Chilling Chat: Episode #181 – Rob Bliss

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Rob Bliss was born in Canada in 1969.  He has lived a horrific comedy of a life. 
He watched half of his family die before he reached the age of twenty, with the other half RB Photoabsent.  He is very familiar with coffins and graves, funerals and unholy weddings.  He has held dozens of mindless jobs  He has an honours degree in English and Writing from York University, Canada.  He has 100 stories published in various web-based magazines, plus three anthologies.  He has had three novels published by Necro Publications.
 

Rob is a fascinating writer with a wry sense of humor. We discussed writing, movies, and fear. 

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

RB: Maybe 8 or 10. It was a hellish nightmare that got me living in constant fear. One movie: The Amityville Horror. I saw it with my family as we enjoyed a lovely summer weekend at another family’s cottage. At a drive-in, no less. Big screen to see the walls bleed and flies swarm the window. (I had a bedroom window EXACTLY like that one, complete with many dead flies.) Since it was two families in one cottage, some of us had to sleep out on the enclosed porch. Meaning, me. It had screens for windows. The midnight wind blew the shadows of tree branches against the screens. I stared in horror at those moving shadows for most of a sleepless night, replaying the movie over and over again. When we got home, I vowed to never go into the basement (we lived in a farmhouse, and the basement was old foundation stone, always damp and cold, with tiny doors that led deeper into the basement maze. Rooms within rooms. I was sure the portal to Hell was down there!) And because of seeing that movie in that town while trying to sleep on that porch, I had nightmares for years afterwards. Literally, years. I hated horror movies but couldn’t look away. When my family and my uncle and aunt and cousins watched Friday the 13th Part 2, I stayed in the kitchen, able to hear but not see the movie. Though I did peek my head in once towards the end … to see Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head on an altar! I think I write horror novels for the same reason kids go out dressed up on Halloween: to scare away the demons that scare them. (I have to go curl up in a fetal position and shiver for a while, excuse me, I’ll get back to the rest of the interview later.) 

NTK: What’s your favorite horror movie?

RB: Phantasm.  Along with The Amityville Horror, I saw Phantasm when I was too young to see any horror movie. (When I turned 30, I was much better.) That flying steel ball that drills into people’s heads and makes a tube of blood shoot out – yeah, I liked that! Scared the heck outa me! And those little druid guys! What was up with them? Anything that was even remotely designed to scare, scared me. I was a little wimpy scaredy-cat boy, highly suggestible. Nothing has changed, except more adult things scare me along with everything else.

NTK: So, what are you most afraid of?

RB: Displeasing Mistress.

NTK: (Laughs.) What is your favorite horror TV show?

RB: I had no idea there was such a thing as horror TV. I don’t watch much TV.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel? 

RB: Necroscope by Brian Lumley.

NTK: Who is your favorite author?

RB: It changes, but right now, Marcel Proust.

NTK: What inspires you?

RB: Everything. Books, paintings, a tree wafting with a midnight breeze under a full moon … it’s how you see, not what you see, that leads to inspiration.

NTK: What inspired The Bride Stripped Bare? 

RB: Boredom. Wrote the characters and setting and blood and guts, and fear. Wrote it in 5 weeks. And the title is from Marcel Duchamp’s artwork.

NTK: Do you outline your books and stories? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

RB: A faint idea sticks in my head, then if I think about it multiple times over several months, I figure it wants to be written. After that, the story decides where it wants to go. I just transcribe as it plays in my head like a movie.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you control their every move?

RB: The characters do what they want at first, then during revisions, I try to justify why they did what they did. Characters can be such assholes to their writer.

NTK: (Laughs.) Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

RB: The Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. Little too on-the-nose right now.

NTK: What’s your favorite curse word?

RB: Bumbaclot.

NTK: I love that word! What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

RB: I just want to write and write and read and read. This December, my publisher, David G. Barnett, at Necro Publications, will be publishing a novel I’m currently revising called Fear.

Addicts, you can find Rob on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and at Necro Publications.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Jeremy Megargee

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Jeremy Megargee has always loved dark fiction. He cut his teeth on R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series as a child, and a fascination with Stephen King’s work followed later in life. Jeremy J Megargeeweaves his tales of personal horror from Martinsburg, West Virginia, with his cat Lazarus acting as his muse/familiar.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I think I’ve always liked the idea of the Victorian era. The fashion, the architecture, the whole aesthetic… 

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”…one of my all-time favorite stories in general. I love the duality and the descent into excess and depravity, Dorian drinking down sin and remaining flawless, but his portrait taking on all that ugliness.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

Crimson Peak is high on my list. The monster designs were great, and the time period was so well captured.

Are your characters based on real people?

Camille is 100% fictional, but Edward Hyde belongs to the public domain courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Always by the seat of my pants. Ideas click together for me, and I’m able to fit them into something resembling a coherent jigsaw puzzle.  It’s a method that has always worked out well!

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

Usually, I’m aware of their fates far in advance, but if something changes in my mind, the character can easily go in a totally different direction.

What are you most afraid of?

Public speaking. I hate it with soooo much passion, but I’m working to overcome that fear. I think I’m desensitized to most other “fears” people would have just because I eat, breathe, and sleep the horror genre.

What is your favorite form of divination? 

The one featured in my story, “throwing the bones”.

Who is your favorite horror author?

All-time favorite is Stephen King, modern fresh voice on the horror scene is Nick Cutter. 

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

Hopefully more writing and more opportunities to work with all kinds of different publishers. I’m almost always writing and submitting new short stories, and it’s pretty much a steady trickle when it comes to output for me depending on what gets accepted and what gets rejected. I have several things coming out later this year with a variety of different presses, and I’m stoked to keep it going. If you want to follow my writing updates and general dark-humored craziness, find me on Instagram.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Alan Fisher

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Alan Fisher is an attorney living in Washington, D.C.  He’s published two novellas, Servant of the Muses and A Pearl for Her Eyes, under the name Brad White.  His story, “The Alan FisherConfession of Diego Stoessel,” was included in Alban Lake Publishing’s Lovecraftian anthology, City in the Ice. Another short story, “Pangloss,” was featured on the Hugo Award-winning podcast Starship Sofa.  His favorite authors include John le Carré, William Gibson, Raymond Chandler, and Neal Stephenson.  When not writing, he enjoys playing board games with his wife and sons and running role-playing games for his friends.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I’ve always been a reader of history, with a particular focus on military history.  The Victorian era was such a critical time for the shaping of the modern world that I naturally was interested in it.  From the Great Game in Central Asia to the Scramble for Africa, you will find a lot of threads we’re still pulling at today started back in Victoria’s time.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Probably not regarded as a horror story by many, but any beast that can make Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson freeze, even for a moment, is one to be reckoned with.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie?

I can’t say I have a particular favorite.

Are your characters based on real people?

Not really.  The Constable of the Tower could be seen as an echo of the classic Colonel Blimp stereotype, the aged colonial soldier with the big mustache, I suppose.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I dislike the term ‘pantser,’ but it is what I am.  My first work started simply from the idea that “my muse had left me,” which ended up as the first line – “My muse walked out of my life on a cool October morning . . . .” – in a noir urban fantasy novella.  I really had nothing more to go from.  Similarly, for The Moat House Cob, the story started with a quick check of Wikipedia’s list of divination methods, which led to arachnomancy, and from there the story unfolded.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

How could they have free will?  I created them and determine what will happen to them.  That’s part of their horror!

What are you most afraid of?

These days all my fears seem horrifyingly mundane, but I’ve never been a fan of spiders (as my story attests).

What is your favorite form of divination?

I don’t believe any of them work, but I’ve always enjoyed Tarot decks for the art and the symbolism.  A particular favorite is Edward Gorey’s Fantod pack.  They’re interesting to study and, when you have no good ideas, tossing a few around might spark something.

Who is your favorite horror author?

I’m almost hesitant to say old Howard Philips Lovecraft, but I must give credit where it’s due.  I’d also add early Steven King, Lord Dunsany, Neil Gaiman, and Charlie Stross.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

Sadly, I haven’t done much writing lately.  I’m about 50,000 words into an actual novel, but not a horror piece.  I have about a dozen fragments and starts, some horrifying, and some just horrifically bad.

 

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Daphne Strasert

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Daphne Strasert is a horror, fantasy, and science fiction author located in Houston, Texas. She placed 3rd in the 2017 Next Great Horror Writer Contest. She has had many short Daphne Strasertstories published through HorrorAddicts.net and others. When not writing, she plays board games and knits.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

Years and years ago, I liked American Girl dolls and Samantha (from the Victorian Era) was my favorite. That started a life long love affair with the Victorian Era. At first, I admired the seeming sophistication of the times, from the fashion to the elaborate social rules. As I grew older and did more in-depth research, I discovered the lurking darkness of social inequality. The juxtaposition fueled a desire to delve even deeper.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Dracula. Far and away my favorite. I do love Edgar Allan Poe and all his works, but Dracula was my first love in the horror genre and I’ll never let go of that. It is a slow burning book with so many facets to enjoy.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

Crimson Peak.

The sets and costumes were magnificent. The actors gave masterful performances. The movie had a brooding atmosphere that drew me in immediately. The plot was not a typical haunted house story. It turned the tropes of the genre on their head. It left me guessing during every minute. It’s brilliant, and if you haven’t watched it, make sure you do!

Are your characters based on real people?

Not specifically. While doing research for my story, I was fascinated by the many famous mediums later revealed to be frauds (either through careful observation of third parties, or by their own admission), so this made its way into my writing.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I’m a strong believer in outlines. People (whether they realize it or not) expect stories to be told in a certain way. The rise and fall of action keep readers engaged without exhausting them. I love my outlines. I am always thinking about my stories, and ideas come to me much faster than I would be able to keep track with if I wrote consecutively. Outlines help me to keep track of where the story is going eventually.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

I keep a strong leash on my characters. I do a lot of character development work to make sure that I’m always true to how they would act, but if my character ever went off course, then that would mean they weren’t the right character for the story. I would need to rethink their motivations.

What are you most afraid of?

Helplessness. Being in a situation with no escape or even a way to progress. So many of my fears can be conquered, but helplessness, by definition, cannot be.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I’m partial to Tarot cards. They have a rich history and many variations. The wide variety of art styles makes each deck unique. On an aesthetic level, I like the feel of the cards in my hands, the sound they make when they’re shuffled, even the smell of a worn and well-loved deck.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Edgar Allan Poe. I suppose that’s an old-fashioned choice, but I love his short stories. They have a breadth of style that is hard to find. I also do prefer horror stories written in historical eras and those can be hard to find with modern authors.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

I don’t have any pending publications right now, but I have several novels in the editing stage. Hopefully, those will be submitted to publishers by the end of the year. There are a few anthologies for which I’m producing short stories, and I’ll post more information about those on my website and social media when I can confirm.

Addicts, you can find Daphne on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – Rie Sheridan Rose

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Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including On Fire, Hides the Dark Tower, and Killing It Softly Vol. 1 and 2. She has authored twelve Mysterious Rie Rosenovels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I don’t remember ever NOT being interested in it. Ever since I was a young girl…half a century ago—yikes!…I have been fascinated by all things Victorian. I’m an Anglophile in general, but the Victorian era had it all…

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

It isn’t a particularly “scary” story, but I’ve always been fond of Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost” – I even adapted it for the stage as a kid. And if we broaden the scope of Victoriana to here across the pond, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is one of my absolute favorite horror stories. It was written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, so it just squeaks in under the 1901 wire.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

Does Dracula Has Risen from the Grave count? It is set in 1905, but it does have Dracula… What attracted me to the film was that I saw it when it was fairly new, and it was the first time I knew how erotic vampires could be. Go figure—Christopher Lee gave me chills.

I am also very fond of Mary Reilly, because it was a fascinating re-invention of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Are your characters based on real people?

No.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

No, not usually. I am a pantser. I sometimes have a vague idea of where I want the story to go, and then I start writing and let it tell itself.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

Oh, I have had some CRAZY things happen which I did not expect. I wrote one story where a character had decided to give up some of his remaining years to his ill grandmother. When she refused, he was supposed to go out in the hall and pour it out. Instead, he gave the potion to a little girl he met in the hallway because she was also ill, and maybe that extra time could find her a cure.

In another case, I have written five books in my Steampunk series from the point of view of my main character. I wrote the first book in a new series set in the same world, and my main character in that one told me some major character points I had never known before…

What are you most afraid of?

I think probably dying alone. 

What is your favorite form of divination?

I would love to be able to read Tarot cards. I think they are fascinating, but I haven’t the gift for it. I’ve been to some truly frightening seances… I think when it comes down to it, the Ouija Board is the only form I feel I can participate in myself.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Stephen King. Since I read my first King, I’ve been hooked.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

I am currently editing my next Horrified Press anthology. I have the previously mentioned novel Bond and Reilly Investigations: The Case of the Counterfeit Confederate almost ready to go to an editor, and I have The Beauty and the Bard out to beta readers. Hopefully at least one of them will be out by the end of the year. There are others in the wings waiting their turn.

For Horror Addicts, I recommend snagging a copy of Skellyman while it is still in print.

Addicts, you can find Rie on Amazon and on her website.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – R.L. Merrill

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Once upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Twenty-five published works later, with more tucked Merrill_RL-Headshotaway in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill strives to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media, being a mom-taxi to two brilliant kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or headbanging at a rock show in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

Everyone gets so excited about the Victorian era in Britain, but I’ve always been more interested in what was going on in my neighborhood. There are several historic homes in my area and I’ve often wondered about the people who lived here before us and what life was like, what the area looked like.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my literary heroes and I love his tales of darkness and despair. “Ligeia” is one of my favorites along with “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

I absolutely loved the film version of Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp. It was incredibly well done. I also think Corpse Bride is brilliant and a much better Burton film than A Nightmare Before Christmas, which is not a popular opinion, I know.

Are your characters based on real people?

In “Breaking Bread,” the main character, Fidelia Meek, was the real lady of the Meek Mansion. I use the names of the Meek family as well. They were wealthy landowners in the East Bay; their orchards were vast.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I’m a plotser. I actually do character organizers before I write. Usually. Mostly. My current WIP? I’m pantsing the heck out of it.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

Oooo pretty sure I’m a firm believer in fate. Things happen for a reason, despite whatever we may do to change our destiny.

What are you most afraid of?

Besides the obvious, something happening to my children, I’m also terrified of getting sick again. The coronavirus has reminded me how hard I’ve fought to not get pneumonia again, and I continue to fight.

What is your favorite form of divination?

Growing up, I loved the Magic 8 Ball! But for now? I’m fascinated with Tarot. I want to learn more about it. For my story, though, I wanted to dig deep and find something unusual, and that’s where the Barley Bread came from. According to several sources, Alphitomancy is an ancient method of determining the guilt or innocence of a suspect person by feeding him or her a specially prepared wheat or barley loaf or cake. If the person suffers from indigestion, or finds the loaf to be distasteful, this is interpreted as a sign of guilt. If enough people believe in something, it gives it power. Apparently lots of folks—including the Greeks and Romans up through the Irish—believed in this form of divination. Who am I to disagree?

Who is your favorite horror author?

Anne Rice. Her books fed my imagination for years. I also love Stephen King, Robert Louis Stevenson, the aforementioned Poe, and contemporary horror author Rick R. Reed.

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

I recently dropped a new supernatural suspense/paranormal romance called Healer: Havenhart Academy Book One, and book two will be out in early 2021. In June and October, I’ll be releasing my third and fourth Magic and Mayhem Universe books which follow a congregation of Alligator Shifters and witches living in the Bayou. They’re a lot of fun to write and I love being a part of a group project. And in June I’ll also be a part of the Love is All Vol. 3 anthology to support LGBTQ charities. That story will be an m/m contemporary romance.

Addicts, you can find R.L. on Facebook, Twitter, and BookBub.

Chilling Chat: Dark Divinations – H.R.R. Gorman

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Growing up, H.R.R. Gorman listened to a circuit preacher every Sunday at her local church near Boone, North Carolina, and has accepted supernatural medical HRR Gormanadvice from neighbors and relatives. She now holds a BS, MS, and Ph.D. in chemical engineering, with which she makes modern cures for those less superstitiously inclined. In her spare time, H.R.R. enjoys training her dog, Hector, and playing Dungeons and Dragons with her husband. 

How did you become interested in the Victorian era?

I’ve descended from a distinctive stock of poor Southern Appalachian people, grew up amongst Southerners, and have decided to keep North Carolina as my forever home. Throughout my life, I’ve been steeped in the continuing legacy of the Civil War and reconstruction in the South; though the war is long over, its effects still linger in many devious and dark corners of Southern society. I have enjoyed studying the war itself, the politics surrounding it, the cruelty that fomented it, and the devastation of its results. You don’t often think of things like Gone with the Wind as being Victorian, but they are.

What is your favorite Victorian horror story?

Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” has long been an inspiration when I write Southern gothic fiction (though Bierce himself was, bless his heart, not a Southerner). Written in 1890, it’s a story about a plantation owner awaiting his execution over an Alabama bridge, rope already around his neck. What happens next I’ll leave for you to find out – the story is in the public domain and can be found on Project Gutenberg for free.

Do you have a favorite Victorian horror movie? What attracted you to this film?

I don’t think I have a favorite Victorian horror movie. However, I must say I enjoyed the Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell series on BBC, which has a spine-tingling feel and is set during the Napoleonic wars. It’s not quite Victorian because the industrial revolution wasn’t in full force, but it’s got a lot of similarities to steampunk or later 19th-century stories.

Are your characters based on real people?

Some of them are. In the story found here, for instance, Miss Mae was based on a real person. She was my neighbor growing up and died at 102. People respected her health advice (she pretty much saved my own mother when she had the flu sometime in the 1980’s), but many community members were scared of her because she was an atheist. “Godlessness” was unheard of for someone in our community. I changed her character a little bit for the story, such as making her a little witchy instead of an atheist, but much of her character still remains substantially the same as the person I knew.

Do you use an outline to write? Or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I never outline anything, but I know in my head what kind of plot will happen. I make characters and a problem to solve, and most of the time I have an idea how to solve the problem, but I allow the story from beginning to end to take its own natural course. It’s like playing Dungeons and Dragons, but just in my head.

Do your characters have free will? Or do you decide their fate?

A little of both – I give them free will, but oftentimes I write myself into a corner where I don’t like where it’s going. In those cases, I tend to delete everything back to where I believe the disastrous decision was made and try to force them into choosing something else.

What are you most afraid of?

It’s a tie between Ebola, rabies, Ebola rabies, tetanus, tooth decay, polio, cancer, Hell, and septic shock.

What is your favorite form of divination?

I’m not much of one to believe in divination, but I am intrigued by cold reading.

Who is your favorite horror author?

Southern Gothic has always been near and dear to my heart, so probably Faulkner. His short “A Rose for Emily,” is probably the single-most inspiring story for any of my writing. I’m more into softer, creepy horror than the stabby jump-scare horror.

Other than that, I will admit I have a soft spot for Rod Serling…

What does the future hold for you? What books, short stories, or works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

Dark Divinations is the first anthology I’ve appeared in, but I’m just revving my engines and hoping to participate in more anthologies.

In the meantime, I post fairly regularly on my WordPress blog and am offering a free Southern gothic sci-fi novel called American Chimera. It’s being posted serially through the end of 2020 or can be downloaded immediately as a PDF.