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.

 

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Crafting Horror: Theatre of the Mind by H.R. Boldwood

Crafting Horror: Theatre of the Mind

by H.R. Boldwood

How do you define theatre of the mind? In its broadest sense, theatre of the mind uses sensation to evoke a person’s perception and imagination.

Some folks might think of the old-time radio programs of the 30’s and 40’s when fascinating stories played over the airwaves and transported people to another place and time. In 1938, Orson Well’s radio broadcast of War of the Worlds managed to spawn national panic by convincing us the Earth was under attack by Martians!

And he did it using primitive sound effects that pandered to the listener’s ear.

Baby boomers might picture a more high-tech version of the theatre of the mind. Take, for example, the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction at Disney World (circa 1995 -2003). In an effort to entertain and heighten the anticipation of the line-weary crowd, Disney broadcast a brilliantly crafted preshow infomercial from the intergalactic company, XS Tech, which boasted, “If something can’t be done with XS, it shouldn’t be done at all.”

The crowd chuckled. Surely, disaster awaited.

Once the program began, the Chairman of XS Tech, an alien named L.C. Clench, announced that he would travel to Earth via the teleportation tube in the center of the auditorium.

But something went horribly wrong. Suddenly, lights strobed, steam hissed, and alarms sounded. The audience saw just enough to know that it wasn’t L.C. Clench who had arrived in the teleportation tube, but a hideous winged alien instead. Oh no!

The tube slowly cracked, then burst wide open. The alien escaped! And just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, the power in the auditorium went out. The audience was thrust into darkness. A technician rushed to fix the problem, but by the sound of it, he’d been savagely killed by the extraterrestrial beast. The audience was trapped, harnessed into their seats in the pitch-black auditorium with a vicious alien on the loose!

The floor shook as the alien tromped around the room. The audience heard his tortured breathing, felt his hot breath down the backs of their necks. They twitched as his tail skittered across the backs of their calves and screamed as saliva dripped down on them from above.

Miraculously, the power was restored, the lights came back on, and the monster was captured just in the nick of time.

Whew! That was a close one! And what a delight to the senses.

Both War of the Worlds and Alien Encounter are perfect examples of theatre of the mind.

But what about what we do — we horror writers? Aren’t we providing our readers with theatre of the mind?

We should be.

We ask our readers to suspend their disbelief hoping we can take them on a ride just long enough to tell them our tales. If we have any hope of achieving that goal, it’s going to be by making those readers actually live our stories.

We’ve been lectured to death to ‘show not tell.’ In essence, we are being told to engage our reader’s senses.

I read a David Farland writing tip recently wherein he quoted the words of the poet, Leslie Norris. “When it rains in your story, your readers should get wet.”

It’s that simple.

Perceptions and imagination are evoked through the senses. Ergo, if we manage our readers’ perceptions and awaken their imaginations, we can create an alternate reality for them.

We can put them in the jungles of Viet Nam, the furthest reaches of space, a haunted house, or even the bowels of Hell. And we do it by evoking their senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.

Here’s another outstanding nugget I’ve gleaned from David Farland’s tips: Not all people experience the world in the same way — much like we all don’t learn the same way. Some people learn by doing, others by watching, still others by listening.

It’s similar to the way people process what they’ve read. A person who learns by doing leans heavily on their sense of touch. That individual might prefer reading descriptions that are very tactile in nature. A person who prefers to watch and learn might prefer highly visual descriptions, while the person that learns by listening might prefer reading about the sounds of a setting.

That makes perfect sense – no pun intended. It also suggests that we need to incorporate all the senses into our stories, as often as possible. Including the senses artfully and in tandem helps create settings that transport our readers to the worlds we’ve created.

While we’re at it, are we letting our readers know what’s going on inside our characters’ heads? How they’re feeling? Internal dialog is a useful tool in this regard. My good friend, Killion Slade, introduced me to another dynamite tool, the Emotion Thesaurus, written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This book lists common emotions and their physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, as well as cues of their acute or long term duration and cues of their being suppressed. It’s become one of my favorite resources and it makes it easier than ever to create three-dimensional characters to star in my theatre of the mind productions.

No, there isn’t anything new and groundbreaking about writing descriptors, whether they’re painting a vivid setting or our characters’ emotions. This stuff has been drilled into us for years.

But if it’s really all that rudimentary, why don’t we each look back at one of our stories to see how frequently we actually do it. According to Farland and other successful writers, we should be hitting all of the senses on just about every page. That’s a whole lot of seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, and touching going on. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to start focusing on this a bit more.

I wonder how my characters will feel about that.

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  • David Farland is an award-winning, bestselling international fantasy author, widely known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series, The Runelords. Interested people can sign up to receive David’s e-mailed writing tips at www.davidfarland.com.

 

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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 creative writing by Thomas More College. Publication credits include, “Killing it Softly”, “Short Story America”, “Bete Noir”, “Everyday Fiction”, “Toys in the Attic”, “Floppy Shoes Apocalypse II”, “Pilcrow and Dagger”, “Quickfic”, and “Sirens Call”. Boldwood’s story, ‘In the Shadow of Fire’ will be appearing in the anthology “Saturalia,” published by Hyperion and Theia in late 2017.

Boldwood’s characters are often disreputable and not to be trusted. 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 can sometimes be found writing as Mary Ann Back, whose collection of short stories “Dead Reckoning”, published by Grey Wolfe Publishing, is available at www.amazon.com.

Amazon Author Central address: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01LWY22MD