Chilling Chat Episode 160 Michele Roger

Michele Roger is an author and harpist living and working in Detroit. Her previous novel, The Conservatory, was published in 2014. Her second book, Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Novel, was published in 2015 and made into a film script. Dedicated to furthering the reach of women in speculative fiction, she is a founding member of, “The Wicked Women Writer’s Group.” Her short stories have been published in anthologies in both the US and UK. As a harpist, she is the founder of the Michigan Conservatory. She was a Detroit Music Awards Finalist for best classical composer in 2015.

Michele is an innovative and artistic woman. We spoke of music, the creative process, and her advice for the burgeoning female writer.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Michele! Thank you so much for chatting with me.

MR: I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for the invite!

NTK: You’re an accomplished musician. How does your background in music influence your writing?

MR: That’s a great question. In reality, there isn’t an easy answer. The two creative outlets sometimes inspire one another. That’s when it feels like a blessing. I can be writing a conversation between two people falling for one another and the music will start to play in my head. The epiphany will hit me that it’s not a song I’ve heard before. Then, I stop writing words and start writing notes on a music paper. Sometimes, the two outlets compete for my attention. I can wake up at 3 am with a story and the theme music and the entire movie score in my head. Then, it feels like a curse. Which do you act upon first? Honestly, it’s a good problem to have.

NTK: Do you find inspiration in dreams?

MR: My biggest inspiration is walking. But, dreams do come into play. If I set a story and its characters aside to do my day job teaching music or playing Harp concerts, the characters sneak into my dreams. It’s always the same dream to start. I’m asleep in bed inside of a glass box. The characters come and gently knock on the box while I’m sleeping. The characters return each night, knocking louder and eventually pounding on the glass until I finally start to write their story. Then, the dreams end.

NTK: Did The Harpist come to you in this way?

MR: Yes. The ghost in the story, Emma, came to see me first, as I was out for a walk. That night, I dreamed of her outside the glass box. She scared the hell out of me. But as a paranormal writer, that’s an advantage, I suppose. Elizabeth and Detective Flannery came to me the next day.

NTK: That’s a fascinating process. What is the difference between paranormal and horror?

MR: Paranormal, by my definition, is like a flavor of a story. There are elements that are scary or ghostly but those elements are just tools for telling a story. The Harpist is definitely paranormal. I’ve written two horror novels. The entire story builds and builds becoming more frightening at every turn.

Paranormal uses scary elements to tell a great story. Horror uses a story to convey something really scary.

NTK: Are your stories character driven? Or, plot driven?

MR: Depends on the story. My sci-fi book, Dark Matter was definitely plot driven. So was [ ETERNAL KINGDOM: A VAMPIRE NOVEL Paperback ] Roger, Michele ( AUTHOR ) Jul - 20 - 2014 [ Paperback ]my horror novel, Eternal Kingdom. But my latest shorts, like Addicted to Love and now this new novel, The Harpist, is far more driven by the characters.

I think, as I get older, the more I like how beautiful it is when characters are vulnerable.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters after they come to you? Do they retain their free will? Do they come to you with vulnerabilities?

MR: They come to me dragging their huge amounts of baggage. It’s just my job to spoon their personality and flaws out to the readers as needed.

NTK: What writers have influenced you most?

MR: My first love of literature bloomed after reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I read that Hunter S. Thompson said he wrote passages from The Great Gatsby over and over again to learn how to write well, I tried it. That’s when I knew I wanted to write. I didn’t realize I wanted to write speculative fiction, sci-fi, and horror/paranormal until I devoured Stephen King’s short, Thinner. Then, The Visitor series in the 80s and finally, Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, had me writing in the genre and never looking back.

NTK: Were you a reader as a child?

MR: I loved to read. It was always my escape.

NTK: What got you into horror?

MR: In 8th grade, a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s, The Eyes of the Dragon. It was a fantasy story he wrote for his daughter. I was already reading all the sci-fi and fantasy I could get my hands on secretly (my mom thought I should read romance) so King’s fantasy novel became my gateway drug into his other stories.

NTK: What do your parents think of your writing? Have they encouraged you?

MR: Before my dad passed away, he came to every signing and author event I had; often buying a copy of books he already had just to show his support. My mom is supportive of all my creative endeavors.

NTK: You said your mom wanted you to read romance. Do you like to write romantic scenes in your books?

MR: The first romantic scene I ever had to write, I was so nervous, I had to have a cocktail to get through it. Now, I have become much closer friends with my characters. I adore helping them find their loves. Maybe, that’s the difference between writing my first love scene in my early thirties and writing now at 46. I’m more comfortable with my own sexuality and hence, I’m more comfortable with the romance scenes of my characters.

NTK: That’s great! Do you enjoy horror movies and television shows? If so, which are your favorites?

MR: Hmm. I love Stranger Things but really, I don’t watch much TV or movies. I’m a print junkie.

NTK: What do you like about Stranger Things?

MR: I love the duality of worlds; one we can see, one only a select few can see. I also adore how much they’ve embraced the deliciousness of the 80s, right down to the plaid flannel shirts. Seeing the story through the eyes of kids is one of the best parts.

NTK: You’re a founding member of The Wicked Women Writer’s Group. Could you tell the Addicts how that came about?

MR: Early on in my writing, a publisher told me that it would be hard for him to market my work if I used my real name. Horror and sci-fi readers didn’t buy work written by women (or so he thought.) I didn’t want to hide behind a male pen name. Instead, I started a group for women who wrote speculative fiction. I wanted it to be a positive place for female horror writers to support one another. It’s become so much more and I couldn’t be more proud of all the members and our collaborations.

NTK: Very cool! Thank you for starting this group and giving women writers a place to get together. What advice would you like to give prospective women writers out there?

MR: Just this week, The Guardian published an interview with Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials series, and president of a UK author society. He said that the publishing world isn’t supporting authors. Less than 30% of authors can make a living by writing solely as a career. For women, the percentage is even lower. Hence, my advice is this: 1. Buy the work of all authors you love. As a woman and a writer, we appreciate the grueling art form. Particularly, buy the work of female authors. Show appreciation with our dollars. 2. If monetary support is out of reach, support women’s writing by posting great reviews of their work. 3. Never give up on your dream.

NTK: Wonderful words! Michele, as you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MR: Curses are definitely a powerful female tool. My favorite thing about them is that they’re more frightening than a threat. A curse actually feels possible. My favorite curse? “I hope you have a kid just like you!” That curse came true in my two kids. And, I couldn’t be more proud.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What books, stories, and music do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?

MR: The Harpist (Cursed) will be released this fall 2018. A short holiday story with Elizabeth and Flannery is in the works and the sequel to The Harpist is already outlined and taking shape. As for music, I’m working on another Celtic harp album which will hopefully be released in the spring of 2019.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Michele. It’s been fun.

MR: Thank you so much for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Michele on Twitter.

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Chilling Chat Episode 159 Patrick C. Greene

As a toddler, Patrick C. Greene created horrors in crayon before discovering comics and horror fiction. Despite nights spent hiding under covers, he was always drawn to dark tales.

After cutting his fangs on screenwriting Greene found his true calling in prose with the debut novel Progeny. He favors horror that is emotionally engaging, terrifying, and suspenseful.

Greene’s other works include the collection Dark Destinies, action-packed vampire novel The Crimson Calling, and The Haunted Hollow Chronicles: Red Harvest, coming Halloween from Lyrical Press.

Western North Carolinian Greene heeds his morbid muse when not enjoying monstrous helpings of Horror, Kung Fu, and Doom Metal.

Patrick has a style all his own. We spoke of his childhood in Western North Carolina, writing, and his fascination with Faustian themes.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Patrick! Let’s get down to business. What got you interested in Horror?

PCG: Like many small fry, I was interested in dinosaurs, and that led to Godzilla movies, which have a good bit of genre crossover.

The first exposures to real horror came via a paperback collection of Tales from the Crypt comics I found on my father’s bookshelf, which I believe he confiscated from one of his college students.

He told me about the Universal monster series so I made a point of watching all of those I could find.

The third influence was the death of my Aunt Helen, when I was maybe four or five. I was just beginning to get close to her when she passed. Death was no longer a distant abstraction. I suppose I needed to understand just what it was. I still have drawings from then with images of corpses and skeletons.

NTK: Did your father encourage your interest in horror? What was your childhood like?

PCG: Yes, and in some ways, he was not aware he was even doing so. My dad was a novelist as well as a newspaper editor and often found himself covering gruesome crime or just bizarre stories. He had a police band radio that he monitored at night. Once, I recall him rousting my brothers and me from bed and piling us in the car. There had been a UFO sighting nearby, and if there was one to be seen, he wanted us to have that experience. He and my mother were very excited, but my brothers and I—less so, and more terrified of encountering the hostile variety of spacemen we’d seen on TV.

Another such incident involved a wildcat that had been heard near the mountain community where we lived. I can’t remember if anyone had lost animals or whatnot, but my dad took it upon himself to hunt the damn thing, and I went with him. It was a crisp clear night and we hiked into the woods. Several times, we heard its cry; like a screaming woman—chilling to the bone.

NTK: Did you grow up in Western North Carolina? Mountainous areas have a reputation for frightening stories. Did the geography influence your writing?

PCG: Yes, my parents discovered a few acres outside of Asheville and had a two-story log house built on it. There are quite a few ghost stories connected to the region and my dad was not shy about sharing them on camping trips and cold nights. There are flesh and blood dangers too, such as a pack of wild dogs; runaways and strays that had come together.

Oddly, I saw greener grass on the other side, so to speak. I had a long phase of wishing to be a big-city boy. Due to this longing, I was attracted to comics, films, and books that were set in seedy metropolises. Clive Barker, my favorite author, often sets his work in urban areas.

But I am in touch with the isolation of this geography (I’m back on that track now) and I do feel uniquely attuned to its scary potential. I’ve embraced the wilderness figuratively and literally.

Stingy Jack and Other Tales by [Greene, Patrick C.]NTK: Did this “scary potential” inspire the story “Stingy Jack?” How did that come about?

PCG: In a roundabout way. I’ve tried for a few years to grow pumpkins in my front yard, largely without success. I looked up ways to improve my chances and fell into a rabbit hole, as will happen, about the origins of Halloween, the reasons for Jack O Lanterns, etc. Stingy Jack, the face of the legend struck me as an interesting character in his own right. There are a good many tellings of this story but I had never seen one done as a prose narrative. Stingy Jack has the potential to be a seasonal symbol like Ichabod Crane.

NTK: You’ve written a book called, Red Harvest, which (like Stingy Jack) features the Devil. What drew you to the theme of those who sell their souls?

PCG: I fit the classic mold of a child born into traditional Christian belief, which I later came to question. Whether you view him as a real being or an archetype, Lucifer is a character of greater nuance than he’s given credit for: a wicked being of only hate and spite, seeking to destroy good and replace it with evil. One person’s idea of selling one’s soul can be another’s idea of taking personal responsibility for your life, come what may. Alternately it can be regarded as the necessary opposite to the essential goodness; each defining the other.

To me, Stingy Jack seems to be a simple lesson in planning ahead. Both Jack and The Devil are stuck in the moment of their decisions. The tale probably served as yet another variation on the boogie man theme that parents use to keep their children from going astray, which seems like lazy parenting if you think about it—which makes it the ultimate irony. I wanted to show the consequences that Jack’s actions have on others, on the world around him. Jack’s avarice and self-centeredness rival even Lucifer’s, and that’s why he is doomed; both tragic and terrifying because he will never change.

The “devil” in Red Harvest is a very different take than that of Stingy Jack. Fair to say, these two demonic fellows would scarcely know each other at all. Both take place on Halloween as well, so I hope readers will let me share their scares this season, and for many to come.

NTK: That’s a new and fascinating take on the old legend. You spoke of Clive Barker earlier. Did he influence your writing?

PCG: Clive Barker’s work seemed almost alien to me when I first read it, whereas King’s felt like home. A scary, spooky home.

I remember seeing Barker’s Hellraiser and thinking what a perfect horror show this is, with a living corpse in the attic, demonic entities threatening to come through the walls, and worst of all: a cold murderess dominating a supremely effed-up family. Red Harvest is likewise a horrific potpourri, and hopefully as well-drawn and tightly-woven.

Hellraiser led me to The Books Of Blood, and one of my all-time favorite novels, The Damnation Game—which brings us back to the Faustian pacts, now that I think about it.

NTK: What about King and Koontz? Of those two, who do you think is the best?

PCG: As a young adult, I appreciated Koontz and King in equal measure, and Intensity will always be a favorite too. But for sheer consistency of quality to volume ratio, King will reign for many years. He continues to get better, even after all this time, and leaves us writers with no excuses for not producing.

The Stand, Pet Sematary, The Talisman and Carrie all seem to have graced me at the perfect time in my life, or perhaps were so strong they molded my life to fit their stories!

NTK: Do you enjoy the film adaptations of Barker’s work?

PCG: For the most part, yes. I love Candyman, but I’m not the fan of Nightbreed that many Barker fans are. Midnight Meat Train and Lord of Illusions are great adaptations. Then there’s Rawhead Rex. That one had the potential to be another Pumpkinhead, but just fell apart. Maybe someone will give it another shot.

NTK: What horror films and television shows do you watch?

PCG: Lately I’ve been watching Hannibal, which is heads and shoulders above most TV horror fare. I did enjoy Penny Dreadful, though I think it got a little played out. I’ve kind of given up on Supernatural. I’m eager to see The Frankenstein Chronicles.

I’m finding the superhero fad to be a bit stale, which is sad because I was an enthusiastic Marvel reader as a boy. I like what Legendary is doing with Godzilla and Kong and I’m pumped for the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters!

I love the 70s and 80s feel, the way it’s incorporated into Stranger Things. I worked really Red Harvest (The Haunted Hollow Chronicles) by [Greene, Patrick C.]hard to reflect some of that in Red Harvest, along with elements of the 50s. Red Harvest’s town of Ember Hollow is like some time warp mix of 50s and 80s.

I’m about a year behind on all the big horror hits, but I’m also a fan of martial arts flicks.

NTK: Do you ever incorporate martial arts into your horror stories?

PCG: Oh yes. My novel The Crimson Calling contains several characters who are well-trained, particularly the heroine Olivia Irons, who is ex-special forces. She’s called upon to lead one faction of vampires against another. There a good many wild fight scenes in which martial arts are enhanced by the combatants’ vampire abilities.

Under Wicked Sky is a sci-fi horror novel I have had accepted by Sinister Grin Press, with plans for a 2019 release. The story centers around a post-global warming world in which the concept of law has essentially become meaningless, and guns are scarce. There are a good many brutal fight scenes.

Finally, the story “Cinderblock,” contained in the Stingy Jack collection, is about a boxer’s ghost who still has plenty of knockout power.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What projects do you have to share with the Horror Addicts? Any films involved?

PCG: I’ve become reticent to discuss film projects, as so few ever come to fruition! Both my bigfoot novel Progeny and the aforementioned Under Wicked Sky have been optioned for production and a martial arts web series I wrote is in some kind of limbo it seems.

Red Harvest is the first in a trilogy called The Haunted Hollow Chronicles, and I’m writing the second entry now with a release planned for next year through Kensington’s Lyrical imprint.

Beyond that, there are still plans for a follow-up to The Crimson Calling.

NTK: As you know, season 13 of Horror Addicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

PCG: Stingy Jack is, of course, cursed to roam the In-Between until he finds someone gullible enough to be tricked into taking his place!

Another interesting curse that comes to mind is from King’s Thinner, with the main character wasting away, day by day, for his moment of carelessness.

The film Drag Me To Hell depicts a horrific and sinister curse!

NTK: Those are great curses! Thank you for chatting with me, Patrick. You’re a fascinating person.

PCG: Thank YOU Naching! It’s been a lot of fun.

Chilling Chat Episode 158 Mercy Hollow

Mercy Hollow was born in Florida, where she was terrorized by alligators, fire ants, rabid raccoons, sharks, drunken college students, and 100% humidity. She lived on three continents (four if you count the foreign realm of her imagination) and planted her feet in San Francisco. She has a love of hockey, motorcycles, and anything deemed weird. She writes about gritty underworlds, twists, deception, strong men, stronger women, and a hidden part of Chicago you’ve never seen. She is a freelance editor and workshop facilitator.

Mercy is a woman of many talents with a fascinating past. We spoke of forensic psychology, writing, and her take on good and evil.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Mercy. Thank you for chatting with me.

MH: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me on.

NTK: You have traveled the world and visited many continents. What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?

MH: While I’ve had some interesting, blood pumping, and challenging situations overseas, the scariest was in my home state of Florida. I was lost alone in the Everglades at night for hours with only a lighter.

NTK: Wow! How did that happen? And, how did you get out?

MH: I may have made a bad decision of who to hang out with for the evening. We had a disagreement and they left, taking the boat with them. I have a good sense of direction and a strong desire not to be eaten by alligators so I took my time, avoided the water, and eventually found a path.

NTK: Good job! Did this incident inspire you to become a horror writer? What got you interested in writing horror?

MH: With my previous career in forensic psychology, I got to delve into the darkest parts of people’s minds. See what people were capable of, both to cause ill and overcome tragedy and disaster. I love stories that capture these emotions and could get inside me. Characters that stuck with me, grabbed on, and wouldn’t let go. Writing fiction was a great escape from the real life hardships I saw every day in my job. But, I like dark things. Nighttime is my happy place, so my writing tends to flow to struggle and fight against it.

NTK: Did you solve any crimes during your time in forensic psychology?

MH: I worked with a lot of violent offenders and victims of violent crimes. I was involved in cases, prevention, and rehabilitation. I worked with all the agencies involved, from probation, parole, jails, and mental hospitals to court, police, schools, foster care, and emergency rooms. A team of people working together to make the streets and homes safer and help people that need it, including the offenders. I got to understand and see the other side of violent crime that many don’t. There are stories beneath every action and choice.

NTK: Did you draw on this experience when you wrote Scythe? Did it help you develop your villains as well as your heroes?

MH: Definitely. To me, villains aren’t evil. And, heroes aren’t good. They make the choice they make for a reason. What life throws at you and what shelters you from it is a huge influence on people. The three brothers that rule the Legion in Scythe have all been dealt a bad hand and each deals with it differently. All in their own special shade of darkness. The heroes in the Legion are trying to overcome that darkness but they struggle with the choices they made that got them Claimed in the first place. It also played a part in the Legion itself. When someone is Claimed, the antigen in their blood chooses their designation in the Legion that they will have for the rest of their life based on their personality. Who they truly are. So, they have to face and embrace this part of themselves or suffer the consequences.

NTK: This is an interesting view of good and evil. Less black and white. You’re dealing with shades of gray. Which brings me to the Paranormal Romance aspect. What makes your romance unique?

MH: It’s a blending of genres. Think paranormal romance meets Game of Thrones, in modern day Chicago with horror and suspense. Each book in the series is focused on two couples—a main and sub couple—whose storylines intertwine and influence the others. The world and plot of the Legion also impact the couples. It looks at struggles and hope in relationships, from couples to families, friends, and roles in society, as well as the society itself.

Scythe: Legions of the Claimed by [Hollow, Mercy]NTK: You’ve spoken of the choices which shape your characters. How much control do you have over them? Do you give your creations free will?

MH: Sometimes, I fool myself into thinking I have control over them. Then, they go and do something that ticks me off or they make a choice I want to yell at them for making. Or worse, I see their end coming for them and I can’t stop it. I spend a good amount of gray matter energy brainstorming and plotting, and finding character arcs but, at the end of the day, there are always surprises and places they take me. And, they always yell at me when I try to take them somewhere they wouldn’t go.

NTK: Do you enjoy psychological horror? What horror do you like to read?

MH: I do! From the classics like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, to Misery, The Shining, The Handmaid’s Tale, Red Dragon, and Silence of the Lambs. I love reading about the fear of anticipation, the lengths people will go to or be pushed to, the tricks the mind plays, and how people adapt to or resist the extraordinary.

NTK: What horror films and TV shows do you enjoy?

MH: I liked the movies of the books I mentioned previously. I’m an Alfred Hitchcock fan. I liked the different take on characters in Penny Dreadful, Grimm, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale series, The Leftovers, Black Mirror, Crazyhead. There are so many great ones. I love quirky and humorous horror as well.

NTK: Those are great shows and films. Which Hitchcock film is your favorite?

MH: Psycho, of course. But, I also really like The Birds, Rear Window, Rope, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, To Catch a Thief. He had a great way with anticipation, getting the mind to react to things it didn’t see or fear things it projected it would see.

NTK: Do you think werewolves, vampires, and other monsters are psychological representations of the human psyche?

MH: I think we all have a little monster in us that could be drawn out in the right or wrong situation. Monsters represent our desires and fears. Our darkest moments. Our possibilities. They can be vulnerable and raw and passionate in ways people often don’t let themselves be.

NTK: Do you have a favorite monster?

MH: I have a soft spot for Frankenstein. He’s innocent yet brutal, lost but discovered. He’s weakness and strength. His life is complex, but he longs for the most basic human need—belonging and companionship.

NTK: As you know, season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MH: Cursing people to get exactly what they want and it bringing them great misfortune and ruin. I do like psychological torture.

NTK: Mercy, what does the future hold for you? What books or stories do we have to look forward to?

MH: Grim, the next book in the Legions of the Claimed series, comes out next month. I’m currently working on book three, entitled—Vegan. I’m also working on several young adult fantasy novels. I’m a freelance editor specializing in fantasy, paranormal, horror, sci-fi, and run workshops at conferences. I love getting to work with other writers and assisting them in getting their stories out for people to enjoy.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Mercy. It’s been a pleasure.

MH: Thank you and HorrorAddicts.net for having me on and giving me the good fortune of being Cursed.

Addicts, you can find Mercy Hollow here on Facebook and Twitter.

Chilling Chat Writing to an Invisible Drummer: An Interview with Josh Malerman

 Josh Malerman is an American author and also one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band, The High Strung. Their song, “The Luck You Got,” is the theme song for the Showtime television program, Shameless.

Malerman authored the books, Bird Box, Black Mad Wheel, and Unbury Carol. He has been published in Cemetery Dance, Scary Out There, Chiral Mad, Lost Signals, Shadows over Main Street, and Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. He resides in Michigan with his fiancée, Allison Laakko.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Josh.

JM: And, thank you for having me. This is exciting.

NTK: Your book, Bird Box, is set to become a Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich. How did Bird Box come about?

JM: The book started out as any other to me … that’s not to say that I’m writing a string of ideas that arranged on an assembly line, without emotion, but all I began with was a woman, blindfolded, two children in tow, rowing down a river. I just liked the image and started writing their story. This quickly led to … ”What are they fleeing? What can’t they see?” From there, I started thinking of old fears, things that scared me a lot growing up. One of those things was the idea of infinity and how man isn’t capable of comprehending it.

So, I thought, what if infinity were personified in a semi-abstract way. What if the concept arrived on Main Street?

From there the book exploded in my hands. A mother attempting to navigate a river without being able to open her eyes. The rough draft was written in some 26 days. And, while the rewrites took forever, I’ll forever cherish those 26 days and sometimes, I feel like I’m still living them now.

NTK: Does your writing often begin with a single image?

JM: Some of the stories do. A single image or a title can be enough to say, “Hey, go sit down and give this one a shot.” Because, if you’re writing from a “free” place, if your mind is wide open, then you’re probably going to see that small image or idea bloom in double time. I try to stay open to tangents at all times. I try not to stick so tight to the original idea. So, with this in mind, yeah, sometimes a single image can jumpstart the whole shebang.

NTK: You’re also a singer/songwriter for the rock band, The High Strung. How does this background affect your writing?

JM: Every time I write, I do so with an invisible drummer in the room. I’m at the desk, hammering away, always playing to the beat of this unseen musician just out of sight. Like the Wendigo, if the Wendigo played drums. I realize how bonkers this sounds but I really can’t seem to get away from him and I wouldn’t want to. Whether I have a record playing in the room, or a soundtrack going on YouTube or the radio … the drummer is the one giving me the beat for every story. And, I can’t help but think that, since I play a lot of rhythm guitar in the band, there’s gotta be a link there between the band and the books.

NTK: So, would you consider the drummer a muse?

JM: Hmm. I haven’t thought about it like that. But, I love the question. Not a muse. More like … we’re both turned on by the same muse. In fact, the drummer might catch sight of said muse first, start playing, then I fall in, typing over what he plays.

NTK: You’ve written many unpublished books while touring. Do your experiences make it into your novels?

JM: I was just talking to my bandmate, Mark, about this today. I’m sure some of the people we’ve met and the places we’ve been have made it into the books. But, it’s not usually intentional. You know, people say, “Write what you know,” but there’s no way not to do that. So, what I think people really mean to say is, “write the feelings you know.” And a lot of that comes from shared experiences, right? Things you’ve done with your best friends, your lovers, the people you’ve encountered in life. I think it would take you and me going through a book scene by scene for me to say, “Ah, yes! This scene here was from this time in Iowa and this scene here was from that night in Mississippi!”

NTK: Let’s go back to the Bird Box film. How did this come to pass? How were you approached?

JM: So, my manager sold the film rights before the book was published. It had already been picked up by ECCO/Harper Collins but hadn’t even been rewritten with them yet. So, there are parts that made it into the movie script that used to be in the book but aren’t anymore. That’ll be interesting for me to see in a theater. Universal Studios optioned the rights in 2013. Netflix bought it from them in 2017.

NTK: Were you consulted when the film was written?

JM: No. I had no part in the writing of the script. I was on the phone with the prospective screenwriters. Conference calls in which each screenwriter told me what they had in mind, with Universal on the phone to listen to us talk about it. But, that was just so Universal could gauge the individual visions. The script was written by Eric Heisserer. He wrote Arrival and others. Awesome guy. And, I knew very well what I was getting into. Talk about an unknown author—my first book wasn’t even out yet.

NTK: Stephen King is well known for his dislike of Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining and the casting of the film. Are you happy with the casting? Do you think Sandra Bullock will make a good Malorie?

JM: I’ll tell you the same thing I told her. If I had written the script, directed the movie, and starred in it myself, it still wouldn’t be the book. So, I’m glad it’s in her hands and not mine. I’m thrilled she’s playing Malorie. She’s a magnificent actress, and I can’t wait to see her in a horror movie. After watching her film a scene in person, I said to her, “That was intense, huh.” And she said, “The whole story is intense!” I’m excited about it all. The cast, the director, the cinematographer—all of it.

NTK: You were on set when the movie was filmed?

JM: My fiancé, Allison, and I flew to California in January. We went on set on the Universal lot. Saw a scene filmed outside, another filmed on a soundstage. It was incredible. I never felt like I didn’t belong, but I also never felt like “big man on campus.” It was all unforeseeably natural. If it’s true that a director dictates the mood of a set, then Susanne Bier is a warm, intelligent, hard-working, welcoming director. We loved every second of it.

NTK: Susanne Bier is a Golden Globe, Emmy, and Academy Award-winning director. It must’ve felt good knowing you’d entrusted your work to her.

JM: 100%. And, you know, who knows how it will turn out, right? Just like a book … you sit down with an idea, a vision, and let’s hope it soars, right? But, I’m optimistic. Everyone I met is so good at what they do and I know the story came from as pure a place as I’ve ever visited.

NTK: Are you excited about Netflix providing the distribution? Or would you rather the film appear in the theater?

JM: I’m told there’s going to be a theatrical release as well. I don’t know exactly what that means, how many cities, how long, etc. But, in any case, I’m happy either way.

NTK: When will the film be released?

JM: I hear it’ll be around December 21. I don’t know when the premiere is going to be yet, but Allison and I are hoping to bring both our moms. Which is a pretty funny image. Allison, me, our moms, all drinking on a plane to Los Angeles.

NTK: You had a book released in April. Could you tell us a little about Unbury Carol?

JM: Unbury Carol is the story of an impending premature burial and the balance of characters who both want this to happen and don’t. Carol Evers “dies” a couple times a year, when she slips into deep coma states. Because it’s a western of sorts, the instruments the doctors use aren’t sophisticated enough to detect her beating heart when she’s inside, what she calls, “Howltown.” The problem is … what if everyone thinks she’s dead? And then … what if she’s buried alive because of it? Well, there’s one fella who hears about her funeral but knows she isn’t dead. So, he travels north on the Trail in an attempt to bust up this unnatural burial. But, make no mistake! There is no Prince Charming in this book. And, Carol’s gonna have to get the hell out of Howltown on her own.

NTK: Are you a fan of westerns and horror?

JM: Yeah, for sure. I’d like to see more of them. It’s a great setting for a horror story because, one, it’s pre-technology, which leaves a lot of shadows to play with and, two, the “outlaw” is always so “tough” and it’s refreshing as hell to find him or her face to face with something scarier yet.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror author or movie? What inspired you to write horror?

JM: I wouldn’t say I have a favorite. Of the last 156 books I’ve read, I adored 153 of them. Would give them all five stars. For whatever reason, I’m a little more discerning with movies, but really I’ve got a wide scope of what I’m into. I just love the genre in general. To me, horror admits that it’s fiction. And, for that, I believe it.

NTK: Do you have any advice for the writers out there whose books may be adapted to film? Or, any advice for writers in general?

JM: Well, I’m still early into the “adaptation” scenario. It’s hard for me to impart “advice” other than to say something my girl, Allison, taught me: every time you wanna use the word “nervous,” use “excited” instead. It’s changed my life. As far as advice for writers? Get rid of the words “good” and “bad.” Write a “bad” book for crying out loud. Don’t let silly blanket words stop you from writing a novel. How awful. Get that first draft done. Because what you would rather have? Three hundred pages that need to be fixed? Or, no pages at all?

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

JM: Well, the moment belongs to Unbury Carol. And I’m going to let her have it. But, come Halloween, I have a limited edition novel coming out on Cemetery Dance. It’s called, On This, the Day of the Pig. And, my second book with Del Rey comes out next April. I’m writing scripts for a horror theater production to be performed here in Michigan. And, The High Strung have a new album, to boot.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Josh.

JM: Ah, THANK YOU. I’m excited for this.

This interview was  published in the June 2018 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter and is reprinted with Editor Kathy Ptacek’s permission.

Chilling Chat with a Dark Lady: An Interview with Nancy Holder

Nancy Holder is a New York Times best-selling author. She has written over 100 short stories and over 80 novels, including tie-in books for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Smallville. She’s written YA novels with her writing partner Debbie Viguiè, and has written comic books, graphic novels, and pulp fiction for Moonstone Books. Currently, she works for Kymera Press and lives in San Diego.

Nancy is a charming and gracious lady. Recently, she chatted with me about horror, her new project, and Kymera Press.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Nancy. I appreciate it.

NH: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for interviewing me.

NTK: Let’s talk about Kymera Press. How did you get involved with them?

NH: Some years ago (at least ten!) I was at a book signing at Dark Delicacies in Los Angeles, and I met a woman named Debbie Lynn Smith there. She had been a writer on the TV show, Touched by an Angel, and had decided to get her MFA in creative writing. (She was going to Stonecoast, the program at the University of Southern Maine. They were looking for an instructor who could teach horror, and I was interviewed and offered the position. Debbie was actually one of my students there.)

When she was working in Hollywood, Debbie ate tons and tons of microwave popcorn, and she developed a disease called Popcorn Lung. It is a horrible, hideous disease, and she sued Orville Redenbacher and WON. (She had a double lung transplant about seven months ago and is doing great.)

With her settlement, she decided to do something positive. So, she founded Kymera Press, which is an all-woman comic book company. All the writers and art team members are female. Her husband is the only full-time male staff member. She hired me to be one of her writers.

Debbie was interested in adapting the work of women Victorian horror writers, and for a while, we were going to do a big graphic novel of Frankenstein to celebrate the 200th anniversary of publication. But, there are a LOT of graphic novels about Frankenstein out there, and it was a huge, ambitious project. So, we returned to “Victorian” horror. We cover what is called “the long nineteenth century” in literature, covering from 1770-1910-ish. I suggested the series title, Mary Shelley Presents.

NTK: What authors do you plan to cover in these graphic novels?

NH: Right now they’re comic books, but they will be collected into graphic novel form. Debbie just returned from C2E2, which is a popular culture convention in Chicago, and librarians are eagerly waiting for us to collect them into hardback so they can order them.

Our first issue was “The Old Nurse’s Story” by Elizabeth Gaskell. Right now, the team is working on, “Man-size in Marble” by Edith Nesbit. I just turned in the revision of “The Case of Sir Alistir Moeran” by Margaret Strickland. BUT … the coolest part is that I am actively searching for stories by women who have been marginalized or never/rarely anthologized. For example, I’ve just had a Russian story translated. It’s by a woman who is very famous in Russia but very little of her work has been published. She is in the fourth issue. And, I’m looking forward to an anthology of work by Victorian women who lived in the British colonies.

NTK: Are you adapting all of the stories for the comic books?

NH: Yes, I’m adapting all the stories, and once the anthology of the colonial work comes out, I’ll adapt some stories by those women.

NTK: How often will the comics be released? Monthly? Bi-monthly? Quarterly?

NH: Right now, quarterly. Kymera has five series in production. They are: Dragons by the Yard, Ivory Ghosts, Pet Noir, Gates of Midnight, and Mary Shelley Presents.

NTK: You’ve written tie-in novels for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Teen Wolf, and many others. How did this background prepare you for adapting the stories to comic book form?

NH: Well, I’ve written a lot of comics and graphic novels for Moonstone Books, so I’m familiar with the form. I’ve also taught classes in writing for comics and graphic novels and edited them as well. So, I have a background there. But, to answer your question, what I’ve learned from writing so much tie-in fiction (and nonfiction) is that it’s important to figure out what it is about that property that fans love and focus on that. Or, to figure out what the heart of the story is, and “push” that.

For example, Buffy was strong and passionate. And, like Buffy, Scott McCall was trying to learn to lead—in his case, a pack of werewolves. She was the Chosen One; he was the Bitten One.

In the case of our comics, I look for the theme of the story. The heart of darkness, as it were.

In the first one, “The Old Nurse’s Story,” the theme is regret/remorse/redemption.

NTK: Getting back to Moonstone, you wrote many stories centered around Sherlock Holmes. How did that help you in adapting Victorian stories?

NH: I love Sherlock Holmes. I am a devoted Sherlockian. I belong to a Sherlock Holmes scion and am planning to join a couple of other ones.

I read a lot of what is called, “Neo-Gothic” literature, such as the novels of John Harwood.

A student from Stonecoast and I are planning to start a blog about the long nineteenth century after she graduates.

The story I just adapted takes place in 1916. I novelized the new Wonder Woman film which took place around then, so I’ve recently “seen” my time period. And, I’m watching Peaky Blinders right now, too.

Also, we provide information about the writer of the original story (and we include the text of the original story in the comic), and I try to read a biography of the author.

NTK: What Sherlock Holmes Scion do you belong to?

NH: I belong to the Sound of the Baskervilles. We just celebrated our 38th year as a scion (I only joined recently). We are Seattle/Tacoma based.

NTK: Do you research when you write? Is that how you discovered the women writers?

NH: I do a lot of research, and it was easy to find a few writers to start with. There are anthologies of Victorian women writers of the supernatural and Debbie recommended Margaret Strickland. She has an amazing eye for what will translate to comic book form. I suggested obtaining translations, and so this first one, the Russian one, is very exciting to us both.

Grady Hendrix, who just won a nonfiction Bram Stoker Award® for Paperbacks from Hell, also pointed me to another anthology that is going to be very helpful.

NTK: Are comic books difficult to write?

NH: To me, writing comics is very difficult, but it’s really, really fun. It’s a lot like writing film scripts/screenplays, except that it’s pretty much on me to explain and show everything, whereas a film script is like a blueprint. I think of my script as a letter to the art team.

You have to figure out how to show things very, very quickly and keep the reader interested. And, you have to keep to a fairly stringent number of pages and panels, and to think visually.

NTK: How many artists work with you when you write a comic?

NH: This is the art team: Artist: Amelia Woo, Letterer: Saida Temofonte, Colorist: Sandra Molina, Art Direction: Kata Kane, and covers by Amelia Woo. In the first comic, we had Color Separations by Alejandro Garcia, who was assisting Sandra. The Editor is D. Lynn Smith, and Paul Daughetee does our Graphic Design.

NTK: Did you read comics when you were younger? If so, what were your favorites?

NH: I read tons of comics when I was younger. I subscribed to most of the DC lines. Superman, Lois Lane, Aquaman, also Katy Keene. And, scary comics that scared me so much I turned all the covers over at night before I went to bed.

NTK: Did you read House of Mystery and the other DC Haunted House comics?

NH: I don’t remember the horror series titles. But, they scared the tar out of me.

NTK: What made you decide on Mary Shelley as the narrator of these comics?

NH: Well at Kymera, Debbie and I had thought about that big graphic novel of Frankenstein, and scratched that, but by then I had read a ton of stuff about Mary Shelley—a number of biographies, other work of hers, etc. So, I thought about using her as a sort of “Crypt Keeper” to introduce the stories. Each story opens with her and the Creature discussing how his story has made her immortal, but other women writers have not been so fortunate. So, Mary Shelley breathes new life into stories by women that are “long buried” or “gathering dust.” Also, we try to add a bit of detail about Mary Shelley herself.

I just went to Italy for two months and went to many of the places she visited in Rome and Florence, including Percy Bysshe Shelley’s grave and the headstone honoring their son, William. I also went to Cadenabbia on Lake Como, where she visited with her son and his college buddies. And, I went to Viareggio, near where Percy drowned.

NTK: What a fantastic idea using her as the “Crypt Keeper.” Are comics the source of your inspiration when it comes to horror? Is that how you got into the genre?

NH: That’s a great question. Like a lot of horror writers, I was always drawn to horror. Weirdly, I just remembered that the first horror movie I ever saw was James Whale’s Frankenstein, which I watched with my mom. I loved creepy stuff even though it scared me so badly I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I watched The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Kolchak: The Nightstalker—stuff like that. I think that’s how I got hooked.

NTK: You’ve come full circle.

NH: That’s true! I have come full circle! I never realized that.

NTK: Mary Shelley Presents debuted at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con. How was it received?

NH: It was a big hit at Comic-Con. I worked in the Kymera booth, and we sold lots of issues of all the series we had out. I also did a charity signing at the California Browncoats booth. (The Browncoats are fans of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and I’m a Browncoat myself.) I usually sign for their charity drives if I’m at a con they’re at. I’ve signed at Comic-Con for them for years and years. So, I signed Mary Shelley Presents there, and we “sold out.”

I should also add that I did a Buffy Encyclopedia recently with my first editor, Lisa Clancy. (Lisa was the first to develop the Buffy publishing program, which was at Simon and Schuster at the time. She covered Angel, and I covered the Buffy show and all the comics—including Angel and Spike.) And, I covered the comic book canon. A TON of comics. Holy Moly.

NTK: What got you into writing the tie-ins? Was it the YA novels you wrote with Debbie Viguiè?

NH: No, I wrote tie-ins before I met Debbie. My first tie-in was a Highlander novel in 1997. Then, I started doing Buffy. I’ve also done Angel, Buffy/Angel crossovers, Wishbone, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Smallville, Saving Grace, Teen Wolf, Firefly, Kolchak, and Beauty and the Beast. I think that’s all of the TV shows. For films, I’ve novelized the new Ghostbusters movie, Crimson Peak, Hell Boy, and Wonder Woman. I’ve also written tie-ins for Zorro and Sherlock Holmes.

NTK: What else are you working on right now? What can we expect to see in the future?

NH: The new Firefly novel I wrote, Firefly: Big Damn Hero, will come out in October, and I’ll continue to work on Mary Shelley Presents. I have some short stories coming out, one of which is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. And, I’ll be working in the booth at Kymera Press at San Diego Comic-Con.

NTK: What advice would you give a writer who may be interested in pursuing a career in comic books or graphic novelization?

NH: Advice: read! (I’m surprised by the number of newer writers who don’t read.) And, try to attend comic book/popular culture conventions, even small ones if you can’t make it to the biggies. The “sequential art” world is pretty small so it’s possible to network. Also, there are a number of great “how to write comics” books out: Scott McCloud is one of the standards, and Dennis O’Neil.

And, if you’re interested in horror, JOIN HWA!!!

NTK: Great recommendations, Nancy! Thank you for chatting with me. Before we part, could you tell the readers where they can get a copy of Mary Shelley Presents?

NH: Thank you so much for having me! The easiest way to buy a copy is to go to the Kymera Press Website. There is a Wide Release Version  and a Limited Edition Version.

This is truly a labor of love for all of us at Kymera.

NTK: And, such vindication for a comic book company created by women.

NH: I love our art team. I’m so blessed.

This interview was  published in the May 2018 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter and is reprinted with Editor Kathy Ptacek’s permission.

Chilling Chat Episode 157 Shannon Lawrence

A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her stories can be found in anthologies and magazines, including Once Upon aShannon Lawrence Scream, Dark Moon Digest, and Space and Time Magazine. Her first solo collection of short stories, Blue Sludge Blues and Other Abominations, was released in March. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there’s always a place to hide a body or birth a monster.

Shannon is an intriguing and talented woman. When I sat down with her, we discussed her work, psychological horror, and the scary stuff which permeates her life.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Shannon. Thank you for chatting with me today.

SL: I’m excited to be here!

NTK: You’ve led quite an adventurous life and several frightening things have happened during it. Could you tell us a little about these events?

SL: The earliest crazy thing that happened was when a serial killer was after my mother. I was in the car, but was only about three at the time, so have no personal memory of it. His M.O. was to run women off the road then grab them when they got out to deal with it. He followed her from work at a movie theater she managed and tried to run her off the road multiple times. Luckily, he ended up following her into a rural area she knew well but he didn’t. She lost him by getting far enough ahead that he lost visibility around the curves. She pulled into a long gravel drive and shut the car off so he wouldn’t see her lights. He drove right past. He was caught not long after when he drove into a ditch not far from the crime scene. He had to call a tow truck.

I’m not sure my life’s terribly adventurous, but weird and scary stuff does follow me around.

NTK: What kind of weird and scary stuff?

SL: I’ve had brushes with kidnapping attempts a couple times. With one, the guy had taken my photo while I was outside playing. He started knocking on doors (we lived in a big apartment complex at the time) with my photo saying he’d lost his daughter and asking if anyone had seen what apartment I went into. He actually knocked on our door. My mom answered, and here’s this guy showing her a picture of me asking if she knew what apartment I might be in.

NTK: That’s really scary.

SL: Another time, a guy tried to get me into his car by asking if I knew how to get out of the neighborhood. I was all of about nine, and already knew there was no way an adult could be confused about it the way it was laid out. When I responded, “The same way you came in,” he lunged for me. I ran into a stranger’s house and screamed, “Mom!” He took off and I never saw him again.

I’ve been chased by a shark (a tiny one) that beached itself coming after me twice, been in a cattle stampede, and was stalked by a guy in a big van for about a year. So on and so forth.

NTK: Do these events shape your writing?

SL: I’m sure in their own way they’ve influenced my propensity toward horror and similar dark tastes. There’s also the fact that I spent my first seven years at movie theaters. My mom took me to work and gave me the run of the place until I started school. And then, I still spent evenings, summer and such, watching movies. Plus, my parents enjoyed horror and my grandma loved it. She took me to horror films frequently. Much to my parents’ chagrin.

NTK: What movies did you watch? Which were your favorites?

SL: I can say the most memorable one she took me to was Cat People. I was all of five. That story stuck with me and may be why I love black leopards so much. Viscerally, I was never able to forget the changes and a scene where someone pulls the flesh off with their teeth. She [Grandma] tried to take me to see Jaws 3D, but I believe my parents put the kibosh on that one.

NTK: Did your parents become more encouraging when you grew older? How do they Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations: A Collection of Horror Short Stories by [Lawrence, Shannon]feel about your writing?

SL: They’ve always been encouraging. It was on their bookshelves that I found Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, and other authors. They always took me to the library so I could get true ghost stories and horror to read and, when I got interested in King’s books in elementary school, they didn’t discourage me. They read everything I put out, and my mom posts after each story she reads. They also got me a Gremlins lunchbox when I was a kid in the 80s and the coloring book, which I still have. (I wish I still had that metal Gremlins lunchbox. It’s probably a collector’s item at this point.) In general, they’ve always enjoyed fiction and movies, and they’ve shared that love with me. And, at no point did they try to discourage me from being a writer “when I grew up.” I’ve had so many writer friends whose families have told them writing isn’t a real job and things of that nature. I never heard those words from my parents and I’m deeply grateful for that. They also accepted my love of all things freaky; they just mitigated it where they could, as any good parent should, until I was mature enough to run with it.

NTK: Who is the better writer? King? Or Koontz?

SL: Oh no! I loved them both fairly equally but I will say that King came out ahead for me. My maiden name started with a “K” and kids at school would call me Shannon King because I always had one of his books with me to read at school. Some of them repeatedly. It’s been a while since I read Koontz but I remember his descriptions. There was always bougainvillea and I had an image of it in my head even though I didn’t know what it actually looked like. But, King’s stories pulled me in and kept me there. His people were always so real to me.

NTK: Did King’s work inspire you to write?

SL: Definitely. Not to say I write like him, but I was definitely inspired by him. I love the way he makes even the most ludicrous thing seem possible.

NTK: Do you have a favorite King novel? What are your favorite horror books?

SL: The Shining is probably my favorite. I’ve used it in horror workshops where I like to ask what the real monster in the story is. It’s about a regular person’s inner demons, really, with the supernatural mixed in. Some of my other favorite horror novels would be The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum (anyone who can still disturb me at this point is going to be top ten,) and The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale. The opening scene in The Bottoms with these kids having to walk a long way in a rural setting with something stalking them is intense and so well done.

NTK: Do you enjoy psychological horror more than other kinds? Do you write psychological horror stories?

SL: I’m an equal opportunity enjoyer of horror but, if forced to pick a favorite, I’d definitely go with psychological. I find humanity far more frightening than any monsters [because of] their capability to do evil, but beyond that, their capability for indifference and for human blunder. Psychological suspense requires from the reader/viewer that they care and that they decipher the nuances of the story to feel the full impact. But, I also like a good old-fashioned squirm-inducing monster movie. My writing is a similar mix of psychological and monster. I think writing a non-monster can be a lot of fun, but the psychological pieces are more emotionally involved and can be harder to write. Not in terms of getting words on paper but harder to sink into that particular story and character.

NTK: What is your favorite monster and why?

SL: I like the Xenomorphs from the Alien series. They’re different and stand out from the others. I don’t feel anyone’s created anything close to them in all these years. Elements of them have been borrowed, but it all started with the Xenomorphs. Plus, they’re cool to look at. I was always a Pennywise fan too. What a disturbing character. He can take on your fears, get to you through the plumbing, and take on many guises.

NTK: Pennywise is awesome. What did you think of the clown appearances in 2016? Do you think it was a publicity stunt? Or something else?

SL: I was amused by most of the clown stories, but I love scary clowns. There were some harassing an apartment complex where they were trying to draw kids into the woods, and those didn’t amuse me. They seemed to be something different from the rest. I’d love to officially know whether it was a publicity stunt or whether a couple people did it, leading to more people saying, “Why not?” I don’t think it was a publicity stunt just something that snowballed. There’s a history of people dressing up as clowns to freak people out. I think I saw articles going back years of an individual standing around somewhere public at night dressed as a clown and those stories went viral. Want to go viral? Stand on a street corner at night in a clown costume and don’t say a bloody word. No one can identify you and articles will be written about you.

NTK: Getting back to entertainment, what TV shows do you enjoy?

SL: There were so many good horror shows in the past, like Tales from the Crypt, The Twilight Zone, etc. I watched all of those in repeat but I remember watching the original V with my dad as well as The X-Files. And, probably a few others that I can’t think of right now. I adore a horror comedy, so a recent favorite would be Z Nation. It’s preposterous and fun. I’ve also been enjoying Black Mirror, and did a panel on that at Denver Comic Con that was shockingly well attended. It’s great fun to get to talk to a captive audience about a show a show you enjoy! Especially in a setting where they can talk back about it so a good conversation happens.

NTK: Have you been on many panels at cons? What’s it like?

SL: I’ve been really lucky to be a regular panelist at Denver Comic Con and Mile Hi Con, which is also here in Colorado. It’s not something I would have thought I’d enjoy and yet I really love it. It’s unpredictable because anybody in that room can ask questions including your fellow panelists but it leads to great conversations and sometimes unexpected introspection. I’m always a little nervous that they’ll ask me something I can’t answer, and there are those questions where I need a moment more to think but get called on first, and then I think of something so much better to say later. But, it’s always still fun. I can go into a panel in a terrible mood and come out of it happy as a lark because of interactions.

NTK: It’s cool you interact with fans. Do you feel it’s important to write to them? Or, like Stephen King, do you tell yourself the story first?

SL: I tell myself the story first. I imagine I could do better if I wrote to the audience, but it stops being fun if I’m forcing myself to write something for other people instead of for me. Once writing stops being fun, it’s no better than the daily slog.

NTK: What’s your favorite question you were asked at a comic con?

SL: Oh, that’s an interesting question. Yet, I’m drawing a blank. One of the DCC panels I was on this last time was Letters Written from Hell: The Horror Writing Process. Someone asked if writers and readers of horror are damaged or demented. The consensus was that we’re not. That we are, in fact, saner than those who don’t partake of dark fiction. Because we get to exorcise our pains and fears on the page whereas others are trying to squash it down and cover it with something else. It’s interesting to hear what people think of the horror authors they read, how disturbed they think they must be to write the things they do, when it turns out most of us are quite emotionally balanced. Of course, it can be tempting to put on the mantle of freakiness, to be the part, but underneath it, not so much.

NTK: Great answer. Shannon, as you know, season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

SL: I like any curse that has someone stuck facing their own dark propensities. The type that punishes someone for their transgressions, giving them no way to explain it away or push it down.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What works can Horror Addicts expect to see?

SL: I’ve got short stories coming out in a few magazines and anthologies. One I’m really excited about is Fright into Flight, edited by Amber Fallon and put out by Word Horde. It’s all female horror authors and there are amazing women in that anthology that I’m incredibly privileged to be included with. I’m also shopping a dark fantasy novel to agents and working on a couple horror novels. And, I’m always writing horror short stories because they’re my first love.

NTK: Wonderful! Shannon, thank you for chatting with me.

SL: Thank you so much! I enjoyed the questions you asked. Thank you for making it interesting.

Addicts, you can follow Shannon here on Facebook and Twitter.

Chilling Chat Episode 156 Christine Verstraete

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete enjoys putting a little “scare” in her writing. She follows the murder trial and offers a twist on the infamous 1892 Borden murders in her book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. She also looks at the murders from the viewpoint of Lizzie’s doctorC.A. Verstraete in her latest, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. Other books include a young adult novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, and books on dollhouse collecting and crafting. Christine’s short stories have appeared in various anthologies including: Descent Into Darkness, Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime, Mystery Weekly, and Timeshares, Steampunk’d, and Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, DAW Books. She is an award-winning journalist published in daily to weekly newspapers, and in various magazines. Her stories have received awards from local and national newspaper associations, and the Dog Writer’s Association of America.

Christine is a smart and accomplished lady. We discussed historical horror, her writing style, and Lizzie Borden.

 

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Christine. Thank you for chatting with me today.

CV: My pleasure and thanks for taking the time to talk.

NTK: You have a background in journalism. How has this influenced your writing?

CV: It makes me more detail-oriented, I think. I’m used to looking things up and doing research.

NTK: Did this help you when writing Lizzie Borden: Zombie Hunter?

CV: I did do a lot of reading and finding research of the period. The real autopsy reports and crime scene photos actually inspired the book idea.

NTK: Wow! The autopsy photos inspired the plot?Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by [Verstraete, C.A.]

CV: If you read the autopsy reports detailing the injuries and look at the photos, it’s plausible (in the horror sense) to think why else were they hit in the head? It was an awful, brutal crime, so I guess this gives a better reason than the standard hate/greed/family dysfunction/dissatisfaction.

NTK: What made you portray Lizzie as a hero?

CV: Using that [zombie] premise, I thought Lizzie had to have a good reason to kill, other than being a monster herself. What if she was trying to protect her town and her sister from this unbelievable evil?

NTK: Were you influenced by some of the historical horror novels like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?

CV: I hadn’t read ALVH until later, but loved it! I really enjoyed the movie.

NTK: You have an interesting take on the case and an interesting “What if?” Stephen King has spoken of how he uses “What if?” when thinking of an idea. Is that how you write? Do you look at a situation and say, “What if this happened?”

CV: I wish I was as prolific-thinking as him! My ideas seem to come out of nowhere, then I stew on them a bit and see what they develop into. I have to get excited about the idea to stick with it.

I guess I’m so structured in news-writing that fiction is looser—in the idea stage, anyway.

NTK: Your style is very crisp and direct. What writers have influenced you?

CV: It’s probably the news background. I know I don’t like reading or writing, long, meandering sentences. I loved reading Royko in The Chicago Tribune. Grew up on King who, of course, can be rather wordy at times. (Laughs) I went through different periods of loving different authors, classic and contemporary—Dean Koontz, Heinlein, loved Saul Bellow too.

NTK: I have to ask. Who do you prefer? King or Koontz?

CV: Probably King, as I’ve probably read more from him. I loved that he did a sequel to The Shining (and it did well.) The recent It movie was fun too.

NTK: Did King get you into horror?

CV: Well, I grew up on Creature Features on TV, the Crypt Keeper, Night Gallery, and reading King. (Laughs) Salem’s Lot is a favorite I still like to reread now and then. I just picked up a copy of Carrie to read again after many, many years.

NTK: Are these your favorite horror novels? What are your favorite Horror TV shows and movies?

CV: The TVs shows, I just mentioned are favorites.

NTK: Do you watch The Walking Dead?

CV: Yes—when I can. It’s addicting! [As to books] I also really liked reading I Am Legend and plan on reading Matheson’s other books. It’s writing that makes you savor the sentences. I love old creepy movies, even the corny ones—and, anything with Vincent Price!

NTK: Vincent Price starred in many historical pieces. Is that what got you interested in that type of horror?

CV: Most likely. He had that mesmerizing voice. I also liked Edgar Allan Poe. I still remember seeing The Tell-Tale Heart at the theater. One scary movie!

The older movies really got me hooked, classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Bride of Frankenstein. And, The Wolfman of course.

I guess after all that; it made sense that I finally turned to writing creepy stuff!

NTK: What’s your favorite Edgar Allan Poe story or poem?

CV: The Tell-Tale Heart. I recently re-read The Black Cat, also very eerie and still packs a punch. Maybe, that’s why I like putting a little twist in stories, like I did in Lizzie Borden: Zombie Hunter and, the sequel, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall.Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall by [Verstraete, C.A.]

NTK: You write creepy things. Do you also create creepy things? You make miniatures. Have you ever built a haunted dollhouse?

CV: (Laughs) Yes, I’m that twisted. I do enjoy creating Halloween miniatures. I had fun doing my first Halloween dollhouse and thinking how creepy I could get. Far as I know, nothing has moved of its own accord in there…yet. I am planning another haunted house but less gory this time.

NTK: Cool! You spoke of Lizzie Borden and the sequel. Do you have other work concerning Lizzie and her time period?

CV: There’s also a companion novella, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, told from the viewpoint of Lizzie’s doctor and neighbor. He was the first official on the murder scene, and I wondered how could that, and the city’s bloody past, have affected him? It’s kind of a ghostly love story as well. I wanted to try something different and had fun writing it.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? Do you have plans for new work?

CV: Oh, the mind never rests, you know. (Laughs) I have a longer short story that I may re-edit and put out again. I was toying with some ideas for book 3 for Lizzie. I love writing about the characters.

The first book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, follows the trial and real-life events with the addition of zombies, of course. I had to follow more fictional events in the sequel to continue the story, but I liked coming up with a new weird angle to the story.

A big thrill was [when] the newspaper in Lizzie’s hometown did a story on the book when it first came out. That was fun.

NTK: Do you think the Lizzie in your universe is cursed?

CV: She’s fighting evil and learning that her father may have been part of that evil…you can’t get more cursed than that. That could be why she feels obligated to do what she can, even when everyone blames her for the horrors. Much like in real life, she was acquitted but still treated as a pariah and considered guilty.

NTK: As you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

CV: I do love the old gypsy curse in the classic Wolfman movie…Larry Talbot’s a monster, but you can’t help but feel his pain and feel sorry for him until the curse is broken…

NTK: That’s a terrific curse. Thank you, Christine. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you.

CV: I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you.

Addicts, you can follow Christine on Twitter at @caverstraete