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, 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.