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.

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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

Zombies, Vampires, and Cursed Skulls

I love all genres of literature but my favorite genre to read is horror. I especially like horror mixed with comedy and I’ve read three books recently that fit that category. The first book I want to talk about is The Sinister Mr. Corpse by Jeff Strand. The story is about a man named Stanley Dabernath who was a regular guy until he became the worlds first living zombie.

Stanley’s movie company, Demented Whacko’s Video is not successful. In fact he is $60,000 in debt, was recently evicted from his apartment and lives off a diet of  Ramen Noodles that he stole from the grocery store. His luck changes one day though when he is run over by a milk truck and drowns in the milk.

Death is not the end for Stanley. His body is rescued from the morgue and he gets brought back to life on national TV by Project Second Chance. Now Stanley has everything he could ever want, he has money, fame, product endorsements, action figures and he’s a hit on all the talk shows. Stanley has the life he has always dreamed of, but it comes at a price, he has to take injections to keep from rotting any more then he already has, Project Second Chance owns his body and there is a group of religious fanatics that want to prove that he’s a fake.

After two failed attempts to kill him, being hounded by the media and having a man decide to build a religion based on him; Stanley escapes project Second Chance and heads to New York to become a super hero. Things don’t go well and he gets kidnapped and held for ransom. He then finds out what happens when he doesn’t get his injections and the secret behind how Project Second Chance brought him back to life. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t science that resurrected him.

The Sinister Mr. Corpse is an action packed horror comedy filled with twists and turns. What I enjoyed most was the dialog in the book, all of the characters had great personality and if the book had no action and was made up entirely of dialog between the characters, I would have still enjoyed it. Another part that really stuck out with me was a fight between Mr. Corpse and an assassin near the end which unexpectedly moves from drama to comedy. Despite the fact that this book is meant mainly for laughs, it does make a good point about how we should be careful about idolizing celebrities.

If you need any more influence to buy The Sinister Mr. Corpse, check out the reviews on Amazon from Jeff Strand and J.A. Konrath and after your done check out their book of humorous horror stories called Suckers. I have to say up front about Suckers, its definitely not a great work of literature, but I found myself laughing quite a bit. In the books the authors themselves describe the book as “Men have weiners, he he he.” That should tell you what your getting into if you buy it.

Some of the short stories in Suckers include A Bit of Halloween Mayhem, where a couple of people break into a haunted house on Halloween and get more then they bargained for and The Necro File which follows Detective Harry McGlade as he investigates some strange happenings in a cemetery.

The main story in Suckers was written by both authors and includes two characters that have been in some of the novels that they have written in the past. Detective Harry McGlade  is called to Florida to find a kidnapped girl. As he is breaking into the house where he believes the girl is being held, he runs into Andrew Mayhem who was only trying to bring a jar of spaghetti sauce to his wife. Afraid Mayhem will call the cops on him, Harry makes Andrew enter the house with him and discovers a house full of wannabe vampires  who want to make McGlade their lunch. If you have a strong stomach and need a good laugh, pick this book up.

The last book I wanted to mention is one I’m currently reading and since it was in the same vein (pun intended) as the others I wanted to mention it. The book is Draculas by Jeff Strand, Jack Kilborn (pen name of J.A. Konrath), F. Paul Wilson and Blake Crouch. The story is about retired millionaire Mortimer Moorecock who is dying of cancer. In order to survive his disease Mortimer has bought a skull found in Romania that is believed to have belonged to Count Dracula. When Mortimer gets the skull he clamps its jaws on his neck and goes into convulsions. He is rushed to the hospital where he dies and rises again as a vampire.

The description of this book describes it as Dawn of the Dead in a hospital but with vampires in place of zombies. These are not the kind of vampires with feelings, they’re the blood thirsty killing anti-Twilight kind. Each Author in this book took a character in the story and wrote the most intense black comedy horror story they could. If you know of any good books combining horror and comedy please leave a comment.