutely fantastic job making it feel alive through the sound design. We wanted the baby creature to be almost cute and seem pretty harmless so that, like Olive, the audience would sympathize with it and share her level of emotional connection.


As the relationship between Olive and the creature develops she goes to greater and greater lengths to provide for her "baby" and yet despite the things she does, she still comes across as a sympathetic character, in particular, the scene with the old lady. How important was it to you that we felt for Olive and her struggles with sanity and the moral choices that she made? 

It was vital that the audience empathized with Olive during the film and Anna Dawson did a superb job in the role. She was able to show a woman slowly stripped of her humanity and like in the scene with the old lady, she was fantastic and displaying flickers of humanity as the madness overwhelms her. Olive goes from protecting her ‘child’ to truly believing she is bringing about something of a glorious new world and getting the audience to understand her motivations was key and Anna did an amazing job.


A key strength of the film is the way in the "otherworldliness" is grounded in the real world. The scenes in the basement were akin to the way in which the Cenobites existed in the first Hellraiser film? Did you draw any parallels to that film while creating those scenes? 

Hellraiser was not a direct inspiration on the way we showed the basement in the film but there are certainly parallels there. I wanted to contrast the rest of Olive’s home with the basement and using creative lighting and smoke gives Olive’s lair an otherworldly quality. Over the course of the film it gets darker and the colors shift to the other end of the spectrum to fit with Olive’s decent into madness. By the end of the film the basement is a warped reality and is representative of what the outside world could look like if the creature were to have its way!


The biggest influence on the film has to be Lovecraft; the film shares the same sense of dread brought about by our almost pointless existence in a universe populated by creatures such as this? How did you go about capturing this feeling of dread and despair in the film?

Lovecraft was hugely inspirational in shaping the tone of the film and we tried very hard to portray the overwhelming dread that his characters feel as they learn about forces older and more powerful than they could ever imagine. Much of this was down to the performance of Anna Dawson (Olive) who was great at showing a woman slowly loosing her mind as she comes to comprehend the truth of what she saw on her deep sea dive and what the creature in her basement truly is. Focusing on her home life with Matt and her sister Ellie gave us the chance to see what knowledge of the unfathomable does to a domestic relationship and this gives the film a grounded reality that everyone can associate with. Add to that the incredible sound design and score by Dave S. Walker and we ended up with a suitably grim and gritty tone which I hope feels refreshing for a film of this type.


Would you ever consider doing an adaptation of a Lovecraft story, and if so which one?

If I were to dare adapting one of Lovecraft’s stories Shadow over Innsmouth would be my choice as I absolutely love that story. It’s got a great journey for the protagonist who has to survive a terrifying night in a town of madness before discovering something even more horrifying about himself along the way. An absolute page turner and one I would love to see as a period film if done right.

What are you working on next?

We are currently developing a slate of genre films which we hope will entertain and scare the hell out of you! I can't go into too much detail yet but we're certainly not done with monsters and we have what we think are some really fun, original films we hope to bring to the screen very soon!


Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I loved the film, do you have any final words for the readers of the site? 

Thanks for having me! I really hope everyone enjoys the film and gets a chance to check it out. We had such a great time making it and I really hope that any other filmmakers thinking of making their first feature get out there and do it!
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<![CDATA[ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW WITH JULIA DUCOURNAU THE DIRECTOR OF RAW]]>Fri, 07 Apr 2017 08:47:12 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/roundtable-interview-with-julia-ducournau-the-director-of-raw
interview with Julia Ducournau director of french horror film raw
Last week saw the press screenings of the new French horror film Raw, Ginger Nuts of Horror was honoured to be invited to both the screening and the press junket interview with the director Julia Ducournau.  Alex Davis our Film Gutter columnist braved the British rail network to represent the site.  

Julia Ducournau is a French film director and screenwriter. She attended La Fémis and studied screenwriting. In 2011, her short film Junior won the Petit Rail d'Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and her first full length directed/written by her is Raw a horror film that have been acclaimed in Cannes film festival and she won for this film FIPRESCI Prize.

Garance Marillier portrays the teenaged Justine, who commences her studies at veterinary school to follow in her family members’ footsteps. Raised as a vegetarian, Justine is pressured at school to try meat for the first time. Once she does, she plumbs both the depths of her own soul and tests the limits of her darkest cravings. ​  

You can read our review of the film here 

Press play below for the interview 


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<![CDATA[​An Interview with Jason Arnopp]]>Tue, 04 Apr 2017 04:06:18 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/an-interview-with-jason-arnopp
Following the release of his debut novel ‘The Last Days Of Jack Sparks’ to great critical response, Jason took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and chat with us about writing, process, his debut novel, Hollywood deals, his new book, and more. Enjoy!

Jason Arnopp is the author of the Orbit Books novel The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, which is currently being developed as a feature film at Imagine Entertainment, the Hollywood production company co-founded by director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code).

The Last Days Of Jack Sparks has been described as "a magnificent millennial nightmare" (Alan Moore), "scarier than watching The Exorcist in an abandoned asylum" (Sarah Lotz) and "The Omen for the social media age" (Christopher Brookmyre). 

Arnopp's next novel will be Key Man, slated for release via Orbit Books in January 2018. While you wait, why not check out his four ebook-exclusive fiction titles? These are Beast In The Basement (a suspenseful, mind-blowing thriller novella), A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home (a chilling and groundbreaking short story set in YOUR home), Auto Rewind (a dark, emotionally charged thriller) and the free short story American Hoarder (a supernatural creep-fest), which is available at Arnopp's website.
Gingernuts Of Horror: Firstly, congratulations on the successful launch of your debut novel! Critical and fan response seems to have been incredibly positive - how have you found it so far?
 
Jason Arnopp: Thank you, you horrific gent! When you release a book into the world, especially a dark and twisted one like The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, you do have to steel yourself for reactions of all kinds. Basically, you have to accept that some people would gladly destroy the master copy of the book, and that there’s nothing you can do about that. But as you say, I must admit the response really has been overwhelmingly positive! It’s been incredible, actually, and really heartening, the sheer amount of support I’ve had from readers, The Radio 2 Book Club and amazing people like M.R. Carey, Sarah Lotz, David Schneider, Christopher Brookmyre and the mighty Alan Moore! I’m still trying to come to terms with it all. Of course, a few people haven’t connected with the novel at all and that’s absolutely fine: as long as the consensus is good, I’m very happy. My favourite one-star Amazon review of Jack Sparks simply reads “Stupid book”. Genius.
 
GNoH: Before taking up fiction, you’ve had a long career as a music journalist. Was fiction writing always something you wanted to try your hand at? And what lessons did you learn from journalism that set you in good stead as a novelist?
 
JA: Yeah, I always seemed to have the storytelling urge. I still have all the exercise books in which I wrote Doctor Who stories as a little kid, both in prose and comic strip form. It’s hard to say exactly what stuff music journalism instilled in me as a fiction writer, but it certainly allowed me to write a hopefully convincing and authentic journalist like Jack Sparks. Certain moments in the book, like Jack ranting about music PRs introducing the concept of ‘copy approval’ to journalists, are just me straight-up ranting through Jack’s mouth. Ha! And I’d like to think that working on a weekly magazine like Kerrang!, for a rather long time, helped me develop the discipline to hit deadlines. (Hear that sound? That’s my wonderful editors at Orbit Books, stifling laughter.)
 
GNoH: Doctor Who seems to be such a touchstone for so many dark fiction writers, especially in Britain. What do you think it is about the show that is so inspirational? And what’s your favourite era?
 
JA: Well, for me, Doctor Who is the only SF thing that I truly love. And it’s taken me a while to realise that this is because I don’t really see it as SF - to me, it’s always been a horrorfest! It’s always been about body horror, possession, people with no heads inside their hoods and, of course, death, death and more death. So that very darkness swept in through my eyeholes early on, and has never left me. Most people’s favourite eras tend to be the ones they first encountered - we imprint on stuff like baby birds - and I’m no exception. So the Tom Baker/Philip Hinchcliffe era will always hold a pretty untouchable magic for me, as will certain Peter Davison stories - especially Earthshock, which is just wonderful. I love Eric Saward’s cold, hard ruthlessness as a writer.
 
GNoH: Jack himself is a fairly unlikable character - interesting, but unlikable, especially early on in the book - what made you decide to go with such a spiky protagonist? And is he modeled on anyone you encountered as a music journalist?
 
JA: I hold little truck with the idea that characters have to be really likeable, in order for the reader to engage. If that was true, then American Psycho wouldn’t be a classic. And TV shows like Breaking Bad and The Shield have also helped rubbish this notion. ‘All’ we need from a lead character, I think, is to find them fascinating. We either find them fascinating because we understand them, or we want to understand them. So I was aiming for the latter with the arrogant Sparks, who sets out to debunk the supernatural with his new non-fiction book, but seems to have real issues bubbling away in his closet. Hopefully, readers are drawn to keep reading and find out what the hell’s really going on inside this terrible human being!
 
GNoH: One of the things that impressed me about ‘Jack Sparks’ is the structural complexity of the piece. How much work went into planning the novel in advance of drafting? Did any surprises come to you in the writing, or was the whole thing carefully plotted ahead of time?
 
JA: Why, thank you! I did spent quite a while working out that structure. The challenge was to avoid inconsistencies and my beta readers and editors really helped me rise to it! But actually, you might be surprised to hear that the toughest section was the middle: what I think of as the second act, from Jack’s arrival in Hollywood onwards. That whole part took way longer. Had to break the whole thing down into index cards on the wall, then swap them around and around and around until the pacing and momentum was right. Funny how sometimes the parts of a book that might seem fairly routine to the reader can turn out to be the hardest…
 
GNoH: What was the issue with that section? Finding the right sequencing of events, pacing, something else? I have to say it flows smoothly in the finished product…
 
JA: Cheers. The issue was all of the above. Act Two has several threads that need to run in tandem and play off of each other, leading up to a specific calamitous event, which in turn leads to Act Three. So, getting that right was a real challenge, and it’s a relief to hear you say it seems smooth enough. Hooray.
 
GNoH:  One of the things I really enjoyed about the novel was the use of supplemental material at the end of each chapter, which often gave some pretty major context to what had just happened. Had you always planned on using this technique, and did it ever cause you any challenges?
 
JA: I don’t think those passages were among my initial ideas for the book. But once I got down to the writing, I realised that I needed ways to (a) hint at Jack’s inner state of mind; and (b) keep his brother Alistair involved with the book in some way. And so those passages, they’re one of those lightbulb moments where I thought, ‘Aha! Two birds with one stone!’ And I guess that another aim was to add to the realism. When you see one event described from two or more people’s differing perspectives, for some reason it does make the event itself feel more real.
 
GNoH: I also felt that seeing Jack through the eyes of the other characters was a revelation early on, and became almost a running gag by the end - ‘now let’s see what those events looked like outside of Jack’s singular head’...
 
JA: Ha, yeah. ‘You probably didn’t fully believe how Jack described that event, so let’s catch it from another angle!’ As the book progresses, Jack becomes more and more truthful, but that element is still there, for sure.
 
GNoH: In general, what do you see as the attractions and potential pitfalls of using an unreliable narrator?
 
JA: The attractions include the way that an unreliable narrator has in-built depth. Deep characters are, by and large, a very good thing, and every character has (or should have) an internal and external self. But with an unreliable narrator, you can really make a virtue of that. By having things to hide, perhaps even from themselves, a character can really blossom. One potential pitfall, though, is to just have a narrator who tells you stuff and then goes, ‘Hey, that was all bullshit!’, for no apparent reason. That’s not so great, because anyone can just lie to you. So the key, for me, is to try and make each piece of unreliable narration contribute to character and story. Why are these people unreliable? That’s the key thing to keep in mind, and eventually bring to the page.
 
GNoH: There’s at least a couple of set-piece action horror sequences in the novel. What are you thinking about as a writer when you approach those scenes, and what are the techniques you employ to help bring them to life?
 
JA: I expect different writers imagine the events of their novels in different ways, but I tend to imagine mine as a movie. So perhaps that informs the way I approach, or even write, those events. What I try to do, more than anything, is make you feel like you’re there. I aim for each set-piece to be in Ultra 4K HD, but without going overboard with irrelevant description. Plus, every now and then in a book, I do like to deliver the scary and/or gruesome goods. It’s a perfectly valid approach when authors leave things ambiguous or draw a veil over violence, for instance, but that doesn’t tend to be the approach I take. Ha!
 
GNoH: And I understand from your recent blog posts that we won’t have to imagine this scene as a movie too much longer! Many congratulations on the exciting news that Jack Sparks has been optioned by Ron Howard’s movie company, that’s incredible. How does something like that happen? When did you know it was a possibility, and how was the deal sealed?
 
JA: Thanks very much, sir! Yes, Imagine Entertainment have optioned the novel and I couldn’t be happier about that. It came about after the book was floated around Hollywood by my US manager Lawrence Mattis at Circle Of Confusion (who produce The Walking Dead among other tremendous things), to whom I was introduced by my UK literary agent Oli Munson at AM Heath. Several companies were interested, but… y’know, Ron Howard. Ron Howard! I couldn’t believe it, and even a year on, a big part of me still can’t believe it. So I’ve known about the option deal for a year, and the contracts were signed in March, so now I can finally quack about it. Thank God.
 
GNoH: In general, what do you think about the fact that, in horror fiction, the skeptic will almost always be the one to be given a kicking by the narrative? Is that just a necessary function of the genre? And do you have any concerns about that aspect of horror?
 
JA: I sense that you might have concerns about that aspect of horror, Mr Power! Haha. That’s an interesting one, though. I suppose it is a necessary function of the genre. Certainly in the case of The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, if skeptic Jack didn’t get a kicking, it would pretty much be the book he originally set out to write: an atheist travelling the world and not seeing anything supernatural! Basically, when it comes to horror, skeptics can and must never be right… unless they’re skeptical about the non-existence of ghosts.
 
GNoH: And finally, I understand that you’re hard at work on your next book - what, if anything, can you tell us about that at this point?
 
JA: Ah yes! Key Man is the title of my second novel for Orbit Books, and it’s entirely unrelated to The Last Days Of Jack Sparks. Set in Las Vegas, the story revolves around a sinister hooded figure, who walks the city’s streets holding one key. He tries this key in each front door he comes to… and then when a door opens, he walks inside and terrible things happen to the occupants. We first meet Emilee Brink at the age of six, as she watches the key man enter her family home. It’s a supernatural thriller in the same ballpark as Sparks, I think, although I’m still too close to it to be sure of exactly how they compare in terms of style and content. And good lord, Key Man is already available for pre-order! Fancy that.
 
GNoH: Jason, thanks so much for taking time out of your increasingly insane schedule to talk to us, and again, many congratulations on all your successes. Really looking forward to seeing what 2017 holds for you.
 
JA: You’re utterly welcome! Thanks so much for the interview.
 
The Last Days Of Jack Sparks is available in the US and UK, with the US paperback arriving April 4th.

​READ OUR TWO REVIEWS OF THE LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS
HERE AND HERE 

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***FEATURED ON SIMON MAYO'S RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB***

THE MOST CHILLING AND UNPREDICTABLE THRILLER OF THE YEAR

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.
Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed - until now. 




'Fascinating, hilarious, disturbing, exciting and surprising as hell. I couldn't put the book down- Ron Howard 

'Ingenious and funny . . . A magnificent millennial nightmare' - Alan Moore

'Wow. Seriously hard to put down . . . Chilling and utterly immersive' - M. R. Carey

'This is The Omen for the social media age' - Chris Brookmyre
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<![CDATA[FIVE MINUTES WITH LYDIA PEEVER]]>Sun, 02 Apr 2017 06:45:07 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/five-minutes-with-lydia-peever
Lydia Peever is a Canadian horror author, designer and journalist. She is a big fan of horror music, books and film–so anywhere there is blood, you will probably find her lurking somewhere in the corner.
 
Her short stories have appeared in Postscripts To Darkness, Dark Moon Digest, For When The Veil Drops and her small collection, Pray Lied Eve and it’s sequel Pray Lied Eve 2. The follow up to her first novel Nightface has also been written.
 
In her spare time, she helps update the new releases section of the Horror Writers Association website, photographs zombie walks or bloody punk rock bands, and records a few podcasts. You can find her books, links to other media, and contact her at http://nightface.ca.
​​Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Sure. I grew up in Northern Ontario, being read Poe and Grimm’s before bed, so became the cold weird horror author I am today quite naturally. With an education in journalism and graphic design I currently work laying out TV guide magazines and newspaper supplements for a living.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Aside from working full time and domestic chores, I do read a lot. Most writers do, or should. Co-hosting the Dead Air podcast for splatterpictures.net means I do indeed watch a lot of horror films too - and not all for the show as I do watch a lot anyway. Sometimes I do a little photography or design work, but most free time is spent doing something related to horror

Other than the  horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
 
Growing up in a family of dark fiction readers in the countryside. That is the biggest influence. The quiet, the rain, the fog. Small things like that. Other writers too, of course.

The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

The genre is continuously in flux. If an alien landed and said ‘take me to your horror’, there is no telling where they would end up. That’s really kind of unfair for the genre, and no wonder the horror section is disappearing from bookstores. It’s at times impossible to define, which leads to sub-genres - like apocalyptic, weird, quiet, extreme, splatter - and the rise of cross-genre with mystery, dark urban, crime, fantasy, and even romance. As much as I’d like to say I simply write horror with a capital ‘H’ it’s really subjective and up to the reader to be brave and find what they like in among all the confusing taxonomy. All writers can do is write, and be true to the genre they want to see.

A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?

With social media allowing people to both expand interests and drill down into niche obscure pockets, that is really hard to say. There is an element of chaos and a stranger-than-fiction feel to the global political climate and far too many extremes. While one nation fights to have feminine paper products paid for another is fighting to end the lynching deaths of accused witches. That’s surreal. Perhaps the rise of bizarro and more extreme horror entering the mainstream is the result. Hopefully, that trend will continue. On the other hand, there is a marked rise in quiet horror and strange tales. This is most interesting to me as I prefer to write this way. That could be a retreat from the chaos or a result of technology making classic and Gothic horror more accessible than ever, so I hope this yin-yang expansion of the genre continues so we get even more extreme work and at the same time, darker and more quiet.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Supernatural is a collection I have paged through since I was old enough to read. Before then, his poems were read to me so Poe is a definite influence. Stephen King’s Pet Semetery was a first favourite and as I aged, I read into authors that he cites like Jackson and Lovecraft. Goth by Otsuichi has been a later and much greater influence. One of my favourite films, Farinelli,  is not exactly horror but is incredibly inspiring. Darkness and insanity in Halloween 2, vile haunting in The Entity and Hell House, and hillbilly horror like Wrong Turn 2 really arrest my imagination since they speak to things that truly scare me and in turn spur me to write those things down. A lot of my darling horror films began as classic horror literature, like Psycho, so the books and films sometimes blend.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?

Nicole Cushing and Barbie Wilde have really been hitting hard these days. While not unheard of, I’d hate to see their work passed by! There is a mad buzz list of authors in my head, and most are represented on podcasts like This Is Horror and The Horror Show with Brian Keene and the HWA member’s books page I curate so it’s tough for me to pick since again, horror is so subjective. Cushing and Wilde though, really not to be missed.

How would you describe your writing style?

Dark, quiet horror for dark, quiet people. It’s a tag line I used with the first Pray Lied Eve and it persists. No better way to describe my stuff than quiet.

Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?

The most negative comment on Nightface was a critique of the main character. He doesn’t fit into the archetypes readers tend to need, and while my writing has improved greatly with age since then, I still second guess my education since I’m not an english literature graduate. Every positive review stifles that quite quickly! They far outweigh the few poor reviews, so I count myself very lucky for every kind word. Derek Newman-Stille wrote a great review of Pray Lied Eve that had me beaming with ‘He gets it! He really gets it!’ which is a feeling I had again when Tobin Elliot reviewed Pray Lied Eve 2. Eternally thankful for such thoughtful articles they both wrote about my work.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

The flux between first draft and the polished final that is ready to submit. A crummy first draft is a thing of beauty since there lay all the babies with their necks stuck out on so many chopping blocks. I tend to have a few of those mewling about, but approach subsequent drafts one at a time like engrossing surgery. I don’t like it. It’s stressful. It can take a lot of time, hand-wringing like that. The final draft is all fun to me though, so it’s necessary to go through the dark woods of drafting to get to the straightaway where I can outrun all those awkward sentences I deleted, the headless babies, and watch burning piles of discarded punctuation smoulder in the rear-view mirror.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

Pregnancy and motherhood. It’s something that makes my eyes roll and a subject I have no proper experience with. Biologically and objectively, I could easily write about these things… with a gun to my head. It would bore me to tears for certain and there are enough people writing about that so they can gladly continue.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

Sometimes I choose names from my past, names that are underused or just sounded good. Once in a while I follow the idea that a name makes the man, like Willy Loman as a name choice in Death of a Salesman. Or Max Power, to be silly about it. A quiet, charming man is named Julian, and a loud abrasive woman in named Blaire. It’s fun to choose names like that. Sometimes a character comes with a name, straight out of the eather and you have to go with it. Lucas Winters in my story ‘The Ringer’ was like that. It was just luck that his name had a great anagram too.
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

Very true, and I’d say I’m still developing. Gone are the days when I had to have wine, candles, a certain time of day, ambient music and all that put-on author costuming I had grown into while writing as a teenager. While I have preferences, I can write a little easier now even if the time is not as plentiful. I also stress less over that crummy first draft, so more ideas make it to paper. That’s the most valuable improvement.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         


Pencils, pens, paper. Any keyboard will do, too. Before all that I tend to agree with so many authors before me and say every writer should read widely. Read non-fiction and news as well as getting deep into the classics of all genres. Your imagination is the toolbox and it really ought to be overflowing.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

To just write. I’ve heard others say a writer should just pound out the crummy first draft over and over because it’s true. Also just writing for the sake of it, even a diary or blog to keep the wheels greased and the time scheduled. Also, Ray Bradbury jotted down every story idea no matter how larval or vague and I’d say that guy knew what he was doing.

Getting your work noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?


It’s worse year by year too! I’ve partially given up since that climate is fast paced and fickle. All I can do is hope for organic and helpful reviews and that my writing itself will interest readers. Flashy ads and never-ending campaigns take up far too much time and are really best left to advertising agents and publishers. My job is truly to write so while I participate in some necessary advertising and querying for reviews, I try to not let that become my third part-time job. Besides, it’s so biased and transparent to tout my own wares. That’s why good reviews are so precious to me! I’d much rather talk about writing on a podcast or in an interview like this than take time crafting ads and social media blurbs. My elevator pitch may be weak, but I’ve always been more of a fireside chat kind of girl so it depends on how long you could stand being in an elevator with me.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?

The thorn in my side is Gunnar of Nightface. Everyone around him is exciting and interesting to write for, but he is so cold. It always leaves me a little more morose and chilled to write him since he is so dead and aloof. Even more than me. My darling is Sinthia of Nightface, since she thinks in a slow poetry that I could not get away with otherwise.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?


Right now, I’d have to say Widow’s Wake since it was written in a torrential few hours before being performed aloud at the Rue Morgue Dark Carnival Sic Fic competition. It was a story on my mind for a decade, so it felt good to get it out. Surely, I am proud of the two Nightface novels too, since they are marathon projects for me as a short story writer. 

And are there any that you would like to forget about?


Not yet! Even stories lost to time and middle school I would rework if I could.

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your  books do you think best represents your work and why?


Pray Lied Eve 2, for the most part. It’s a more rich collection - with madness, revenge, sadness and haunting - than the first, and being the most recent, represents the state of my skill to date. If one likes vampire fiction and novels however, Nightface is really the place to start.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
“I build cities of dust in sunlight, raise the dead with a drop of my spit, and you choose to get in my way?’ which is a gem Solomon dropped in the first Nightface novel. There are better, more poetic lines in short stories like ‘As Is, Where Is’ about a house full of dead people’s things and ‘Tapestry’ about a woman having trouble with her possessed fortune-telling hair, but I’ve always liked the tone Solomon takes there. So cocky.


Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
 
Next, there is a serial killer novel I’ve been dying to write, so that outline is in bits and pieces. After a recent trip to Pennsylvania I have a few seeds of short stories planted there too. My recent collection, Pray Lied Eve 2, is getting wonderful reviews so I am very proud of it. That certainly helps me feel more confident in polishing and shopping Nightface 2 around!


If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?

Since the ‘gay best friend’ has evolved into far better fleshed out and true characters, the next mistake I’d like to see removed is the brooding goth girl and edgy square jawed rocker chick. Too often, these girls are written from limerence, and very poorly. It’s insulting.

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?


It’s been a few years but I was really disappointed with N0S4A2. It had it’s moments for sure since Hill is a new master storyteller, but for the length I found it a real chore and when reading feels like a chore it rubs me the wrong way. I’ve read one hell of a lot of great books in the last year, but the stand-out for me was Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing. Deserved every ounce of praise, that one.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?


No one has asked about music and visual art. There are tremendous amounts of horror inspiration to be found in audio and visual forms that I’m sure many authors surround themselves with similar things. My mother used to spin ‘Tubular Bells’ as often as she could, and I grew up with Alice Cooper, Meatloaf, Kind Diamond, Pink Floyd and scores of other weird bands in my little ears growing up. That evolved into so much metal, classical and industrial that if I had the time I’d be a crazed audiophile. Going to a nice gallery full of Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic art always fills me with wonder. I’m a huge fan of Caravaggio, Goya, Bosch, and My walls have a few nice pieces by contemporary artists like Angelina Wrona, Adam Tupper, and many pieces by ‘Ghoulish’ Gary Pullin, let alone a few random pieces featuring cenobites and plague doctors that truly colour my world… darkly. 
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Short tales of confusion, fear, and hopelessness. 

Horror, weird tales, quiet stories of the supernatural... call them what you will, these six stories serve as a following to the first three dark offerings of Pray Lied Eve. This second installment is longer and delves more deeply into realms perhaps best left undisturbed. Sadness, thoughts of revenge, scenes of torture; many people find themselves exploring these things alone so Pray Lied Eve will offer to be your guide. 

Have your mirror image ruined, and all sense of safety in your home with The Ringer. Explore the madness of the carnival after dark with Jack and the Box. Halloween Hopscotch sounds fun, but when everyone knows what you've done... or simply ignore the atrocities of the past and visit Midway Park. Witness nightmares come alive during the Widow’s Wake, and then leave it all As Is, Where Is.

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<![CDATA[JEREMY HEPLER: A FIVE MINUTES WITH INTERVIEW ]]>Thu, 30 Mar 2017 11:57:36 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/jeremy-hepler-a-five-minutes-with-interview
My name is Jeremy Hepler. I'm a member of the Horror Writer's Association (HWA), and my debut novel, The Boulevard Monster, will published by Bloodshot Books on April 7th. In the last five years, I've had twenty-four short stories published in various small and professional markets, and in 2014, I placed second in the Panhandle Professional Writers Short Story Competition. I also worked as a slush reader and book reviewer for Lullaby Hearse and Dark Discoveries magazines. You can contact me via Facebook or Twitter (@jeremyhepler) where you will find links to my blog and Amazon author page.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Native to the Texas Panhandle, I now live in a small rural community in central Texas with my wife Tricia and son Noah. Throughout my life, I've worked jobs ranging from welder's hand to health care assistant, but writing has always been my passion.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
 
Other than writing (and reading), I love to draw, garden, and repurpose old furniture salvaged from garage sales and dumpsters.

Other than the  horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
 
The mystery and/or suspense genre, I would say. It influenced the speed and urgency of my story telling, something I think a large portion of our modern get-it-now society wants in a story.

The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

When I tell people I wrote a horror novel, a large majority of them assume it's gory or campy and/or that I'm demented . But I believe horror is an emotion that comes in a wide range of experiences that everyone touches on in life at some point. For example, as a father I consider a story about a kid with a terminal illness a horror story. Or struggling with a terminal illness personally for that matter. I also consider natural disasters and terror attacks and isolation and countless other situations and experiences horrific. Horror is an emotion, and in order to break past the assumptions of the gory, slasher definition, we just have to keep writing diverse stories that illustrate the different forms of the word and try to reach as wide of an audience as possible.   

A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
 
Based on the socio/political climate, I think horror will probably split in two directions. One will follow the current fears, and books with end-of-the-world chaos scenarios and 1984esque themes will rise. The other will be stories that trend toward the bizarre and fantastical, stories that provide readers an absolute escape from the current state of the world.
 
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

The three main books that changed the way I approached writing, changed the way I wanted to write, were The Missing by Sarah Langan, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum, and Carrie by Stephen King. Sticking with the three theme, the three films that influenced my story telling the most were all films I saw as a kid in the late seventies and early eighties. They were Jaws, Friday the Thirteenth, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. All three of these ignited my young imagination and prodded my emotions more than any others, leaving an indelible mark on me.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?

Some of my new favorites are Glenn Rolfe, Michelle Garza and Melissa Larson (The Sisters of Slaughter), Tom Deady, Greg Chapman, Kenneth W. Cain, Stephanie Wytovich, and Jason Parent.

How would you describe your writing style?

I would like to think my writing style is comfortable, reliable, and relatable, a proper swirl of character connection and intrigue. I would also hope that readers would equate reading my work with listening to one of their most trusted, best friends telling them about a near-death experience over a cup of coffee or pint of beer. 

Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
 
I haven't had any reviews on The Boulevard Monster yet. I'll get back to you after it comes out on April 7th.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

The aspect I find the most difficult (but it's the most rewarding in the end) is editing. I am a perfectionist and am never satisfied with editing. NEVER. I've gone back and edited stories I've already sold and had published when the feeling hits.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

I think the only one would be the torture, rape, or mutilation of babies or small children.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

I usually choose my character's names by mixing and mashing together names of people I grew up with in Borger. Occasionally, though, I choose one simply because I like the way it sounds. If there's meaning to them, I don't notice it until later.
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

I've gone from being confident when I first started writing short stories (mostly copying my idol's styles), to hopeless after I was continually rejected, then back to confident when I received a few acceptances, then hopeless, and on and on like a seesaw. Now, though, after years of studying other writers and reading everything I could and experimenting with different styles and genres, I feel like I've found my voice and reached a semi-acceptable medium of confidence and hopelessness.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         

Reading and writing, writing and reading. And a strong rebound because rejection is a mainstay in writing.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

Finish the damn story. No matter what. Finish the damn story.

Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

Other than self-promoting new releases and anthologies and answering any questions readers have (like this J), I feel the best decision I've made in hopes of getting my work noticed is simply connecting with other horror writers and readers online and taking every opportunity I have to get to know them and learn from them. I try to engage on a personal level, let people know I want to know them, let them get to know me, let them know where I'm coming from in my writing, and where I want to go with it in the future. Becoming a part of this community has helped me network more than anything I could've done on my own.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?


My favorite for now is Seth Fowler, the protagonist in The Boulevard Monster. I feel connected to him on because he's a lot like me and many people in my family: a middle class, hard-working manual laborer who tries to do right by his family and will go to extraordinary lengths to provide for them. I spent almost six months helping him tell his story. To me he is as real as I am. Since my novel writing is limited, I don't have a least favorite yet. Sorry. 

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

My debut novel, The Boulevard Monster.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

Many of my first short stories, when I thought I could write no wrong.

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?

Again, since it's my debut novel, it's The Boulevard Monster. Mainly because on some level every philosophical question of self (worth and value and credibility)that the protag Seth Fowler must face I have faced myself, allowing me to pour not only my words into Seth's story, but also my own experiences, doubts and desires.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
I don't have a favorite, so I'll share the short prologue.

                                                       Prologue
For the Record
           
            My name’s Seth Fowler, and I’m not delusional. Not in my understanding of the role I played in the Boulevard murders, or in my understanding of what telling my story can accomplish.
Right now on Channel 10 Michelle Farmer is standing on my front lawn warning people that I should be considered armed and dangerous. There’s a little picture of me in the upper right corner of the screen—the one from my DWI arrest ten years ago—and a phone number on the bottom for viewers to call if they know my whereabouts. A ten thousand dollar reward has been offered for information leading to my arrest. In the background, Detective Morrell and a large group of officers are moving in and out of my house, collecting evidence. They searched Ryan’s apartment earlier this morning, my dad’s house shortly before that.

Even if I were found and arrested and had my day in court, and even if I could afford the best lawyer Mercy has to offer, I would be found guilty. The evidence would be stacked too high. No matter how detailed my account, no matter how hard I tried to convey my true intentions, my testimony would sound too contrived, too incredible, for sensible ears. Jurors would never see me as an honest, sane, God-fearing man. I get that. I understand. I’m not writing this in hopes of clearing my name with the authorities or the public. I’m writing it so my wife Brianne and daughter Sera will know my side of the story.

They need to know what happened to Ryan and my dad.
They need to know about Luther and the birds.

What are you working on next?
     
I'm working on a coming-of-age horror novel called Demigod Dreams, where four teens discover and enslave a monster that has the power to turn them into gods…maybe J
 
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?


I guess it would be the "let's split up" cliché in many of the horror movies. If I was scared for my life in an isolated location that had a seedy history, and I only had a few of my closest friends with me, I'd stay with them. Or follow them if they wanted to leave. The whole "strength in numbers" thing.  

What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
 
The last great one I read was The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton. Not exactly horror, but superb and intriguing nonetheless and worth any reader's time. And the last one I read that disappointed me was Ernest Cline's Armada. Again, not exactly horror, but I try to read from all genres. I loved Ready Player One but couldn't get into Armada.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?
 
I haven't been asked many questions, so here's a dream one.
 
Question: Can I purchase a hundred copies of The Boulevard Monster so that I can use it as a teaching tool for my college literature class?
Answer: Why, yes, of course you can.
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I KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD ABOUT ME

You say that I am a madman. You say that I am dangerous. You say that I am the one who has been abducting women, slaughtering them, and burying their corpses all around this city for years. You are wrong, because only part of that statement is true…

I AM NOT A KILLER

I know that you probably won’t believe me. Not now. Not after all that has happened, but I need to tell my side of the story. You need to know how this all began. You need to hear about the birds, but most of all, you need to understand…

I AM NOT THE BOULEVARD MONSTER

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<![CDATA[AN INTERVIEW WITH KONN LAVERY ]]>Thu, 16 Mar 2017 06:49:43 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/an-interview-with-konn-lavery
Konn Lavery is a Canadian horror and dark fantasy writer who is known for his Mental Damnation series. The second book, Dream, reached the Edmonton Journal’s top five selling fictional books list. He started writing fantasy stories at a very young age while being home schooled. It wasn’t until graduating college that he began professionally pursuing his work with his first release, Reality. Since then he has continued to write works of fiction ranging from fantasy to horror.
His literary work is done in the long hours of the night. By day, Konn runs his own graphic design and website development business under the title Reveal Design (www.revealdesign.ca). These skills have been transcribed into the formatting and artwork found within his publications supporting his fascination of transmedia storytelling.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

My name is Konn Lavery, I am a horror and dark fantasy writer from Edmonton, Alberta. The earliest memory I have of writing was at the age of eight where I was writing about a fantasy world with orcs and elves. This fascination grew over the years and after graduating college, I decided to peruse my writing professionally. My first published piece was the first installment to my fantasy series Mental Damnation. It was followed by two more releases over the span of two years. After that I took a break from the series to write a new story called Seed Me.
Beyond writing, I work as a contract graphic designer and web developer. These skills help drastically with marketing and promotion as an indie author.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I really enjoy harsh electronic music, known as the industrial genre. If I am not seeing a show related to this, I like to jam with various friends, playing with dum machines and synthesizers. It gets pretty nerdy when you start programming synth patches and drum loops, but I love it. Music is a major inspiration to me and playing it to expand my brain in a different way from my regular life.
Beyond that I exercise on a regular basis, making sure I get a healthy dose physical activity. I also socializing with friends so I don’t become too much of a hermit.

Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?

Movies. I’d say it is my primary influence. While growing up I watched a lot of movies and they sparked my imagination like nothing else, especially with some of the lore and extended universes that go with them. The cinematography, effects and music were very engaging, but above all the storylines were the most intriguing part to me. This is why I chose to write books so I could tell stories in as much detail as I could.

The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

The term horror has a bad persona to it. I think this stereotype of horror comes from the large amount of slashers and shocker stories that are filled in media. Horror is a very broad term, as very few know. Its core purpose is to inflict fear, and there are many other forms of fright other than blood and spontaneous discomfort such as psychological fear like phobias or suspense of the unknown.
Not to trash talk other horror stories but the genre sees a lot of the same plots, antagonists, monsters and scenes over and over again.
Changing the public’s assumptions of what the horror genre encompasses is a much larger task than any one author can do on their own. I think the best option for horror authors to do is to use the term horror sparingly and branch off into other labels such as “thriller”, “dark fantasy” or “weird fiction”.
Personally I believe the term horror isn’t going to lose its stereotypes anytime soon and a lot of great literature gets missed by people brushing it aside because of this. To combat the personaoa, avoiding the term horror when pitching the novel can prove beneficial.
I also chat further about these ideas on scifiandcary.com in an article called “Horror, it is more than frights and gore” on what else horror encompasses.

A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?

Technology has always played a major role when it comes to horror, this has been seen in the 70s, 80s and 90s with some of the major classics in the genre. I think horror will continually adapt its setting as technology evolves. Every new invention offers benefits while it presents new fears. The horror genre is a great environment to explore that fear.
In regards to the politics and social justice, social media has played a massive role in shaping these topics and how they affect people. Today we are more connected than ever before and it is easier to find likeminded people. They band together against what they approve of and don’t approve of. For the horror genre, I can see it following the same trends as it always has – teasing the fears at the back of everyone’s mind.
Look at World War II and the Nazis, even to this day you still have fictional pieces of “what if the Nazis won the war?” being written. I foresee more hypothetical scenarios of conspiracy theories based on today’s politics being played out if they were to come true.

What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

Clive Barker has been a major influence on my writing for his narrative style and the scenarios that he presents. For movies, Fight Club, Seven and Twelve Monkeys have been major influences to me (you’d think I have a crush on Brad Pitt or something).
Role Playing Games have also been a major source of inspiration to me. Games like Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft have really inspired me to broaden my backstories.. I’m a sucker for complex lore.

What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?

Ben Galley is an author I admire greatly for his writing style and passion. He writes a wide range of fantasy and has released a number of ebooks in the past year.
Adam Dreece is an author I know personally. He has worked extensively in the recent years and his work has paid off, seen through his science fiction and steam punk novels.

How would you describe your writing style?

Honestly it is hard to pinpoint. While writing the Mental Damnation series I have been told it holds a similar style to Clive Barker. Through some short stories and writing Seed Me I explored various narrative styles I have been compared to David Wong’s John Dies at the End which comes more naturally to me.
To answer your question, I don’t think I have quite polished my writing style yet but I think I am on the right track the more I experiment and implement my own dry sense of humor.

Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?

It is a little petty, but the very first review I got on my first novel, Mental Damnation: Reality has stuck with me to this day. At the time it was dreadful and I was too personally attached to the book at the time to take the review well and now that I have had a number of years to learn and grow from that book, I admire the reviewer’s feedback. That review has actually been major growing points for me as an author.
I also remember a positive review that I got for my second release, Mental Damnation: Dream where I applied a number of the criticisms that I received from the first release. It was a sign that I could actually learn from feedback and wasn’t stuck in my own ego.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

Writing characters or narrative styles that do not match my personality. They are necessary for some stories to have a range of characters but it really forces me to think beyond myself. These scenes and characters are the most challenging but also the most interesting as it forces me to think beyond my own perspective in order to express the character or scene in their most natural sense.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

I don’t think there is. I’ve written a wide range of fiction and nonfiction for experimental purposes. A lot of it has not been read by anyone other than myself.
If we are talking about subject matter that is to be shared with the public, then that’s another story. I don’t think I would ever write an erotica, romance self, autobiography or children’s novel.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

Names are highly important. It needs to serve two purposes: be memorable to the reader and have meaning within the story. When writing fantasy or science fiction, this is much easier as you can come up with anything that your heart desires. With fiction based in the real world with common names, this becomes more difficult as you have play a bit off of heritages and stereotypes.
 
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

My writing process has followed a foundational structure from high school onwards – plot outlines. They’ve become more in depth since then, including chapter outlines, sub plot outlines and character sheets to narrow down specifics and avoid what I call “plot holes”. The biggest change to my process is numerous revisions prior to sending it to my editor.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         

A pen and a notebook. I do recommend a computer and a word processor, those drastically improve your writing ability. In this day and age I will make the assumption this is common knowledge.
A pen and notebook do offer some unique advantages since it behaves as your sketch book and you can write anything down in it. Had a weird dream? Great, write it down and it might inspire you in the future. I believe sketch books is an essential tool to writing fiction.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

The best advice I got for writing is hard to narrow down I have had a number of good feedback from various people over the years that are fairly important. I’d say my top three are:
  • As a new author keep your novels around 60,000 words, readers will become intimidated by a new writer with anything longer.
  • Keep writing new books, the larger bibliography you have, the wider a selection your readers have to choose from.
  • Writing is a live long journey, don’t expect a short term five year turnaround solution. If you want to be a writer, write for decades.


Getting your work noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

It has been a major trial and error process for me. I’ve used guerilla marketing, online marketing campaigns and multimedia cross promotions with other industries (like metal festivals or Facebook giveaways) to try and gain readers. Nothing has been a golden bullet and I think if you are a new author you have to do a scattershot approach and try a range of promotional campaigns to see what really works. Once you have done this a number of times you will start to see what tactics give value and which ones are not worth your time and you can improve your tactics for the next release.

To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least  favourite to write for and why?

I can’t say my characters have ever become children to me... if anything they are other caricatures that I identify with. When writing a character, I do my best to put myself in their shoes and identify with their struggles and desires. In a way, they are an extension of me.
My favorite to date would be a tie between Logan and Janet from Seed Me. Janet’s morals hit home for me and Logan’s internal dialogue was more like writing a diary of what I despise.
My least favorite character would be Draegust from the Mental Damnation series because he is everything I don’t like in a person: pushy, forceful and self-centered.

What piece of your own work are you most proud of?

That’s hard to pick, as each novel has been a major growing period for me. Every book that I write is a continual learning process of me as an author. Since Seed Me is my last release, I would say it is my proudest piece to date.

And are there any that you would like to forget about?

​The first release of Mental Damnation: Reality. This is going to be changed though (hint hint).

For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?

I would say Seed Me best represents the progression of my work. It reflects the explorative narrative style that I chose and the first complete start to finish storyline that I have produced.

Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?

My favorite passage comes from a poem in Mental Damnation: Fusion in the second chapter. It goes:
A life I chose to no longer be.
Now the other is gone. There is only I.
Dominance in my perception.
All others are forced to comply.
I see.

For me, it says lot about a person’s ego, and my own.

Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?

Seed Me
was a two year process, released in the summer of 2016. It varies greatly from my novels that are a part of the same fantasy series. It is a weird fiction piece based in modern times with a past tense narrative style – something that I had never done before.
My next piece will be returning to Mental Damnation to complete the series. I will have more on this to share as the new year unfolds.
 
 
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?

A pet peeve of mine is the cliché of the distressed girl tripping along her path and having the antagonist catch up to her. It is done over and over again, I’d like to see a new that taken away and people to come up with new ways of the protagonist dealing with conflict.


What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

I mostly read non-fiction. The last great book I read was called The Scriptures of Sin by John Shelby Spong. It outlined a lot of core fundamental issues with the Christian collective religion. Worth a read.
The last book I didn’t enjoy was DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman. It was intriguing for an entry level into psychedelic consumption, much like testing the waters with your toes. It got too philosophical and preachy for my tastes and could have dived further into the scientifically effects of DMT. Then again, their research was limited so they could only conclude so much in the book.

What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?  And what would be the answer?

This has never crossed my mind before. My core ideology for writing is to inspire people to think. I love to hear why my writing sparks someone’s imagination. For a specific question, I cannot think of anything that I want to hear from someone.
Picture
WARNING: DO NOT CONSUME

If you’re reading this, then you did not take the above warning seriously. In that case, you’re probably as stupid as me. I’m Logan, by the way. I didn’t pay attention to any warning signs either. Being an unemployed deadbeat in Edmonton with no family and getting dumped by your girlfriend for her best friend can wear a guy down. All I had was my cokehead buddy, Skip, to cheer me up.

Surprisingly, my precautionary tale was not caused by either Skip or the drugs. Let’s just say a drunken make-out session with a pale girl by a dumpster, who was supposedly pronounced dead earlier in the evening, can leave you mentally jumbled up. A good motivator to figure this scenario out is having robed cultists stalk you, asking where the girl is.

Is this an ill twist of fate? Did I bring this on myself? Is there a reason behind my misfortune? Is the moral to not make out with spooky girls behind dumpsters? Hell if I know...

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<![CDATA[VIEWS FROM THE WOOD: AN INTERVIEW WITH BRACKEN MACLEOD]]>Tue, 14 Mar 2017 07:52:24 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/views-from-the-wood-an-interview-with-bracken-macleod

Bracken MacLeod is the author of three novels, a novella, and a short story collection from ChiZine Publications titled, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods (read our review of 13 Views here) . His novel, Stranded released last year by Tor Books was just nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel.
"Bracken MacLeod writes dark, human stories of horror and modern noir. Absolutely one of the brightest stars of the next generation!" 

Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Snowblind and Ararat
Q: Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
 
A: In my past life I was a martial arts teacher, a university philosophy instructor, and a lawyer in non-profit, public service, and private practice. Until publishing, my resume reads like a guy who just can’t get along with others. I’m not always combative, but being oppositional comes very naturally to me.

Q: What do you like to do when you're not writing?

A: I’m a stay at home dad, so when I’m not writing, I’m enjoying time with my son. He’s a creative kid, and loves drawing, painting, and sculpting. He’s a huge fan of art museums and the Lego store, so I spend a considerable amount of time coloring and playing with Legos. I know. Not very scary unless you have to walk through the house at night in bare feet. My life is whimsical, suckers!
 
Q: Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?

A: As pretentious as it sounds, existential philosophy. I studied it in college and grad school, and I keep coming back to those ideas when I sit down to write. Stranded is a very existential novel. Sure, it’s a fun book with people being awful to each other and things blowing up, but I also wanted it to be about identity, who we are versus who we want to be, and about directly confronting one’s own self in a very hostile way. I’m pretty sure my mind is forever warped by my philosophical training.
 
Q: The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations.  What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

A: I think the term is often unfairly maligned, but it is a fault of our own, really. A significant part of our problem is language. It’s just like politics. People outside the genre frame the debate about horror using their language, and then we embrace it like they’ve done us a favor setting the goal posts out. Every time someone uses the phrase “gratuitous” to refer to a subjective threshold of taste instead of the essentiality of violence to the story, we diminish the genre. Every single god damned time we refer to some form or another of horror story-telling as “torture porn” we cut ourselves off at the knees. That’s not our phrase. We didn’t coin it. Someone else did so they could broadly dismiss what we do as prurient and lacking social value. Yeah, there are a lot of shitty books and movies out there in genre that rest on inessential violence and are meant to be titillating for their own sake. But we only have ourselves to blame for horror’s reputation if we just accept the outsiders’ definitions of our faults and use them as a shorthand instead of actually debating in accurate and honest words why something succeeds or fails as a narrative.
 
My apologies for that outburst. I will step off my soapbox now. Fuckin’ “torture porn.” *spits*

Q: A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?

A: I was on a panel recently where a couple of my colleagues were speculating that we were about to see a big resurgence in post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories. I respectfully disagree. Those markets have been glutted in the last decade and I think people are tired of them. If you want to see what’s coming down the road, you don’t need to look any further than the success of Jordan Peele's “Get Out.” Social horror is the thing looming on the horizon. Between the cultural climate in the Mother Country and here in the States stirred by the successes of Brexit and Trump, I think people are (rightfully) afraid of what is going to happen as a result of the resurgence in nationalist-identity politics and social isolationism. What’s the next bug-eyed monster hiding in the dark. WE are the next bug-eyed monster hiding in the dark.

Q: What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?

A: How much space have I got? The short answer is among books, I’d say The Damnation Game by Clive Barker, Off Season by Jack Ketchum, The Plague and The Stranger by Albert Camus, Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates, and The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis are some of the most influential on me. Among recent influences, I’d have to say that The Road by Cormac McCarthy has shaped my aesthetic and style as much as anything I read as a younger person.
 
Concerning movies, anyone who’s read Stranded knows that John Carpenter’s The Thing and Ridley Scott’s Alien are a part of my DNA. All of David Cronenberg’s early work and Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre were also hugely formative for me. Today, I feel inspired by the recent trend in horror films like The VVitch, It Follows, The Invitation, and House of the Devil. I keep going back to these new movies because they’re tickling a spot in my imagination that I want to scratch hard.

Q: What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?

A: I think people need to be paying attention to Phillip Fracassi, Michael Wehunt, Michael Griffin, Livia Llewellyn, John Darnielle, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Damien Angelica Walters.  There are so many more I could list. This is really an incredible time to be a fan of dark genre writers, but off the top of my head, these are the ones who’ve been blowing me away lately.

Q: How would you describe your writing style?

A: Character-driven and emotional. I like plot, but what keeps me interested in a story is not how many car chases or chainsaws there are, but what those encounters do to the people involved in them. It’s why I’m such a devoted outliner. I like to have the plot mapped out from start to finish before I begin so I can focus on the emotional lives of the characters while I write. I want to know where they’re going before we start out. What they feel about what’s happening to them is what I discover along the way.

Q: Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?

A: I prefer to keep a healthy distance from reader reviews. Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate them, and they’re good for sales, but I suspect that if I’m going to put a lot of weight behind the five star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, I have to take the one star reviews as seriously. The most interesting critical review I got recently was from someone who said that, although they enjoyed the book, since I didn’t answer every question in overt detail, they’d “basically read the book for nothing.” I feel for that reader, but I don’t believe that every single thing in a book needs to be dissected and laid bare. I like ambiguity in story telling. I like to leave some things up to the reader to decide for themselves. At the same time, I think I leave pretty well staked sign posts along the way. Read for theme and subtext and you’ll get all the answers you’re looking for.
 
Q: What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?

A:  I second guess myself a lot when it comes to plot. I hate deus ex machina solutions and ascribe to Bradbury’s rule that any coincidence that gets characters into trouble is fine, but coincidences that get them out of trouble are unacceptable. I spend a lot of time making sure that the way out of any problem is set up believably and well enough that a reader won’t ever say, “Well, that was fucking convenient.”

Q: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

A: I don’t think there’s a subject I’d never write about, but there are perspectives I wouldn’t. By way of example, my books have diverse casts because I want them to honestly reflect the world I live in. While I want to include well-drawn Black and LGBT+ characters in my work, I would never write a book about the experience of being Black or LGBT+. Those aren’t my stories to tell. I have an obligation as a writer to depict the world as it really is (even when it’s about things that don’t really exist), and that means writing with diversity when that reflected the reality of the setting, but I also think I have an obligation to know when to talk and when to listen.

Q: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

A: Names are pretty important to me. I tend to pick them either based on a personal relevance or some kind of implication that can be drawn from the name itself. The protagonist in my first novel, Mountain Home , is named Lynnea Lowry, after my two favorite scream queens, Lynnea Quigley and Lyn Lowry. Nothing too deep there, but it made the character feel right to me. Made her come alive. By contrast, the child at the center of my latest novel, Come To Dust  is named Sophie because of the etymological implication of her name. “Sofía” is Greek word for “wisdom.” Philosofía/philosophy is the love or pursuit of wisdom. And Sophie in the book is a catalyst for other characters’ self-realization and changing views of the world and their place in it. She is a wellspring of personal wisdom for them.
 
If the reader catches that, great. If they don’t, I hope they name at least has a rhythm in the prose that isn’t distracting. I don’t think I’d ever name a character Balthazar or Gertrude just because those names are clunky. (All apologies to every last Balthazar or Gertrude reading this now. Shit. I guess I just named the protagonists of my next novel.)
 
Q: Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years? 

A: Length is my big victory. I think I’ve learned how to tell a longer story so that it remains engaging, but doesn’t feel padded. My first couple of works were short and propulsive, but that didn’t make them terribly marketable. I’m not writing Stephen King sized doorstops by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned how to sit a little longer with the story and let it breathe when it needs to instead of just jamming down the pedal until the finish line.

Q: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?         
 
A: FOCUS! Keep your eye on the goal. I struggle with distraction and over-extension. I’d say focus is one of the tools that writers must hone and keep sharp. It’s really tempting to follow that shiny new idea down a garden path while you’re in the middle of this story or that novel. Don’t. Make notes for that shiny new idea, write the outline, and then go back and finish the first thing you started. If the idea that’s teasing you is good enough, it’ll wait. Having a half dozen unfinished things isn’t as good for growth or success as a writer as having finished one thing that’s really good.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?

A: The best piece of advice I got as a writer was from Adrian Van Young and KL Pereria, both formerly of the Grub Street writers’ workshops in Boston, telling me not to flinch. Linger in that moment. They encouraged me to sit in uncomfortable scenes, to let them set in for the reader so they have real impact. Until then, I was always second guessing whether I was going too far with a piece of violence or something scary. I’d look away too soon and undercut what I was trying to do. They are the ones who convinced me that, like comedy, horror is all about timing. You don’t just have to hit the beats before the punch line just right, you have to give the audience time to get the joke, and let it set in. Pause for applause. Of course, you can sit too long. Again, it’s about knowing the beats of the story. How long to wait with the aftermath of something awful, and just when to move on.

Q: Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?

A: Marketing is super hard for me. In person, people say I can charm a rock. But that takes a lot of will and booze to accomplish. Elsewhere, I’m not so capable. Nietzsche wrote a book called Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man”), with chapters titled, "Why I Am So Wise", "Why I Am So Clever", "Why I Write Such Good Books" and "Why I Am a Destiny." I wish I had that kind of confidence (ironic or not). Trying to get noticed for me is a battle of strangling false modesty, trying to adequately express honest confidence, and not sound like an arrogant fuckface the rest of the time.
 
I think the way I approach getting noticed is to try to make my social media (at the least) about something other than the writing. I hope that people will keep coming back to the Facebook or Twitter pages to see what I post about the real me. And then, hopefully, on the occasion I plug a book, they’ll be willing to take a look because I haven’t been hustling them the whole time.
 
So the TL;DR version is: be yourself. Don’t always be closing. People want to enjoy things, and I think that’s enhanced when they know you’re interested in more than just getting them to buy a book.
 
Q: To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?

A: SO HARD! I think my favorite is a tie between Lyn in Mountain Home  and Mitch in the forthcoming novel, Come To Dust. Both are people at points in their lives where they have to learn how to shake off the armor they’ve strapped themselves into and take real risks. They’re vulnerable in a way that The Prosecutor in White Knight  and Noah in Stranded  aren’t, which is more fun to write. Characters who don’t know how to break down the doors are more interesting to me. Getting them through that obstacle is the point of the story. What’s on the other side (usually something very fucking scary) is the icing.
 
My least favorite character to write was probably Beau from Mountain Home . He’s such an amazing prick, I wanted to kill him early in the book. But he is the embodiment of everything wrong in Lyn’s world at that time. Of course, he needs to last until the final chapter, just so that there’s a challenge for her to rise to meet inside the diner as well as outside! It made me feel like shit to try to get into his head, though.
 
Q: What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
 
A: Another difficult question. I am proud of all my work, but at the moment, the one I’m most satisfied with is Come to Dust. That book almost never happened (for reasons I discuss in the Afterword to the novel), and the fact that I was able to finish it makes me incredibly happy.
 
Of course, Stranded being nominated for a Bram Stoker Award makes me super proud as well. I love that book for all the reasons that are obvious on its face. It’s a love letter to my biggest influences from John Carpenter’s the Thing and Ridley Scott’s Alien, to Yukio Mishima and Albert Camus. There’s a ton of me in that book.

Q: And are there any that you would like to forget about?
 
A: No. There are a couple of stories I don’t think reflect who I am as a writer any more, and a couple that I wish had been published better than they were. But I don’t have anything I wish didn’t exist. I like who I was at the time I wrote any given piece. That’s more important than liking the piece forever.

Q: For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?

A: At this point, I think Stranded  and Come to Dust are my signature pieces. I’ve got the rights back to Mountain Home  and revised it a little for republication, but Stranded and Dust are the ones that I don’t think I’d massage even a little if given the chance. They’re the ones who reflect how I want to be seen as a writer. Of course, if you want to sample my short work before trying on a novel, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods is the collection of what I think of as most of my best work in the short form.

Q: Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
 
A: I love opening lines. I think they’re the promise a book makes. A personal favorite of mine is the first two lines of my novel, Stranded.

The void churned and swelled, reaching up to pull them down into frigid darkness, clamoring to embrace them, every one. A cold womb inviting them to return to the lightless source of all life, and die, each man alone in its black silence.

Q: Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?

A: My latest book is a short story collection from ChiZine Publications titled, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods. Despite the title, it’s a collection of 19 stories, four of which have never been published before. Though not a complete collection of my short fiction, this book spans the last six years of my publishing career, highlighting my favorite stories with a similar tone and intent. The work varies from crime to suspense to supernatural horror and weird writing, but I think they all possess the same heart (they pass it around after each taking a bite).
 
Q: If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?

A: Violence without consequences. I HATE the ‘80s slasher sequel aesthetic where the villain is the unacknowledged hero, and audiences are waiting for the next sanitized “creative kill.” If the harm you witness on the page or the screen doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable at the very least, then in my opinion it is bullshit. Violence is ugly and painful and it leaves people with scars both physical and emotional. When a killer scrambles a two-dimensional trope character’s guts with an egg beater and then moves on to kill the Jock or the Nerd or the Cheerleader without there being a moment of shock and hesitation on the part of the audience, then I think the writer/director is just engaging in a masturbatory murder fantasy. It’s emotionally bankrupt. This is why I think the ‘70s were a superior period for horror storytelling. There’s not a comfortable kill in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left.

Q: What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?

A: The last book that really blew me away was The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. It’s a wonderful slow burn observation of the disintegration of a family. There’s a dog point of view in the novel. With very few exceptions, I hate stories told from the POV of a pet or animal. Most of the time, it’s the same with kids’ perspectives too. However, I LOVE this one! I think Ketchum has a way of writing about animals that is affectionate without being overly-sentimental. He has the same kind of honest viewpoint about children too. He really gets it without being glurgy at all. The Secret Life of Souls is perfectly realized in every way.
 
The last book that really disappointed me was a science fiction novella called Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny. It started off so strong with such a wonderful concept, but I just couldn’t hang with the way she chose to end the story. It seemed like more of an ideologically motivated dénouement than one that flowed naturally from the setup. Of course, it’s art, so your mileage may vary. Don’t take my word for it. Read it and make up your own minds.
 
Except, totally take my word for it with Ketchum’s book. It’s the best thing I read in 2016!
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 From the author of Mountain Home and Stranded, comes Bracken MacLeod's first collection of short stories. These stories inhabit the dark places where pain and resignation intersect, and the fear of a quiet moment alone is as terrifying as the unseen thing watching from behind the treeline. In the titular story, a young woman waits for her father to come home from the place where no one goes intending to return. A single word is the push that may break a man and save a life. The members of a winemaking community celebrate the old time religion found flowing in the blood of the vine. A desperate man seeking a miracle cure gets more than a peek behind the curtain of Dr. Morningstar's Psychic Surgery. A child who dreams of escaping on leather wings finds rescue in dark water instead. Looking back over a life, a homeless veteran must decide to live in the present if he wants to save his future. In a Halloween Hell house, a youth pastor must face the judgment of a man committed to doing the Lord's work. Fiery death heralds the beginning of a new life. A man who has been carrying pain with him his entire life gives up his last piece of darkness. And a still day beneath the sun illuminates the quiet sorrow of the last feather to fall. Bracken MacLeod is the author of Mountain Home, White Knight, and, most recently, Stranded, which has been optioned by Warner Horizon Television. He lives in New England with his wife and son.

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