Chilling Chat: Episode #201 – Crystal Connor

Crystal Connor grew up telling spooky little campfire-style stories at slumber parties. Living on a steady literary diet of Stephen King, Robin Cook, Dean R. Koontz and healthy doses of cinema masterpieces such as The Birds, Friday the 13th,Wordsmith Crystal Connor Hellraiser, The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone; along with writing short stories specializing in the Science Fiction & Horror genres since before Jr. high School, it surprised no one that she ended up writing horror novels! 

Crystal is a fascinating person and a thought-provoking author. We spoke of writing, her influences, and her literary father. 

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

CC: Thank you so much for having me.

NTK: What got you into horror and how old were you?

CC: Gosh, that’s such a good question. I’ve always told really good horror stories. When I was little, I was invited to all the slumber parties because I told her really good horror stories. (Laughs.) It’s something that I’ve always done. I didn’t grow up thinking that I was going to be a horror author—it just happened by happenstance, so yeah.

NTK: Did you watch horror movies at the slumber parties? What is your favorite horror movie?

CC: I don’t remember watching horror movies at slumber parties, unless I was the one hosting them. Horror is something that’s always been in the peripherals of my life. I grew up watching the black-and-white Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Dark Shadows, Tales from the Crypt, Twilight Zone, Hellraiser, Stephen King, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. You know, horror’s always been a part of my life, and I always like things—you know—darker around the edges.

NTK: What is your favorite horror television show?

CC: I think my favorite TV shows growing up was a tie between The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. I believe science fiction and horror are fraternal twins and there’s a lot of stuff in those two series that are just like downright unsettling. So, growing up—ya there would be a tie.

NTK:  Do you have a favorite horror novel?

CC: Ok, so people actually raise their eyebrows when they hear me say this, but my favorite horror novel of all time is the Book of Revelations in the King James Bible. Now, I grew up in a Christian household and I’m a Godfearing person. I don’t think I’m a Christian because, of course, I’m not living according to the scriptures. But the book of revelations has shaped my writing and me as a person. From a very young age that was the first story that I read from start to finish without stopping, and it’s just so terrifying. I mean, I was just like terrified, right, ‘cause I think I might have been like 10 or 11 years old and I’m super seduced by images and that book is so visually terrifying that it stuck with me. The visuals and the things that were prophesized that are going to come to pass if we don’t change our ways of living—so, yeah, it’s the Book of Revelations that has shaped me as an individual in my personal life and in my writing life as well.

NTK: So, do you have a favorite horror author?

CC: My favorite horror writer, besides myself, hands down has to be Stephen King. I didn’t take any writing classes and when I write, I just kind of dislike writing everything down as it comes to me. But Stephen King is the person who taught me how to write. He is my mentor even though he doesn’t know it. So, when I’m working on a scene and I’m struggling through it, I usually just read a book from Stephen King to see how he did it, and then, I kind of copy that style to get me out of whatever hole I’m in. Whatever I’m like struggling to get by. The very first King novel that I read was Pet Sematary and of course, I’ve read everything that he’s written after that. He’s my favorite horror writer because he’s my literary dad. (Laughs.)

But there are so many amazing horror authors now, that there’s no way that I would be able to name them all. Some women who have been influential in my career would be like Linda Addison, Eden Royce, and Sumiko Saulson. There’re so many of us, and that’s a really good thing.

NTK: That’s great! As a person of color, what has your experience in the horror community been like? Good? Bad? Both?

CC: It’s been a combination of all three. With my first novel, The Darkness, the editor working on it suggested that people would not connect to my two main characters which are both strong black women leads but don’t fit the stereotypical idea of a black woman in the media, you know. So, that was really shocking to hear as a first-time writer coming up. But luckily, I didn’t take her advice and I stayed true to my story. And then, six months after it was published, I was the recipient of two international book awards. It’s been amazing because I’ve had people come up to me saying that they didn’t know that there are black people writing horror.

I think my favorite part of being a black horror writer, is meeting other people of color who are creating horror content. This has just been so incredible. But it’s a double-edged sword, because the assumption is black people are unable to write really good horror, but it is a compliment and because I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit. I’ll take the compliments where I can. (Laughs.)

But it’s incredible to see how people are now recognizing our work and also enjoying our work. Last night, I went to see a private screening of Candyman, and it just brought me to tears to see people of color creating stories of horror that are mainstream. So yeah, this is just incredible.

NTK: You often review movies and books, what did you think of Candyman? Had you seen the original?

CC: Yup. I saw the original and the new movie blew me away. It is not a reboot. It is not a sequel. It is a continuation of the story, and it was so amazing, that I left the theater just numb. My advice to everybody is just to go see the movie, but keep in mind that it’s told from a different point of view. So, the first Candyman was produced by, you know, a white crew, white writers, and predominantly white actors. But this time around, we’re telling our side of this story. So, for me, it was more horrific than the first one. But it is every bit the type of movie we have grown accustomed to and get excited about.

When the movie has Jordan Peele’s name attached to it, it’s just hands down incredible. It was beautiful, and it was frightening, and even the kill scenes were almost elegant. I hope you get to see this movie.

NTK: What inspires your writing? What inspired you to write My First Nightmare?

CC: Oh my God, what inspired me to write My First Nightmare was when my fans would come up to me at conventions and ask me to write a children’s novel. I don’t write for children so for the first two years I absolutely refused to do it. But it did start growing in the back of my mind and when I reached out to an artist, and explained what I wanted to do, the numbers he came back with is what really propelled me to write the book. It could afford the artwork that’s in that book.

The idea for My First Nightmare was to introduce children to the horror genre through the stories of urban legends, myths, and monsters from actual cultures from all the way around the world.

But not from cultures that we are heavily bombarded with. So, there’re no Egyptian monsters, there’re no Norse monsters, I really spent a whole entire year researching the monsters that I wanted to be presented in this book so that it’s truly a diverse horror novel for children and even adults who want to, like, put their toe into the waters of horror.

NTK: So, when you write your characters, do they have free will? Or do you direct their every move?

CC: I think this might be true for all writers but there comes a time in the story where the characters take over. I usually just start writing with an idea and about a third of the way through, I’m just hanging on for the ride. With my Spectrum Trilogy, I was not expecting that to be a trilogy. That was just gonna be a medical thriller/science fiction/ horror book about a child that was created in the lab. But because I didn’t let myself stay in a box, I ended up with a complete trilogy with the genres of time traveling, sorcery, and military thriller. It’s just people who read that series are blown away that I wrote it in the first place, and then the second thing they always ask is how I kept everything straight. And the answer is—I have no idea. (Laughs.)

NTK: (Laughs.) That is cool! What advice do you have for other authors?

CC: My advice would be to always have fun and don’t beat yourself up when you don’t feel like writing that day, or if you have writer’s block. And I’m also gonna share a cheat code: watching movies counts as research!

NTK: (Laughs.) That’s great! What does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

CC: I’m currently working on two books. They’re both standalone. One is YA. The other book I’m working on is a straight adult horror novel called The Family.

And, as far as HorrorAddicts is concerned, whatever they throw my way. I have been able to prescreen and review some of the most amazing horror movies that are out there, and that’s one of the things that I love so much about working for HorrorAddicts. It’s my tribe. That’s my tribe.

NTK: That’s wonderful! Thank you for joining me today!

CC: This was really fun. Thanks for interviewing me.

HorrorAddicts.net 120, Chantal Noordeloos

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Horror Addicts Episode# 120

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

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chantal noordeloos | madalice | found footage

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

54 days till halloween

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Two from Crystal Connor

 

Crystal Conner the Author of  The Darkness and In The Foothills of Mt. Empyreal The End is Now is offering our readers a free copy of each book. If you would like a copy of one of these two books, be one of the first two people to email me at horroraddicts@gmail.com. Now on to our reviews:

10099991Artemisia has devoted her life to science, alchemy and jewelry. Family wasn’t as important to her as trying to obtain forbidden knowledge. She is a founding member of The Skyward Group which is a team of scientists working on top-secret projects. Artemisia’s main goal is to learn how god thinks and play god herself. There is another woman like her named Inanna. Inanna is a powerful witch who also has everything she wants and desires to be more god like. The one thing that neither has is a child.

This brings us to Adam, a three-month old boy who is being kept in a cage in a science lab. The doctors won’t get close to him because he’s dangerous. Alex has power but he doesn’t understand it and what he wants more than anything is to be loved.  Inanna and Artemisia have their eyes set on the boy and want to raise him in their own image. Only one can be his mother while the other will suffer at the hands of both mother and child.

The Darkness by Crystal Connor is the first book in The Spectrum Series and it was hard to put down. This isn’t a story of good versus evil, it’s the story of  forbidden magic versus forbidden science. It’s also a study on what happens when you become to powerful and have too much forbidden knowledge. I admire Crystal’s ability to make you love a character and hate them at the same time. The story here takes place over several years and we get to watch Adam go from a child to an adult. We see what destruction he causes when he can’t get what he wants, but we also see a boy who tries desperately to save the people he loves when they are in danger and how bad he feels when he hurts someone he loves.

You also see the good and bad in Inanna. You feel bad for her when her mother is taken away and she cries but then when she takes her vengeance on a group of people, you see that maybe this isn’t a person you should show pity for. One of my favorite scenes in the book has Inanna summoning warlocks and demons in order to do a protection spell for Adam. As she does this, one of the demons says that when she dies there will be no end to her suffering. Inanna’s reaction to this is indifference. I loved this scene because she was using evil and sacrificing herself to protect someone she loved. Inanna knows what she wants and nothing will stop her from having it.

What makes The Darkness interesting is that there are no heroes and villains, everyone is a shade of grey. The characters are complex, at times both Artemisia and Inanna show that they have a dark side but they also both show that they have a compassionate nature. The boy Alex also shows a lot of depth such as at one point he takes his anger out on one of the doctors in the lab but then another time we see him cry as another doctor hugs him for the first time. The characters are so fascinating you don’t see any of them as good or evil, they’re just people. Rather then choose sides I found myself compelled to just sit back and enjoy the ride. The way their personalities are, you’re never sure who to root for, which made for an unpredictable story.

22077604In The Foothills of Mt. Empyreal The End is Now  is a collaboration between Crystal Connor and Lori Titus and is quite simply about people in a small town called Fates Keep dealing with the apocalypse. This book starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. We have angels, demons, wolves, a witch and lots of people hoping to survive. While the story is deceptively simple, there are a lot of characters and viewpoints to keep track of.

One way I would describe The End is Now is as ambitious. The way the book is written is different than anything I’ve read, there are no main character but it has several characters that are important and there is no resting point in the action. This book is about action and chaos in a war between angels and demons.  You have to stick with this book in order to get into it because it moves fast. What starts as a simple action driven apocalypse tale becomes a complex story about good versus evil and the choices we make.

While reading this one I found myself wondering what the writing process must have been like, because unless you have a program its hard to keep it all straight. My favorite part of the book was the humans, who despite the hopelessness of their situation still do what they can to survive.  This book is an original take on the apocalypse fiction genre that is so popular right now. There is a lot going on in this book and the story moves along at the speed of a freight train and doesn’t stop until the end.

13 Questions with Crystal Connor

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It’s that time of year again addicts, time to fulfill your blood thirsty urges for guts, gore, movies, books, vampires, zombies, and everything else your horrific black heart desires!IMAG0753

To get the 8th apocalypse started, we have the one and only The Darkness author, Crystal Connor! And, as a true HA fan she was more than happy to talk with me for an exclusive interview for all her fellow fans out there. “I’m crazy excited about being interviewed for Horror Addicts. I’m a connoisseur of all things horror so this is like a milestone for me”

For episode 85 of Horror Addicts, Crystal was kind enough to share with us her short story, Best Friends Forever. “[The story is one] that I wrote for my anthology …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! It’s in the process of becoming an audio book narrated by the amazing Kay Richardson who has the most amazing voice. I’m really excited about the audiobook, even though I wrote the stories every time I hear a story it’s like a whole new experience and only serves to take my excitement to even a higher level.”

Crystal didn’t want to give too much about Best Friends Forever away but she was kind enough to give us a little sneak peek into her story. “BFF tells a story of an end of a relationship and the dark and unsettling places a person will go to in order to keep the person they love, or escape.”

Now, like I mentioned above, Crystal is well known for her novel The Darkness. For those of you unfamiliar with the dark tale go out and get it HERE. And for the rest of you, Crystal would like to share with you the beginning of The Darkness. “When I 1st wrote The Darkness I thought it was a short story. I was working in a boat yard at the time, the wielding instructor there is a big prize winning author and he heard I was a writer and asked if he could read my work. So I took him The Darkness and basically flipped out and told me that it wasn’t a short story, that I was being lazy and I needed to start taking my writing seriously because it was more than just a hobby.  That turned out to be the best advice anyone has ever given me.”

Crystal_MorganBook two of the trilogy is also available, if you haven’t heard of it yet then you are in for a treat. You can find book two: Artificial Light on Amazon.

“I currently have three publications. The Darkness and Artificial Light, books I & II of the Spectrum Trilogy and my anthology …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! The Darkness and Artificial Light are available in both print and e-book format. …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! is only available in print because the unique interior design does not translate into a digital format which is why …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! will be available in an audio format.”

Having churned out three publications and other short stories, I just had to know how writing has affected Crystal’s life lately. This was her response:

“It’s my full time job. Right after the release of Artificial Light I started really talking seriously about quitting my job to write full time and what was surprising is how much support I received from my family and friends. They’re not kidding when they say starving artist and it’s been hard but I have a really good circle of support and things are starting to get a little easier.

My writing affects everything else. I write at night, so I really don’t have that much of a social life; everyone I love lives normal lives and sleep during the night. The way you’re supposed to haha. But the transition from punching a clock and being financially secure, to trying to carve out a life on the earnings of book sales has really shown me who my friends Front Coverare. And luckily for me everyone who was around when I was spending money like there was no tomorrow are still with me today.

Sometimes when I think about how much my family and friends mean to me and how they’ve all supported and continue to support me I get so overcome with gratitude that I literally burst into tears. I don’t know why I do that.”

Crystal is looking forward to the day that she can “earn enough fans to be able to make a decent living doing something that [she loves].”

Be on the lookout for future work by Crystal Connor! Being a full time author, there is a lot that she is currently working on. “Well like I said, the production is underway to turn my anthology …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! into an audio book and I am currently working on the final book in the Spectrum Trilogy. I do have some other projects simmering on the back burner but I would like to get these two finished and out the door before I starting talking about what’s next.”

For more information on Crystal Connor…be sure to check out these sites!

http://www.wordsmithcrystalconnor.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/CrystalYConnor

And as a special Thank You to all you Horror Addicts out there, here is her interview for the …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! launch party!