Interview: Alex Kane

It’s April 3rd, which means it’s time for this month’s Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. For this month’s interview, I’m joined by game critic and video game Jedi (or Sith Lord!?) Alex Kane!

Alex Kane.png

Welcome Alex! I’m so happy to have you on my website today! Interviews can be a little scary sometimes, so I’ll start with an easy one: tell us a little bit about yourself! What are some of your first video game memories? And have you ever heard of a little thing called ‘Star Wars’?

Super Mario Bros. 3 with my dad was a big one, and Mario 64 not longer after that. I remember many hours of GoldenEye against my sisters growing up, and Halo at friends’ houses. One of my favorite gaming memories, for sure, is the time my brother and I built a portal to the End in Minecraft and slew the Ender Dragon. Crazy as it sounds, that was probably the closest I’ve ever come to having a mystical experience, and it happened in a video game.

There was a period of my life where a lot of big events were coming at me in a hurry, and the games I played in that timeframe will always mean a lot to me. They helped me make sense of things. I became a father just as I was starting to write game reviews, and I played Night in the Woods the same week we brought my son home. Then I played through the Morrowind
expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online with him sort of napping in my lap shortly afterward. I treasure those memories.

Star Wars, like games, is something that’s been a part of my life almost since I was four or five years old, but it really started to become an obsession in ’97, when I saw The Empire Strikes Back during its special-edition run, at the Rivoli Theatre in my hometown. That was when I started begging for the toys, and watching them over and over on VHS and so forth.

You’re the first gaming journalist I’ve interviewed here on my website. I saw that you’ve written for Variety, Polygon, USGamer and others. How did you get into game writing? And, more importantly, what are some of your favorite games of all time?

I’ve been writing for ages, and publishing stuff since college. When I went freelance in 2014, I spent my second big check on a Wii U bundle with Wind Waker, and then Bungie’s Destiny
landed a few months after that. With this newfound freedom of being my own boss, I fell pretty hard for Destiny and the social experience it offered; I spent like two thousand hours in that world over the course of three years. When an editor for Kill Screen — which used to be a really hip publication full of brilliant games journalism — put out a call for freelance news writers in 2016, I jumped at the opportunity, and he took a chance on me. I worked hard to make a good first impression, and that led to gigs with Rolling Stone and some other places. I got very
lucky.

Some of my favorite games — outside of KotOR, obviously — are things like Super Mario
Bros. 3, Skyrim, Halo 2, Night in the Woods, Star Fox 64, Pokémon Red, the new Spider-Man.
Wind Waker was a big one for me, too, when I picked that up in 2014. It sort of helped me mourn my grandparents in the midst of this wild career transition; I loved that Link had a grandma, because I’d just lost mine six months prior. And it’s also probably one of the
three best Zeldas.

Your first book comes out via Boss Fight Books this month. It’s a deep dive into the 2003 RPG classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I just finished reading it and I loved it! This is a game that deserves this kind of exploration. How did this book come to be?

sw.jpg

For one thing, it’s ultimately the result of me learning how books are written. I think I emailed my editor the KotOR pitch in May of 2016, and then he called me up in late October of that year and offered me a contract. That’s a day I’ll never forget. That wasn’t long after I started getting paid to write about games, actually, but I already had a lot of publishing experience
as an editor, and from doing short fiction and acquisitions and various little contract projects.

The truism in writing and publishing is that it’s all about persistence, in some ways, and that was definitely true for me in terms of establishing a relationship with Boss Fight and getting on their radar. Knights of the Old Republic wasn’t the first pitch I sent them,
and I think my editor, Gabe, admired my tenacity a little bit.

Do you think you’ll ever write a book like this again? And if you would, what game or facet of the gaming world might you look at next?

I definitely think there’ll be a book two, and I know what book I want to write next, but it’s gonna take another big stroke of luck to make it happen. I think there’s a good chance that I’ll be writing about either Star Wars or video games, or something very closely related to those, but it’s hard to say exactly when that might materialize. I love the official guidebooks and things like that — the DK Publishing Star Wars line. I’d love to do a bit of Star Wars fiction, if given the chance. I’m doing some behind-the-scenes copywriting for Lucasfilm, so there’s always that sense that maybe if I keep my head down and my fingers crossed, some of those things could happen. One day.

I’ve spent most of the last three years writing about people who make games and other forms of entertainment, and I just love telling those stories. I hope to do it for a really long time.

As a game critic, I’m sure you play lots of games. What games are you currently playing? And what have been some highlights of the year so far?

There’s a ton of games coming out later in the year I’m excited about, like Control and Jedi: Fallen Order and The Outer Worlds, but so far my big hits of 2019 have been Apex
Legends and The Division 2 — neither of which I saw coming. I’m always fiddling around with several games at any given time; right now I’m playing Oblivion,Division 2, Battlefront II, and Anthem.

Lastly: where can people find you online?

I mostly live on Twitter, at @alexjkane.
Or on Xbox! And my publisher, of course, can be found at bossfightbooks.com.


Alex Kane’s book Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is up for preorder! If you liked this interview and want to read more, you can see the Archive here.

Interview: Carrie Laben

It’s the first Wednesday in March, so that means it’s time for another Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This interview is with horror author (and birder!) Carrie Laben.

Carrie Laben Author Photo

Hello Carrie! I’m super excited to be interviewing you on my blog today! I’m going to start off today with the ultimate softball request: tell us a little bit about yourself! What made you want to be a writer?

Thank you! It’s a very exciting time, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I always appreciate the opportunity to get the word out about my work.

As far as wanting to be a writer: My parents had a dairy farm and I’m the oldest of seven children – I wanted a job that I could do indoors, sitting down, and no manure anywhere. But I still wanted to feel that I was producing something real and tangible and satisfying, and that narrowed the field of office jobs down quite a bit. Then there’s the fact that I just plain like writing and find it fun.

While scrolling through your Publications page on your website, I noticed that one of your hobbies happens to be bird-watching, which I think is pretty cool! What does bird-watching entail? And what attracts you to the hobby?

I like to say I’ve been birding since I was a toddler – my mom started teaching me the names of birds at the feeders when I was two or three. It’s the perfect combination of the collector’s impulse with appreciation of nature.

There’s hardly any wrong way to bird-watch, so long as you’re looking at birds (if you look at a butterfly or a frog by mistake, don’t worry, those are legit hobbies too!) Some birders travel all over the world trying to see as many species as possible. Some do ‘patch birding’ – where you try to spot the most species in your own backyard or local park. Others don’t focus on numbers but try to get a better understanding of local patterns – when the birds migrate, which species breed where, etc. If you’re interested, one great place to get more information is the blog 10,000 Birds, where I am a semi-regular guest blogger.

At the end of this month, Word Horde will be putting out your debut novel, A Hawk in the Woods. It sounds like the perfect ‘cosmic horror road-trip’ novel that we all need right now. What can you tell us about your book? How did it come to be?

The Hawk in the woods

A Hawk in the Woods is a combination of aspects of the genre that fascinate me, from folk horror to Lovecraftian cosmic horror to the quiet psychological horror that families inflict on each other down the generations – even when they’re trying to break free of the past. The main characters are twin sisters and as the story opens, one is gravely ill and the other is in jail. The reader gets to ride along as they go on the lam and confront their legacy, and also see how they grew up caught in a power struggle between their grandfather, their mother, and a community that knows there’s something just not right about the whole family.

The first seed of the novel was a folk song called The Cruel Mother, in which a woman is threatened with supernatural vengeance for a wrong she did to her children. There are a number of excellent, haunting versions available but I’m particularly fond of Emily Smith’s rendition, and Fiona Hunter’s.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any general advice for any writers looking to get published?

For young writers in our genre in particular, my best advice is not to let yourself be boxed in. I’ve seen too many people get caught up in the notion that a few markets, editors, and awards are the end-all and be-all, and that the regard of a small handful of people is the key to success. This leads to cliquishness when things go well and despair when they don’t. Make friends, have fun, but remember that any particular corner of the genre is not the world and no one person has the power to make or break your career (not even you!) If you can’t get into some particular market read widely and try to find something that works a bit better with your style – as well as writing and revising like a fiend, of course!

As a corollary, I still tend to see the received wisdom that genre writers need to stick together because the literary establishment despises us. This is much less true than it was in the past. I went to an MFA program myself (at the University of Montana) and while it’s certainly not the best path for everyone, I shared classes with both students and professors who were not only open to genre work but doing it themselves. There was even a workshop completely dedicated to supernatural fiction, where I shared the first few chapters of Hawk and got a lot of valuable advice. So don’t wall yourself off from possibilities out of defensiveness or fear!

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m pretty sure that my TBR pile is longer than my actual expected lifespan at this point, and I’m a fast reader! That said, some recent fiction I’m really looking forward to digging into includes Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, Mothlight by Adam Scovell, and the latest from Marlon James and S.P. Miskowski. I also read a lot of nonfiction and on that front I can’t wait to open up The Secret Lives of Glaciers by my old classmate M. Jackson, which recounts a year in the lives of Icelanders living on the front lines of climate change. That’s going to be the real-life horror that the next generation has to live with, if we don’t act fast.

Where can people find you online?

My website is at http://www.carrielaben.com, which is nice and easy to remember. I also have a Twitter presence, @pinguinus, and a Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/Carrie-Laben-2256476324631738/) if you want up-to-the-minute updates.


Don’t forget to purchase Carrie Laben’s debut novel on the 26th of March! Thank you for joining me for this month’s Interview, and I’ll see everyone again soon!

Interview: Matthew M. Bartlett

Happy February! It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so that means it’s time for another Author Interview! This month’s interview is with haunted radio jockey/author Matthew M. Bartlett!

matthew bartlett

Hello Matthew! I’m very excited to be interviewing you today! I like to start my interviews off with the lord of all softball questions: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do when you’re not putting words on a page?

When I was little, I wanted to write a magazine about the neighborhood kids. I named it Magazine Magazine. It never made it to even the first issue. To be fair, I was maybe seven years old. So the desire was there long, long before the ability.  That desire hit me early on, because I was a reader. I read a lot of Hardy Boys books and Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful, and whatever I could get my hands on, Reader’s Digest, books based on the television show Get Smart, stuff on my parents’ and grandparents’ bookshelves. Then my grandparents, knowing my love for the Universal Monsters (I’d never seen the movies but was transfixed by the pictures), bought me King’s Christine, and the novelization of the first Omen movie. I was on the cusp of being a teenager then. I still wanted to write, but couldn’t manage to put anything decent together. A lot of writing was intimidating; writers seemed to know a lot about the world that I simply didn’t. In college I wrote poetry for classes, and I’m proud of a lot of that stuff. I admit that I’ve pilfered some lines from my old poems for my fiction. At that time I was reading a lot of American novelists like Mailer and Kesey and John Irving, and the Beat Generation writers, too. In my thirties I found my way to Lovecraft and Ligotti and Aickman, and I read all the King I could get my hands on, still. It wasn’t until I started up a fiction page on Livejournal, writing short pieces that ended up in Gateways to Abomination and Creeping Waves, that I essentially taught myself to write fiction. That was in 2004. I was 34 years old, and I didn’t put out Gateways until ten years later. During that ten years, I didn’t really think of myself as a “writer,” because I did not have the need to write every day, or even every week. That has changed.

When I’m not writing, I’m either at my job or lounging around watching television or movies with my wife and cats. Or else I’m reading. I’m not exactly living a fast-paced, exciting life. I hope you weren’t hoping I’d say “rock-climbing” or “body-surfing” or “traveling to distant lands.”

I think your creative voice is wholly unique. I find it dream-like, each horrifying image like a flashbulb in the dark. Anyone that knows their horror can spot a Matthew M. Bartlett story from across the room. Can you talk about what goes into a short story for you? What does your process look like?

It always starts with a vague concept, or a word or a phrase, one overheard or one that jumps into my head. The way I work is, if I sit down and open up a work in progress, or open up a new blank document with an idea in mind, I write. It’s automatic. If I don’t, I don’t. So I get myself to that computer every day and I open up that document. I rarely have a map in my head of where a story will go. Most times I have only the beginning. Sometimes I have that and the end, and no middle. And I just go where my mind takes me. And I do a lot of internet and book research, sometimes just to get tiny details right. I usually have a few projects going, so if I find myself stuck on one, I bounce over to the other.

You have a novella being published by Darkscape Press later this month. It’s called If It Bleeds and it looks absolutely incredible. What can you tell us about this new book?

This is a book very much in the vein of Gateways to Abomination, in that it’s a stringing together of short pieces that connect with each other in angular ways. They all revolve around a singer, and a song, and a deal with someone who isn’t quite the devil.  There’s a visit to a home for wayward boys, a strange incursion at a Gentleman’s Club, a grisly scene in a building near the National Mall in D.C., and a lackluster performance by a local band on a town green. There are beheadings, at least one shooting, and a few stabbings. So, essentially, it’s a love song, a sing along, a homicidal radio play without a if it bleedshero. The book basically serves as a prologue to the third full-length book about my fictional radio station WXXT, with Gateways being part 1, and Creeping Waves being part 2. The third book will have a lot of stuff about the FCC, or at least my version of it, which involves corruption and black magic. Right now I see it as a traditional novel, not a mosaic novel like the first two. The book has a cover and a frontispiece by the incredible Yves Tourigny, and gorgeous interior color illustrations by Luke Spooner. Incidentally, Nightscape will also be publishing a three-book set of illustrated hardcovers including my book Gateways to Abomination, Jon Padgett’s Secret of Ventriloquism, and a book of short story collaborations by me and Jon. It’s called Secret Gateways. Secret will be illustrated by Harry O. Morris, Gateways by Aeron Alfrey, and something special is in the works for the third book.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

I do, for what it’s worth. A lot of it is common sense and nothing you won’t hear elsewhere. Read widely and often. Put your head down and put in the work. Write wherever and whenever you can. If you’re serious, and want to be a professional, don’t let video games and television take over your free time. Writing should bring you enjoyment, but remember that it is work.  Aim high. Don’t give away your work. If you receive feedback, try to put aside your ego and see if there’s any worth in it. Understand that if one venue doesn’t want your story, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad story; it rangel-body.jpgmight not be to that editor’s taste, or it might be not quite what he or she was envisioning for the work they’re putting together. Behave on social media. Know how to read the room, so to speak. Read what people in the writing community post for a long time before you wade in. If you have a book you want people to buy, don’t push it on them. Don’t friend writers, editors, and publishers on social media and then immediately ask something of them, like “look at my book, like my author page.” Self-promote only in spaces where self-promotion is explicitly requested. This is important because the genre fiction community on social media is smaller than you think, and we all talk to each other. Bad behavior gets around. Keep trying, if publication is what you want. Discouragement and rejections are part and parcel of writing. A thick skin and a belief in yourself are assets. Finally, and this may be a hard pill to swallow, if writing brings you nothing but misery, if you’ve given it all you’ve got to no avail, there’s no shame in stopping.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m currently reading Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias, who is a true poet and a compelling writer. The new Simon Strantzas collection Nothing is Everything is in the mail, on its way to me. I’ll soon be starting A Rather Haunted Life, a Shirley Jackson biography. I’ve pre-ordered Carnivorous Lunar Activities by Max Booth III, and Wounds by Nathan Ballingrud, who is one of my absolute favorites. I also have House of Windows by John Langan to look forward to, and I’m really looking forward to his next collection. I stalled out on Don DeLillo’s Mao II, but may pick that up again for a re-try. Otherwise, I dip into the massive amount of collections and anthologies both old and new I have sitting around my house.

Where can people find you online?

My website is www.matthewmbartlett.com. I have a Patreon site where you can see and hear not-yet-published pieces and readings. I occasionally tweet but mostly retweet at @MattMBartlett. I’m on Facebook a lot.


Thank you for joining me, Matthew! This ends today’s transmission… Try not to pay to much attention to the voices hidden in the static…

Interview: Trevor Henderson

It’s January 2019 and that means it’s time for another interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with artist and cryptid king Trevor Henderson!  

Henderson Profile Photo.jpg

For my first question, I like to keep things simple. Tell us a little bit about yourself! What made you want to be an artist and a writer? What other hobbies do you enjoy in your free time?

Okay! So I’m an illustrator who lives in Toronto! I love horror in all it’s varied forms. I’ve been an artist who is interested in drawing monsters and scary things since I was very, very young, and this is entirely my Dad’s fault, him being a big horror fan who introduced me to horror films at a very young age. Both of my parents have always encouraged my art. I wouldn’t say I’m a writer, the little snippets I post with my art are more just me exploring a little bit. I was moved to start including them when I ran a tabletop horror game this past year and had to come up with a developing horror plot on the fly. It was so much fun, I started incorporating the written word into my art.

As for other hobbies, I listen to podcasts, play video games, board games, read horror fiction, and see a lot of movies. I was on a couple podcasts this year and it was a lot of fun. I’d love to do it again.

I think that your fame in the horror community comes from your absolutely jaw-dropping found-footage art. The power of your art certainly comes from seeing the supernatural lurking among the mundane. Can you talk about your Sirenhead.jpgart? 

Thank you so much! The supernatural co-mingling with the every day word in subtle and horrible ways is one of my favourite ideas in horror. The whole thing started as an idea to see if I could replicate a found footage horror film and boil it down to a single image and a couple sentences. The response has been so amazing that it has really encouraged me to continue playing around with the format, and it’s lead to me creating continuity between certain images, with a couple specific monsters popping up more than once, and some basic lore being developed. I’ve always loved found footage horror, and think that at it’s best, it provides a unique film-going experience.

You’ve released two books so far featuring your art and your fiction. The first, ‘Odd Noises in Empty Rooms’, is a collection of short horror stories and ghost drawings. The other is a book of short horror comics called ‘Bad Things Coming’. Greats titles! What can you tell us about those two books?

The first book, “Bad Things Coming” is a collection of four short (really short!) horror stories done entirely in pencil, with a risograph printed cover. The idea was to pay homage to the format of one of my favourite horror manga, “Fuan No Tane (Seeds of Anxiety)“, which manages to be terrifying in only a couple pages per story. I don’t think a lot of the book holds up, but there are a few drawings in it that I still love.

Odd Noises in Empty Rooms” is my newer book, and it’s a collection of scratchy black and white ghost drawings, with little one-page accompanying ghost stories. It was inspired by the work of Stephen Gammell, who is most famous for doing the terrifying art for the “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark” books. They were hugely formative for me as a little kid, so I wanted to pay homage!

As I think most creative types can attest, it’s not always easy to stay on that treadmill. Life gets in the way, and sometimes the words and the art don’t want to flow. Have you ever experienced that? And what tactics do you use to keep it at bay?

It can be a real struggle. I work a full-time day job, and sometimes it’s nearly impossible. When I paint ghosts into photos in my found footage art, I find I can manage when I’m tired and don’t feel like drawing, because the background image is already there. I can look at the photo and be inspired to imagine what kind of creep is lurking in the background. In this way, I’ve been able to be productive and produce one or two found footage images a day, more or less, for the last couple months. It can be so hard, though. As long as you’re making SOMETHING every couple of days, you are improving. But at the same time, don’t push yourself. It’s understandable to be too tired to be creative after working a job all day.

Time for a dream job scenario: You’re given an unlimited budget and the ability to work for any company, with any characters. What is your dream project? (For me, It’s writing a Batman novel or five.)

Oh man, that’s an exciting question. I’d love to be hired on as a concept designer for the television show “Channel Zero“, in my opinion the best horror show on the air. It’s constantly showing off these fantastically designed and executed monsters, and I’d love to have a hand in helping to develop their next iconic entity.

Last question! Where can people find you and your works?

Hands in the Forest

Oh yeah! You can find me on most social media, but I use Twitter the most. You can follow me at https://twitter.com/slimyswampghost. I’m also on tumblr at http://slimyswampghost.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/trevorhenderson/!

Author Interview: Orrin Grey

It’s finally October and that means it’s time for this month’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’ll be talking to horror fiction’s favorite skeleton Orrin Grey.

orrin

Hello Orrin and happy (28 days from now) Halloween! I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy autumnal schedule to have a quick chat with me. I’d like to start with an easy question: What made you want to be a writer? What turned you into the skeleton you are today?

I’ll be completely honest and say that I don’t know what originally made me want to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, it’s all I ever wanted to do. My mom had this book where she kept my report cards and class photos and stuff from all my years of elementary school, and for every grade it had a space where I could write what I wanted to be when I grew up. From about third grade on all it ever said was, “writer.”

That said, a lot of different things formed the specific writer that I am now. I went through various phases when I was younger, writing fanfic, trying (and failing) to write big epic fantasy sagas, all that jazz. I know that reading Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber was a turning point for me, in part because it was a very different kind of writing than I had read before then, and the zest with which he mixed and matched genre tropes was thrilling to me at the time.

Of course, I’m known by now for writing about and around film quite a bit. I’ve always loved movies, but I didn’t get into the older horror films that have become some of my chief influences until after I had graduated from college. When I was a kid, though, I used to have these Crestwood House Monster Books, which some readers may remember. They were little board books that I would check out from my school library, filled with black-and-white stills from old monster movies of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. I used to pore over those things obsessively, mentally conjuring the movies that I imagined went with those images.

Probably the biggest turning point for me was getting into Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics. Here was someone who was doing so much of the stuff I wanted to be doing, who was bending and blending genres, telling numinous supernatural stories built around chewy pulp centers (and vice versa), but perhaps more importantly, who was wearing all of his influences on his sleeve, so that reading his stuff became a gateway to countless other writers, artists, movies, and more that have since become huge influences on my work. Mike Mignola tells a story in interviews about how reading Dracula made him realize that all he wanted to do was draw monsters. Reading his work did something similar for me, but I can’t draw, so here I am.

I love your work. Your stories find the perfect balance of cosmic horror and creepy beasties. ‘Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts’ should be made mandatory reading for all young ghouls and ghosts. I’ve heard tell that you have a new collection getting ready to come out. What can you tell me about it?

PaintedMonsters_cover_001_FC_small-663x1024.jpg

Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales should actually be out by the time this sees print! It’s being released by Word Horde, the same publisher who put out Painted Monsters, and I’m extremely lucky to be working with Ross Lockhart again. He was an early booster of my stuff, and I owe a lot to his faith in me and my weird stories.

Guignol collects fourteen of my spooky tales, four of which have never seen print before. Of the ones that have, several are hard-to-find, out-of-print, or seldom seen, so I think it’ll be a treat Orrin Greyfor fans of my work. There are two novelettes in the book, “The Cult of Headless Men” and “The Lesser Keys” and I’m really excited for people to check it out. Like Painted Monsters, it draws a lot of influence from movies and the theater, and its title, in fact, comes from the one-two punch of the Theatre du Grand Guignol, an early French horror theatre known for its bloody and lurid plays, and “Contes Cruel,” both a subtype of horror story and the title of a couple of early collections of same.

Guignol is filled with more of the kind of stuff that readers have come to expect from me, but this is also possibly my grimmest collection to date. While I hesitate to call the stories in it cruel, they certainly aren’t kind. Painted Monsters had a sort of unintended thematic underpinning of death and what comes after, while Guignol is more about dealing with trauma, and how the past, especially the painful past, never entirely leaves us alone.

It also probably has more monsters per page than anything else I’ve ever written, so there’s always that.

You, like so many other awesome folk, love horror cinema. I’m sure you have all kinds of movies ready to go throughout this entire blessed month. As a fan of the genre, what are some of the movies you’ll be watching leading up to All Hallows’ Eve?

I live in the suburbs of Kansas City, and we’re lucky enough here to have a really passionate and active horror film community. We also have a great local theatre, in the form of the Screenland Armour, which does Halloween programming all month long in October, so I’m hoping to catch a lot of that. As part of the launch festivities for Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, I’ll be presenting a free screening of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday on October 14, and every year the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast hosts a horror triple feature sometime around Halloween, which has become my annual birthday tradition.

Beyond that, I watch a lot more horror cinema than anything else all year long, but as the Halloween season rolls around I tend to gravitate even more toward the old classics. There’s a new Blu-ray release of some William Castle titles on its way that I’m really excited about. Like every other horror fan on the planet, I’ll be watching the new Halloween when it hits theatres, even if I am less sanguine about it than many of my peers. And I am really looking forward to Apostle, the new folk horror flick from Gareth Evans and Dan Stevens that’s coming to Netflix this month.

monsters.jpg

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Maybe the best piece of advice I ever got in this business was, “Know your victory conditions.” Know what success looks like to you. It’s easy to lose focus when you’re in the proverbial mines, but if you can remember what it is you’re trying to accomplish, you can work towards it. For some people that means critical acknowledgement or winning awards, for some people that means getting a lot of fans or readers, for some people that means making a living at writing. For some it means something else completely. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, you may get all of them, but if you know what’s important to you, it’ll help you make the hard decisions when they come, and keep you from getting turned around in the dark.

Also, don’t be in a hurry. It’s better to sell a few stories to good markets than a lot of stories to markets that no one will ever see. It’s better to wait a few years until you have a collection that’s really strong than to break out with a first collection too early.

Let’s talk about books for a minute. What’s in your TBR pile currently? Are there any stories/novels you like to read to get into the October spirit?

My TBR pile is so careeningly, terrifyingly cyclopean that it beggars belief, let alone description. I am so far behind on my reading that I barely know where to begin. That said, I recently finished Matthew M. Bartlett’s first collection (I had already read his later ones, but had missed the first) and, like all of his other work, it blew my mind. He is, for my money, one of the best authors working today, and I am always wowed by his stuff. I’ve got a gobsmackingly long list of stuff in my queue, but right now I’m trying to make my way through William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, which, as I had been warned countless times, is a slog.

never bet

Last  question: Where can people find your works?

Probably the best place is in one of my collections, which I will have three of by the time this sees print. Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, my first collection, is now available in a deluxe hardcover from Strix Publishing, while Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and Guignol& Other Sardonic Tales are both available from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. You can keep up with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and you can always find out the latest stuff I’m doing on my website. I have a few stories available online, as well, including a recent one at The Dark and several on PseudoPod.

 

Author Interview: Michael Wehunt

Welcome to September’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’ll be interviewing the spooktastic Michael Wehunt!

Michael Wehunt

Hello Michael! I’d like to thank you for joining me here. Let’s start with an easy one: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do in your spare time when you’re not at a keyboard?

Thanks so much for having me. As you requested, I’m pretending not to see the shockingly large number of human bones in the corner or the strange symbols painted in blood on the floor…

I grew up in Georgia and seem unable to leave. I almost have to answer your first question as if it were, What kept you from being a writer? Because that speaks more clearly to how I became one. I think I wanted to be a writer from the age of eight or so, but it never took deep enough root in me for some reason. I was drawn to horror as a child, developed the usual Stephen King loyalty, watched whatever horror films I could. I didn’t have a lot of ways to explore the genre when I was very young, but there was enough to keep me hooked. Still, I let horror literature drift away from me in early adulthood. I still sought out darkness in most things I read – Southern Gothic is a good example, as is anything about sadness and regret, for there is great horror in the everyday – but it would take me a long time to come back to capital-H Horror. I also let thoughts of myself as a writer (or any sort of creator) drift away from me for too long, and looking back it seems I was both not experienced enough in life to try writing seriously and much too scared to fail at it. The latter haunted me for quite some time, until one day in 2011 – I was reading King’s Skeleton Crew for maybe the fourth time in my life – something just clicked, and I was furious with myself for never having tried my hand at this. I felt I had things to say and hadn’t been letting myself speak. Horror felt like a full circle for me, and I didn’t hesitate for a moment as I began, at last, a shaking in my hands, to write that first creepy story.

In my spare time, I enjoy not being in a hurry. I’m happiest with my partner and dog in the woods, in inconstant shadow and filtered light. If my dog will allow me to, I like to be still in the trees. Nothing is so calming. It is a sort of cathedral. And, of course, I read as much as I can, with varying success. I try to read twice as much as I write and spend twice as much time outside as I do with a Word file open on my computer. It’s all about balance and peace.

I read and was subsequently floored by your collection ‘Greener Pastures’ when I read it last year. The stories in here are terrifying, but they are also richly drawn and complicated. Can you talk a little bit about how ‘Greener Pastures’ came together? I’d be interested in knowing how the creepy sausage gets made.

Thank you so much! Two and a half years of people saying nice things about the book, and it still seems surreal every time. Greener Pastures started coming together simply because a publisher asked if I was interested, and I realized, with a bit of surprise, that I had more than enough material.
Greener Pastures

Then another publisher asked the same question, and I started to think it could be a Real Thing. A pretty mundane origin. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t all in on a collection just to have a collection. I needed to be 100% behind every single story I chose, with as close to zero filler as I could possibly get, or else it would be much better to wait.

But when I began to think of putting stories together in a group, I saw fairly obvious thematic threads running through much of my work – loss, grief, the creepy inexplicable bleeding into personal darkness, and the attempts to cope with these different sorts of terrors at once – and the eleven stories I chose seemed to speak together really well, cross-pollinating each other, echoing and distorting those echoes, with a couple of curveballs thrown in. It felt like a collection of the lost. Yet nothing felt repetitive or redundant with anything else, and I began to get excited and proud in a way I hadn’t been before.

One of my favorite stories in the collection is ‘October Film Haunt: Under the House’. I also just read ‘The Pine Arch Collection’ in The Dark Magazine for this interview (Props on making e-mails scary). Both stories feature film in some way. Are you a big horror movie fan? What are some favorites that always draw you back in?

I love hearing feedback about “October Film Haunt: Under the House,” and if readers have a cumulative favorite in the collection, it’s probably that one. It really sparked my interest in a dialogue between horror films and horror literature, which usually flows in The Dark Michael Wehuntone direction – a book is adapted as a movie. I wanted to write a love letter to found-footage horror and modern (or digital) folklore of the sort that you find in internet creepypasta. Last year I decided to expand upon the October Film Haunt world a little bit with another love letter to found footage, “The Pine Arch Collection.” It’s really interesting to try to comment on what horror fiction (both film and prose) truly is and how it connects with those experiencing it. A sort of meta horror, if you will. I find it fascinating to explore, and my novel interacts with it to some degree as well.

And yes, I love horror movies. They have been my one constant connection with horror since childhood, even when, as noted earlier, I foolishly (but perhaps, all things considered, fortunately as well) stopped reading the genre before I was able to drown in it. The Blair Witch Project remains my favorite horror film of all time. I have defended it many times and am prepared to do so many more times (not forgetting to hug all those folks who love it like I do). Nature as horror, the abstract occult, the periphery providing far more chills than the foreground ever could – the movie excels in so many ways, and I find it always rewatchable. It’s been a big influence, and I’ve enjoyed wearing that influence on my sleeve a bit. Kairo, Ringu, Paranormal Activity 3, A Tale of Two Sisters, Don’t Look Now, Let the Right One In, The Witch, Kill List, Picnic at Hanging Rock (if you want to stretch the definition of horror a bit), and Audition are some of my other very favorites. Hereditary is very recent, but I am certain I will be drawn back to it again and again. It’s vicious and unapologetic like few other movies.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Yes, writing can be deeply discouraging as well as deeply rewarding. In 2016 I wrote a blog post about turning five years old as an author. I tried to give several pieces of advice there as I looked back over what I had learned and how the tired, sounds awake Michael Wehunt.jpgI had learned it. I also wrote a blog post (for Kendall Reviews) after I finished my first novel, which I think could be helpful to beginning writers. The single most important piece of advice I would offer a beginning writer would be to do the best you can with what time you have. Everyone’s life is unique, with different responsibilities, different circumstances, different rejections and different reasons for those rejections, not all of which have anything to do with the author. Try not to be jealous of those who are able to write far more than you do, or those who are finding success more quickly or easily than you are. You have your own variables, your own toolbox, and all those other writers are not your competition. Be happy for them, and they’ll be happy for you. We’re all in this together, just telling stories.

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

I am, unfortunately, taking 2018 off as an author. It was a sad but necessary decision. But I have my first novel’s first draft waiting for edits, and my second collection of stories (tentative title: The Pine Arch Collection) is ready to go and will be a bit heftier than Greener Pastures. Before long I’ll be getting those two books into shape and sending them out on submission, so they are very much on the horizon, delayed as they are. Then I will turn to writing something shiny and new. Well, maybe extremely dark rather than shiny, but new all the same.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I am painfully behind on my TBR pile. The books I’m looking forward to have already been out for a while. Julian Barnes’ novel The Noise of Time. Lucia Berlin’s posthumous collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women. Kristi DeMeester’s first novel, Beneath. (Her story collection, Everything That’s Underneath, is really good.) Gwendolyn Kiste’s debut collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. But there’s some exciting stuff out recently. Gemma Files (one of my favorite authors) has a new collection out. Jeffrey Ford’s new novel Ahab’s Return was just published. Simon Strantzas has a new collection in October. In the literary world, it will be a matter of doing some research to learn what 2018 releases I’ve painfully overlooked since being out of the loop. For now, though, I’m trying to focus on the mountain of books that already exists in my house.

Last question: where can people find your works?

I have a bibliography page that lists everything I’ve published with relevant links. I try to post regularly on my blog’s home page when something comes out or semi-regularly about miscellaneous topics such as thoughts on writing or the horror genre. Feel free to follow my blog and stay connected!

Author Interview: Kristi Demeester

Welcome to another Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with the insanely talented Kristi Demeester. Kristi’s short fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and her collection and debut novel (Everything That’s Underneath and Beneath respectively) have recently been released.

DSaUTF9W

Hello Kristi! I’d like to thank you for joining me here. Let’s start with an easy one: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do in your spare time?

I started as a voracious reader, so story has always been a deep, intrinsic part of my life. But I wasn’t the kid who tried to write her own stories. I didn’t start writing seriously until my early 20s, and then it was because I wanted to be able to write the stories I wanted to read but couldn’t find. In my spare time, I wrangle a kid and squeeze in what writing I can. My spare time is my writing time. 

I’ve noticed that a lot of your stories concern the tumultuous relationships between mothers and daughters. Is there something particular that draws you to that theme? Or does it crop up organically as you work?

That’s a theme I revisit because it’s something I was working through as I was writing those stories and am still working through as I come to terms with it now. There is a lot of emotional fear for me wrapped up in how mother’s can prey on their daughter’s emotions and use it for their benefit. And so I was working through much of that fear in my stories. 

‘Beneath’ was one of my favorite novels of the year last year. It felt like a takedown of toxic religion wrapped in a gonzo horror tale. How did the process of writing the novel go?Beneath

Thank you so much! I started Beneath almost four years before it ever saw the light of day. I originally planned for it to be a possession story, but it slowly morphed into something else. I’d completed about a hundred pages of it, and then set it aside and started writing short stories. The summer of 2014, I finally got back to it and finished it in earnest. After that draft, it went through another draft where I added in Cora’s character. It was truly a labor of love getting that book out. 

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Be the most stubborn asshole you can be. Discouragement and rejection happen to all of us, but pick it back up and keep going. Find a good beta reader who you trust and respect. You’re going to get jealous of other’s people’s success but don’t let it stifle your own work. And don’t be a jerk to an editor who rejects you. As a matter of fact, don’t respond to a rejection at all. Not even to say than you for reading. Just send it on to the next. 

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

Everything That's UnderneathI have stories forthcoming in Apex, Pseudopod, Shimmer, Ashes and Entropy, Welcome to Miskatonic University, Chiral Mad 4, Disintegration, Eydolon, Lost Films, Lost Highways, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, and Fairy Tale Review. 

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m currently reading and loving Julia Elliott’s The Wilds. Next up is Victor Lavalle’s The Changeling. I’m looking forward to reading some Caroline Kepnes and Paul Tremblay’s newest The Cabin at the End of the World. 

Last question: where can people find your works?

www.kristidemeester.com or on Twitter at KMDemeester.