Odds and DEAD Ends: Claustrophobic Killing

The Horror Legacy of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’

Agatha Christie probably isn’t a name you’d associate with horror. She was a crime author; the writer you snuggled up in the armchair with on a rainy afternoon for a good thriller with twists and turns. For the first two decades of her career, the famous detective with the little grey cells, Hercule Poirot, was her livelihood. And yet, in 1939, she unleashes And Then There Were None. This single novel redefined strategic, rhythmic, multiple murders in fiction and would come to change horror itself.

On the documentary The Thing: Terror Takes Shape, John Carpenter cites Christie’s novel as an influence on his adaptation of Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?. In the novella, dozens of scientists find an alien imitator in their midst which is ultimately defeated with only a few deaths. Carpenter’s The Thing is much bleaker, with just sixteen men left to fight and kill, and ultimately are left with two survivors and an uncertain future, desolate and alone.

Strangely, though a larger crowd might sound initially scarier, as they could be so many people, it is when there are fewer characters that the tension mounts. The walls have closed in. There aren’t seven rooms that a killer could be in; there’s only one. And, standing in the right place, you can be sure to see them. Carpenter reduces a few dozen characters to his sixteen, and Dame Christie had already done it with just ten.

Everything about the novel has the purpose of constricting the ten, subjecting them to as much pressure as possible, crushing them. The house is cut off from the rest of the world and those on the mainland have been told not to rescue them. We’re confined to the hallways of Soldier Island’s house, chasing shadows.

Added to this the dripping theme of guilt that Christie presents us with, permeating every sentence, every word of the novel, and we see that she is pressurizing the characters emotionally. The past catching up with them; they can’t escape the killer or their conscience.

But I’m not here to discuss the novel as a whole. What I want to bring to your attention is the legacy of its setup. Just look to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Though light-hearted, there are two episodes of the first series in which the S.O.S brigade are trapped on an island with a single house, in a storm, when a murder takes place. Suddenly everyone begins casting suspicions, doors are kept locked, shadows are seen outside. Though there is only a single murder, as opposed to the many in Christie’s novel, the setup is so similar it borders on parody.

To go even further, die-hard fans of horror-thrillers will remember the series Umineko no naku koro ni, or When The Seagulls Cry. Twenty people on an island in a storm being killed off systematically to appease an old legend. This direct homage is done not just because it’s a nice reference, but because the formula is so easy, simple, and effective. No communication to the outside world, trapped in one place, being killed off by a psychopath in the midst.

This claustrophobic killing rhythm has been replicated so many times now that it’s hard to think that it had an origin of some kind. And there were stories that used aspects of it before And Then There Were None, but none of them had the same impact.

Could you conceive of the modern slasher flick without some of the points mentioned? Could you imagine Alien if it was in a city with a nuke nearby? If the bridge in The Evil Dead were intact? Perhaps Saw II would be better if only two people died in that house? Maybe if the police didn’t keep them caged in the apartment, REC would have been vastly improved?

If you want maximum terror, you keep people confined. This isn’t just a claustrophobia thing; it’s the idea of escape. Freedom. You find what a character wants, and then take it away from them; it’s storytelling 101. In Scream, Sidney says that horror movies are just girls that ‘run up the stairs when they should be running out the front door, it’s insulting.’ But when the front door opens up to a cliff-face or the vacuum of space, there’s no option. We’re trapped. We are creatures constantly in need of control, and when we don’t have control of escape possibilities, we panic. We get scared.

Christie got the formula and nailed it. It hasn’t been beaten since. It’s the reason why The Mousetrap is the longest continuously-showing production of all time. It’s why Waters of Mars was one of the most terrifying episodes of Doctor Who in recent memory. It’s because it taps into our basic instincts and then removes them. We can’t fight and we can’t run. We can only try to survive and hope and pray. And anyway, as Leslie Vernon says, letting people escape ‘is really embarrassing.’ These killers aren’t going to let us off the island.

And Then There Were None is the perfect slasher prototype and should be revered and remembered as such. Agatha Christie wrote the essential horror blueprint. Fact.

 

Article by Kieran Judge

 

Bibliography

Alien. 1979. [Film] Directed by Ridley Scott. United States of America: Brandywine Productions.

Behind the mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon. 2006. [Film] Directed by Scott Glosserman. USA: Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Campbell, J. W., 2011. Who Goes There?. 1st ed. London: Gollancz.

Christie, A., 1952 – present. The Mousetrap. London: St. Martin’s Theatre.

Christie, A., 2015. And Then There Were None. London: HarperCollins.

Doctor Who – Waters Of Mars. 2009. [Film] Directed by Graeme Harper. United Kingdom: BBC.

John Carpenter’s The Thing. 1982. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Universal Studios.

REC. 2007. [Film] Directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza. Spain: Filmax International.

Saw II. 2005. [Film] Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. USA: Twisted Pictures.

Scream. 1996. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States: Dimension Films.

The Evil Dead. 1981. [Film] Directed by Sam Raimi. USA: Renaissance Pictures.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. 2006. [Film] Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

The Thing: Terror Takes Shape. 1998. [Film] Directed by Michael Mattesino. United States Of America: Universal.

Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. 2009. [Film] Directed by Chiaki Kon. Japan: Studio Deen.

 

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Chilling Chat Episode 160 Michele Roger

Michele Roger is an author and harpist living and working in Detroit. Her previous novel, The Conservatory, was published in 2014. Her second book, Eternal Kingdom: A Vampire Novel, was published in 2015 and made into a film script. Dedicated to furthering the reach of women in speculative fiction, she is a founding member of, “The Wicked Women Writer’s Group.” Her short stories have been published in anthologies in both the US and UK. As a harpist, she is the founder of the Michigan Conservatory. She was a Detroit Music Awards Finalist for best classical composer in 2015.

Michele is an innovative and artistic woman. We spoke of music, the creative process, and her advice for the burgeoning female writer.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Michele! Thank you so much for chatting with me.

MR: I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for the invite!

NTK: You’re an accomplished musician. How does your background in music influence your writing?

MR: That’s a great question. In reality, there isn’t an easy answer. The two creative outlets sometimes inspire one another. That’s when it feels like a blessing. I can be writing a conversation between two people falling for one another and the music will start to play in my head. The epiphany will hit me that it’s not a song I’ve heard before. Then, I stop writing words and start writing notes on a music paper. Sometimes, the two outlets compete for my attention. I can wake up at 3 am with a story and the theme music and the entire movie score in my head. Then, it feels like a curse. Which do you act upon first? Honestly, it’s a good problem to have.

NTK: Do you find inspiration in dreams?

MR: My biggest inspiration is walking. But, dreams do come into play. If I set a story and its characters aside to do my day job teaching music or playing Harp concerts, the characters sneak into my dreams. It’s always the same dream to start. I’m asleep in bed inside of a glass box. The characters come and gently knock on the box while I’m sleeping. The characters return each night, knocking louder and eventually pounding on the glass until I finally start to write their story. Then, the dreams end.

NTK: Did The Harpist come to you in this way?

MR: Yes. The ghost in the story, Emma, came to see me first, as I was out for a walk. That night, I dreamed of her outside the glass box. She scared the hell out of me. But as a paranormal writer, that’s an advantage, I suppose. Elizabeth and Detective Flannery came to me the next day.

NTK: That’s a fascinating process. What is the difference between paranormal and horror?

MR: Paranormal, by my definition, is like a flavor of a story. There are elements that are scary or ghostly but those elements are just tools for telling a story. The Harpist is definitely paranormal. I’ve written two horror novels. The entire story builds and builds becoming more frightening at every turn.

Paranormal uses scary elements to tell a great story. Horror uses a story to convey something really scary.

NTK: Are your stories character driven? Or, plot driven?

MR: Depends on the story. My sci-fi book, Dark Matter was definitely plot driven. So was [ ETERNAL KINGDOM: A VAMPIRE NOVEL Paperback ] Roger, Michele ( AUTHOR ) Jul - 20 - 2014 [ Paperback ]my horror novel, Eternal Kingdom. But my latest shorts, like Addicted to Love and now this new novel, The Harpist, is far more driven by the characters.

I think, as I get older, the more I like how beautiful it is when characters are vulnerable.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters after they come to you? Do they retain their free will? Do they come to you with vulnerabilities?

MR: They come to me dragging their huge amounts of baggage. It’s just my job to spoon their personality and flaws out to the readers as needed.

NTK: What writers have influenced you most?

MR: My first love of literature bloomed after reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I read that Hunter S. Thompson said he wrote passages from The Great Gatsby over and over again to learn how to write well, I tried it. That’s when I knew I wanted to write. I didn’t realize I wanted to write speculative fiction, sci-fi, and horror/paranormal until I devoured Stephen King’s short, Thinner. Then, The Visitor series in the 80s and finally, Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, had me writing in the genre and never looking back.

NTK: Were you a reader as a child?

MR: I loved to read. It was always my escape.

NTK: What got you into horror?

MR: In 8th grade, a friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s, The Eyes of the Dragon. It was a fantasy story he wrote for his daughter. I was already reading all the sci-fi and fantasy I could get my hands on secretly (my mom thought I should read romance) so King’s fantasy novel became my gateway drug into his other stories.

NTK: What do your parents think of your writing? Have they encouraged you?

MR: Before my dad passed away, he came to every signing and author event I had; often buying a copy of books he already had just to show his support. My mom is supportive of all my creative endeavors.

NTK: You said your mom wanted you to read romance. Do you like to write romantic scenes in your books?

MR: The first romantic scene I ever had to write, I was so nervous, I had to have a cocktail to get through it. Now, I have become much closer friends with my characters. I adore helping them find their loves. Maybe, that’s the difference between writing my first love scene in my early thirties and writing now at 46. I’m more comfortable with my own sexuality and hence, I’m more comfortable with the romance scenes of my characters.

NTK: That’s great! Do you enjoy horror movies and television shows? If so, which are your favorites?

MR: Hmm. I love Stranger Things but really, I don’t watch much TV or movies. I’m a print junkie.

NTK: What do you like about Stranger Things?

MR: I love the duality of worlds; one we can see, one only a select few can see. I also adore how much they’ve embraced the deliciousness of the 80s, right down to the plaid flannel shirts. Seeing the story through the eyes of kids is one of the best parts.

NTK: You’re a founding member of The Wicked Women Writer’s Group. Could you tell the Addicts how that came about?

MR: Early on in my writing, a publisher told me that it would be hard for him to market my work if I used my real name. Horror and sci-fi readers didn’t buy work written by women (or so he thought.) I didn’t want to hide behind a male pen name. Instead, I started a group for women who wrote speculative fiction. I wanted it to be a positive place for female horror writers to support one another. It’s become so much more and I couldn’t be more proud of all the members and our collaborations.

NTK: Very cool! Thank you for starting this group and giving women writers a place to get together. What advice would you like to give prospective women writers out there?

MR: Just this week, The Guardian published an interview with Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials series, and president of a UK author society. He said that the publishing world isn’t supporting authors. Less than 30% of authors can make a living by writing solely as a career. For women, the percentage is even lower. Hence, my advice is this: 1. Buy the work of all authors you love. As a woman and a writer, we appreciate the grueling art form. Particularly, buy the work of female authors. Show appreciation with our dollars. 2. If monetary support is out of reach, support women’s writing by posting great reviews of their work. 3. Never give up on your dream.

NTK: Wonderful words! Michele, as you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MR: Curses are definitely a powerful female tool. My favorite thing about them is that they’re more frightening than a threat. A curse actually feels possible. My favorite curse? “I hope you have a kid just like you!” That curse came true in my two kids. And, I couldn’t be more proud.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What books, stories, and music do HorrorAddicts have to look forward to?

MR: The Harpist (Cursed) will be released this fall 2018. A short holiday story with Elizabeth and Flannery is in the works and the sequel to The Harpist is already outlined and taking shape. As for music, I’m working on another Celtic harp album which will hopefully be released in the spring of 2019.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Michele. It’s been fun.

MR: Thank you so much for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Michele on Twitter.

Chilling Chat Episode 159 Patrick C. Greene

As a toddler, Patrick C. Greene created horrors in crayon before discovering comics and horror fiction. Despite nights spent hiding under covers, he was always drawn to dark tales.

After cutting his fangs on screenwriting Greene found his true calling in prose with the debut novel Progeny. He favors horror that is emotionally engaging, terrifying, and suspenseful.

Greene’s other works include the collection Dark Destinies, action-packed vampire novel The Crimson Calling, and The Haunted Hollow Chronicles: Red Harvest, coming Halloween from Lyrical Press.

Western North Carolinian Greene heeds his morbid muse when not enjoying monstrous helpings of Horror, Kung Fu, and Doom Metal.

Patrick has a style all his own. We spoke of his childhood in Western North Carolina, writing, and his fascination with Faustian themes.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Patrick! Let’s get down to business. What got you interested in Horror?

PCG: Like many small fry, I was interested in dinosaurs, and that led to Godzilla movies, which have a good bit of genre crossover.

The first exposures to real horror came via a paperback collection of Tales from the Crypt comics I found on my father’s bookshelf, which I believe he confiscated from one of his college students.

He told me about the Universal monster series so I made a point of watching all of those I could find.

The third influence was the death of my Aunt Helen, when I was maybe four or five. I was just beginning to get close to her when she passed. Death was no longer a distant abstraction. I suppose I needed to understand just what it was. I still have drawings from then with images of corpses and skeletons.

NTK: Did your father encourage your interest in horror? What was your childhood like?

PCG: Yes, and in some ways, he was not aware he was even doing so. My dad was a novelist as well as a newspaper editor and often found himself covering gruesome crime or just bizarre stories. He had a police band radio that he monitored at night. Once, I recall him rousting my brothers and me from bed and piling us in the car. There had been a UFO sighting nearby, and if there was one to be seen, he wanted us to have that experience. He and my mother were very excited, but my brothers and I—less so, and more terrified of encountering the hostile variety of spacemen we’d seen on TV.

Another such incident involved a wildcat that had been heard near the mountain community where we lived. I can’t remember if anyone had lost animals or whatnot, but my dad took it upon himself to hunt the damn thing, and I went with him. It was a crisp clear night and we hiked into the woods. Several times, we heard its cry; like a screaming woman—chilling to the bone.

NTK: Did you grow up in Western North Carolina? Mountainous areas have a reputation for frightening stories. Did the geography influence your writing?

PCG: Yes, my parents discovered a few acres outside of Asheville and had a two-story log house built on it. There are quite a few ghost stories connected to the region and my dad was not shy about sharing them on camping trips and cold nights. There are flesh and blood dangers too, such as a pack of wild dogs; runaways and strays that had come together.

Oddly, I saw greener grass on the other side, so to speak. I had a long phase of wishing to be a big-city boy. Due to this longing, I was attracted to comics, films, and books that were set in seedy metropolises. Clive Barker, my favorite author, often sets his work in urban areas.

But I am in touch with the isolation of this geography (I’m back on that track now) and I do feel uniquely attuned to its scary potential. I’ve embraced the wilderness figuratively and literally.

Stingy Jack and Other Tales by [Greene, Patrick C.]NTK: Did this “scary potential” inspire the story “Stingy Jack?” How did that come about?

PCG: In a roundabout way. I’ve tried for a few years to grow pumpkins in my front yard, largely without success. I looked up ways to improve my chances and fell into a rabbit hole, as will happen, about the origins of Halloween, the reasons for Jack O Lanterns, etc. Stingy Jack, the face of the legend struck me as an interesting character in his own right. There are a good many tellings of this story but I had never seen one done as a prose narrative. Stingy Jack has the potential to be a seasonal symbol like Ichabod Crane.

NTK: You’ve written a book called, Red Harvest, which (like Stingy Jack) features the Devil. What drew you to the theme of those who sell their souls?

PCG: I fit the classic mold of a child born into traditional Christian belief, which I later came to question. Whether you view him as a real being or an archetype, Lucifer is a character of greater nuance than he’s given credit for: a wicked being of only hate and spite, seeking to destroy good and replace it with evil. One person’s idea of selling one’s soul can be another’s idea of taking personal responsibility for your life, come what may. Alternately it can be regarded as the necessary opposite to the essential goodness; each defining the other.

To me, Stingy Jack seems to be a simple lesson in planning ahead. Both Jack and The Devil are stuck in the moment of their decisions. The tale probably served as yet another variation on the boogie man theme that parents use to keep their children from going astray, which seems like lazy parenting if you think about it—which makes it the ultimate irony. I wanted to show the consequences that Jack’s actions have on others, on the world around him. Jack’s avarice and self-centeredness rival even Lucifer’s, and that’s why he is doomed; both tragic and terrifying because he will never change.

The “devil” in Red Harvest is a very different take than that of Stingy Jack. Fair to say, these two demonic fellows would scarcely know each other at all. Both take place on Halloween as well, so I hope readers will let me share their scares this season, and for many to come.

NTK: That’s a new and fascinating take on the old legend. You spoke of Clive Barker earlier. Did he influence your writing?

PCG: Clive Barker’s work seemed almost alien to me when I first read it, whereas King’s felt like home. A scary, spooky home.

I remember seeing Barker’s Hellraiser and thinking what a perfect horror show this is, with a living corpse in the attic, demonic entities threatening to come through the walls, and worst of all: a cold murderess dominating a supremely effed-up family. Red Harvest is likewise a horrific potpourri, and hopefully as well-drawn and tightly-woven.

Hellraiser led me to The Books Of Blood, and one of my all-time favorite novels, The Damnation Game—which brings us back to the Faustian pacts, now that I think about it.

NTK: What about King and Koontz? Of those two, who do you think is the best?

PCG: As a young adult, I appreciated Koontz and King in equal measure, and Intensity will always be a favorite too. But for sheer consistency of quality to volume ratio, King will reign for many years. He continues to get better, even after all this time, and leaves us writers with no excuses for not producing.

The Stand, Pet Sematary, The Talisman and Carrie all seem to have graced me at the perfect time in my life, or perhaps were so strong they molded my life to fit their stories!

NTK: Do you enjoy the film adaptations of Barker’s work?

PCG: For the most part, yes. I love Candyman, but I’m not the fan of Nightbreed that many Barker fans are. Midnight Meat Train and Lord of Illusions are great adaptations. Then there’s Rawhead Rex. That one had the potential to be another Pumpkinhead, but just fell apart. Maybe someone will give it another shot.

NTK: What horror films and television shows do you watch?

PCG: Lately I’ve been watching Hannibal, which is heads and shoulders above most TV horror fare. I did enjoy Penny Dreadful, though I think it got a little played out. I’ve kind of given up on Supernatural. I’m eager to see The Frankenstein Chronicles.

I’m finding the superhero fad to be a bit stale, which is sad because I was an enthusiastic Marvel reader as a boy. I like what Legendary is doing with Godzilla and Kong and I’m pumped for the upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters!

I love the 70s and 80s feel, the way it’s incorporated into Stranger Things. I worked really Red Harvest (The Haunted Hollow Chronicles) by [Greene, Patrick C.]hard to reflect some of that in Red Harvest, along with elements of the 50s. Red Harvest’s town of Ember Hollow is like some time warp mix of 50s and 80s.

I’m about a year behind on all the big horror hits, but I’m also a fan of martial arts flicks.

NTK: Do you ever incorporate martial arts into your horror stories?

PCG: Oh yes. My novel The Crimson Calling contains several characters who are well-trained, particularly the heroine Olivia Irons, who is ex-special forces. She’s called upon to lead one faction of vampires against another. There a good many wild fight scenes in which martial arts are enhanced by the combatants’ vampire abilities.

Under Wicked Sky is a sci-fi horror novel I have had accepted by Sinister Grin Press, with plans for a 2019 release. The story centers around a post-global warming world in which the concept of law has essentially become meaningless, and guns are scarce. There are a good many brutal fight scenes.

Finally, the story “Cinderblock,” contained in the Stingy Jack collection, is about a boxer’s ghost who still has plenty of knockout power.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What projects do you have to share with the Horror Addicts? Any films involved?

PCG: I’ve become reticent to discuss film projects, as so few ever come to fruition! Both my bigfoot novel Progeny and the aforementioned Under Wicked Sky have been optioned for production and a martial arts web series I wrote is in some kind of limbo it seems.

Red Harvest is the first in a trilogy called The Haunted Hollow Chronicles, and I’m writing the second entry now with a release planned for next year through Kensington’s Lyrical imprint.

Beyond that, there are still plans for a follow-up to The Crimson Calling.

NTK: As you know, season 13 of Horror Addicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

PCG: Stingy Jack is, of course, cursed to roam the In-Between until he finds someone gullible enough to be tricked into taking his place!

Another interesting curse that comes to mind is from King’s Thinner, with the main character wasting away, day by day, for his moment of carelessness.

The film Drag Me To Hell depicts a horrific and sinister curse!

NTK: Those are great curses! Thank you for chatting with me, Patrick. You’re a fascinating person.

PCG: Thank YOU Naching! It’s been a lot of fun.

MUSIC REVIEW – Live show: Freakangel + Neonsol + Advance

Hello and welcome to HorrorAddicts.net music reviews! This is Jeffrey Kohld Kelly.

Today we are going to do something a little bit different; rather than reviewing a new release I’m going to do a review of the Manchester date of the Freakangel & Neonsol show featuring Advance. This tour was courtesy of Beat:Cancer, a UK-based nonprofit organization doing their part to help find a cure through means of concert tours and compilation CDs, with additional support from Analoguetrash and DWA Records. As a newcomer to the UK, this was my first Beat:Cancer performance, and I was floored by the immense support the audience and musicians had for the cause and for each other. But more on Beat:Cancer later; for now I’ll get to the bands.

The first performer of the night was Advance, a Scotland-based “Dystopian Electronica” band with a beautiful combination of both intelligent and danceable synth lines. Their music was nearly reminiscent of genre veterans CHROM and Neuroticfish, but with a wholly unique approach. Their live sound was even more full and professional sounding than their recorded material, which may be in part due to the fact that their most recent album was released 3 years ago and they’ve grown more as producers over the years. Their live show, while somewhat lacking in energy on stage, seemed to provoke the most energy in the crowd. Between industrial dancing and singing along to more than half of the songs, it was clear that Advance had already made quite an impact in the Manchester area previously. Tom’s vocals exceeded his skill demonstrated in the album while live synthesizers provided by his accomplice Kimberley added just enough push to the mix to drive forwards and deliver more to the live show than could be accomplished in a studio record. Advance’s charismatic and dynamic live performance was actually my favourite of the night, and I would highly recommend everybody else to be sitting on the edge of their seats just as much as me to catch their highly anticipated and long-time-coming new album.

The first co-headliner was the Danish/Canadian synthpop act Neonsol, a band iconic for their songbird-style female vocals paired with the deep and brooding vocals of their male vocalist and live synth player. Despite the high number of Neonsol shirts circulating the audience, they didn’t immediately receive quite the same positive response as Advance. I can’t help but feel that most of this initial hesitation held by the audience and myself was due in part to the performance of their live drummer. While they may have had reasons for having him along, I found him to be almost an extraneous member as he only played a midi snare drum, and hit less than half of the songs’ snare strikes. What made me most concerned was the fact that throughout more than the first half of their set he was playing severely out of time with the backing tracks and sampled drum beats, causing the entire live show to feel out of time and sit awkwardly. These tempo issues may have been in part due to live stage monitor levels being a bit low; any band will tell you how frustrating and common this issue is. But whatever the case, I felt it took far longer than necessary for me to be able to properly sink into their performance and experience it how it was meant to be. However, when the band found the pocket they were looking for, the performance quality increased drastically and created the dark and moody swaying pulse they’re known for. Their song Manipulation was, of course, the show-seller accentuated live by the rumbling voice of their male vocalist’s backing vocals. The stark contrast in sounds is and was implemented in a lovely way, and any fan of synth-driven music should find Neonsol at the top of their record collection.

Finally Freakangel took the stage. The Estonian industrial metal band has gone through quite a bit of genre evolution over the years, moving from harsh aggrotech to a significantly more metal-driven and hardcore or even metalcore-influenced combination. The live show delivered far more on the metal front than the studio albums, Art’s guitars receiving significantly more of a central focus, topped by an incredible and energetic performance by their new Amazon warrior of a live drummer. The vocal performance did seem to suffer somewhat compared to the album versions of songs, Dmitri mumbling or moaning the lyrics between guttural screams rather than a powerful vocal delivery throughout; while he may have been trying to convey a certain vibe to the audience through this type of performance, I can’t help but think that the show itself would have been stronger as a whole had all members shown just as much energy. Curiously enough, despite being the main headliner of the night, a surprising amount of the audience moved to the back for their performance. This may have been in part because of the stiff genre divide in the night, starting with synthpop and ending in death growls. It’s possible that most of the people who came simply weren’t metalheads and had come to see Advance and Neonsol. Whatever the case, those of us who stayed at the front had a fantastic time and I hope that Freakangel will continue to deliver such high energy performances throughout the rest of their career.

For those of you who would like to know more about Beat:Cancer you can find information at the link provided below. Even if you’re not based in the UK you can support the cause by ordering merchandise or a copy of their latest compilation CD featuring the artists who performed at this show as well as many others. For those in the UK you can catch the next Beat:Cancer tour featuring Sirus throughout the UK this October!

For HorrorAddicts.net this is Jeffrey Kohld Kelly.

Advance:

https://www.facebook.com/advanceaudio/

Neonsol:

https://www.facebook.com/Neonsol/

Freakangel:

https://www.facebook.com/freakangelofficial/

Beat:Cancer:

http://beatcancer.info/

Chilling Chat Episode 158 Mercy Hollow

Mercy Hollow was born in Florida, where she was terrorized by alligators, fire ants, rabid raccoons, sharks, drunken college students, and 100% humidity. She lived on three continents (four if you count the foreign realm of her imagination) and planted her feet in San Francisco. She has a love of hockey, motorcycles, and anything deemed weird. She writes about gritty underworlds, twists, deception, strong men, stronger women, and a hidden part of Chicago you’ve never seen. She is a freelance editor and workshop facilitator.

Mercy is a woman of many talents with a fascinating past. We spoke of forensic psychology, writing, and her take on good and evil.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Mercy. Thank you for chatting with me.

MH: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me on.

NTK: You have traveled the world and visited many continents. What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?

MH: While I’ve had some interesting, blood pumping, and challenging situations overseas, the scariest was in my home state of Florida. I was lost alone in the Everglades at night for hours with only a lighter.

NTK: Wow! How did that happen? And, how did you get out?

MH: I may have made a bad decision of who to hang out with for the evening. We had a disagreement and they left, taking the boat with them. I have a good sense of direction and a strong desire not to be eaten by alligators so I took my time, avoided the water, and eventually found a path.

NTK: Good job! Did this incident inspire you to become a horror writer? What got you interested in writing horror?

MH: With my previous career in forensic psychology, I got to delve into the darkest parts of people’s minds. See what people were capable of, both to cause ill and overcome tragedy and disaster. I love stories that capture these emotions and could get inside me. Characters that stuck with me, grabbed on, and wouldn’t let go. Writing fiction was a great escape from the real life hardships I saw every day in my job. But, I like dark things. Nighttime is my happy place, so my writing tends to flow to struggle and fight against it.

NTK: Did you solve any crimes during your time in forensic psychology?

MH: I worked with a lot of violent offenders and victims of violent crimes. I was involved in cases, prevention, and rehabilitation. I worked with all the agencies involved, from probation, parole, jails, and mental hospitals to court, police, schools, foster care, and emergency rooms. A team of people working together to make the streets and homes safer and help people that need it, including the offenders. I got to understand and see the other side of violent crime that many don’t. There are stories beneath every action and choice.

NTK: Did you draw on this experience when you wrote Scythe? Did it help you develop your villains as well as your heroes?

MH: Definitely. To me, villains aren’t evil. And, heroes aren’t good. They make the choice they make for a reason. What life throws at you and what shelters you from it is a huge influence on people. The three brothers that rule the Legion in Scythe have all been dealt a bad hand and each deals with it differently. All in their own special shade of darkness. The heroes in the Legion are trying to overcome that darkness but they struggle with the choices they made that got them Claimed in the first place. It also played a part in the Legion itself. When someone is Claimed, the antigen in their blood chooses their designation in the Legion that they will have for the rest of their life based on their personality. Who they truly are. So, they have to face and embrace this part of themselves or suffer the consequences.

NTK: This is an interesting view of good and evil. Less black and white. You’re dealing with shades of gray. Which brings me to the Paranormal Romance aspect. What makes your romance unique?

MH: It’s a blending of genres. Think paranormal romance meets Game of Thrones, in modern day Chicago with horror and suspense. Each book in the series is focused on two couples—a main and sub couple—whose storylines intertwine and influence the others. The world and plot of the Legion also impact the couples. It looks at struggles and hope in relationships, from couples to families, friends, and roles in society, as well as the society itself.

Scythe: Legions of the Claimed by [Hollow, Mercy]NTK: You’ve spoken of the choices which shape your characters. How much control do you have over them? Do you give your creations free will?

MH: Sometimes, I fool myself into thinking I have control over them. Then, they go and do something that ticks me off or they make a choice I want to yell at them for making. Or worse, I see their end coming for them and I can’t stop it. I spend a good amount of gray matter energy brainstorming and plotting, and finding character arcs but, at the end of the day, there are always surprises and places they take me. And, they always yell at me when I try to take them somewhere they wouldn’t go.

NTK: Do you enjoy psychological horror? What horror do you like to read?

MH: I do! From the classics like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, to Misery, The Shining, The Handmaid’s Tale, Red Dragon, and Silence of the Lambs. I love reading about the fear of anticipation, the lengths people will go to or be pushed to, the tricks the mind plays, and how people adapt to or resist the extraordinary.

NTK: What horror films and TV shows do you enjoy?

MH: I liked the movies of the books I mentioned previously. I’m an Alfred Hitchcock fan. I liked the different take on characters in Penny Dreadful, Grimm, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale series, The Leftovers, Black Mirror, Crazyhead. There are so many great ones. I love quirky and humorous horror as well.

NTK: Those are great shows and films. Which Hitchcock film is your favorite?

MH: Psycho, of course. But, I also really like The Birds, Rear Window, Rope, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, To Catch a Thief. He had a great way with anticipation, getting the mind to react to things it didn’t see or fear things it projected it would see.

NTK: Do you think werewolves, vampires, and other monsters are psychological representations of the human psyche?

MH: I think we all have a little monster in us that could be drawn out in the right or wrong situation. Monsters represent our desires and fears. Our darkest moments. Our possibilities. They can be vulnerable and raw and passionate in ways people often don’t let themselves be.

NTK: Do you have a favorite monster?

MH: I have a soft spot for Frankenstein. He’s innocent yet brutal, lost but discovered. He’s weakness and strength. His life is complex, but he longs for the most basic human need—belonging and companionship.

NTK: As you know, season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MH: Cursing people to get exactly what they want and it bringing them great misfortune and ruin. I do like psychological torture.

NTK: Mercy, what does the future hold for you? What books or stories do we have to look forward to?

MH: Grim, the next book in the Legions of the Claimed series, comes out next month. I’m currently working on book three, entitled—Vegan. I’m also working on several young adult fantasy novels. I’m a freelance editor specializing in fantasy, paranormal, horror, sci-fi, and run workshops at conferences. I love getting to work with other writers and assisting them in getting their stories out for people to enjoy.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Mercy. It’s been a pleasure.

MH: Thank you and HorrorAddicts.net for having me on and giving me the good fortune of being Cursed.

Addicts, you can find Mercy Hollow here on Facebook and Twitter.

The Writing Chamber: The Best Ways to Write Information in Your Horror

When writing a story, it’s really easy to write with “then speak.” What I mean by that is when the story goes:

She walked to the house and then opened the door. Then she looked inside.

This is a very literal example of this writing faux pas, but it happens all the time. Now imagine reading a really intense horror story with this kind of writing. Just from language alone, it’ll change from spooky to boring. As the writer, you want to intensify the creepiness of your horror, not dull it out by how you write it.

By now you’re probably asking how. How do you write a horror while avoiding the use of then? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can never use this word but as the writer, you shouldn’t rely on the word then to describe your story. Instead, rely on this writer’s rule: Show, Don’t Tell. It’s pretty self-explanatory; show your readers what is happening in your story through descriptive imagery and don’t just tell it. Think of like painting a picture for your readers, so the images of your scenes are clear and detailed.

Keeping this rule in mind, our example from earlier changes from simple to scary.

She walked to the abandoned house of decaying wood and stood there with an uneasy feeling. As she opened the door, she heard the creaking of the rotting hinges. She looked inside.

These two examples tell the same story, yet one is undoubtedly a horror story and the other could be any kind of story. The second example clearly paints the story, giving the reader no doubt what kind of story they are reading. It draws the reader in, having them anticipate what other horrors await. This is why it is best to avoid “then speak” and write with descriptive imagery.

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, there are ways to use descriptive imagery uniquely within your horror. Before I move on, it is important to note that there are more unique devices out there from the one I am about to tell you. I am only giving you a taste of the options and abilities that you have as a writer to help you get started because uniqueness in a story also comes from the uniqueness of the writer, which is why I can’t tell you everything. If I do, it wouldn’t be your story.

One unique wplaceholderriting device I am going over is shown through the horror film A Quiet Place, particularly the moment when the audience is shown the whiteboard in Lee Abbot’s office. Keep in mind that this is not a book but a movie, so the storytelling technique is different since the audience is viewing the story rather than reading it. However, looking at the way John Krasinski was able to provide multiple pieces of information in seconds of film is helpful when thinking about writing a story. There has been some speculation on this whiteboard, where people dislike it because they see it as Krasinski taking an easy way out from telling the story. I disagree because the information told through the whiteboard was necessary to understand the story and Krasinski was smart enough to utilize the technique of summary.

In writing it is often the case that writers need to choose what needs to be detailed in a scene and what information needs to be shown through summary. As the writer, it is sometimes better to use summary over scene when artists are dealing with time limits or word counts. However, it is important to note that summary and scene should have a relationship with each other in a story, where one does not overwhelm the other. A story with all summary and no scene could read as too fast moving and lacking details.

Summary can be done in multiple ways, depending on what the writer chooses. Krasinski uniquely decided to summarize through a single shot of a whiteboard. By doing this, the audience not only knows information about the antagonist of the story but we also get a taste of Lee’s character through seeing his survival method that comes into play later on in the film. Now imagining this summary technique in a book, the descriptive imagery involved is not only informational but it is also can paint a clear picture of whatever details you want your readers to see. Thinking about portraying information the way Krasinski did opens doors to us writers as we can imagine various ways to summarize information uniquely rather than simply telling the readers.

All in all, the use of descriptive imagery can go a long way when writing a story, and deciding when to use summary and when to use scene will help you write a well-rounded story that portrays everything that you want your readers to know. Now you can go and make your imagery as spooky and creepy as you want when you write your horror.

 

 

Chilling Chat Writing to an Invisible Drummer: An Interview with Josh Malerman

 Josh Malerman is an American author and also one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band, The High Strung. Their song, “The Luck You Got,” is the theme song for the Showtime television program, Shameless.

Malerman authored the books, Bird Box, Black Mad Wheel, and Unbury Carol. He has been published in Cemetery Dance, Scary Out There, Chiral Mad, Lost Signals, Shadows over Main Street, and Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. He resides in Michigan with his fiancée, Allison Laakko.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Josh.

JM: And, thank you for having me. This is exciting.

NTK: Your book, Bird Box, is set to become a Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich. How did Bird Box come about?

JM: The book started out as any other to me … that’s not to say that I’m writing a string of ideas that arranged on an assembly line, without emotion, but all I began with was a woman, blindfolded, two children in tow, rowing down a river. I just liked the image and started writing their story. This quickly led to … ”What are they fleeing? What can’t they see?” From there, I started thinking of old fears, things that scared me a lot growing up. One of those things was the idea of infinity and how man isn’t capable of comprehending it.

So, I thought, what if infinity were personified in a semi-abstract way. What if the concept arrived on Main Street?

From there the book exploded in my hands. A mother attempting to navigate a river without being able to open her eyes. The rough draft was written in some 26 days. And, while the rewrites took forever, I’ll forever cherish those 26 days and sometimes, I feel like I’m still living them now.

NTK: Does your writing often begin with a single image?

JM: Some of the stories do. A single image or a title can be enough to say, “Hey, go sit down and give this one a shot.” Because, if you’re writing from a “free” place, if your mind is wide open, then you’re probably going to see that small image or idea bloom in double time. I try to stay open to tangents at all times. I try not to stick so tight to the original idea. So, with this in mind, yeah, sometimes a single image can jumpstart the whole shebang.

NTK: You’re also a singer/songwriter for the rock band, The High Strung. How does this background affect your writing?

JM: Every time I write, I do so with an invisible drummer in the room. I’m at the desk, hammering away, always playing to the beat of this unseen musician just out of sight. Like the Wendigo, if the Wendigo played drums. I realize how bonkers this sounds but I really can’t seem to get away from him and I wouldn’t want to. Whether I have a record playing in the room, or a soundtrack going on YouTube or the radio … the drummer is the one giving me the beat for every story. And, I can’t help but think that, since I play a lot of rhythm guitar in the band, there’s gotta be a link there between the band and the books.

NTK: So, would you consider the drummer a muse?

JM: Hmm. I haven’t thought about it like that. But, I love the question. Not a muse. More like … we’re both turned on by the same muse. In fact, the drummer might catch sight of said muse first, start playing, then I fall in, typing over what he plays.

NTK: You’ve written many unpublished books while touring. Do your experiences make it into your novels?

JM: I was just talking to my bandmate, Mark, about this today. I’m sure some of the people we’ve met and the places we’ve been have made it into the books. But, it’s not usually intentional. You know, people say, “Write what you know,” but there’s no way not to do that. So, what I think people really mean to say is, “write the feelings you know.” And a lot of that comes from shared experiences, right? Things you’ve done with your best friends, your lovers, the people you’ve encountered in life. I think it would take you and me going through a book scene by scene for me to say, “Ah, yes! This scene here was from this time in Iowa and this scene here was from that night in Mississippi!”

NTK: Let’s go back to the Bird Box film. How did this come to pass? How were you approached?

JM: So, my manager sold the film rights before the book was published. It had already been picked up by ECCO/Harper Collins but hadn’t even been rewritten with them yet. So, there are parts that made it into the movie script that used to be in the book but aren’t anymore. That’ll be interesting for me to see in a theater. Universal Studios optioned the rights in 2013. Netflix bought it from them in 2017.

NTK: Were you consulted when the film was written?

JM: No. I had no part in the writing of the script. I was on the phone with the prospective screenwriters. Conference calls in which each screenwriter told me what they had in mind, with Universal on the phone to listen to us talk about it. But, that was just so Universal could gauge the individual visions. The script was written by Eric Heisserer. He wrote Arrival and others. Awesome guy. And, I knew very well what I was getting into. Talk about an unknown author—my first book wasn’t even out yet.

NTK: Stephen King is well known for his dislike of Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining and the casting of the film. Are you happy with the casting? Do you think Sandra Bullock will make a good Malorie?

JM: I’ll tell you the same thing I told her. If I had written the script, directed the movie, and starred in it myself, it still wouldn’t be the book. So, I’m glad it’s in her hands and not mine. I’m thrilled she’s playing Malorie. She’s a magnificent actress, and I can’t wait to see her in a horror movie. After watching her film a scene in person, I said to her, “That was intense, huh.” And she said, “The whole story is intense!” I’m excited about it all. The cast, the director, the cinematographer—all of it.

NTK: You were on set when the movie was filmed?

JM: My fiancé, Allison, and I flew to California in January. We went on set on the Universal lot. Saw a scene filmed outside, another filmed on a soundstage. It was incredible. I never felt like I didn’t belong, but I also never felt like “big man on campus.” It was all unforeseeably natural. If it’s true that a director dictates the mood of a set, then Susanne Bier is a warm, intelligent, hard-working, welcoming director. We loved every second of it.

NTK: Susanne Bier is a Golden Globe, Emmy, and Academy Award-winning director. It must’ve felt good knowing you’d entrusted your work to her.

JM: 100%. And, you know, who knows how it will turn out, right? Just like a book … you sit down with an idea, a vision, and let’s hope it soars, right? But, I’m optimistic. Everyone I met is so good at what they do and I know the story came from as pure a place as I’ve ever visited.

NTK: Are you excited about Netflix providing the distribution? Or would you rather the film appear in the theater?

JM: I’m told there’s going to be a theatrical release as well. I don’t know exactly what that means, how many cities, how long, etc. But, in any case, I’m happy either way.

NTK: When will the film be released?

JM: I hear it’ll be around December 21. I don’t know when the premiere is going to be yet, but Allison and I are hoping to bring both our moms. Which is a pretty funny image. Allison, me, our moms, all drinking on a plane to Los Angeles.

NTK: You had a book released in April. Could you tell us a little about Unbury Carol?

JM: Unbury Carol is the story of an impending premature burial and the balance of characters who both want this to happen and don’t. Carol Evers “dies” a couple times a year, when she slips into deep coma states. Because it’s a western of sorts, the instruments the doctors use aren’t sophisticated enough to detect her beating heart when she’s inside, what she calls, “Howltown.” The problem is … what if everyone thinks she’s dead? And then … what if she’s buried alive because of it? Well, there’s one fella who hears about her funeral but knows she isn’t dead. So, he travels north on the Trail in an attempt to bust up this unnatural burial. But, make no mistake! There is no Prince Charming in this book. And, Carol’s gonna have to get the hell out of Howltown on her own.

NTK: Are you a fan of westerns and horror?

JM: Yeah, for sure. I’d like to see more of them. It’s a great setting for a horror story because, one, it’s pre-technology, which leaves a lot of shadows to play with and, two, the “outlaw” is always so “tough” and it’s refreshing as hell to find him or her face to face with something scarier yet.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror author or movie? What inspired you to write horror?

JM: I wouldn’t say I have a favorite. Of the last 156 books I’ve read, I adored 153 of them. Would give them all five stars. For whatever reason, I’m a little more discerning with movies, but really I’ve got a wide scope of what I’m into. I just love the genre in general. To me, horror admits that it’s fiction. And, for that, I believe it.

NTK: Do you have any advice for the writers out there whose books may be adapted to film? Or, any advice for writers in general?

JM: Well, I’m still early into the “adaptation” scenario. It’s hard for me to impart “advice” other than to say something my girl, Allison, taught me: every time you wanna use the word “nervous,” use “excited” instead. It’s changed my life. As far as advice for writers? Get rid of the words “good” and “bad.” Write a “bad” book for crying out loud. Don’t let silly blanket words stop you from writing a novel. How awful. Get that first draft done. Because what you would rather have? Three hundred pages that need to be fixed? Or, no pages at all?

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

JM: Well, the moment belongs to Unbury Carol. And I’m going to let her have it. But, come Halloween, I have a limited edition novel coming out on Cemetery Dance. It’s called, On This, the Day of the Pig. And, my second book with Del Rey comes out next April. I’m writing scripts for a horror theater production to be performed here in Michigan. And, The High Strung have a new album, to boot.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Josh.

JM: Ah, THANK YOU. I’m excited for this.

This interview was  published in the June 2018 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter and is reprinted with Editor Kathy Ptacek’s permission.