Chilling Chat: Episode 173 | H.E. Roulo

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H.E. Roulo’s short stories have appeared in several dozen publications, including Nature and Fantasy’s special Women Destroy Fantasy issue. She is the author of the Plague Master series. Fractured Horizon, her science-fiction podcast novel, was a Parsec HE ROULO 1Award Finalist.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Heather. Thank you for joining me today.

HER: Happy to be here, Naching. 

NTK:  Could you tell us a little about Plague Master? What is this series about?

HER: Sure! I’ll throw a few buzz-words at you then dig into it a bit more. It’s a dystopian, sci-fi/horror, zombie YA trilogy. The series takes place in a solar system colonized by humans, but there’s a new infection raging on the planets.

There are a couple storylines, but the biggest one is Trevor, who grows up on a downtrodden planet that really didn’t need a zombie infection to make it even worse. There’s also a dome for infected who haven’t become zombies to go to, but of course, nothing is as it seemed.

In the new book, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, Trevor returns to his homeworld with a cure for the infection, except it stops working and he has to find out why. It’s not just politics and secrets, of course. There’s space travel, avalanches, and diving through zombie-filled tunnels.

NTK: Sounds exciting! What inspired you to write about zombies in a space setting?

HER: I’d released a sci-fi book, Fractured Horizon, and was looking to write something that would catch people’s attention. I saw a call for an audio drama and wrote a short, 40-minute script. They loved it (it’s out there in the Omega Road Chronicles.) I wrote a related short story, and that sold. It was obvious that zombies were good sellers and I felt like I had a different enough approach to stand out. I took what I’d learned and wrote the full novel. Plus, writing zombies is fun!

There are a lot of zombie stories out there. Fewer space zombies.

NTK: I have to ask…do you prefer fast zombies or slow ones?

HER: Oh, good question.

I promise I’ll answer that. First, let me say that I didn’t have to choose. In my world, the infected becomes violent and crazed as they first change—so you have the terror of the fast zombie. However, after a while, they slow down and become almost docile unless riled up, so you get your slow zombies.

This allowed people to think zombies could be kept in herds, like sheep.

Anyway, in general, I like the fast ones.

I loved 28 Days Later.

NTK: Are you a fan of George Romero?

HER: I think you have to give him credit when you talk about zombies. I wouldn’t risk calling myself a fan, though. I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough. 

NTK:  How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

HER: Characters always act in ways logical to them, so sometimes they can’t take the path I had planned. Still, I always know the end of a story before I begin and it’s just a matter of steering them where they need to go.

NTK: What’s your writing process like? Do you outline?

HER: Oh, you may be sorry you asked that.

NTK: (Laughs.)

HER: I am a true believer in outlining. I have an entire process, and my most successful blog post ever was on how to outline a book—it gets tons of hits every fall as people gear up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s called, “A Simple Novel Outline – 9 Questions for 25 Chapters.”

I have to know my beginning and end. I need at least two or three scenes I’m really excited about.

Plague Master Sanctuary DomeAfter I have those, I plug them in to a chapter framework and start filling in around them. I used to do it in Word, but I’ve found the Scrivener is especially good for that. However, I usually end up pulling it back out as I get the story more filled in. Then I work in Word again.

Once I have the outlined chapters, I start at the beginning and work from front to back, never going back! I used to rework and rework. Now I just leave myself notes to go back if something changes along the way.

When I’m deep in a novel, I try for 2000 words a day.

I did warn you.

NTK: (Laughs.) You did. What is your favorite horror novel?

HER: Favorite questions are hard for me. I rarely have that kind of loyalty to anything. I like novelty. My favorite things are the stories, songs, and televisions shows I haven’t seen yet and that surprise me. I rarely consume anything twice. Today, I’ll fondly recall the horror of certain stories in the anthology Unaccompanied Sonata by Orson Scott Card.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

HER: I’m a big fan of anything post-apocalyptic and dystopian. I had to read Cormac McCarthy’s grim and hopeless The Road after seeing the movie. I also love time travel and alternate realities. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind impressed me when it came out. Coherence and the movie Primer kept things interesting.

NTK: What attracts you to Dystopia?

HER: I’ve always loved dystopian stories. The Girl Who Owned a City was one of my first favorites. So was Z for Zacharia. I also loved Island of the Blue Dolphins and My Side of the Mountain. I think it’s about starting over, relying on your abilities to survive, and simplifying things

 

—not that most people think of dystopia as simple, but it does remove superficial troubles for real and basic needs.

So for me, it isn’t about the breakdown of society. I know that Island of the Blue Dolphin isn’t traditionally considered a dystopian story—but it’s about surviving with whatever you find yourself with. Starting over, and being able to build something new. Things get messed up—I’m sure we all look at the world and wish it was simple and basic, and about our own skills and ability—so a reset sounds great.

I wouldn’t actually want that, though. I have a family and comfortable things. (Laughs.)

Structure keeps us safe. These stories are about what happens when that safety net isn’t there.

NTK: Have you read The Stand by Stephen King?

HER: I haven’t. He wasn’t in the boxes of garage sale books my dad brought home each weekend—I’m not sure why. Eventually, I deliberately went back and read a few things by him, like The Long Walk, and was so impressed that I read his book On Writing.

Excellent advice in there, for any writers looking for a book.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror television show?

HER: The Black Mirror series has me hooked.

NTK: You’re a fan of the original Star Trek, do you have a favorite frightening episode from that series?

HER: Oh, that’s a new question!

I am a big fan of Star Trek, TOS, and of Next Generation, too. A lot of the series, actually.

What comes to mind is “The Devil in the Dark”, which is the one with the Horta, who seems like a monster but in the end we realize isn’t. There’s so much that’s fantastic in that episode.

I love creatures that are more than they seem.

I love subverting expectations, actually. I dislike predictable stories—give me something new!

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

HER: Well, we’re talking about the second book in the Plague Master trilogy, so you know PM Rebel InfectionI have to write the third and final one. I’ve had the series finale in mind for a long time, so I’m thrilled to finally write it.

I have a few other short stories that will no doubt come out. I tend to submit a lot except when I’ve got a book coming out.

And I’d like to sell a novella about a villain superhero called Heart of Marble. It’s dark and funny.

I also have an urban fantasy story that I’ve been trying to finish for about a year. It’s got four or five point of view characters, and bringing them all together for a satisfying ending has been tricky.

I think it’s a novel, but I need about ten more chapters to be sure. (Laughs.)

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Heather.

HER: I had a great time. Thanks!

 

Horror Addicts, you can find Heather on Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.

Her new book, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, is available now!

 

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Chilling Chat: Episode 172 | E.M. Markoff

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E.M. Markoff is the indie award-winning Latinx author of The Deadbringer and To Nurture & Kill. Growing up, she spent many days exploring her hometown cemetery, where her loveEMMarkoff_authorpic_sm of all things dark began. Upon coming of age, she decided to pursue a career as a microbiologist, where she spent a few years channeling her inner mad scientist. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat E.M.! Thank you for joining me today.

EM: Evening, Naching! Thank you for having me.

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

EM: Pretty young–in elementary school! Despite not knowing English, my mom was a fan of the Hammer Horror films and Vincent Price, and she was the one who first introduced me to the genre. She also never limited my reading, which allowed me to discover Stephen King at a pretty young age as well. I have no doubt all of this consciously and subconsciously helped shape my love of horror and “dark” things.

NTK: Did Stephen King influence your writing? Who influenced you the most?

EM: I have no doubt Stephen King influenced my writing, as he was the reason I fell in love with reading, to begin with. The vivid image of the monkey with the cymbals on the cover of Skeleton Crew is the first real memory I have of a light going off in my head and thinking, “Reading is amazing.” Other authors whose words have no doubt inspired me include Neil Gaiman with The Sandman series, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, C.S. Friedman, Carlos Fuentes, Junji Ito . . . the list goes on.

NTK: Where do you find inspiration? Do you find it in everyday life? In dreams? What inspired The Deadbringer?

EM: The heart of my inspiration for all my writing comes from my identity as a Mexican-American, which was passed on to me by my mom. All of my works, whether overtly or not, reference my culture. I do, however, sometimes get ideas in dreams. The first section of the chapter entitled “A Memory Dissolved by Pain” originated from a dream. I had been working on that section, with little progress, when it suddenly came to me. Consequently, the chapter title got its name because dreaming the dream and writing it was very emotionally difficult. I don’t like hurting my characters, so I tend to get pretty bummed out when something bad happens to them. The other major influence on The Deadbringer was the end of my mom’s life. The decisions that you have to make are painful, and that pain wound up carrying over to the characters that were also suffering a loss.

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

800px-the-deadbringer-cover-emmarkoff-ellderet-seriesEM: My characters are assholes with too much agency! (Laughs.) My editor says I like to “play house” with my characters, so to a certain extent, they have to do what I say. But–like life–sometimes they refuse to cooperate until I figure out exactly what it is that’s just not falling into place. I had this happen with a character who is unexpectedly getting their own POV in the forthcoming second book in The Ellderet Series, The Faceless God.

NTK: Your style is very distinct, almost Gothic. Do you enjoy Gothic horror?

EM: Thank you for those kind words. You just made my evening. Yes, I do love Gothic horror and have no doubt that it has found its way into my writing, although I know I have a long way to go before I can hold a candle to the masters of the style!

NTK: You mentioned your mother’s love of Hammer films. Are they your favorite too?  What is your favorite horror movie?

EM: It’s impossible not to love Hammer Horror films. Their films, in particular, all the Draculas because of the dynamic duo of Lee and Cushing, will always have a special place in my heart. My fave, however, is The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

NTK: Favorite horror Novel?

EMThe Picture of Dorian Gray.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

EM: El Maleficio.

NTK: E.M., what does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

E.M. More immediately, I will be at a number of conventions, including one with HorrorAddicts.net at Sinister Creature Con from October 12-13.  My future plans involve publishing The Faceless God, the sequel to The Deadbringer, in 2020, as well as attending plenty of local Bay Area conventions and (hopefully) readings. I also have planned a standalone novella that focuses on two of the characters from the world of the Ellderet, and I have a few ideas for non-Ellderet short stories that I would like to see come to life. You can follow what I’m up to by signing up for my Newsletter of the Cursed. You can also follow me @tomesandcoffee on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter, or buy my works on Amazon or direct from me. As for my work as a publisher, readers can check out the horror charity anthology Tales for the Camp Fire, which includes a short diverse ghost story of mine — “Leaving the #9.” All profits from the charity anthology will be donated to Camp Fire relief and recovery efforts which will be administered by the North Valley Community Foundation.

NTK: I just interviewed Loren Rhoads about Tales for the Camp Fire. What a greatTales for the Camp Fire idea! How did you come up with it?

EM: It began as an idea by Ben Monroe, a fellow member of the Bay Area Horror Writers Association. The idea brought together horror writers from the Bay Area with the goal of giving back to the victims of a terrible NorCal wildfire – the Camp Fire. Loren Rhoads served as editor, curating an eclectic range of short stories that showcase the many faces of horror, including a story graciously donated by the estate of Clark Ashton Smith. The entire project is indebted to people who volunteered their time to put in the work necessary to bring it to life, thus keeping production costs low and maximizing profits for charity. Even now, the authors are continuing to do what they can to spread the word about the charity anthology because they want to give back to the community. I think it says a lot about horror writers, that in the face of tragedy they stepped up to help.

NTK: Awesome! Horror Writers are such great people! Thank you so much for chatting with me. E.M!

EM: Thank you for having me, and for the lovely interview, Naching. It was my pleasure.

Chilling Chat: Episode 171 | Loren Rhoads

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Loren Rhoads served as editor for Bram Stoker Award-nominated Morbid Curiosity magazine as well as the books The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, Death’s Garden:Rhoads Headshots 9-18 FINAL-1782 Relationship with Cemeteries, and Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual. Her short stories have appeared in the books Best New Horror #27, Strange California, Sins of the Sirens: Fourteen Tales of Dark Desire, Fright Mare: Women Write Horror, and most recently in the magazines Weirdbook, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Space & Time. 

Loren is an imaginative and skilled writer. We spoke of inspiration, editing, and cemeteries.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Loren! Thank you for joining me today.

LR: My pleasure! I am really looking forward to chatting.

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

LR: I remember catching a glimpse of Barnabas Collins climbing out of his coffin when I was four. I didn’t know what I was seeing at the time, but the music was so deliciously creepy! I was definitely marked for life.

NTK: Is Dark Shadows your favorite horror TV show? What is your favorite?

LR: Wow, it’s hard to choose a favorite. I loved Dark Shadows, Kolchak, and the monster of the week episodes of The X Files. Now I’m loving Legion, which might not seem like horror, because the main character/villain is presented to be so charming. He’s really quite terrifying.

NTK: Do you prefer villains or heroes?

LR: I prefer characters who wander from one side of the equation to the other.

NTK: What do you think makes a character believable?

LR: Self-doubt.

NTK: When you write characters, do they have free will? Or are their actions predetermined?

LR: They definitely have minds of their own. I generally write to find out what I think, rather than the other way around, so I just wind my characters up and watch them go.

NTK:  Lily is a fascinating character in “Still Life with Shattered Glass.” What inspired that story?

LR: I was working at the University of Michigan as the Secretary of the Undergraduate English program. One of the perks was that I got to sit in on any English class I wanted, so I took all the creative writing classes. Students were strongly encouraged to “write what you know” so we read an awful lot of shitty roommate stories. I wanted to write a story where the reader wasn’t sure which roommate was worse. And I wanted to mock all the artistic pretensions that the undergrads were spouting.

NTK: “Still Life” is part of the anthology, Tales for the Camp Fire. Could you tell us what that anthology is about and what inspired it?

LR: Last November, there was a terrible wildfire in Northern California. Some of the power company’s equipment failed in a windstorm and threw sparks that burned for three weeks. The town of Paradise, California was leveled. The smoke from the fire was so bad that it could be seen from space. It drifted 200 miles from Butte County in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to settle in the Bay Area, where I live. For a week, we had the worst air quality in the world. So even if we didn’t lose anything directly in the fire, we were still affected by it.

Tales for the Camp FireThe local chapter of the Horror Writers Association decided to help the survivors. Ben Monroe suggested we put together an anthology that we could use to raise money for survivors. I volunteered to edit. Tomes & Coffee volunteered to publish it. All the stories—even the one by Clark Ashton Smith—are donations. The cover art was donated by Petersen Games. Even the cover designer donated her time.

All of the book’s profits are going to the North Valley Community Foundation, which is a clearinghouse in Butte County that applies funds to the greatest needs.

NTK:  Horror writers are great people. What did you look for in a story, when you edited that anthology?

LR: Because it wasn’t a themed anthology, I wanted to include as wide a spectrum of horror stories as possible: creepy, gross, funny, disturbing, thought-provoking, nightmarish. I wanted something about the story to stick in your mind after you read it, a splinter that would work away at you.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

LR: The one I’ve read the most is Dracula. I find something new in it every time I read it. Other than that, my second favorite changes from day to day.

NTK: You spoke of your inspiration for “Still Life,” what inspires you in general? What gets the creative juices flowing?

LR: I’m just trying to make sense of life on earth. It can be so beautiful and yet so tragic. We don’t seem to make it easy for each other, even though we’re all trapped here. I write to get to the heart of that.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror film?

LR: Alien. The first one. I still find it scary.

NTK: Is it the fear factor, or the fact that people are pulling together to fight a greater evil that attracts you to the story?

LR: I like watching Ripley, who is marginalized and ignored, turn out to be right. She knows what the protocol is supposed to be, but the more-emotional men overrule her and get killed for it. Watching Ripley, who has discounted herself, realize that she’s resourceful enough to survive it is amazing. And the monster still haunts my nightmares all these years later.

NTK: You are a well-known cemetery aficionado and I have been dying to ask you this question, have you ever been to Colma, CA?

LR: Oh so many times!

NTK: What’s it like?

LR: The absolute best. There are 17 cemeteries in town, one right beside the next. They range from Japanese to Chinese to Italian (full of sculpture) to Jewish to Catholic to a former Masonic cemetery to a former potter’s field. There’s even a pet cemetery!

They say 1 million people are buried in Colma but there are only 1,000 live ones.

Wyatt Earp is buried there, and Levi Strauss, and Emperor Norton (the only Emperor of North America and Protector of Mexico). It’s lovely and sad and full of treasures.

I don’t know if you know the history of the graveyards of San Francisco, but in the early 20th century, all of them were dug up and the bodies hauled to Colma. There are several huge mass graves down there. Even so, people keep finding bodies that were missed somehow and weren’t moved.

Several years ago, a woman doing yard work found an iron coffin with a little girl in it, still perfectly preserved, and visible through a glass window into the coffin.

NTK: Do you have any stories set in Colma?

LR: Not yet. I’ve written about it on Cemetery Travel (my cemetery blog) and in 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, but I haven’t set a story there yet.

NTK: I look forward to those stories. Loren, what does the future hold for you? What work do we Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

LR: I’m finishing up a novel that I hope to have out in October, so I can sell it at the199 Cemeteries Horror Addicts table at Sinister Creature Con. It’s the sequel to Lost Angels (which HA gave a super nice review to several years ago). This new one is called Angelus Rose. It continues the story of Lorelei, a succubus who falls for an angel named Azaziel. It’s set in LA—and bits of it take place in Forest Lawn, Westwood Memorial Park (where Marilyn Monroe is buried), and Angelus Rosedale, where Buffy was filmed in its first season. The story skates between erotic horror and urban fantasy romance, lots of sex and death and graveyards.

NTK: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Loren. You’re a terrific guest.

LR: Thank you so much for doing this, Naching! You asked some great questions. It was really fun.

Addicts, you can find Loren on Facebook, Twitter, and at Cemetery Travel.

You can purchase Tales for the Camp Fire: A Charity Anthology on Amazon.

Chilling Chat: Episode 170 | Tim Reynolds

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Tim Reynolds grew up in Toronto, Ontario, but has called Calgary, Alberta home since 1999. He lives a quiet, peaceful, cluttered life with his dog, two cats, and a collection of Tim Reynoldsmusical instruments he has neither the talent nor the self-discipline to play. 

An internationally-published writer/photographer/artist he writes his stories “from the character on up”.

Tim is an intelligent man with a terrific sense of humor. We spoke of writing, inspiration, and night terrors.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Tim. Thank you for joining me today.

TR: Thank you, Naching! It’s wonderful to be here!

NTK: How old were you when you first became interested in horror and dark fantasy?

TR: I was going to say I was 12 when I saw the chillingly bizarre movie The Other but then I remembered that I was much younger, probably less than seven, when I was sick in bed and Mom had moved the TV into my room but not checked what was on the channel. It was The Incredible Shrinking Man. She caught me watching it right about the time he was being chased by the giant— to him—spider. As for reading the literature, I was probably 17 or 18, after I discovered The Lord of the Rings in English class. It was much darker than the detective stuff I’d been reading leading up to then.

NTK: Did Tolkien influence your writing? Who is your favorite horror writer?

TR: He did have a huge influence because I’m pretty sure every fantasy author I read after him was influenced by him, so it was inescapable. This is going to sound strange, but I had to stop reading horror. I got night terrors as a kid and still get episodes as an adult, and what I read or watch has a big influence on my very vivid dreams and nightmares. That said, I was once a voracious Stephen King reader, as well as Dean Koontz. King would be my favourite, though, because his stories can terrify without full-on horror.

NTK: I’m sorry to hear about your night terrors. Do they keep you from watching horror movies and TV shows?

TR: They do, for the most part. I do try to watch the critically acclaimed ones like Bird Box, where it’s more about suspense than pop-up scares.

I also don’t mind the occasional zombie one—World War Z is my favourite—or vampire one— 30 Days of Night.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

TR: I’d have to say that Black Mirror is the only one I’ll watch, and while many wouldn’t call it horror, I believe that its view of where we are headed as a species with tech is truly horrifying.

NTK: Have your night terrors inspired your writing? Where do you find inspiration?

Waking AnastasiaTR: They certainly have. My most recent fantasy novel The Sisterhood of the Black Dragonfly has a couple of monster-popping-up fight scenes and the creatures in it have a similarity to some of the ones I fled from in my childhood dreams. But sometimes my dreams inspire more than a scene. My previous novel Waking Anastasia about a young man who awakens the ghost of Anastasia Romanova came from a dream. My inspiration can literally come from anywhere. A figurine in a shop, a challenge from a friend, a smile and a wave from a complete stranger…

NTK: Do you have any advice for people suffering from night terrors?

TR: Yes, actually! Avoid dairy before bed! Especially pizza. There’s something in it that makes my dreams go off in a wild direction like I heard acid trips of the 60s do. And vitamin B complex before bed—or any time—can lessen anxiety somewhat.

NTK: Let’s talk about characters. Do your characters have free will? Or do you dictate their every move?

TR: They very much have free will. Once I create a “whole person,” meaning one in which I know their back story and motivations, I let them roll with the scene. I control what needs to happen in the scene, but I let the conversations and quite often the actions be completely organic, in other words, flowing forward from what was just said or done.

That said, I’m having trouble with my latest one because the two characters are very much based on real people, one of which is me. I keep second-guessing myself if that makes sense. And the horror, in this case, isn’t in the story, it’s the writing because it’s a romantic comedy.

Also, I recently wrote a horror short from the point of view of Jack the Ripper. However, because it was very fact-based, I couldn’t give him too much leeway.

NTK: Do you outline and plot the story?

TR: I do now, but I’m also very flexible once I start writing. RomComs are very structured, so I have to hit certain story beats near a certain page, but I usually have a loose structure/outline with everything to make sure that I put the clues where they need to be. I’m becoming much more methodical in my writing as I mature as a writer because while it’s lovely to just go off and write whatever the freak I feel like, if I want bigger publishers to notice my work and make offers, I need to use outlines to keep me on track and not let me write madly off all directions.

NTK: Going back to the works of Stephen King, which is your favorite?

TR: Oooohhhh… Tough question. I haven’t read any in a while, but I loved Hearts in Atlantis, The Stand, and the four novellas of Different Seasons. My stand-out King novel is an odd choice but I love it for its simplicity: Gerald’s Game.

NTK: Aside from the RomCom, what does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

TR: As a reply to writing the RomCom inspired by my life experiences, I’m writing a dark, bloody, nasty 19th century urban vigilante novel in which I will kill off the types of villains that I feel are plaguing us now—child sexual abusers, rapists, one-percenters who think the rest of us are simply here for their profit or use…. or I will write the sequel to my unpublished semi-cozy detective novel that my agent is currently trying to sell forSisterhood of the Black Dragonfly me.

NTK: Awesome! Looking forward to them!

TR:  Thank you! I try to write stories that are as much fun to read as they are to write, even if they scare the bejeesus out of me and the reader. Joy isn’t all about laughs, as every horror writer/reader knows.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today, Tim!

TR: Thank you, Naching! It’s been fun, and I appreciate you making me think on a Friday morning when the weekend and non-thinking is so close I can taste it.

Addicts, you can find Tim at his Blog and on Twitter.

 

 

Chilling Chat: Episode 169 | Nancy Kilpatrick

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Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 22 novels, over 220 short stories, seven story collections, and has edited 15 anthologies, plus graphic novels and one non-nancy K.fiction book, The goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (St. Martin’s Press).

Nancy is an honest and passionate writer. We spoke of inspiration, classic horror, and vampires.

NTK:  Welcome to Chilling Chat, Nancy! Thank you for joining me today.

NK: It’s my pleasure, Naching! Thank you for inviting me.

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

NK: I was a kid. We had the Saturday Night Chiller-type movies on but they were late and although it was Saturday night, I wasn’t allowed to stay up for those except on rare occasions. Horror films were my favorites and that just continued when I got old enough to watch those films. But before that, when I was in grade school (not sure of my age but likely around 6 or 7) the school visited the big library in downtown Philadelphia, where I lived, and we were each allowed to take one book out. I choose The Little Witch, which says I lot, I guess. Little did I know how famous that book was, in print for 40 years. So, my love of horror goes way back.

NTK: Who are the authors who’ve influenced you most?

NK: In horror, I tend not to mention living authors. I know way too many writers and I don’t want to offend anyone or leave anyone out. And frankly, it’s many dead authors that shaped me. Poe, Lovecraft, Carter, Jackson, Kafka, Shelley, Stoker, Byron, Bloch…even then, there are more than I’ve named. I see myself as shaped and influenced by every book I’ve ever read, even the terrible ones, and in every genre, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m kind of a lit vampire, meaning, I drink in experiences, so besides general life experiences, books and film have played a big role in who I am as a writer and likely who I am as a person.

NTK: Do you find inspiration in the books you’ve read? Where do you find inspiration?

NK: Inspiration is everywhere. I can see something, smell something, a twig on a peculiar taste, hear a sound and so on. I can have a dream and have written two stories from dreams. I daydream a lot. Many avenues lead to a story idea but the ones that lead to actually writing down those ideas in short story or novel form, those are the exceptional ideas. It’s hard to say what inspires them. One avenue for me is that I own and have read thousands of vampire novels and short fiction so I know what has been done and that always leads me to what has not been done before and how that fits into my personal view of the vampire. To a lesser extent, that works with ghosts and zombies for me, werewolves a bit less. If it’s “reality” horror, for example, nothing supernatural, more like a serial killer, there’s plenty of info on those types of killers around and that can inspire a thought. But thoughts have to connect to feeling for me because I’m essentially an emotional writer.

To keep it simple: I’m inspired when a thought or a feeling becomes a spark.

NTK: How did “Root Cellar” come about?

NK:  I lived on a farm for almost a year, 10 miles outside the small town. The house was in exchange for “fixing it up.” It was bought by a well-off Judge who didn’t want to live there but it needed repair so a few friends and I went and painted and sanded and such. When we first arrived, we explored the house. The attic was a crawl space with a peaked roof and slats on the floor. We found some creepy things there, including the coffin and the cards I put into that story. The house was also, as in the story, the “old” part and the “new” part, with all the pickled things in the stairwell down to the basement.

“Root Cellar” was originally a literary story, a story of incest. I had a phase where I tried to force myself to write ‘lit’ fiction. That didn’t last long, though I published a bit. But, I could never get over the idea that lit fic had lost its way in terms of plot. Which is one reason I love horror, because plot is still crucial and that means a story to me. Anyway, I submitted “Root Cellar” to a major newspaper that was having a short fiction contest (yes, that was exceptional!) I was the first runner up and the story was published. As I was reading it in the paper, it struck me how that story was really a vampire story so I rewrote it and published it and it’s been published several times, been in a Best-of antho, up for two awards and so on. Really, it was crucial to see that in print and recognize that what I was trying to force myself to do was not right for me. Generally, I’m pretty aware of when I’m trying to go the “wrong” way because I think it’s the “right” way, and it’s not.

Revenge of the Vampir KingNTK: You’ve written a series called Thrones of Blood. How are your vampires different from others?

NK: Because I’ve read so much vampire material and seen so many movies, and because I’ve written erotica (mainly a series of seven pastiche novels based on horror classics: Dracula; Frankenstein, Jekyll/Hyde, etc. etc.) and because I’ve seen and read erotic vampire novels and movies and wanted to infuse a series with that but not just that, I started thinking about a new series. I began writing these books about 12 or 13 or more years ago, because the idea churned for a few years before I started writing. One year in the winter I was staying alone in Florida for a month and cranked out book one and some of book two and three. Of course, all that had to be revised. I was just having fun and threw in a lot of genres and kitchen sink and had to clean up all the mess and stick to the story. There are other books, of course, with warring vampires and humans but I wanted to show the vampires as somewhat more evolved, while still violent, and that the humans might be even more violent. Ultimately, I wanted to show that because of a long life, the vampires, which are as resistant to change as humans, do have a longer perspective and can alter, at least a little. I wanted all this to come through in each book amidst the violence, the sex, the treachery, betrayals, viciousness, traitorous acts and even love and kindness where least expected.

I have not seen what I’ve done. And frankly, readers need to be a bit smart to read these books because I work with paradox a lot in my writing. It’s awfully hard to hold two opposites at the same time and that’s kind of what I hope readers will do. I also like to shift allegiances a lot. That’s kind of real life too for thoughtful people.

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

NK: I usually have a kind of plot overview for novels but rarely do a chapter by chapter outline. At the same time, as I write, I kind of know where I’m going. That doesn’t mean the characters want to go there and more times than not they insist on me paying attention to them. As I said, I’m an emotional writer so I have to respect my feelings and if it feels dull, wrong, just a big NO, then it won’t work for me and I have wait until something comes to me as to how to proceed. And as with all creative endeavors, one can go this way and that, both ways pretty obvious. But waiting often leads to a third way that wasn’t envisioned and that’s much better and leads to something much better. So no, I plan a bit, but I’m open to change. If I wasn’t, my characters wouldn’t work with me! (Laughs.)

What I mean by “this way and that” is that in every story, based on the conflict, there are usually two obvious resolutions of that conflict. If you go to either, the reader (who is as smart as the writer) feels bored and cheated because both resolutions are too obvious. This is where a creative solution has to make an appearance.

NTK: What makes good erotica?

NK: I was on an erotic-horror panel once with about eight or nine women and they ranged in age from youngest to oldest. At the oldest end were Nancy Holder and me. Someone asked if we writers were aroused when we wrote erotic-horror. Invariably from the younger end, there were definite and resounding “NO’s” all along and when it got to Nancy Holder, she said, kind of, maybe a little, yes. Then me, who said, “Of course I am aroused! If I can’t feel it, I can’t write it!” (Nancy H., by the way, thought I was so brave to say that, but I didn’t see myself as brave, more just honest because if I can feel the emotion of what I’m writing, I can make it believable for the reader—and that goes for the unsavory emotions too. There’s a huge difference in feeling murderous, which almost everyone has felt at some point, and committing murder. Knowing and feeling the difference is what keeps us all from acting horrifically in a spontaneous, or even a thought-out, moment.)

My seven erotic novels are The Darker Passions: Dracula; Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Fall of the House of Usher, Carmilla, and The Pit and the Pendulum.

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

NK: There are soooo many. I’d just be listing them. I’ll say a few. Daughters of Darkness (stylish). The Exorcist (the original, so scary). [REC] (an adrenalin rush for sure!) All of Romero’s zombie movies, especially Night of and Dawn of the Living Dead. 30 Days of Night (great concept and a horrific vampire gang). 28 Days Later (I like fast-moving zombies). Martin (another Romero, this one vampire). And I loved the original The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, a black and white based on Richard Matheson’s wonderful novel. That, of the three films based on the novel, was very creepy. Train to Busan (from South Korea, a great zombie movie, human, touching. It’s in subtitles. I’ve seen it three times.) It Stains the Sands Red (Wow, what a surprising zombie film. Two coke heads from LA, car stalled in the desert en route to see people, and a zombie comes and does guy in. The woman, seemingly a coke-head, has to “run” from the zombie but they are in the desert. It shifts and is so amazing. I was really blown away by this movie.)

You see, there are so many more I could name. Give me a minute and I can name 100 or more!

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV show?

NK: I liked the original Dark Shadows, and even the remake with Ben Cross. Forever Knight was fun. True Blood was incredible. (Kudos to Harris for allowing the adaptation.) There’s a great book called Vampire TV which is incredibly thick and surprisingly stuffed with TV shows of vampires alone. I also liked the old Twilight Zone, Kolchak, those kinds of X Files TV shows. Again, many more than I can name.

NTK: What’s your favorite horror novel?

NK: Again, I can’t name books by living authors so I’ll have to go with early works. And in fact, there’s little horror I’ve read or seen that I haven’t liked, even the bad stuff, because I can see merit in just about everything, sometimes just a drop of merit, but still. So that would Dracula by Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, The Picture of Dorian Grey, all of Poe’s work, Robert Louis Stevenson’s work, even the ponderous Varney the Vampire or, The Feast of Blood which predates Dracula by a few decades. There are all sorts of wonderful novels out there and I encourage people to find and read some of what has been done in the past because, for example, the vampire did not start with Anne Rice’s books or Buffy. You’d be surprised by some of the beautiful and intense work that came The goth Biblebefore.

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

NK: At the moment, I’m working on book five in the Thrones of Blood series: Anguish of the Sapiens Queen. Book six is next up and that should be the end of the series, published in 2020. I also have a science fiction novel just about finished. The former will be out later this year and that latter…no date yet. I’m likely reissuing my horror (non-vampire) collection Cold Comfort. And I am in discussion for a new antho I’ll co-edit. This year I’ll be traveling to a few summer/fall events: Fan Expo in Toronto, and Word on the Street. Possibly Frightmare in the Falls. Early next year I’ll be at Stokercon in England.

By the way, if anyone wants to join my newsletter, which is short and once a month via email, they can go to my website: nancykilpatrick.com. The form to join is at the top.

NTK: Thank you so much for joining me today. It was an honor to interview you.

NK: Thank you, Naching, for having me.

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

Author Interview: Horror author Jeff Strand | My Pretties

Horror author Jeff Strand delves into the ugly darkness of a serial kidnapper with his latest book, My Pretties, a gripping novel filled with twists that get more twisted as the climax approaches.

My Pretties.jpg

My Pretties is about a restaurant server named Gertie, who believes her cousin is the victim of a serial kidnapper. To try and save her, Gertie uses herself as bait and wanders the streets at night, hoping to lure the kidnapper into the open. When Gertie tells her co-worker Charlene how she spends her nights, Charlene agrees to trail her in a car as backup.

Of course, this is a Jeff Strand novel, so nothing goes according to plan, and the vigilante waitresses go from the hunters to the hunted.

Strand introduces readers to a sick, soulless man named Ken who abducts women and locks them in cages that hang from the ceiling in a soundproofed basement. Ken’s thrill is simply to sit quietly in the room and watch the women slowly starve to death. However, Ken is husband to a wife who wonders why he’s late all the time and father to a son who doesn’t respect him.

While Ken’s family dynamic provides most of the twists and some darkly comic moments, My Pretties is ultimately a grim tale of torture and survival.

Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand

In an exclusive interview for HorrorAddicts.net, Strand discusses My Pretties and what he thinks of a recent social media thread where people listed their top five Strand novels.

HORROR ADDICTS: Where did your idea for My Pretties originate?

STRAND: The process was similar to Mia and Rusty in Ferocious, where I had my lead characters (in this case, Charlene and Gertie) before I had a story to put them in. I’d written their meeting scene and not much else, and did nothing with it for a couple of years.

The idea of a serial killer who puts his victims in small cages dangling from a ceiling, giving them water but no food, watching them for hours at a time, came separately and much more recently. I pulled Charlene and Gertie into that idea and that’s where it became My Pretties.

HORROR ADDICTS: At some point, your villain Ken becomes the focus of the story more so than your heroines, Charlene and Gertie. Was that the idea from the start or did Ken just keep developing as you wrote the story?

STRAND: I changed some of the details as I wrote, but the broad strokes of the story were always there. I did try to be very conscious of keeping the balance — you get more of Ken’s story than you may have been expecting, but I didn’t want to tip the scales too far toward his side of things.

HORROR ADDICTS: Do you prefer writing villains more than heroes or vice versa?

STRAND: I don’t actually have a preference. It can be fun to write a really nasty villain, but I also enjoy writing likable heroes. Ken in My Pretties posed a bit of a challenge because he’s a complete garbage human being, and I didn’t want the reader to like him at all. He’s not Hannibal Lecter or Hans Gruber — he’s a piece of crap. So, he needed to be somebody who could convincingly persuade women to trust him a little, but I didn’t want him to be witty or charming or have any of those “the villain you love to hate” characteristics. Of course, my natural instinct is to try to write witty, clever dialogue, and I had to pull back on that for this guy.

HORROR ADDICTS: You’re active on social media, and I noticed a thread where readers were posting lists of their top five Jeff Strand novels. Where would you rank My Pretties among your 40-plus books?

STRAND: I love threads like that because there’s always a wide variety of titles represented. I’d hate for it to be, “Okay, here’s the one or two books that everybody likes, and then the rest.” It’s always fun to see something like Fangboy (which I always knew was going to be divisive, and I was correct) represented, or that people are championing The Sinister Mr. Corpse. It’s too early for me to rank My Pretties. What happens, 100 percent of the time, is that the book I wrote is not as good as the book I’d planned to write. There are no exceptions. So, no book is published with me thinking, “My God, this is my masterpiece!” It doesn’t take long for the Written Book vs. Book In My Head disparity to fade, but My Pretties is brand new.

HORROR ADDICTS: Dweller is my No. 1 Jeff Strand novel, but I was surprised when I read your personal top five and neither of your Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels, Pressure or Dweller, made your list. In fact, you said Blister and Cyclops Road flip-flop between your favorite. What makes those two novels resonate with you more so than your more traditional horror novels?

Cyclops RoadBlisterPressureDweller

STRAND: I almost never revisit my work after it’s published, so it’s possible that if I wiped my memory and read my entire backlist, the rankings would change. As it is, I’m going to naturally lean toward my most recent titles. I certainly don’t think every book is better than the last, but I do like to think that the last third of my output is better than the middle third, which is better than the first third, overall.

There’s just a lot of stuff I love about Blister. It’s a weird and quirky love story on top of a mystery on top of a horror story with lots of humor thrown in. Cyclops Road is a bigger story than I usually do (it’s my longest solo novel), and I really like the cast of characters. It’s got action, laughs, heartbreak, scares — I think it’s my most entertaining novel. I’m also partial to Bring Her Back, Sick House, and Kumquat.

If I asked all of my fans to rank their favorites, it’s safe to say that the No. 1 spot would go to Dweller. I’m proud as hell of that book. It just doesn’t make the list of my all-time favorites of my own work.

HORROR ADDICTS: Lastly, I always like to ask if you have any breaking Jeff Strand news for us Strand fans and Horror Addicts?

STRAND: Well, I just did a really dark psychological thriller, so I’m shifting tones with the next one. This one will be very blatantly horror/comedy and a lot of fun. Monsters are included.

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RELATED LINKS:

Horror Author Jeff Strand gets Ferocious in 2019

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Five: Wood Ape

A husband and a town both with secrets propel the drama and mystery of the Bigfoot novel Wood Ape by C.G. Mosley.

Wood Ape.jpg

“Actually, Wood Ape was inspired by a friend that is obsessed with Bigfoot,” Mosley said in an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files. “He is always reading books and listening to podcasts on the subject. Severed Press, the publisher I write for, has a lot of fiction available on Bigfoot. Knowing this, I began prodding my own personal Bigfoot expert for information and before long, Wood Ape came to fruition.”

Set in the small Baker County town of Dunn, Mississippi, Wood Ape begins with an intense prologue describing a violent confrontation between Bigfoot and a man named Cliff.

Flash forward thirty-five years later, the Schrader family – Harry, Lacey and seven-year-old daughter Alice – is settling into a new home secluded outside Dunn following a move from Atlanta. Harry, a school administrator, harbors a devastating secret. Lacey, a paralegal, is deeply troubled by Harry’s defensive and distant behavior of the past three months.

Lingering in the background is a cloud of suspicion hanging over the Schraders’ new residence. Many locals believe the house is haunted, a rumor perpetuated by the inexplicable disappearance of the previous occupants.

Lacey’s first trip to the grocery store ramps up the tension when she encounters an old man with a dire prediction:

The old man paused and glanced at the stock boy and then to the other patrons in the store. “You all know it to be true,” he said. “You all know she and her family is in danger … why don’t you tell her?”

More strangeness ensues when Harry finds a decomposed carcass in the woods, and his daughter Alice is spooked by something tapping on her window. Lacey’s drifter brother, Dwight, drops by for a brief stay but soon vanishes, mysteriously leaving his motorcycle behind.

The sheriff, Travis Horne, investigates Dwight’s disappearance, while Lacey investigates what happened to the previous owners, setting up the dramatic second half of Wood Ape.

While Wood Ape is a Bigfoot novel, Mosley manages to add an interesting wrinkle to the cryptid subgenre, particularly with Harry’s secret.

Baker County Bigfoot Chronicle

Most of Mosley’s other books are creature features, and the author even revisited Sasquatch in his follow-up novel, Baker County Bigfoot Chronicle.

“I do believe that Bigfoot is real,” Mosley said. “I’ve really researched and explored the subject in depth, and when you see all the many reported sightings that there are across the U.S. alone, there is just too much evidence there to dismiss it as only legend and fable. Sure, there are hoaxes out there too, but in my opinion, those are given much more attention than the actual, unexplainable encounters. It seems to me that society, in general, would rather not believe these things to be true and will take every opportunity to make it seem as though they are not.”

Mosley.jpg

C.G. Mosley

I asked Mosley why Bigfoot remains so prevalent in pop culture today.

“Bigfoot is a mystery, and everyone loves a good mystery,” Mosley said. “Not only that, it is a mystery that exists right outside most people’s back doors. I read a study one time that said almost three-quarters of Americans have paranormal beliefs. Obviously, Bigfoot is a part of that, and those beliefs will be projected in film and books for many years to come.”

NEXT UP | Chapter Six: Big Legend. I review the 2018 horror film Big Legend written and directed by Justin Lee.

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LINKS FOR C.G. MOSLEY

Social Media Links:

Twitter | Facebook |  Instagram |  Goodreads

Buy Links:

Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | SeveredPress | Amazon

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LINKS FOR THE BIGFOOT FILES:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter Four: The Road Best Not Taken