Chilling Chat Episode 162 Mary Turzillo

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Mary Turzillo’s latest novel is Mars Girls, Apex 2017.  Her Nebula-winner, “Mars Is no Place for Children” and her Analog novel, An Old-Fashioned Martian Girl, are read on themary International Space Station. Her poem, Lovers & Killers, won the 2013 Elgin Award. She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction, Stoker, Dwarf Stars, Nebula, and Rhysling ballots. Sweet Poison, with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award. Satan’s Sweethearts, also with Simon, came out in 2016.  She lives in Ohio USA, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis. She represented the US in the World Veterans Cup in foil fencing in 2016.

Mary is a brilliant and witty woman. We spoke of history, writing, and the nature of evil.

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

MT: I am so flattered to be asked!

NTK: You are, primarily, a Science Fiction author. How did you get involved in writing Satan’s Sweethearts?

MT: That’s really two questions. I’m a science fiction writer who has these little dark twinges in my fiction. I just can’t help it. A guy is stuck in a prison on Mars, trying to stop a biological catastrophe, and suddenly he’s being chased by an eight-foot-tall sex doll. Somehow that just popped into the story. I think I’m a natural horror writer who has a science-fiction worldview. As to how I got into writing Satan’s Sweethearts, Marge Simon and I know each other from still another world: she was a high muckety-muck in the small press world. And of course a genius poet besides the horror work. So, I knew her name and was delighted to actually meet her. We clicked right away and started writing poems back and forth to one another. At first it was humor stuff, like her poem about a gay dragon who prefers knights to maidens. Then we wrote some poems about evil cats. Eventually, Marge and I decided on doing more serious work and we did Sweet Poison together. That evolved into explorations of women murderers and torturers and other offenders. Marge has one poem that is so dark I shudder every time I even think about it, about a slave-holder, obviously a psychopath, who used her helpless slaves as targets for horrendous experiments and disembowelings. We felt the world needed to know that women are not all angels, that in addition to “Me, too” there were also men and women who were abused and murdered by powerful or insane women. (“Delphine LeLaurie’s Upstairs Room” is the poem I’m thinking of, by the way.)

NTK: So, you’re a horror writer at heart? What got you interested in horror?

MT: I suppose early reading: Poe, History of World War II, The Conquest of Mexico.

And, my mother had a very dark imagination.

NTK: Was she your first influence?

MT: Well, she did buy that complete collection of Poe stories and poems for me, so, yes, definitely an early influence.

NTK: How did you like collaborating with Marge on Satan’s Sweethearts?

MT: It was fun, and it was scary. Marge is a genius. I asked her once how many poems she had published, and she said she had completely lost track, that’s how many there were. Marge has a dark sense of humor, and we would get into it about some of the evil babes we were writing about. Sometimes both of us felt the poems were giving us nightmares. But it was all about truth, about the true nature of human beings, and we had to persevere. We developed a close friendship through this project. Very much in tune with each other’s fears and hopes and sense of humor.

NTK: Do you think humans are more frightening than any supernatural entity? Do you tend to write about the darkness in the human soul?

MT: Hmmmm. “More frightening than any supernatural entity.” What a question! I think most, if not all, of the supernatural entities in horror fiction, poetry, and cinema are extrapolations of stuff that human beings have inside their imaginations. Two things that astonish me: 1) how could a Jeffrey Dahmer walk among us? For that matter, how could a Delphine Lalaurie have lived a civilized life with nobody suspecting her evil actions? 2) How do we, ourselves, and I mean myself, come up with these horrific ideas—and yet be noble enough not to act on them? Women are seen as being lesser offenders, but I think it’s not because they are more civilized, but because they are more skilled at hiding their evil. Take the “baby farmers” that Marge and I wrote about (Amelia Dyer, for one). They took on infants pretending to do day-care for working mothers, and then summarily killed the babies, and sometimes with great pleasure, as with Dyer’s enjoyment watching children die as she slowly strangled them with tape. Yes, I know, we have the Golden State Killer, but actually his tally is LESS than Amelia Dyer’s. I think we tend to think about her murders as “oh, well, the mothers were just low-class working girls, maybe even prostitutes.” Hello? These baby farmers (and Amelia was only one) were SERIAL KILLERS with kill-scores of the magnitude of Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. Babies are totally helpless. Bundy’s and Gacy’s victims fought back.

NTK: Do you think it’s easier for these women to get away with crimes because of their social status? Or because no one believes a woman would do such things?

Satan's SweetheartsMT: Oh, Marge and I talked and talked about that. Some women got away with it because of social status—Delphine is one example. Some got away with it because they had political or gang-related power. Bloody Mary and Queen Ranavalona were the supreme authority in their countries. I don’t know how Ranavalona is regarded by historians, but she was basically a serial killer supported by her country’s laws. Then take one “heroine” that many people think is wonderful because she was a female ruler in a time when women did not become Empresses: Wu Zetian. She killed her own baby in order to keep her position. Good lord. Another favorite example of mine is Ching Shih, the female pirate. The poem is called “The Sister.” Oh, and it’s really noble to be a pirate? She nailed men’s feet to the deck for fornication. She tied cannon balls to the legs of women who “strayed,” despite the fact that she had started life as a prostitute.

Shall I continue with examples of “how they got away with it”? For one, they preyed on children, as with Enriqueta Marti (“Mother Marti”) whose deaths often weren’t investigated.

We tried to find women who hadn’t been as much in the news, and we also tried to give a fresh perspective on their activities. We found that sometimes actions that would have been considered evil if done by a man were “heroic” if by a woman.

NTK: They preyed on the helpless. That’s really frightening. Who do you think the worst villainess is in Satan’s Sweethearts?

MT: The worst villainess? Oh man! Aileen Wuornos was a baddy, but I think she was of diminished intelligence. Of course Delphine was one of the most horrific. I guess I might settle on Ilse Koch, the “Red Witch of Buchenwald.” She was the one who wanted the skins of victims so she could make pretty lampshades out of them. Heaven help us. The Jewish religion frowns on tattoos, so maybe some Jewish people were spared that final indignity (although they probably still died).

NTK: Going back to your writing, where do you get your ideas? Do they come from dreams? Or is the door to your unconscious mind cracked open allowing the darkness to slip in?

MT: I don’t know so much about how Marge gets her ideas, but mine come from reading. I should mention that my sister, Jane Turzillo, is an author of historical non-fiction and several of her books focus on women offenders: Wicked Women of Ohio from the History Press.

NTK: When you write a character, how much control do you exert over said character? Do they have free will?

MT: Do [my] characters have free will? I know there are brain malfunctions that cause people to do awful things. Mary Ann Cotton, who poisoned twelve of her babies, might have pleaded post-partum depression. But no. I think we have free will. We think horrible things. We don’t have to act on them.

NTK: Is Poe your favorite author? Who is your favorite horror author?

MT: Stephen King and, a close rival, Joe Hill. They not only terrify, they also have an underlying message about the nobility of the human soul. I think that’s necessary to horror. Aristotle said “pity and terror.” Without the pity (and maybe hope), horror is just a road to depression, insanity, suicide. I like Peter Straub for the same reason.

NTK: Do you have any favorite horror television shows? Any favorite horror movies?

MT: Movie: an old favorite of mine is SCANNERS, with (spoiler alert) the exploding head scene. Some Dr. Who episodes are horrific enough. TV? Not sure. In the old days (three years ago, maybe?) the really scary stuff wasn’t so much an element. I haven’t kept up with TV enough to know what’s good now. I love Game of Thrones, but that’s not really horror. Oh, I guess it has some horror elements, the Wildings, the decapitations etc., but it’s really SF/fantasy, with the emphasis on fantasy. And lots of sex.

NTK: Mary, why do you think humans create monsters in literature? Why do you think Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde exist?

MT: Naching, no matter what age we live in, the Middle Ages, prehistory, the Holocaust, the present day, the world is scary. Your best friend can die at any time. You get in a car bonsai babies screen.jpgand you could be dead 50 minutes later. You see a pink ribbon and immediately worry about that last mammogram. Our parents died. Hell, my son died! Nothing can protect us from war, disease, accidents, serial killers, drive-by shootings, poisoned lettuce (seriously, who saw THAT coming?). So we need to make sense of the world. In horror fiction, bad things have causes. So we think, Oh, he died because a malignant alien lived in his microwave (By the way, a Nebula winner had this premise). “But I don’t have a microwave, so I’m safe.” Or we think, “We all die, but there is reincarnation, or heaven, or at least a meaning to our life, or even just a cessation of pain.” It’s the human condition. Aristotle said tragedy provided catharsis. (And Greek tragedy was pretty horrific, what with eye-gouging, father killing, hunting for the body of your fiancé in a dung heap.) We need to make sense of the fear and the horror and pain. If nothing else we know that others have suffered and either survived or left a legacy.

NTK: Mary, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

MT: I’m working on something a little sunnier right now. This girl is a high school fencing competitor, but every time she does a flying attack called a fleche, she time travels to one of Jupiter’s moons—five billion years in the future. One of the leading characters is a giant cat who becomes her mentor. No horror in it. Or at least, not much. Knowing me, the horror will suddenly pop up.

NTK: Awesome! And, speaking of fencing? You compete, don’t you? Could you tell the Addicts about that?

MT: It was sort of a reaction to my son’s death. He was very interested in swords and sword fighting. I’ve always wanted to fence, so I took it up. I get my nasty urges out in it. It’s very aggressive. You stab people. Oh, they’re wearing protective gear, but still! You STAB people. Talk about the evil in people’s souls. By the way, I was at one time the 6th best foil fencer in my age category in the US. (Now, I’ve dropped down to number 11.) I also represented the US in fencing in my category in a World Cup in Germany two years ago. My husband fences, too. I get to stab him sometimes. And vice versa.

NTK: Your husband is a writer too. Does he enjoy your darker works?

MT: I hope so. He has to live with me, no matter what he really thinks. I so far haven’t written anything that actually scares him. I’m still trying.

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

MT: Let me think…hmmmm. Sometimes, I tell telephone solicitors that I’m a voudou adept and that parts of their bodies will fall off with every minute they stay on the phone with me. Who knows? Maybe it actually works. My favorite verbal curse is “Shitfire!” Got that from my sister.

NTK: (Laughs.) Those are great curses. Thank you so much for chatting with me, Mary. It’s been an honor and a pleasure.

MT: The honor and pleasure are all mine! Thank you SO MUCH!

Addicts, you can find Mary’s work on Amazon.

Satan’s Sweethearts took second place in the Full-Length Book Category of the Elgin Awards on September 21, 2018.

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Book Review: Lost Highways edited by D. Alexander Ward

Roads are, by design, a space in between — between cities, between the looming wilds on either side of the pavement, or between two versions of oneself. They exist in a perpetual state of flux. Millions of people pass along highways, driving through towns and lives they will never know and through stories stranger than they can imagine.

Lost Highways is an anthology of short stories and artwork edited by D. Alexander Ward and presents 20 stories that you’ll never see from the safety of the passenger seat.

The stories are equal parts entertaining and enlightening. No two ever present the same theme, stretching the anthology’s premise of roads and highways to the limits of connectivity. Each author interpreted the theme in a novel and inspiring way.

Lost Highways was gripping throughout. It presents a wide array of styles within the horror genre: philosophical musings, psychological terror, gruesome violence, and tingling suspense. At no point did I consider a story to be predictable.

Though the anthology is superb from start to finish, several stories stood out to me while reading. “A Life that is not Mine” by Kristi Demeester presented a bleak look at life where the road is both a prison and an escape. Demeester’s writing was haunting and the prose almost lyrical. “The Heart Stops at the end of Laurel Lane” by Jess Landry (an alumni of the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest!) straddled the line between harrowing and heart wrenching and left me reeling through each new revelation. “Outrunning the End” by Cullen Bunn was a trippy experiment in fiction that blurred the lines of reality on the page. These are my favorites, but each story is excellent in its own way and all the contributors should be commended for their work.

Overall, Lost Highways is an expertly curated collection of the best that horror has to offer. I highly recommend taking a look. If you’re especially brave, you might consider making it your companion on a long road trip.

Chilling Chat Episode 162 Marge Simon

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Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on Board of Trustees.  She is the second womanmarge 2016 bw to be acknowledged by the SF &F Association with a Grand Master Award. She has won the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, Elgin, Dwarf Stars and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Urban Fantasist, Daily Science Fiction, You, Human; Chiral Mad 2 and 3; and Scary Out There, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

Marge is a talented woman with a great sense of humor. We spoke of collaborations, war, and evil women. 

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Marge. It’s an honor to speak with you.

MS: Thanks for doing this, Naching!

NTK: You’re welcome. Let’s begin with WAR: Dark Poems, your new collaboration with Alessandro Manzetti. Tell us a little about the book.

MS: The collaborative experience has been incredible in many ways. Alessandro invited me a couple of years ago now, at the Stokercon in Vegas. He and his lovely wife, Sanda, took me to lunch (and Paolo de Oriezo was also there.) Sanda gave me a t-shirt that said “I heart Roma” (that’s where they were living before they moved to Trieste)—what lovely folks! And, as I sipped my Chardonnay, he asked me if I’d like to collaborate on a collection. I said, “Oh, yes! And, what is the topic?” “War,” he replied. I was instantly amazed and excited and of course I said, “YES!” War is one of my topics for poems of all sorts. It’s true.

It was a totally new experience to collaborate with a man who has such a fine grasp of history—he had me researching all of our collaborative work just so I could get a grasp of what his poem stanzas were about. I learned so much (and here at my age, you would think I’d know it all—NOT!)

NTK: What’s it like to collaborate on a poetry book? Did you write poems together? Or, did you each contribute your own work?

MS: Poems together? I guess you think Marge writes one line or stanza and then Alessandro writes another until it’s done? No, not like that. Alessandro would start the collaborations—which was fine with me! He’d send me maybe five-seven stanzas and that was the base for me to go with. So, I’d write more when I had the right response in mind (“response” meaning continuation.) Sometimes, we’d move stanzas around so they worked better.

Alessandro kind of mapped out the book’s progress as we went along. Individual poems and collaborative poems—he is a maestro at such details.

NTK: That’s awesome! You drew inspiration from each other. And, the poems mesh together so well. Did you have any individual contributions you’d like to expound on?

WAR: Dark Poems by [Manzetti, Alessandro, Simon, Marge]MS: I do. The Mandingo Wars [for one.] I was going for finding wars around the world in history and was thinking, Roots and Kunte Kinte (being Mandingo) and all about the Mandingo Wars against the French, led by Samory Toure. [I ]also (being of Scottish descent) had to include the Battle of Culloden which is so well reenacted in Outlander. Found a song about it, quoted that at the start of the poem. AND, another particularly sad war which ended with the Trail of Tears and the horrors of the once proud Cheyenne Nation being moved thousands of miles on foot from their reservation and homeland. I felt very strongly about these events. Then, too, I had to address the unconscionable deeds of Dr. Mengele in “Chocolates for Twins.” No magazine would take it for publication. But, these horrors DID happen.

NTK: These horrors should be remembered and these subjects should be published! Do you think society is too sensitive when it comes to historical horror?

MS: Good question. Some PC factions don’t even want to admit or know about history’s worst realities because they involve “trigger words” or “child abuse” or POC abuse. Hey, it happened and we should face that, swallow it, and think (in my opinion.)

Niemoller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Socialist. Then, they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

There is a quote inscribed on the front of the Colorado University library “The Roots of the Future lie deep in the past.” That is my “go-to” for so many points.

NTK: WAR does make people think and it does and it does approach some difficult subjects. Vietnam is a forgotten war these days and the poem, “Little Miss Saigon,” really captures the flavor of that time. How did that particular poem come about?”

MS: Alessandro began “Little Miss Saigon,” and of course I had to go find out more about what was going on there. Then, I found out about the razor blades that the young street girls somehow ingeniously inserted in their vaginas as a way of revenge. For, indeed, you can imagine the life they had to look forward to as fodder for the occupying Yank soldiers.

And, that’s the part I contributed. I still wonder how I did it. But it was “there” waiting to be written.

NTK: It is a powerful poem. What inspires you, Marge?  And, what poets have influenced you?

MS: Oh, let’s see. WHAT inspires me? Do I have to pick? I have many contacts, many friends, read a lot of books, am on Goodreads, am with Ladies of Horror where Nina D’Arcangela gives us visual prompts and we can write poems or flash fictions—then they appear for others to see after the deadline.

Poets? A long list of past and present poets. I always say that once I read Stephen Crane’s poem in 12th grade on the chalkboard of my advanced English class, I knew the world made sense. It was like finding out I wasn’t alone.

NTK: Are you primarily a visual person? Is it easier to find inspiration in a painting or a song?

MS: Inspirations are when and where they occur. I don’t go looking for them. They happen, is all!

NTK: Do you think poets have a different perception of things as compared to the rest of the world?

MS: I think each poet, if true to themselves, has their own views and voice. But, the best express it in a way that has substance and resonates to others (not to all, you can’t reach everyone.) My husband, Bruce Boston, usually uses that as a standard—has substance, resonates. I love that. It fits well.

NTK: It does. Going back to collaborations, you’ve also written a book called, Satan’s Sweethearts with Mary Turzillo. How did you like working with Mary?

MS: Mary Turzillo and I have collaborated joyfully on numerous collections (some about cats and dragons, Dragon’s Dictionary, and Dragon Soup. We also wrote Sweet Poison together, which garnered an Elgin Award from the SF & F Poetry Association.) BUT, Satan’s Sweethearts is not fun or funny in any respect. Mary is a horrible person to collaborate with. We are not on speaking terms except all the time. I can’t wait to see her again, for a fact.

Satan's SweetheartsNTK: (Laughs.) Did you write Satan’s Sweetheart’s in a similar manner to WAR? Or was it a different process?

MS: Different entirely. We picked various very nasty, most wicked women in history and wrote independently about what we chose. But, some we did collaborate on. One being Ma Barker (who was really an angel compared to others.)

NTK: What poem are you most proud of in Satan’s Sweethearts?

MS: I’m most proud of two. “Aileen” (about Florida’s own serial killer who became the first woman to be put to death in the electric chair) and “Delphine La Lourie’s Upstairs Room” and you can’t imagine what she did to her slaves. Look her up if you want to know.

NTK: Of all the people you’ve collaborated with, is Bruce Boston your favorite?

MS: Actually, Bruce is daunting, very daunting. Our collaborations are exciting and rewarding for sure, and I must do my penultimate best—or try, anyway! It’s a challenge but that’s what life is. The best of it is to challenge yourself to exceed expectations.

Also, I don’t like to and won’t name favorites to collaborate with. I welcome challenges.

NTK: Do you have any advice to share with up and coming poets?

MS: Read. Read authors old and not that old. Read poets whose work speaks to you and think about the how and why. Don’t imitate. Incorporate. And, please—personal angst poems are fine for what they are for. They get you through the lusts and loves of yore but, you’re not the only one! Read Sara Backer, read Bruce Boston, read (I could go on and on.) But, wait! Join the SFPA (Science Fiction Poetry Association), and then READ!! You will find horror as well as dark and light fantasy, and speculative from some of the best in the field. It’s a community of poets and readers of poetry who are all grown up now. So join and learn!

And the SFPA, like the HWA, is an international association!

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

MS: I’m sorry, but I’m not into curses very much at all, really.

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

MS: The future? You hold my future in your hands, Naching. Be kind. I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. Some irons in the fires, if that’s what you mean. And, I hope to meet lots of you readers next year at Stokercon in Grand Rapids!

NTK: I see a long and glorious future ahead, Marge. Thank you again for taking the time to chat. It’s much appreciated.

MS: Loved your questions and thanks for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Marge on Goodreads and Amazon.

Satan’s Sweethearts took second place in the Full-Length Book Category of the Elgin Awards on September 21, 2018.

Parts of this interview were published in the July 2018 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter and are reprinted with Editor Kathy Ptacek’s permission.

Chilling Chat Episode 161 H.R. Boldwood

H.R. Boldwood is a writer of horror and speculative fiction. In another incarnation, Boldwood is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was awarded the 2009 Bilbo Award for creativeHR Boldwood PIC writing. Publication credits include: Killing it Softly (Digital Fiction Publications); Short Story America Volume I (Short Story America Press); Bête Noire (Charm Noir Omnimedia); Everyday Fiction (Everyday Fiction); Toys in the Attic (James Ward Kirk Publications); Floppy Shoes Apocalypse II (Nocturnicorn Books); Pilcrow and Dagger (Pilcrow and Dagger Press); Quickfic (Digital Fiction Publications); Sirens Call (Sirens Call Publications.)

Boldwood’s characters are often disreputable and not to be trusted, so they are kicked to the curb at every conceivable opportunity. No responsibility is taken by this author for the dastardly and sometimes criminal acts committed by this ragtag group of miscreants. 

H.R. Boldwood is a generous and funny woman. We spoke of her villains, writing, and evil clowns in space.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, H.R.! Thank you for chatting with me today.

H.R.: You’re welcome, Naching. It’s always nice chatting with you. Thanks for having me.

NTK: What got you interested in horror? Did it begin in childhood?

H.R.: I wrote my first horror story in the 7th grade as a homework assignment. The title was, “The Reincarnation of Sir Thomas Moore.” My teacher loved it and sent it to his old college professor.

NTK: Awesome! What did the professor think? Did this event start your writing career?

H.R.: The professor was very impressed and even though I was still in grade school, he had Northwestern University send me a card asking me to consider attending Northwestern when the time came. But, when the time came, I didn’t want to go to college. Silly girl. I finally went to college when I was in my forties. I got married and raised my children and started writing again about 10 years ago. I’ve always gravitated toward horror because it’s just too fun to write.

NTK: What writers influenced you?

H.R.: I love Poe. Just adore him. And, King and Koontz. I sometimes write in an archaic Victorian voice. In the right story, that voice can produce a massive creep factor. Now, I love Josh Malerman. His prose is out of this world awesome.

NTK: Which do you prefer? King or Koontz?

H.R.: Tough one. I love them both for different reasons. King is a masterful storyteller and Koontz’s prose is almost lyrical. I guess King, but it’s really too close to call. My favorite King novel is The Shining.

NTK: I interviewed Josh Malerman recently, and he spoke of an “invisible Wendigo drummer,” which got him into the rhythm of writing. Does the archaic Victorian voice work in that way? Or, is it your muse?

H.R.: No, it isn’t my muse. But, the cadence of the language and the crisp, articulate tone produce some of my best prose. It’s as if I’m speaking.

NTK: You’ve spoken of your characters as, “dastardly.” Could you elaborate on that? Who, of your creations, are your favorite villains?

Corpse Whisperer 2H.R.: Oh, my! My favorite villain is Mister Weasels, the killer clown. He’s featured in several of my short stories about The Barlowe Brother’s Carnival. In fact, I have a new story titled, “Mister Weasels and the Cosmic Carnival,” scheduled to appear in Kevin J. Kennedy’s Carnival of Horror anthology, due out around Halloween!

NTK: That’s terrific!

H.R.: Killer clowns in space!

NTK: (Laughs.) Congratulations! You seem to have quite a few stories set at carnivals. (“Madame Zelda,” for example.) What do you think makes carnivals frightening? Do you have a personal experience with them?

H.R.: I went to a sideshow carnival as a teen and it freaked me out a bit. The Barlowe Brother’s Carnival is eternal. There are many secrets inside the big top! Killer Klowns forever!

NTK: (Laughs.) You must enjoy horror/comedy. Is Killer Klowns from Outer Space your favorite movie? What are your favorite horror movies and television shows?

H.R.: Not my favorite but fun to watch. The Exorcist is my all-time favorite. I liked Midnight Texas, a couple of the American Horror Story seasons. As a kid, I loved the old classics, The House on Haunted Hill, and The Screaming Skull. They scared the bejebes out of me!

NTK: The classics are great. You mentioned The Shining earlier. What did you think of the movie?

H.R.: Not my favorite. They made the hotel too modern and took out the animated hedge animals. And, Shelley Duvall was too much of a victim.

I like Jack Nicholson but, like Stephen King said, the story was supposed to be about his descent into madness. In the movie, Jack was pretty much crazy from the start.

NTK: He’s a real villain, though. Who do you think is more important to the story? The hero? Or the villain?

H.R.: I think the villain. The right villain makes the hero great. Without a wonderful villain, who cares about the hero?

NTK: What makes a great villain?

H.R.: Complexity, dark humor, and spot-on dialog. Sometimes, it’s not about seeing the monster. Sometimes, it’s about seeing just enough to know you don’t want to see it. Like the creature in Alien. The creature was a mother, protecting its brood. Complex. People are not Flat Stanleys, they have complex natures, so our villains should too.

NTK: Do your creations have free will? Or, do you control them and their actions?

H.R.: The stories often write themselves so those miscreant characters of mine are always getting me into trouble. I always say, don’t blame me for what my characters do.Killing It Softly: A Digital Horror Fiction Anthology of Short Stories (The Best by Women in Horror Book 1) by [Cunningham,Elaine, Fiction, Digital, Holder,Nancy, Sydney,M.J., Rose,Rie Sheridan, Boudreau,Chantal, Blackthorn,Rose, McBride,Tracie, Gill,Carole, Rath, Tina , Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert]

NTK: If a movie was made about Mr. Weasels, who would play him?

H.R.: Well now…maybe the guy who played Boyd Crowder on Justified, Walton Goggins. He’s creepy looking with a too-big smile. Or…James Purefoy, the actor who played Joe Carroll on The Following. He’s the very essence of evil.

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

H.R.: Historically, any mummy related curse is always awesome. Voodoo curses are another favorite.

NTK: H.R., What does the future hold for you? What books or stories are in store for Horror Addicts?

H.R.: Well now, I’ve been a busy beaver. I will have a story titled, “The Haunting of Bellehaven,” in Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror. It’s an anthology that benefits the American Cancer Society and it’s coming out within the next several months. My story, “The Birthright,” will appear in Greek Myth Anthology published by Fantasia Divinity this fall. My story, “Lambent Lights,” a Victorian voiced piece will appear in an anthology titled, The Book of the Dead, published by Black Hart Publishing in Scotland. It comes out September 5th. Oh, and my stories, “Don’t Fuck with Mister Weasels,” and “Mutants,” will appear in an upcoming edition of Gruesome Grotesques. I’ve also got a couple of stories out there in pending land that may find a home.

And, finally, I’ve signed with Third Street Press to publish The Corpse Whisperer series, an adult urban fantasy series featuring my character, Allie Nighthawk.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, H.R. You’re a terrific guest.

H.R.: You are so welcome! It’s a blast to talk about writing with other horror lovers. Thank you for having me and I hope everyone enjoys the podcast.

Addicts, you can follow H.R. on Twitter  and Amazon.

 

Odds and DEAD Ends: Claustrophobic Killing

The Horror Legacy of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’

Agatha Christie probably isn’t a name you’d associate with horror. She was a crime author; the writer you snuggled up in the armchair with on a rainy afternoon for a good thriller with twists and turns. For the first two decades of her career, the famous detective with the little grey cells, Hercule Poirot, was her livelihood. And yet, in 1939, she unleashes And Then There Were None. This single novel redefined strategic, rhythmic, multiple murders in fiction and would come to change horror itself.

On the documentary The Thing: Terror Takes Shape, John Carpenter cites Christie’s novel as an influence on his adaptation of Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?. In the novella, dozens of scientists find an alien imitator in their midst which is ultimately defeated with only a few deaths. Carpenter’s The Thing is much bleaker, with just sixteen men left to fight and kill, and ultimately are left with two survivors and an uncertain future, desolate and alone.

Strangely, though a larger crowd might sound initially scarier, as they could be so many people, it is when there are fewer characters that the tension mounts. The walls have closed in. There aren’t seven rooms that a killer could be in; there’s only one. And, standing in the right place, you can be sure to see them. Carpenter reduces a few dozen characters to his sixteen, and Dame Christie had already done it with just ten.

Everything about the novel has the purpose of constricting the ten, subjecting them to as much pressure as possible, crushing them. The house is cut off from the rest of the world and those on the mainland have been told not to rescue them. We’re confined to the hallways of Soldier Island’s house, chasing shadows.

Added to this the dripping theme of guilt that Christie presents us with, permeating every sentence, every word of the novel, and we see that she is pressurizing the characters emotionally. The past catching up with them; they can’t escape the killer or their conscience.

But I’m not here to discuss the novel as a whole. What I want to bring to your attention is the legacy of its setup. Just look to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Though light-hearted, there are two episodes of the first series in which the S.O.S brigade are trapped on an island with a single house, in a storm, when a murder takes place. Suddenly everyone begins casting suspicions, doors are kept locked, shadows are seen outside. Though there is only a single murder, as opposed to the many in Christie’s novel, the setup is so similar it borders on parody.

To go even further, die-hard fans of horror-thrillers will remember the series Umineko no naku koro ni, or When The Seagulls Cry. Twenty people on an island in a storm being killed off systematically to appease an old legend. This direct homage is done not just because it’s a nice reference, but because the formula is so easy, simple, and effective. No communication to the outside world, trapped in one place, being killed off by a psychopath in the midst.

This claustrophobic killing rhythm has been replicated so many times now that it’s hard to think that it had an origin of some kind. And there were stories that used aspects of it before And Then There Were None, but none of them had the same impact.

Could you conceive of the modern slasher flick without some of the points mentioned? Could you imagine Alien if it was in a city with a nuke nearby? If the bridge in The Evil Dead were intact? Perhaps Saw II would be better if only two people died in that house? Maybe if the police didn’t keep them caged in the apartment, REC would have been vastly improved?

If you want maximum terror, you keep people confined. This isn’t just a claustrophobia thing; it’s the idea of escape. Freedom. You find what a character wants, and then take it away from them; it’s storytelling 101. In Scream, Sidney says that horror movies are just girls that ‘run up the stairs when they should be running out the front door, it’s insulting.’ But when the front door opens up to a cliff-face or the vacuum of space, there’s no option. We’re trapped. We are creatures constantly in need of control, and when we don’t have control of escape possibilities, we panic. We get scared.

Christie got the formula and nailed it. It hasn’t been beaten since. It’s the reason why The Mousetrap is the longest continuously-showing production of all time. It’s why Waters of Mars was one of the most terrifying episodes of Doctor Who in recent memory. It’s because it taps into our basic instincts and then removes them. We can’t fight and we can’t run. We can only try to survive and hope and pray. And anyway, as Leslie Vernon says, letting people escape ‘is really embarrassing.’ These killers aren’t going to let us off the island.

And Then There Were None is the perfect slasher prototype and should be revered and remembered as such. Agatha Christie wrote the essential horror blueprint. Fact.

 

Article by Kieran Judge

 

Bibliography

Alien. 1979. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott. United States of America: Brandywine Productions.

Behind the mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon. 2006. [Film] Directed by Scott Glosserman. USA: Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Campbell, J. W., 2011. Who Goes There?. 1st ed. London: Gollancz.

Christie, A., 1952 – present. The Mousetrap. London: St. Martin’s Theatre.

Christie, A., 2015. And Then There Were None. London: HarperCollins.

Doctor Who – Waters Of Mars. 2009. [Film] Directed by Graeme Harper. United Kingdom: BBC.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

REC. 2007. [Film] Directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza. Spain: Filmax International.

Saw II. 2005. [Film] Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Evil Dead. 1981. [Film] Directed by Sam Raimi. USA: Renaissance Pictures.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. 2006. [Film] Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

The Thing: Terror Takes Shape. 1998. [Film] Directed by Michael Mattesino. United States Of America: Universal.

Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. 2009. [Film] Directed by Chiaki Kon. Japan: Studio Deen.

 

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.

Book Review: The Dark is Full of Monsters by Edward P. Cardillo

Review – The Dark is Full of Monsters by Edward P. Cardillo

By Chantal Boudreau

I love horror with monsters, supernatural…mutant…human monsters–it doesn’t matter–so I dove into this book really hoping I would enjoy it.  The premise did intrigue me–a ragtag group of inhabitants from a sleepy little town venture into the woods seeking a local urban legend cryptoid monster after a series of strange occurrences including a close encounter with the monster and the kidnapping of a neighborhood boy.  It had the makings of a good story.

Unfortunately, while it had a lot to offer, it didn’t quite hit the mark with me, but it might work for other readers out there.  I found character intro and development a little thin and that’s the most important aspect for me in a book.  The writing style was at times repetitive (for example far too many of the paragraphs began with a character name or pronoun–I was yearning for a few transitional words) and lacking in focus.

It did have its strong points too, though.  The monster was sufficiently novel and gruesome, offering up some chills.  The dialogue was entertaining and quite funny in places (I had to laugh at things like the word “citiots”).  I also think it had a good feel for its setting.  I suspect the author based it on somewhere familiar and captured that concretely in the story.  It reminded me a little of the place where I grew up.  If these are things that appeal to you as a reader, this book might just be for you.

While I think the book had an interesting concept and some good scares, it fell a tad short, so this one rated a three out of five for me.