Seasons of ruin: An interview with Kristopher Triana.
I recently read one of the best books I have come across in recent memory and it wasn’t a horror book!
THE RUIN SEASON by Kristopher Triana is incredible. It is a tale about bipolar horse wrangler Jake Leonard; a man trying to hold his life together as he battles crippling self-doubt, loneliness and his own dark past. Sounds like fun, huh?
Whilst I may have done a poor job in selling this wonderful book to you, it was just the sort of book that I needed to read. A book with a gripping storyline, where you can lose track of time, a book with superbly drawn characters, despicable villains, hate, love, fear…it’s all here, deftly woven into a superb story. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Kristopher, firstly about his writing and then I dug a bit deeper into THE RUIN SEASON. So, grab yourself some bourbon, put a log on the fire and smoke em if you got em. Enjoy.
BtB: First of all, thanks for taking the time to stop by. Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?
KT: Sure, and thanks so much for having me. I’m a fiction author and horror fanatic. I was born in New York but I grew up in the south. I’ve moved all over the east coast – New England, the Carolinas. And of course, I’m a total bookworm.
BtB: Where does your love of reading and writing literature come from?
KT: I’ve always been a loner and a recluse, even as a kid. I was always lost in my imagination and I fell in love with reading fiction at an early age. Then when I was about eleven or twelve I started reading Stephen King and Clive Barker, and that really heightened things.
BtB: Can you tell us what was your first published story and where was it published?
It was a piece called “Giving from the Bottom” and it was published by Spinetingler Magazine, many years ago. It’s a crime story about two cousins breaking into a shopping plaza on Christmas Eve. It was republished in my short story collection.
BtB: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
KT: There’s always an element of improvisation in writing fiction. The characters tell the story to the writer in a lot of ways. And you come up with new ideas as you go. But yes, I do create an outline and keep a notebook handy. For novels I also use a bulletin board filled with index cards that contain plot points, a great method I learned from John Skipp.
BtB: Most of your work thus far has been in the Horror genre. Horror is one of my favourites, though I enjoy reading in all sorts of genres. You recently had a story in Comet Press’ ‘BEST HARDCORE HORROR STORIES as well as releasing your own short story collection GROWING DARK. Tell us where your love of the genre comes from and who or what some of your influences are.
KT: My love of the macabre dates back to my loving monsters as a little boy. I collected the Crestwood Monster Series books and watched the old Universal Horror films. I had rubber Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon toys from Halloween that I played with all year long. My grandmother loved horror too. We used to watch scary movies together all the time. She was a wonderful woman. As I got older I fell in love with John Carpenter movies and became obsessed with Michael Myers and Tales from the Crypt. A life-long adoration for the genre really began when I was about fifteen. Tor Horror books were everywhere back then, and horror movies were pumped out the way comic book movies are now. Then I read Stephen King’s Danse Macabre and knew that I had found my calling. My influences range from authors like Jack Ketchum, Charles L. Grant, Graham Masterson, Cormac McCarthy, Stewart O’Nan, William Hjortsberg, and of course, King and Barker. John Carpenter is an idol of mine, and other films like Inside, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist III, A Serbian Film and Clean, Shaven have all been a huge influence. I think the movie that influenced me the most is In the Mouth of Madness. I was seventeen when that came out and it further solidified my desire to be a horror writer and break moulds, as that movie did.
BtB: 2016 looks like being a busy year for you with THE RUIN SEASON recently being released by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and later this year you have a body horror novel coming out called BODY ART through Blood Bound Books. These are two very different books. What made you decide to take a break from writing Horror, instead working on THE RUIN SEASON, which has a real noir vibe with it?
KT: The Ruin Season was a very personal project. I wanted to write from the heart. I love books by Cormac McCarthy, Hubert Selby Jr., and Daniel Woodrell. I wanted to write something human like that, about love and loss, heartache and joy. It’s a crime, country noir novel, but it’s not about a heist or cops and robbers. It’s not that kind of book. It was a story I felt I had to tell, and I knew it would be a challenge. I’m thrilled that it’s now my novel debut.
BtB: Let’s get stuck into THE RUIN SEASON. I see from your profile that you are a professional dog trainer, as is Jake Leonard in THE RUIN SEASON. Are there any other parts of Jake’s personality that are similar to your own?
KT: Absolutely. He’s emotionally and mentally troubled, as I have been much of my life. He’s reclusive and needs a lot of time alone, like me, and we both had a rough childhood and a lot of bad luck with life, family and our own unstable nature. But both of us also believe in the healing power of love – from women, friends and the company of dogs.
BtB: I get the impression from reading the book that you’re an animal lover. Would that be correct?
KT: Yes. Completely and utterly. Dogs changed my life. And with the exception of my wife, I spend much more time with them than I do with other human beings.
BtB: One thing I really enjoyed about the novel was the way in which you didn’t simply throw in a bunch of characters right from the start. Instead we got to know a bit about Jake and then it sort of went from there. Each character was given flesh and bone, a unique personality that really helped the book to flourish. Where did this story and these characters come from?
KT: Well, with literary fiction, I think most writers draw from reality. Nobody in The Ruin Season is based on anyone I know, but there are parts of people I know in all of them. There are also moments based on individual experiences, but the majority of what happens in the book – particularly the huge plot-points –is total fiction. The characters started as rough outlines and grew flesh along the way. I wanted each of them to be complex, like real people, to drive the emotional impact of the story home.
BtB: Although the book has that noir, bleak vibe to it, I did feel as though there was a sense of hope. Jake had his heart in the right place but just seemed to have the rug pulled from under his feet whenever things began to look up.
KT: Jake is not a bad guy, even though he does some pretty bad things. Part of it is him fucking up, and another part of it is just bad luck and trouble always finding him and the people he cares about. I like to think that the books holds hope. There’s definitely a shinning light of love in the core of all that darkness.
BtB: You must’ve done some research into bipolar disorder, its symptoms and the medications involved. Can you tell us why you decided to give this character the disorder?
KT: Well, as I said, this is a very personal book, the most personal I’ve ever written. I’ve struggled with mental illness my entire life. For decades I just thought I was just the way that I was and got used to people saying “Damn, he’s fucking crazy.” I wasn’t properly diagnosed until I was in my thirties, after a steady breakdown that led me into mania, followed by a suffocating depression. I’ve been diagnosed as bipolar – with the additional illnesses of schizoaffective disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and PTSD. But this is how it sometimes is with bipolar. It can cradle multiple other disorders. People think bipolar just means you’re moody. That’s not what it is. You’re not bipolar because you’re sad or can’t make up your mind. True bipolar leads to manic tailspins were you don’t sleep for days as well as depressions so black that you can barely function. With The Ruin Season, I wanted to talk about it from the heart, telling how it truly feels to live with bipolar disorder. I think mental illness is often poorly depicted in fiction and especially in movies and TV shows. I decided to speak up, in a sense. This book was cathartic for me, but it is also my way of ‘coming out’ about my illness, which very few people in my life know about.
BtB: I’d imagine THE RUIN SEASON was not an easy book to write, because of the emotions involved. Would that be correct?
KT: It was. There’s so much sorrow in it that’s drawn from my own life. I’m in a wonderful, happy place in my life now. I have an amazing wife who is my whole world, and I have a job that I love and plenty of time to write. This is the best time of my life. But it was a long and hellish road getting here. Not only was writing the book hard because it dug up so many old ghosts, but it was even hard for my wife to read because of all the memories it stirred up.
BtB: Let’s say this book gets optioned for a movie! Who would you like to see play the stories main characters?
KT: Well, can I get a time machine to cast it? Haha. I think a thirtyish Josh Brolin would be great as Jake. A middle-aged Martin Balsam as Murray, or maybe Jeff Bridges. Perhaps a slightly younger Julianne Moore as Michelle. We’d need one hell of an actress to play Nikki. She’s the most volatile character.
BtB: The artwork for the book is great. It’s simple, pretty colourless but perfectly represents the feel of the book. You must be happy with the way it has turned out?
KT: I’m in love with it. Matthew Revert does great work. He and the publisher were very flexible with my feedback and ideas too, which made me very happy. The result speaks for itself.
BtB: Is there any sort of underlying message within your writing that you hope the reader takes away with them?
KT: Yes. Mentally ill people are not all serial killers and eccentric weirdos. We’re people who have a sickness. Another message is that love is the most important thing in life and should be cherished above all else. There is no wealth richer than love. It heals, rebuilds and guides. It inspires us all. Let it in, and once it’s there, treat it right.
BtB: Do you have any plans to write more books in this particular genre?
KT: Absolutely. I recently wrote a new novel called Shepherd of the Black Sheep. It’s about a rancher who becomes the guardian of his disturbed granddaughter after his daughter’s death. The book begins with the little girl playing in the woods with a friend, and someone attacks and kills the friend. This turns the small town upside down and leads to a very violent and heart-wrenching story. I’m hoping to find a publisher for it. I’d love to work with Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing again.
BtB: Later this year you have a body horror novel coming out through Blood Bound Books. The Thing is my favourite movie of all time-a body horror classic. I am a huge body horror fan. Can you tell us a bit about BODY ART?
KT: The Thing is my favourite horror movie! It’s the perfect horror story, bar none. Body Art has some elements of body horror and human transformation, but it’s not exactly a body horror novel. It’s really extreme horror. The title Body Art pertains to the two overlapping stories. One is about a mortician who makes art out of human bodies, and the other is about a porn crew attempting to create the most shocking and vile adult film ever made. So they’re all making body art. With this book I really want to push things and go as far into the abyss as possible, letting it swallow me. I dug into the most twisted thoughts I could imagine and put them all into that book. It is not for the squeamish or easily offended!
BtB: Looking beyond 2016, what else does Kristopher Triana have planned from a writing perspective?
I have an all-new short story in an anthology called Stiff Things. Like Body Art, it’s extreme, and as erotic as it is revolting. I’m proud of that one! I’m writing a new horror novel right now and have banged out some more short stories that I’m waiting to hear back on from different presses. I write every day, so I’ll keep churning them out.
BtB: Coffee or Tea?
I don’t do caffeine. I guess just a cup of decaf in the morning.
BtB: Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook. Twitter’s too mean.
BtB: Books or movies?
KT: Always books, but even more so these days. Modern movies are 90% terrible. I mean, have you seen what they’ve done with Superman and Michael Myers? It’s a sacrilege!
BtB: What advice would you give to your younger self?
KT: Don’t let the darkness take you.
BtB: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
KT: I want to thank everyone who has supported me along the way, particularly Tom Mumme, who the book is dedicated to. I also thank everyone who buys the book and takes the time to read it. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.
BtB: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
KT: Visit kristophertriana.com or go to Amazon and Goodreads and type in Kristopher Triana. Also check out my Facebook page.
BtB: Kristopher, you have written one of my favourite books of this year. An absolute pearl of a read and I am stoked that I gave it a go. I wish you nothing but the best. Cheers.
KT: Thank you so very much. It has been a pleasure to be here. Keep up the good work!
Chasing Dragons: An interview with Marc Turner.
Earlier this year I was trudging through Amazon looking for a new fantasy book to get my teeth into; something epic, something intricate, something dark with strong characterisation, shadowy politics and action a plenty. As soon as I came across the cover art for Marc Hunter’s “Dragon Hunters” I knew that I’d found what I was looking for. It wasn’t actually until I started reading it that I realised it was his second novel. I thought that I’d made a mistake and jumped into the second book of a trilogy, but after a little investigation it turns out this isn’t the case. “Dragon Hunters” sits in the same world as the previous book “When the Heavens Fall” but has different characters and a different setting. I blitzed through this book in 5 days, captivated by the epic world building, the terrific characters and of course the sea dragons!
BeavistheBookhead: First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat. For those folk out there not familiar with you, could you please tell the readers about Marc Turner?
Marc Turner writes epic fantasy books with a dark edge and a liberal sprinkling of humour. He is the author of the Chronicles of the Exile series, which is published in the US by Tor and in the UK by Titan. And he is as confused as everyone else as to why he is talking about himself in the third person.
BeavistheBookhead: Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing etc. come from?
I’m not sure I can trace my love of reading down to one particular book. Among the books that made an impression on me as a child, I’d include The House That Sailed Away by Pat Hutchins and Watership Down by Richard Adams. In an epic fantasy context, the first book I remember reading was Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. It was unlike anything I had read before, and after finishing it, I devoured everything I could find by the popular authors of the time, including Brooks, Donaldson and Feist. As regards my love of storytelling, I’ve been writing on and off for as long as I can remember. I enjoyed those “choose your own adventure” books by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, and I suspect they had a part to play in making me want to write stories of my own. I also did a bit of roleplaying when I was younger, and I invariably ended up being the Games Master because no one else in my gaming group could be bothered to spend time creating a campaign.
BeavistheBookhead: Why did you choose to write in this particular field or genre?
I write epic fantasy because epic fantasy is what I read out of choice – or rather, it is what I have always chosen to read in the past. These days, my reading tastes are branching out, so maybe one day I will try writing something different, whether it be historical fiction, or scifi, or something else.
BeavistheBookhead: What are some of your favourite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
The two authors I would say have most influenced my writing are Steven Erikson and Joe Abercrombie. I’m a big admirer of the way Erikson weaves multiple story-threads together, before bringing his characters together for a climactic finale. And I love Abercrombie’s shades-of-grey characters and dark humour. Having said that, different readers have noticed a host of different influences in my writing, including David Gemmell and George RR Martin. One reviewer compared me to nine other authors in a single sentence – and five of those I’d never read before! Also, I suspect my writing “voice” is still evolving. A lot of readers have noticed a difference in the style of Dragon Hunters from When the Heavens Fall. My third book, Red Tide, probably falls somewhere between the two.
BeavistheBookhead: Are you the sort of person that carries around a pen and paper to write down ideas or do you have a place where you go to write and the ideas simply flow from there?
I usually carry around a dictaphone in case inspiration strikes. One thing I’ve learned from experience is that my best ideas tend to come to me in circumstances when I cannot jot them down. As for a place where I go to in order to get ideas, that would be “anywhere away from the computer”. I envy authors who can sit down with a blank page and think up clever plot twists and lines of humorous dialogue off the cuff. Personally, I need to plan out my scenes in advance, so that when I come to write my ideas out, I can concentrate on the business of getting the words right.
BeavistheBookhead: What is your average day/week like as a writer? Is this a full time gig?
My working day actually starts late at night, because that’s when I do most of my best thinking. I have a target number of words each day that I HAVE to write. Then in the evenings I catch up with emails and social media before settling down again to plan in readiness for the next day.
BeavisthBookhead: With social media the way it is now, how important do you think it is to be approachable? And is the social media thing a necessary evil or something that you quite enjoy?
A bit of both. I would love to be able to spend more time on social media, because it’s a great way to meet, and keep in touch with, both readers and other authors. The problem is, I’m not the fastest writer, and my priority each day has to be hitting my target word count. If I allowed myself to be distracted by the latest uproar on social media, I wouldn’t even finish . . . wait, who hijacked the Hugo Awards this year?
BeavistheBookhead: Let’s get into talking about your first book in the “Chronicles of the Exile” series “When the Heavens Fall”. I have noticed a few reviewers comparing it to Steven Erikson’s “Malazan” books in the way that it throws you into the story straight away rather than using perhaps the more traditional approach of building a story towards a climax. Was this a conscious decision to write the story this way or was it something that happened naturally?
It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. But I would say I’m not a big fan of info dumps. I prefer to hit the ground running in my books, then feed information to the reader when it becomes necessary for the purposes of the story.
BeavistheBookhead: Where did the idea of “When the Heavens Fall” come from?
All my ideas come from the same pot that stores the gold at the end of the rainbow. Or something.
BeavistheBookhead: “Dragon Hunters”, released earlier this year is not a direct sequel to “When the Heavens Fall” but does take place in the same world. As soon as I saw the cover art I was in! I know that some people see the inclusion of dragons as a little cliché within the genre, but, for me personally there is still something magical and terrifying about them. What is it that attracts you to this mythical beast and are we likely to see any more in the next book “Red Tide” scheduled for release later this year?
I think what attracts me to dragons is that elusive blend of danger and wonder that makes one admire and fear them at the same time. Yes, a dragon is a magnificent creature . . . but it is magnificent in a “Is it going to have me for lunch?” kind of way. Personally, I don’t consider dragons to be a cliché, though they are undoubtedly a trope of the genre. That is why I wanted to do something a little different with them in Dragon Hunters. So, in my book the dragons are of the sea-monster variety, rather than the winged and fire-breathing kind. They are also not the alpha predators. Rather, they are hunted for sport by a fellowship of powerful water-mages. And what could possibly go wrong with an idea like that, right? As for whether there will be more sea dragons in Red Tide . . . you will just have to read the book to find out!
BeavistheBookhead: I loved the whole concept of dragon day, the opening of the dragon gate. The great hunt…it is an absolutely brilliant idea. Where did this idea come from?
From that pot of gold again. I’m surprised more writers don’t use it.
BeavistheBookhead: Who was your favourite character to write about in “Dragon Hunters” and why? Personally, mine was the guardian, Senar Sol. A mysterious figure that grew as the story went on and became a key figure in the outcome.
My favourite character would have to be Kempis. Kempis is a detective investigating the murders of some water-mages by an assassin with a unique magical ability. He has a very testing relationship with both his partner, Sniffer, and his superior, Hilaire. His cynicism and his world weariness were fertile ground for a lot of the humour in the book. Senar Sol is an interesting one. He went through a number of transformations when I was editing the book, and his final character bears little resemblance to the one I first created. That was a real challenge for me in Dragon Hunters: creating interesting new characters that weren’t just imitations of the ones inWhen the Heavens Fall. Senar will be back in book three, Red Tide, and he has a difficult path ahead of him.
BeavistheBookhead: Is there an underlying message that you wish to get across with your stories or are they purely for entertainment?
I wouldn’t go so far as to say there is a message that I wish to get across. When I read other books, there are few things I enjoy less than when an author gets onto his or her soapbox and starts preaching. Having said that, I do explore certain themes in my books through the characters arcs, from seeking redemption, to dealing with grief, and so forth. But I try to ensure that these themes remain beneath the surface so they do not get in the way of the story.
BeavistheBookhead: Are we likely to see the appearance of any of the characters from the first two books in “Red Tide” or will this be set in a completely different area once again with a whole new cast?
Yes, from Red Tide onwards you will see some returning characters. Obviously, not every character will return, because not every character will survive. In this series, no one is safe.
BeavistheBookhead: The release of “Red Tide” this year means that last year you must have been in some writing frenzy. What does Marc Turner like to do when he isn’t writing?
Actually, it has not been as frenzied as you might expect. I’ve heard it said before that the wheels of the publishing industry turn slowly, but in my case they seemed to turn backwards on occasion. In the time it took me to get my first book published, I was able to write the whole of Dragon Hunters. From now on, I expect I’ll be releasing books at a more “usual” rate – perhaps one a year, or something like that. When I’m not writing, I’m generally sleeping. Seriously, though, between writing and promoting my books, I don’t get anywhere near as much free time as I’d like. I try to read whenever I can. Reading was ultimately what got me into writing, so it would be a shame if writing got me out of reading. Aside from that, I find that trying to keep up with my seven-year-old son is a full-time occupation.
BeavistheBookhead: Beyond the release of “Red Tide” what else can we expect from Marc Turner?
More books! And short stories, of course. I’ll be writing one for Fantasy Faction’s Guns & Dragons anthology, and I’ve also just finished the first draft of another for Grimdark Magazine’s Evil is a Matter of Perspective anthology that will feature Mazana Creed from Dragon Hunters.
BeavistheBookhead: Marc. Thank you very much for your time. I know you must be busy and I truly appreciate you visiting my dark corner of the world wide web. The floor is all yours. Tell the readers why they should be snapping up copies of “When the Heavens Fall”, “Dragon Hunters” and pre-ordering the forthcoming “Red Tide”.
Because they’re AMAZING. Or at least my wife tells me they’re good, and apparently she’s always right. 😉
Find out more about Marc Turner at his website.
Check out Dragon Hunters.
Visit Titan Books.
Marc can also be found in the Twitterverse and on the book of faces.
Enter the McHughniverse: An interview with Jessica McHugh.
I am a bit of a newcomer to the writings of Jessica McHugh. The last few weeks have seen me devour two of her most recent works in ‘The Green Kangaroos’ and ‘The Train Derails in Boston’. These two very different books showed me what a versatile writer she is. Further investigation told me that she has written in the young adult genre too.
I enjoy talking with writers who aren’t afraid of working in different genres, so when the opportunity to chat with Jessica presented itself, I was stoked.
BtB: Thanks for stopping by my dark little corner of the web. For those readers out there unfamiliar with you, can you tell us about Jessica McHugh?
First off, thank you so much for diving into my weird world, Adrian, and for having me on your blog. It’s so cool having people dig and celebrate what you do.
For those unfamiliar with my work, I’m a 33-year-old novelist and short story writer who loves playing in all types of genres from extreme horror to young adult. I’m an internationally produced playwright and “The Train Derails in Boston” will be my nineteen book published in seven years. (So it’s safe to assume I kinda dig this writing gig.) I’ve had the immense honor of working with some of the raddest small presses out there like Post Mortem Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Evolved Publishing, Raw Dog Screaming Press. I also work as a creative writing instructor and a food/historical tour guide in beautiful Downtown Frederick, Maryland when I’m not trapped under my massive writing to-do-queue.
BtB: Where did your love of writing/books/storytelling/etc. come from?
I think I can thank Roald Dahl for that. He’s been my favorite author for as long as I can remember. I devoured books like Matilda, BFG, and The Witches when I was a kid; his autobiographies too, especially Going Solo. There’s something sinister in Roald Dahl’s work—even the children’s books—which spoke to me more than the bland coming of age stories some of my friends were reading. Every girl has to deal with puberty. Not every girl has to deal with developing telekinesis and outwitting an abusive headmistress by pretending to be the woman’s dead father. I dug that second girl a lot.
BtB: How long have you been writing?
I’ve always written—I have a box with tons of stories and poems I wrote in fourth grade—but it was reading those short story collections by Dahl (as well as stories by Lovecraft, Anne Rice, and Tolkien’s Silmarillion) that really inspired me when I was an aimless twenty-year-old working in a perfume kiosk. Once I started taking it seriously at that age, my life was never the same. It’s amazing to think back on it now. There was once a time in my life when writing and editing weren’t constantly on my mind. How is that possible? I must’ve been so serene, so blissful, so…bored! What the hell did I do with my time?
Oh yeah, smoked lots of weed. That helped with the writing too, actually. 😉
BtB: What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever been given?
When I was starting out in publishing, writing in lots of genres, some people said I should stick to one genre or readers might get confused. Or if I insisted on jumping around, it was suggested that I have pennames for each genre. It was all very aggravating because I didn’t want to get pigeonholed into one type of novel, and I certainly didn’t want to have to manage a bunch of personas just because readers might get confused or turned off by versatility. My best friend, Jenny, told me quite bluntly—and likely to silence my persistent whining—that I should write whatever I want, however I want. So I’ve just kept doing that. She’s not a writer, but she’s a damn fine artist, and it seemed like solid advice.
BtB: What was your first published story and where was it published?
This is a bit embarrassing, but my first published story was my novel “Camelot Lost,” released by PublishAmerica.
Yes, that PublishAmerica. I submitted my Arthurian Legend manuscript to several publishers, but a lot of them said the same thing. It was too much like “Mists of Avalon.” I didn’t think that was true at all, so after much deliberation, I decided to go with PublishAmerica, which was based out of my hometown. I didn’t pay anything to publish, and I kind of like what they did with the cover, but they’re not a great company. They’ll publish anything.
That said, I learned a lot from that first publication, and having my own novel in my hands gave me the confidence I needed to learn and grow as a writer. Soon after, I started receiving acceptances from publishers who wouldn’t accept just anyone. I have since run out my contract with PA, but I fully intend on getting “Camelot Lost” back out there someday.
BtB: How does the writing process work for you? Do you keep a pen and paper on hand for the scribbling down of ideas or do you have a writing space you go to and the ideas simply flow from there?
The story and/or main characters dictate my process. I don’t and can’t wait for inspiration to strike, so I seek it out. I don’t force it, though. I follow it. I listen to my characters, and I listen to my fictional voice. If I feel stifled, I’ll do different things, mostly concerned with changing my scenery, to coax out the desired inspirado. It doesn’t always work, though, and if a story gives me lots of trouble like that, there’s a good damnhellass reason. I didn’t go to school for writing, so the majority of my process is based on instinct, trial and error, and a lifetime of reading books and watching movies.
But yes, I never leave the house without pens and paper. This is for the jotting down of ideas, but also because I usually have a project I need to continue working on while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store or during lunch. I also have my Writing Hut, which clutters up the spare room in our apartment. I go there almost every morning to work on multiple projects, but as they’re all in various states of completion, I have to approach them differently. If I’m first-drafting, I’m curled up on the couch in the Writing Hut with a notebook. If I’m typing up the handwritten manuscript, I’m sitting at my desk. If I’m editing on the computer, I’m either sitting or, if I’m in a dancey mood, I’ll work at my standing desk (which is just a repurposed photo printer on a bookcase). All of these can also be completed at the nearest patio bar, which is preferable during happy hour. I also have AquaNotes in the shower, which allows me to continue writing when I should be shaving my legs. I’m a productive but fuzzy chick.
BtB: Are the characters in your books based on people you know or are they purely fictitious?
Fictitious, though I certainly have characters that share a glimmer of personality with someone I know. For example, there’s a character named Brianne in “Rabbits in the Garden” who keeps getting distracted while telling a story about the day she was committed to Taunton Asylum. Throughout the novel, people tell her to “Finish the fucking story.” This is a direct reference to a night my husband and I spent with my best friend, Jenny, who couldn’t finish a story to save her life. Brianne always makes me think of Jenny…even though “Brianne” is my middle name.
BtB: The two books of yours I have read have both had striking cover art. Do you have much of a say in the cover design or do you leave that up to the publisher?
I suppose I could have more say in it than I do, but I tend to have a tough time envisioning the cover, so I prefer to let the publishers and artists interpret the story. I sometimes find I’m too close to the story to discern what should be featured, and seeing as this ignorance has gotten me some terrific covers, I think I’m just going to keep letting badass artists have their way with me. That sounded dirty, and I do not care.
BtB: I like the feeling of picking a book up and not really knowing what I am going to get. I definitely get that feeling with you. You write across different genres and I have always wondered how hard it must be, or is it something that comes naturally to you?
I hope it comes naturally because there are lots of genres I haven’t played with yet. Then again, I tried to write a western a few years ago and failed at that, so you never know. But I do love a challenge. When I read or see something that inspires me, it’s like the story is daring me. Could I also write a book in this genre/style?
But for the most part, I follow a plot or character rather than a genre into the first draft. I have some idea of what genre it’ll be—the feel of it—but if the story takes an unexpected turn toward horror, cyberpunk, or romance, I won’t beat it back. I’ll follow it to see if it takes me strange and beautiful places.
BtB: ‘The Green Kangaroos’ was a unique look at drug addiction from the perspective of an addict. It was unlike anything I have read before. Can you tell us some more about this story, particularly how it came about, where the idea came from?
The Green Kangaroos was the most enjoyable novel writing experience I’ve had yet, which seems strange because it’s such a dark and disgusting ride. But I really liked playing the character of Perry Samson. While my brother Eric isn’t nearly as bad as Perry, I’d be lying if I said Eric isn’t Perry’s backbone. My brother, also a middle child, is a recovering heroin addict who put the family through a lot of grief for a long time. He lied to and stole from us for years, and he wounded me in ways I hoped this book would heal but didn’t, because healing me was not Perry Samson’s priority. Healing his sister, ex-wife, and parents wasn’t Perry’s priority either. This was his world. Not Eric’s. Not mine. That’s why I think it became so fun for me. Once I realized I had to drop my baggage and really get into Perry’s mind, I couldn’t be bothered to care about anyone’s pain but his. Heal him, satiate him, give him one second of relief in the suffocating net of itchy, sober routine.
But I’ve had my troubles, too. I’ve been depressed. I’ve self-medicated. I’ve known what it’s like to drink too much and be equally terrified and satisfied with not recognizing my own reflection. I’ve been so obsessed with writing that relationships suffered. I’ve played the game of being a terrible person and I still bounce back and forth with regretting my choices.
I’ve been weak and liked it. Many of us have. Hence, Perry Samson and his wonderfully disgusting life.
BtB: ‘The Train Derails in Boston’ is a very different beast all together. In my review I said that I think Edward Lee fans will get a real kick out of it. It’s provocative, horrific but utterly engaging. What made you want to write a sexed-up ghost story?
“The Train Derails in Boston” was one of those dare moments. I’d written a few dark erotica stories, but the thought of horror erotica really tickled me. How would one go about doing that? And more important, how would Jessica McHugh go about doing that? Fragments of this story, however, came from a dream I had several years ago about being trapped in a house with ghosts whose bones were in the furniture, doorknobs, utensils…and in mah-jong tiles. A few years prior my mother had found an old chest of mah-jong tiles in a relative’s basement that I coveted so madly it permeated my dreams. When I announced I’d be using the tiles in this novel, she graciously gave me the chest, which sat across from me in my Writing Hut the whole month I wrote the book for NaNoWriMo. The dream, the tiles, the erotic horror dare, wanting to write a haunted house novel, and finally, the weird desire to create the most unlikable protagonist I could (hi, becks) all went to this sticky icky book which was a blast to write but kind of cringeworthy to edit because of the dirty, dirty sex.
BtB: I liked how the haunting of the house was linked to the Majong Tiles. Majong tiles have many different meanings. I know that some tiles represent the changes of the life of man, which is a little like what this book is about; how the characters change due to their interactions with the spirits. Did you do a lot of research into the tiles and their meanings and where did the idea originate from with the tiles?
I did some research, yes, and I carefully selected any mentioned mah-jong tiles, but as much as I wanted to descend into all of the symbolism, I also recognized my affinity for going overboard. I didn’t want that to happen here. The story is already so detailed and non-liner, I wanted the reader to be able to focus more on the tiles’ composition than their decoration. The images of mah-jong tiles as chapters breaks, however, do tell an interesting story.
BtB: The ending leaves things quite open…do you have more plans for these characters in the future?
No plans right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lucien Marchand pops up again.
BtB: What is in store for Jessica McHugh for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
I have two more novels due out this year. “Hares in the Hedgerow” is a sequel to my 2011 Post Mortem Press novel, “Rabbits in the Garden,” and it’s been a crazy joy revisiting characters that have been with me longer than any others. Evolved Publishing is also releasing the fifth book in the Darla Decker Diaries, “Darla Decker Breaks the Case.” This is the last book covering Darla’s middle school years, so I’m going on a brief hiatus with that series, but I’ll throw her into high school soon enough. In 2017, my novel “Nightly Owl, Fatal Raven” is coming out from Raw Dog Screaming Press, and I’m incredibly jazzed to be working with a publisher I’ve admired for so long. This novel is a rewrite of one I’d previously published with Reliquary Press, so it’s been cool seeing how both the story and I have grown over the years. I also have a project entitled “A Motherfucking Heist Novel,” for which I’m currently writing shorts and novellas based on the characters and world, so I should know the characters pretty well by the time I get around to writing it next year. One of those novellas, “Home Birth,” will actually be available this October, so keep an eye out for that!
BtB: Somebody contacts me through the blog and asks what Jessica McHugh book they should start with. What do I tell them?
If they dig horror but not filth, “Rabbits in the Garden.” If they’re normal, “The Green Kangaroos.” 😉 But really, I believe there’s something for everyone in the McHughniverse.
BtB: Movies or books?
Ooooh shit. Movies. (ducks)
BtB: Coffee or Tea?
Coffee. I do love a huge cup of Earl Grey made by my friend Lindsay, though. Seriously, it’s magical.
BtB: I am approaching my 37th year on Earth. Am I too old to get inked? (I don’t have any tatts!)
You might want to stay away from tribal unicorns or barbed wire, but I don’t think you’re ever too old to start telling your life story on your skin. A cheesy response, for sure, but it’s also true. I love being able to glance at my arm and see a bunch of things that inspire my creativity and joy.
Oh, and everyone always asks if it hurts as much as they fear, and I’ve always said yes, but I recently watched my 68 year old mom get a tattoo, and she didn’t have the slightest problem. Minimal pain, no swelling, barely any bleeding. You’d think a kitten licked that tattoo onto her skin. My mom’s a dick.
BtB: Final question: Do you have any good jokes?
Good? Not really. But I do have a favorite, attached below.
Damn!!! I have to tell you guys that Jess sent me a great video of her telling a great joke but unfortunately I cannot upload videos to this version of WordPress. Why don’t you follow the links below instead and buy one of Jess’ books, You won’t be sorry.
Jessica McHugh – Thank you.
Interview/Under Siege Quiz!: Adam Howe
Adam Howe is a name that I hope more and more people will become familiar with. His writing style is unique. He floats around the horror genre, dabbles with a bit of noir and makes you laugh out loud. What’s not to like?
Well, I will tell you something else about Adam; he is a big Steve Seagal fan!…..and this is great news, because I have a real soft spot for the mumbling martial artist myself and so I asked Adam if he’d like to pay a visit to my humble blog and have a yarn about his writing and maybe take part in my Steven Seagal question time, which I am calling UNDER SIEGE!
Let us begin!
BeavistheBookhead: Adam. Thanks for dropping by. For those poor unfortunate folk out there who don’t know anything about you, tell us a little (or a lot, if you wish) about yourself.
Thanks for having me, man… I’m a British writer who seems to have found his niche writing crime/horror Americana, or ‘Murricana. I spent my early years living in and around Adelaide, South Australia, before returning to Blighty in my pre-teens. As a writer, I enjoyed some early success when my short story Jumper was chosen as the winner of Stephen King’s On Writing contest, and published in the paperback edition of SK’s writing bible. I then spent a number of years working as a screenwriter – with middling success, though none of my work ever made it to the screen – before returning to writing prose fiction a few years ago. My insanely-supportive partner and I live in Greater London with our Jack Russell terrier, Gino, named after Steven Seagal’s character from Out for Justice. We’re expecting our first child in July. The missus and me, I mean. Not the dog. I’m hoping she allows me to name the baby after another Seagal character.
BeavistheBookhead: Do you have a blog or website?
I don’t. Probably should, right? I keep saying I’ll get around to starting one. I like to think I’m building suspense.
BeavistheBookhead: When did you decide that writing is what you wanted to do?
The first book I really responded to was Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Dahl’s stories and Quentin Blake’s illustrations. Considering that my work often involves animals and bodily functions, it’s fair to say Revolting Rhymes remains a major influence. So I started off writing Roald Dahl rips. Somewhere along the way, I discovered Stephen King. My mum used to have a bunch of his books on her bookshelf. I remember being terribly impressed by the heft of The Bachman Books; that, to me, seemed a mark of quality. At a school book fair, I came across a Carrie paperback with an illustration of a pig-blood-soaked Sissy Spacek on the cover. That book scared the shit out of me. I had nightmares for weeks (years later, when I met King and told him this, he was delighted). I decided then that I wanted to inflict my ordeal on others.
BeavistheBookhead: What was your favourite read from 2015?
Off the top of my head: Joe Lansdale’s Paradise Sky and Duane Swierczynski’s Canary.
BeavistheBookhead: What or who influences your writing?
My biggest literary influences are King and Lansdale. Other influences include the EC horror comics, 70s/80s horror movies, Golden Age (80s/90s) action movies, the American ‘shock’ comedians of the 80s/90s, and true crime.
BeavistheBookhead: If you were not a writer then what would you be?
A mental patient.
BeavistheBookhead: What was your first published story? What was it about? Who published it?
Way back around 2000, publishers Hodder & Stoughton and The Guardian newspaper launched an international writing competition to promo the release of Steve King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. The brief was for unpublished writers to pen a Stephen King-style story. My story Jumper was about a depressed shop worker – I was working in retail at the time – who goes a little doolally after witnessing a suicide at the shopping mall where he works. (This event actually happened.) Much to my surprise, King chose my story from over 3,000 entries as the winner of the contest. Jumper was published in the first-edition international paperback of On Writing; it has since been published in the Kindle version. As part of the prize, I travelled to NYC for an audience with The King, where we debated the merits of slow versus fast zombies, among other lofty subjects. So, Jumper was my first published story – by a major publisher in Stephen King’s book. Quite the debut, huh? And I was young and dumb enough to believe I’d ‘arrived.’ I wasn’t published again for another ten years!
BeavistheBookhead: Do you carry a pen and paper around in case you get hit with an idea or do you have a writing space where you go and the ideas simply flow from there?
I don’t carry a notepad anymore. I’ll sometimes jot ideas here and there, mostly gags, or if a character’s voice pops into my mind, starts telling me how to open his or her story. The good ideas tend to stick with me, and don’t need writing down. Of course, good ideas are subjective. I’m the guy who thought ‘skunk ape porn…there’s something in this.” Not everyone will agree.
BeavistheBookhead: Your first collection of stories is called ‘Black Cat Mojo’ and it is moving its way up my TBR pile. Can you tell us a little about it?
Ah, then you’re about to meet dwarf porn sensation Rummy Rumsfeld! Black Cat Mojo is a collection of offbeat crime/horror stories, similar in tone to Damn Dirty Apes from the Die Dog collection. As a bonus, it also includes The Mad Butcher of Plainfield’s Chariot of Death, my EC-inspired Eddie Gein yarn, which was first published in Nightmare Magazine… The book opens with Of Badgers & Porn Dwarfs, concerning the misadventures of the aforementioned dwarf porn star. (I haven’t misspelled dwarfs, by the way; Tolkien invented ‘dwarves,’ which is offensive to little people – as you know, I’m staunchly PC.) Jesus in a Dog’s Ass is about a pair of dipshit desperadoes who heist a Jack Russell terrier with the image of Christ in its backside from an evangelical church group. Frank, The Snake, & the Snake is about mob-snitch Frank ‘The Tin Man’ Piscopo; blackmailed into undertaking ‘one last score,’ Frank finds himself fighting for his life versus a giant, ravenous Burmese python… Pretty standard stuff.
BeavistheBookhead: I first became aware of you when I picked up the novella ‘Gator Bait’ I didn’t really know what to expect. I liked the cover, liked the synopsis and thought “Yeah. This sounds pretty good” I started and finished it that same night and loved every minute of it. I read someone describe it as redneck swamp noir! I think that’s a pretty good description. This novella was packaged together with two others and was released in a single collection as ‘Die Dog and Eat the Hatchet’ that collection finished in my top reads of 2015 list. It was brilliant. It was a funny, bloody, crazy fun read. Can you tell readers out there a bit about this collection?
After Black Cat Mojo, Die Dog was my attempt to write something more ‘serious.’ (Which is funny, in retrospect.) I felt I should probably write something more in the vein of Stephen King, or at least, a more ‘traditional’ horror story. Why not, right? I have this great marketing tool: Winner of Stephen King’s On Writing contest. I’d be crazy not to use it… But when I’d finished the Die Dog novella, I wasn’t sure what I had, or if it worked. I think I’d become overly familiar with the piece. So I decided to balance it out with Gator Bait, again a fairly traditional crime/horror story. By this time, Black Cat Mojo had been published. Readers seemed to dig the humour – thank god – so I figured I’d better write something for THEM. And that’s how Damn Dirty Apes came about. In other words, the Die Dog collection was born of my own insecurities and self-doubt. I’m pathetic.
BeavistheBookhead: What does the rest of 2016 have in store for Adam Howe from a writing perspective?
I’m trying to get as much work done as I can before the baby drops in July. So I’m finished up my Damn Dirty Apes follow-up, Tijuana Donkey Showdown. Apes is a model of restraint compared to Donkey. If readers like it, and want more, there may be a third – and final? – Reggie Levine story to tell, along the lines of The Goonies for grownups… I’m currently collaborating on a crime/horror project with The Other Adam, Mr. Cesare. As you know, he’s a great writer, and a greater guy. I contacted him out of the blue for some Die Dog blurb, he liked the book, and we hit it off. We’re pitching our project as Public Enemies meets John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s about a gang of Depression-era bank robbers who encounter something…otherworldly when they take refuge in a small rural town. Any day now I’m expecting to receive Cesare’s pages. Can’t wait. If we can put on the page even half of what we’ve been discussing, it’s gonna be awesome… Beyond that, there’s loads of stuff I want to write. But with the baby soon to arrive, I may have to cool my jets for a while. Between Tijuana Donkey Showdown, and the Howe/Cesare project, hopefully readers will have enough to keep ‘em entertained while I’m gone. Not that there’s a shortage of other great writers to read.
BeavistheBookhead: Before we move onto UNDER SIEGE, tell me something unusual about Adam Howe!
Well, this applies to your UNDER SIEGE quiz. I was once the long-reigning champ of an internet movie still guessing game called Guess This Movie Still, Beeyatch! Aka, The GTMSBT. Seagal-stills were my specialty. Bring it, son!
- Now is the time to test your Seagal knowledge with my popular (?) quiz: UNDER SIEGE!
- There are 4 images below from various Seagal movies. Without reverse image searching you need to identify which movie they are from! And GO!
Answer: Too easy, man. Above the Law. Aka Nico. My dad turned me onto Seagal. Was your dad the same? What is it about dads and Steven Seagal? Is it the receding hairline, the flabby build? They think, “If this fat fuck can do it…”
Answer: Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. Nobody beats Ryback in the kitchen, not even Everett McGill.
Answer: On Deadly Ground. “What does it take…what does it take to change the essence of a man?” And the critics dared to laugh at this man!
Answer: Marked for Death. “One thought he was invincible, the other thought he could fly… They were both wrong.” Hey, Screwface is a good name for a baby. I’ll run it past the missus.
- Steven Seagal starred in a James Bond movie that featured Sean Connery in the 1980s. He was uncredited for the role. What Bond movie was it?
Never Say Never Again. He’s actually in this? I knew he choreographed the fight scenes, and broke Sean Connery’s wrist during training. Didn’t realise he appeared in the film. Seagal vs. Bond… Whoa! Hey: check out Connery’s hairpiece in the eco-thriller Medicine Man. Coincidence? I think not.
- Which UFC superstar did Steven Seagal help train to fight Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 in 2011?
Don’t know this one. I’m not a UFC guy. I’m a boxing fan.
- Big Steve likes his Hip-Hop/Rap. Name two co-stars Steven Seagal has worked alongside in his movies.
Not a hippity-hop guy either. DMX in Exit Wounds… That’s all I got.
- What is the name of the reality show that starred Steven Seagal and aired in 2009?
Lawman. Such a great show. The reaction of the arrestees is priceless. “Motherfucker, what’s the charge… Hey! You’re Steven Seagal!”
- What martial art is Steven Seagal a 7th degree black belt in?
- Steven Seagal speaks fluently in which Asian language?
Japanese. He’s also fluent in Ebonics, as he demonstrates in Lawman.
- Finally. Name one of Steven Seagal’s albums.
Mojo Priest. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Seagal perform live with his roadhouse blues band. Such a surreal night. Crowd filled with portly middle-aged guys with receding, slicked-back hair; wearing Seagal-style long leather jackets. I bought my tickets in advance, but the venue was a live-music bar and nightclub where people were walking in off the street, stopping dead in their tracks when they saw Steven fuckin’ Seagal rocking the joint. A fight broke out in the crowd. A for-real Roadhouse brawl. Perhaps Seagal’s song Alligator Ass had driven people to frenzy? Seagal growled into the mike, “Don’t make me come down there… This show ain’t about violence; it’s about love.” The place went fucking nuts.
A couple of things have become clear since conducting this interview: 1. Adam is really quite funny. 2. Adam has some serious writing game! 3. Adam knows even more about Steven Seagal than I do!! Adam. Thanks for being a great sport. I wish you the best of luck with fatherhood and your writing. Fun times ahead!
Thanks for having me, man. And for all your support. You ought to keep the Seagal quiz as a regular part of your Q&As. I’d love to see Peter Straub answer some Seagalogical trivia.
Follow along this tour with the hashtags: #DieDogorEattheHatchet #DieDog #AdamHowe #OnWriting #HookofaBook
Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, Synopsis
- Publication Date: Nov. 2, 2015
- Publisher: Comet Press
- Publication Length: 250 pages
From Adam Howe, winner of Stephen King’s “On Writing” short story contest, comes three original novellas of hardboiled crime, graphic horror and pitch-black gallows humor.
DAMN DIRTY APES
Washed-up prizefighter Reggie Levine is eking a living as a strip club bouncer when he’s offered an unlikely shot at redemption. The Bigelow Skunk Ape – a mythical creature said to haunt the local woods – has kidnapped the high school football mascot, Boogaloo Baboon. Now it’s up to Reggie to lead a misfit posse including a plucky stripper, the town drunk, and legend-in-his-own-mind skunk ape hunter Jameson T. Salisbury. Their mission: Slay the beast and rescue their friend. But not everything is as it seems, and as our heroes venture deeper into the heart of darkness, they will discover worse things waiting in the woods than just the Bigelow Skunk Ape. The story the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape tried to ban; Damn Dirty Apes mixes Roadhouse with Jaws with Sons of Anarchy, to create a rollicking romp of 80s-style action/adventure, creature horror and pitch-black comedy.
DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET
Escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, the butcher of five sorority sisters at the Kappa Pi Massacre, kidnaps timid diner waitress Tilly Mulvehill and bolts for the border. Forcing his hostage to drive him out of town, it’s just a question of time before Tilly becomes the next victim in Hingle’s latest killing spree. But when they stop for gas at a rural filling station operated by deranged twin brothers, Dwayne and Dwight Ritter, the tables are turned on Hingle, and for Tilly the night becomes a hellish cat-and-mouse ordeal of terror and depravity. The meat in a maniac sandwich, Tilly is forced against her nature to make a stand and fight for survival. Because sometimes the only choice you have is to do or die…to Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet.
Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man’s wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace. Folks come to The Grinnin’ Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back. Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong? Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense.
Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in Greater London with his partner and their hellhound, Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of SK’s book; he was also granted an audience with The King, where they mostly discussed slow vs. fast zombies. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, The Horror Library, Mythic Delirium, Plan B Magazine, and One Buck Horror. He is the author of two collections, Black Cat Mojo and Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, plus the eBook single, Gator Bait. Future works include Tijuana Donkey Showdown, One Tough Bastard, and a crime/horror collaboration with Adam Tribesmen Cesare.
Find him on Twitter at @Adam_G_Howe.
Praise for Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet
“It’s an explicit, hard-hitting, twisted funhouse ride into pulpish horror wrapped loosely in a tattered skein of irreverent, jet black humor. In short, it’s a freakin’ blast.” –Walt Hicks, author of Dirge of the Forgotten
“Every page ratchets up the tension another notch even as it descends deeper and deeper into terrible darkness. Out of all the books I’ve read for Ginger Nuts of Horror, this is definitely the most intense.” — David Dubrow, author of The Blessed Manand the Witch
“With Die Dog Or Eat the Hatchet, Adam Howe hasn’t written one of my favorite books of the year, he’s actually written three of my favorites. Stories that are tight, toned, and genre-confounding. Horror fans and crime fans are going to come to blows over who gets to claim Howe as one of their own, but they’re both going to be wrong because Howe’s his own thing.” – Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen and Mercy House
“The recipe for Adam Howe’s DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET is: Two parts Joe Lansdale, One part Justified, and a heavy dose of WTF. The result is a swampy cocktail darker than any backwoods hayride, stronger than the meanest Sasquatch, and crazier than anything you’ll find chicken-fried at your local state fair.”—Eryk Pruitt, author of Hashtag and Dirtbags
“Adam Howe proves with the three stories in this book that he can basically write anything. And write it very well indeed. To summarise: A three novella collection that you absolutely must have in your collection. I give this one the highest possible recommendation that I can.” -Nev, Confessions of a Reviewer
“Adam Howe’s “Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet,” is equal parts terror and fun, his dark comedic voice dances through each of the works in this collection to create engaging stories filled with bars, dames, rabid dogs, and an ape with one hell of a right hook.”(Nathan Crazybear/Splatterpunk Zine)
“Once again this author has sucked me into the darkness of his stories and unleashed the twisted, disgusting and stomach churning madness that I come to expect. In fact, I would have been very disappointed if this book was not even more mind-blowing than Black Cat Mojo. And he did not disappoint. Hats off to Mr Howe for creating this magnificent novella of pure horror. I would definitely recommend this to readers of horror and make sure you buckle up as you will be in for the most twisted ride of your life!” -Crime Book Junkie
“I’m pretty certain that whatever genre you like to read, be it pulp, noir, horror, anything really, you will find something to enjoy here. It’s fast paced, action packed and brilliantly written. Comet Press has got a diamond on their hands! 5 stars” -Adrian Shotbolt
Want to Feature Adam Howe?
If you would like a copy of the book for review or to conduct an interview with Adam Howe, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at Hook of a Book Media: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am delighted to share with you fine folks an interview with John C. Foster. I first became aware of John’s work through short stories in various anthologies/magazines such as Dark Corners, Shock Totem and Death’s Realm. His work always stood out for me as being that little bit different. Case in point was the recent issue of Dark Moon Digest #22. It was my first read of this particular magazine and I thoroughly enjoyed it, in particular Foster’s ‘Girl Six’ which was the final story in the collection. It was far different than anything else I had read recently. I found myself getting sucked in immediately and being absolutely gutted when I finished it, desperate for it to be longer.
I had a similar experience with John’s short story ‘Mister White’, thankfully this has idea has been expanded on. The novel of ‘Mister White’ has just been released by Grey Matter Press. There is a review up for it on the site and I strongly recommend this book. Definitely my favourite read of 2016 thus far!
John was a good sport in answering some questions about standing in front of walls full of graffiti, his life and his writing. Enjoy!
BeavistheBookhead: Thanks for stopping by, John. First of all; tell us about John C. Foster. Where are you from? Where are you now? Where did your love of dark fiction come from? Who are your influences as a writer? What inspired you to write your first story?
Foster: Thanks so much for having me! I live in New York City now, Brooklyn to be exact. It’s the apotheosis of “city” for me and I’ve wanted to live here since I was a wee bairn. I was born in Sleepy Hollow, NY, home of the Headless Horseman, and grew up in small town New Hampshire. From there it was on to Boston and then Los Angeles (and then back and forth a couple times) and ultimately the Big Apple. I started reading for myself in the 5th grade with Edgar Rice Burroughs and became and avid devourer of science fiction and fantasy novels. Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles, Moorcock, Tolkien, Heinlein, LeGuin, all those writers. Somewhere in there two different elements hit me. The first was Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” which was the first time I discovered that the strange beast called “literature” could be fucking brilliant and exciting. The second was Stephen King’s Night Shift. I was an avid D&D player in my teen years and stayed with SF/F in my reading – except for King – but in my 20’s I became attracted to what seemed like the more dangerous fantasy of horror novels. Stories where I never knew if the hero would emerge victorious or even alive. I also began reading Andrew Vachss and from there delved into classic noir: Chandler and Hammett. Weave among all that a love of spy novels by Ludlum and his crowd and you have my influences and some explanation of why I am rarely able to color inside the lines of a single genre. I didn’t really write for myself until a short story in college – before I dropped out – and then screenplays in Los Angeles in my early twenties. Though I look back at the elaborate adventure scenarios I was always developing in my teen years, most never played, and can see the writer in there. I was told by several teachers in junior high that I should be a writer but for some reason, despite my love of reading, it seemed like an unreal goal. Until that point where I moved to L.A., never having been there or read a screenplay, to become a screenwriter. Somewhere in my twenties I developed the secret idea of seeing my own novel on the shelf at an airport bookstore and told myself, “Someday, when I’m ready.” I think if I hadn’t brought that dream to reality I would have made an enormous mistake in my life.
BeavistheBookhead: What does John C. Foster do when he’s not trying to frighten the life out of his readers? Who do you like to read when you’re not writing?
Foster: Up until recently I was aggressive about working out (way back in history I was a trainer in Los Angeles and Boston) so weights and martial arts kept me busy. The last year or so I’ve been cooking more and exercising less with the predictable results, which are most apparent when I’m wrestling with my shepherd-pit mix who runs me ragged. Living in New York City we love going out to theatre and restaurants and I relax with movies from the 1970’s and always and forever books. I read plenty in the horror genre but I try to branch out both for pleasure and education, so recently I’ve been reading some amazing female thriller writers like Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, Flannery O’Connor to work on my southern voice (I’m a Yankee through and through) and people like Thomas Ligotti and Shirley Jackson to remind me what I’m trying to become. Then there’s Neil Gaiman for prose as poetry and Laird Barron for the gritty darkness of the new weird movement. But I’ll buy anything in hardcover released by Stephen King, John Sanford and Joe Lansdale. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle is the best book I’ve read this year. He’s incredible.
BeavistheBookhead: Are you one of those writers that carry a notepad and pen around with them for scribbling ideas or do you simply have a writing space where things simply come to you?
Foster: I have a waterproof notepad in my shower because I get a lot of ideas there and a notepad on my nightstand (okay, it’s a clothes hamper I’ve pressed into service as a nightstand). I keep notebooks on my desk that are all but indecipherable and I tend to collect vague notes on post-its. When I’m out and about I’m often mulling over a project but I try and force myself to engage in the moment, to drink in what’s around me which I find more fulfilling (and useful to my writing) than regurgitating what’s in my own mind. I think stepping away from the actual act of writing is critical to the process – at least my process – because it exposes me to new ideas and gives my subconscious a chance to work. Besides, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and we know where that leads.
BeavistheBookhead: Are any of your stories based on or linked with a personal experience that you have had?
Foster: I can’t say that “story A is based on experience B” but I draw on my life experience all the time. The desperation of being in a new city and getting established, winning or losing a fight, the despair of divorce, getting blitzed in a far off land, the giddy feeling of a first date. On my 21st birthday, two weeks into arriving in Los Angeles and panicking to find a job my first ever car was repossessed. That feeling of standing in on the street corner in 100+ heat and looking at the shambles of my life is a well I’ve drawn on often. I was talking to an actor pal recently who had embarrassed himself with a bit too much drink about how valuable negative experiences are, perhaps even more so than the positive ones. Shame is as vital as exultation as a source for creativity. Of course we were at a bar and the cocktails were flowing so I’m not sure if my message got through.
BeavistheBookhead: Can you remember your first accepted story? What was it? Who was it with? Where did it appear?
Foster: I secured my first agent back in my twenties with a screenplay called “Rooster.” On the side I was playing with short stories (and discovering I enjoyed the form more) and sold a story called “One Card Stud” to a website called Entertainment Tomorrow. It was about a cowboy playing cards with Death. Unfortunately, being an ass and occasionally self destructive, I abandoned everything I’d written in Los Angeles when I moved back to the east coast. On the bright side, my girl friend is a bit of a computer whiz and managed to reconstruct some of my old work from battered floppy disks. One old piece was recreated as a forthcoming novel The Isle, which secured me my first agent here in New York this year. Another, good old “Rooster,” is 2/3 reborn as a new novel entitled Hanging at the Harmony. Neither one resembles the source material even remotely, however.
BeavistheBookhead: Last year saw you release the novel Dead Men (Libros de Inferno: Book 1) through one of my favourite publishers, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. In my eyes it was a mix between gothic horror and noir with maybe even a little dark fantasy thrown in. In less capable hands it could’ve been a mess and for your first novel it was certainly ambitious but you executed it brilliantly. I enjoyed how the narrative left a lot to the reader to fill in the blanks and am looking forward to book 2. Can you tell us how you came up with this idea and when the next instalment will be unleashed?
Foster: Max and Lori at PMMP are wonderful people and great to work with. I was so disbelieving when they said they wanted to pick up my book that it took me a day or two to respond. Being a novelist was a secret dream of mine since high school and here it was actually happening, holy shit! So, Dead Men. I wrote a few pages years before the book about two guys in a dusty Cadillac and though that went nowhere, those two guys stayed with me. There was power wrapped in them. There was noir and cruelty and the supernatural and a badass road movie all in six pages. When I decided to write a novel I went back to those two guys and wrote to find out who they were. I discovered there wasn’t just power in them, there was POWER. The story had to grow up around them and be big enough to contain them…which is how I ended up with my first novel kicking off a trilogy. This happened out of pure foolhardiness and ignorance but gave me permission to drive straight into any wall or off of any cliff and the result was Dead Men, which I’m damned proud of. It was an experience of writing only to satisfy the story. There’s a line from the film 300 that goes something like, “Give them nothing but take everything.” That’s how I wrote it. If you want to pick up this book, hang the fuck on and start punching back. I’m polishing up the second book, Night Roads, right now and expect it will come out in October 2016. I hope fans of Dead Men will find Night Roads even more satisfying simply because I’m a stronger writer now (it’s actually my fourth novel). I find so much similarity between writing and exercise. Write a lot and write hard, always striving to improve and you will. My second novel, the aforementioned The Isle, was a deliberate attempt to write a more internal story, less reliant on spectacle. My third, Mister White, was a deliberate effort to increase my speed and write a leaner story with fewer characters, as well as trying to blend two genres effectively. Of course as soon as I feel cocky I pick up a book by Peter Straub or Adam Nevill and am reminded of how much more I have to learn about the craft. Or someone like Michael Marshall Smith who drives me crazy because he can write in any genre and make it sing.
BeavistheBookhead: ‘Mister White’ has just hit the shelves and is one of my most anticipated books of the year. It has been getting some incredible press already! I adored the short story-it was a dark thriller that left me begging for more. The whole mythology that surrounds Mister White is truly intriguing. Can you tell us about ‘Mister White’? How did you create such a fearful character?
Foster: I’ve long been fascinated with the idea of “Who watches the watchers?” Back in my L.A. days I started developing an idea with a production company that went nowhere…I don’t know if I’m fit for the Hollywood development process. But the central notion stayed with me and emerged as a completely different tale with supernatural elements called “Mister White.” The character of Mister White himself evolved as I thought more and more about who could be so fearful and dangerous that he could keep the most hardened operatives in line. Turned out it wasn’t a he, but an it. I wrote again to serve only the story and when I was finished, I was worried that it didn’t look like anything else I’d read. I saw an open call for short stories from a new publisher (Grey Matter Press) and sent it off on a wing and a prayer. That whole experience was so positive I remember thinking, “I’d like to form a long term relationship with these guys,” never imagining it would turn into the novel Mister White.
BeavistheBookhead: Grey Matter Press is another of my favourite publishers. I have never been disappointed with any of their releases. They have published some great names in dark fiction and ‘Mister White’ will be their very first novel publication! It certainly is an exciting time for them and for you. Did you always have the ambition of turning the short story of ‘Mister White’ into a full novel?
Foster: It’s an incredibly exciting time. I wish I could travel back twenty years and tell that me that this period was coming up. I love working with the folks at Grey Matter Press, it’s a rigorous process that turns whatever rough thing I hand them (picture a mud splattered kid holding out a frog) into something worth reading. Turning the short into a novel was, in some ways, an experiment. Writing Dead Men and then The Isle were both long and arduous journeys, in large part because my inexperience led me to making significant revisions in second and third and fourth drafts, etc. etc. But I had played with the idea of expanding “Mister White” a bit before The Isle and wondered…this was around October a couple years back…if I could turn the twenty thousand words I had into a tight novel by Christmas. I still had fire in the belly from finishing The Isle so I said, “fuck it” and attacked the new book, one eye always on the calendar. It forced me to be much more ruthless in my decision making and allowed no brooding about, “Should I do this or do this?” This helped with some of the decisions I made in the book, some of the savageness I delivered unto characters I had really come to love. I finished with more than a week to go, panting as if it had been a physical race and goddamnit, the experiment worked. My first reader is always my girlfriend and she read it in record time. After some revisions I gave it with trembling, mud splattered hands to GMP and they read it lighting quick and I do not have the words to express how full of joy and gratitude I was when Anthony Rivera (GMP’s publisher) told me they’d like to grab Mister White. Wow, what a day that was. Writing is full of long stretches of unknowing and doubt but when your bat connects with the baseball, holy mackerel the entire world gets brighter.
BeavistheBookhead: Like I said earlier; I have thoroughly enjoyed your short fiction. I’d love to see a collection of your shorter works in the future. Is this something you would consider doing or will you be concentrating more on novels in the future?
Foster: Funny you mentioned that. I talked with Max Booth III at PMMP last year about the idea of a collection and sent him ten or twelve stories, including an unpublished novelette and novella (my first attempt at a true haunted house story called “Baby Powder”) and he said he’d like to publish it. Crazily enough, we’re waiting until 2017, likely the spring, for a release because I have two novels coming out this year and my schedule was too crowded. The working title is Baby Powder and Other Toxic Substances. I will never stop writing short stories, they offer so much freedom and room to experiment and we’re lucky to be living a time when so many great writers are focusing on the genre. Stephen Graham Jones, Barron, Paul Tremblay, Scott Nicolay, John Langan…the list goes on.
BeavistheBookhead: Is there ever a message in your writing that you want your readers to grasp?
Foster: I often approach the idea of a broken person facing a choice to “do the right thing” – which does not necessarily mean something good, could involve murder, etc. But it’s an act that will cost the person dearly. Dudley Do Right thrown into peril is boring. Of course he’ll make the right choice. A recovering heroin addict forced to choose between the needle and throwing himself into danger on behalf of someone else is fascinating. A woman cheating on her husband who upends her life to rescue him is riveting. The exception there is if I throw in a dog or a cat, as more evolved species they will do the right thing without fail. Although my pal Alex Hofelich at Pseudopod just told me that I don’t like happy endings, so maybe that’s what I write about.
BeavistheBookhead: What is John C. Foster working on now and what else can we expect from you during the rest of 2016 and beyond?
Foster: So Night Roads in October. My short story “Dead Air” will be in the anthology Lost Signals from PMMP this summer. The Isle is in the hands of my agent so I’m following her schedule and will let people know when that is in motion. The collection Baby Powder and other Toxic Substances in 2017. Ahhh…Hanging at the Harmony I’ll finish sometime this summer and then, probably 2018ish for a release depending on agent and publisher, etc. That one is actually pure hardboiled crime, no supernatural elements at all. I’m going to reapproach the world of Mister White at some point and then there’s the conclusion to the Libros de Inferno trilogy, but I have another book I want to write first about the Wild Hunt so that will occupy the latter half of this year for me.
BeavistheBookhead: Silly last question: (name left blank) contacts you and wants to collaborate on a novel! Who is the one writer (name left blank) that you couldn’t possibly say no to?
Foster: Stephen King. He’s my favorite writer bar none. I’ve read each of his novels several times and his short stories even more. Also, we’re both Red Sox fans.
John. Thanks heaps for stopping by. I wish you all the very best for the rest of this year and the future. If you haven’t read anything by John C. Foster then you are seriously missing out. Check out his books..
Also check out books from these great publishers.
Interview: Craig R. Saunders.
Craig Saunders has been around for a little while now; not as long as The Rolling Stones but…..you know what I mean, right? He is a versatile writer who pops in and out of different genres seemingly with great ease. His Fantasy works have included The Rythe Quadrilogy and The Line of Kings trilogy. He also writes in the Horror genre with such titles as ‘Vigil’, ‘The Dead Boy’, ‘Left To Darkness’ (I’d like a sequel to this one please!) and ‘Flesh and Coin’. Craig also has a great sense of humour! If you are looking for something completely different then try his ‘Spiggot’ books. ‘Spiggot’ is a foul-mouthed police officer, working in a dystopian Britain. It has been described as a crime comedy that wouldn’t be out of place in a Monty Python sketch!
Craig Saunders was first published in 2011 with his debut novel ‘Rain’. ‘Rain’ is a story about a struggling bookshop owner who has only one regular customer in Mr Hill. Mr March inherits a large sum of money through Mr Hill’s death. But that isn’t the only thing. The rain soon starts and the bodies begin to pile up! It was an accomplished debut from a writer with a terrific imagination and a fluid easy-to-read style. Saunders has worked with Crowded Quarantine Publications, Darkfuse and he has also recently self-published his latest novel ‘The Dead Boy’. I have this on the TBR and it is coming up soon, so be sure to check back for a review!
Craig also shares my love of rock music and he has put me onto some great bands! He writes his dark words from a shed in his back garden. Craig was nice enough to pop over to my blog and have a bit of a chin wag about putting words down on paper.
BeavistheBookhead: Craig. Tell the folks out there a little (or a lot) about yourself.
Thanks, Adrian. Nice to be asked. I don’t get out very often and I dribble when I speak to people and sometimes I put things in appropriate places. Like the vinegar in the fridge. Stuff like that. Not anything sordid. I don’t dribble either. God damn it. I stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Anyway, what? How’s that? Like interviewing Oliver Reed, this, isn’t it?
I’m 6 feet 2 inches, I don’t like surprises. I have two blue eyes, but only one of them works. I lived in Japan for a while, spoke Japanese, then I didn’t live there for twenty-odd years so that all feels like it was kind of a waste of time.
I think I started writing properly (well, I think I write properly, so quit with the judgmental looks, Mr. Shotbolt) around thirty years old. Hopefully I’m a bit better than I was. I am better. I was being modest then. I’m reasonably modest, still. I don’t think on the whole there are ‘better’ writers. It’s all a matter of perspective, and people like what they like. I don’t like Michael Crichton novels, but he sold more dead last week than I did in the last ten years, so fuck you Michael Crichton.
Anyway, I like coffee, kind people who try their best, and I live in a shed.
BeavistheBookhead: When did you decide that writing is what you wanted to do?
Haha…er…you’re serious? I’m not sure there was a point (actually, I wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager, but sounds a bit knobby, so I’m resorting to flippancy) I wanted to be a ‘writer’. I want to write, I write. I suppose it depends on what a ‘writer’ is.
Hmm…yes. I didn’t want to be an author, which always felt a little fancy. I certainly didn’t want to be a businessman or an accountant or any of the other billions of possible jobs in the world. I like writing.
Once upon a time I thought you needed to make a load of money to be a writer. You don’t. I don’t. Poets. Poets make bugger all money and eat only cardboard and people don’t call you an ‘aspiring poet’. You are what you are? I don’t know. That sounds relevant so let’s just go with that.
Oh…I’ve more to say. I didn’t think I was going to. But I am.
I wrote when I worked in an office, and then when I didn’t have to work in an office. I think it just worked out nicely that I can do what I do and I’m not really asking for more than that. I wish the business-part of it would just take care of itself – that side, I find a chore.
So, I’m a writer then? Did we establish that at any point?
Uh-huh, yes I am. Wasn’t the question, but close enough.
BeavistheBookhead: What was your favourite read from 2015?
Dude, I took every drug and drank every drink I could find from around the age of twenty for the next ten years. I can’t remember to toilet myself anymore. Seriously? What is this? Twenty questions?
Ray Cluley’s ‘Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow’, though. Beautifully done (a novella).
BeavistheBookhead: What or who influences your writing?
Hmm…places. Weird little things I see all day long. Words, stories that aren’t in the newspaper. Strange ways people speak when I pass them in the street. Things people say that I mishear. The quirks you see when you’re quiet and watchful in the supermarket. The way people drive, and look at each other. Also, people’s squishy inside parts and words like ‘eviscerate’.
First time I thought I wanted to be a ‘writer’ – you know, like a full-time ‘make-enough-to-eat-something-other-than-cup-a-soup’ thing – was way after I’d started writing (I set out on the fantasy path, but horror’s more my bag). I read Bill Hussey’s ‘Through a Glass, Darkly’ and that woke me up.
He endorsed one of mine, ‘A Home by the Sea’, a few years later. He’s awesome, a really nice guy, and I can’t imagine anything topping something like that. But I read that book and knew without a doubt I could do it, wanted to do…should. Maybe not for mankind, but for me, certainly.
Styles? Other writers, other stories – thousands and thousands of them. But what makes people keep on, I think, are those small moments – the failures and the victories.
BeavistheBookhead: If you were not a writer then what would you be?
Meh…I’m a stay-at-home dad and I’m bipolar and rubbish at pretending to be interested in stuff I have no interest in. If I couldn’t do the things I do now, I’d probably drink cider in the park and just read the same Vonnegut stories over and over from a battered paperback and people’d wonder if there was a story in the oddly erudite beardy drunk. There would be, but I’d be too drunk to tell it.
BeavistheBookhead: What was the name of your first published story? What was it about? Who published it?
The Martyr’s Tale. First story I wrote; a fantasy tale about an assassin who killed one of the minor characters in the first Rythe novel. An aside and nothing more and some shady online outfit picked it up and paid me about $5 for it. But one story, one hit…I thought getting published would always be that easy. I was a clueless dick about the whole thing…it’s really not that easy.
BeavistheBookhead: Do you carry a pen and paper around in your pocket for writing ideas or do you simply pop down to the shed and magic happens?
I actually laughed at that. Naw, Adrian, you sweet fool. You really think you, or I, leave the shed?
You can’t ever leave.
BeavistheBookhead: ‘The Dead Boy’ is your most recent release. You decided to self-publish this one. Can you tell us about the book and why you decided to release it yourself?
Hmm…sort of an experiment, and a slight sense of ennui about the whole submissions process. I just didn’t want to submit everywhere and as much as I love DarkFuse I can’t place every single thing I write there. I won’t sell many copies of ‘The Dead Boy’ without the clout of a publisher, even though I think it’s one of my best (I know, I know…but what are you gonna do?) . I quite like the control you have, and you own the whole process. A lot of stories I had with smaller publishers reverted to me, so I put them all out myself through Amazon. I’d done it (and still do) with the fantasy books, so it wasn’t a stretch. I like both approaches. I like publishers, too – DarkFuse have taken a fair few of my horror novels and novellas – but that hybrid thing works well for me. Suits me. The promotion side of things is where I fall down, but it was never about making millions, more about the stories and keeping idle hands busy.
BeavistheBookhead: I really enjoyed ‘UNIT 731’, which was your novella released through Darkfuse. I know a few folk who have published with Darkfuse and I always here great things about them. Their cover art is always great, editing is top notch and I am very rarely disappointed by their releases. You seem to have a strong relationship with them and they have released quite a few of your books. Can you tell us what makes them such a good publisher and if you have anything else lined up with them?
Well, thank you very much. I’d blush, but my circulation barely manages to keep the feeling going in my feet. Yes, they are a good publisher – they’ve been great with me, and for me. My next from them is ‘Highwayman’.
As to why they’re a good publisher?
I wanted to be with them for ages. I aimed for them. I wanted to be there. They published some writers I really like (Tim Curran and Gary McMahon and plenty of others besides). I tried a couple of times. Then a friend (Colin F. Barnes) introduced me to the editor (David Thomas) who has since moved on (he’s not dead, he’s just in Kansas or something). Shane Staley, the headsman there, has a good eye for good fiction, so I’m proud to be on the roster for a start. Why they’re a good publisher, though…partly due to flexibility. Publishing, small and large, is constantly changing, and they shift with it. They’re flexible. That’s a good way to be in publishing at the moment.
Their attention to detail is a bonus, too. They care about what they put out. It’s a business, yes…but it’s also about good fiction.
BeavistheBookhead: As a fan of fantasy fiction as well I really dug ‘Rythe Awakes’, I have the sequels along with first Line of Kings book AND ‘Masters of Blood and Bone’ on my Kindle!! Do you have any more fantasy books lined up In the future?
I honestly didn’t know Masters of Blood and Bone was fantasy (insert squiggly confused emoji – don’t really). I’ve seen people call it that in reviews – that, and ‘grimdark’. When I think of fantasy and grimdark, though, I think of Joe Abercrombie. I don’t really get it but it’s a nice genre to be lumped in with. I like grimdark stuff. But yes I am writing more of those. ‘No Gods, No Masters’. That’s the follow-up to ‘Masters’. I’ll send that to DarkFuse and hope they’ll take it as they did a cracking job with the first story.
The fantasy books…I’ll address that in a later question (I wrote these answers back to front you know) but yep, I’m going to write more. I’m writing the conclusion the Rythe Quadrilogy at the moment (called ‘Beneath Rythe’), and thus the seven-book cycle which began with ‘The Line of Kings Trilogy’ will end. They’re connected, of course (the trilogy and the quadrilogy, which I’m fairly sure becomes a septology and thus summons a demon). They’ve taken ages and I’m really tired.
BeavistheBookhead: What are you reading at the moment?
Hmm…I don’t really read when I’m working. I binge read when I’m between projects. The Devil in Kansas (David Ohle), I suppose – I’ll pick that up and finish it when I finish ‘Beneath Rythe’.
BeavistheBookhead: Do you listen to music whilst you write or must you bathe in silence?
Music, almost always. Probably 95% of the time. Well…only time the music is off is if I’m in some sort of zone and forget to hit play. So, a theoretical 100%. Something like that, anyway.
BeavistheBookhead: What bands are you into at the moment? I have been listening to Stone Jesus quite a bit after you put me onto them.
This question makes me happy. I enjoy music and that does deserve a smiley face :D.
This week’s music has been brought to me by:
An ambient mix by an outfit called SkiFi (the one I’m listening to at the moment is titled ‘Chasing the Light Vol.2)
I’ve only been sleeping a few hours this week (it goes like that) so in the night I quite often listening to rain sounds and thunderstorm sounds…there are a lot of those on YouTube. Also, the amount of soothing noise on YouTube is a fair indication there are a ton of people like me who just haven’t got the knack of sleeping.
Colour Haze (Various albums of theirs)
All them Witches (Wonderful)
Donovan (Sunshine Superman’s my favourite album of his – listened to that this week)
Bad Liquor Pond (Blue Smoke Orange Sky)
The Black Angels (again, few of their albums)
Queens of the Stone Age (Songs for the Deaf)
Loneliness (Deep Space Ambient-thingamabob) by Antki
And, just a few tracks here and there of these: Wishbone Ash, AC/DC, The Verve, Led Zeppelin, Aphex Twin, Samsara Blues Experiment, Emiliana Torrini, The Black Keys, The Chemical Brothers, The White Buffalo, Crywank, Nadine Shah, Ray Charles, The Hobbit Soundtrack (though that was by accident – in the groove and didn’t realise it was playing), Cigarettes After Sex, and Peggy Lee. Roughly speaking.
I’m listening to The Dead Brothers (Black Moose) while I’m answering this question. I like having noise in the shed. 😉
BeavistheBookhead: I love the shed! Was it always going to be a writing retreat for you or did it start off as something else?
Nope. We saw this house and fell in love with it. Then we opened the back door and found a whole porch-outbuilding on the side. Brick-built, wooden roof, with power. It was bare otherwise, but I knew I wanted the shed-part for my very own. I fought my wife for it. She’s wicked in a melee, but I won after a knock-down fight (it was like ‘Every Which Way but Loose’, I swear).
Before this, I wrote in a proper wooden shed and ran power out there with an extension lead. It got to minus 9 out there once, but I wouldn’t give in, even when my fingers fell off. I’ll write where I have to, though. Wrote at work, when I went out to work, in a bedroom, in a dining room…um…in a loft, and once longhand in a hospital waiting room. I only had the use of thumbs as all my fingers had fallen off.
The current shed’s an upgrade on the last iteration – last one had slugs, this doesn’t. I’ve got a heater and an armchair to sit in when I need to slow down a while. It’s about all I need. Once, I saw one of those well-to-do writers (I think it was Anthony Horowitz) featured in a magazine, and their study had a view out over the sea. I thought I wanted that, but it’s kind of stupid. I stare at a screen all day…what’s the point in a fancy view or anything expensive? A chair, a little warmth, music, coffee. The view would be the same for me wherever I was.
BeavistheBookhead: Is there ever a theme or a message you want to get across to your readers through your books or are you simply a writer with a wicked imagination who just loves to tell stories?
Bit of both, I think (and thank you). I don’t think there’s a ‘message’ as such. A subtext, maybe. Maybe just wishful thinking, or me projecting onto my stories meaning that isn’t there. I don’t know. Anyway, I guess people being nice to each other, placing humanity over gain?
Something like that. I like the idea of good hearts you can see through an open ribcage.
BeavistheBookhead: What was the hardest and what was the easiest book you have written?
They’re all hard and easy, but I find the fantasy harder to write than horror. Horror tends to have fewer characters, especially at the end, so there’s no need for me to plan or make notes. I just sit down and write those. The fantasy stuff…that’s kind of a labour. Both worth it (creatively speaking, at least) but fantasy…yeah. I find that harder to write.
Easiest book I wrote though…hmm…probably some of the novellas, because I write those fast. It’s a really tiring non-stop thing for me, spread over two or three days during which I sleep a minimum. I like writing novellas like that. It just feels like there’s the pace you need for a short, hard story. I don’t labour on those, and it’s more intense. A simple satisfaction.
The fantasy novels at over 100,000 words are more of a commitment. The Rythe Saga, all seven books, is something in the region of 900,000 words. It’s taken nearly 14 years. That’s more than a commitment. That’s longer than I’ve been married.
BeavistheBookhead: Novels or Novellas or collections? Which are your favourite to write and why?
Accidentally done went and answered your question already. Did I? I’m not sure.
None of them, and all of them. They’ve all got their beauty marks and strange fungal infections in places you’d never expect.
BeavistheBookhead: Where can folk find out more about Craig Saunders? Do you have a blog or a website?
BeavistheBookhead: Craig. You are a gentleman and a scholar. I thank you for your time. It has been a pleasure.
As a last aside for you and your readers – I’ve been speaking (online) to Adrian for a while and it’s a genuine pleasure to be asked these questions by you, who’ve read a ton of my work. I like being asked stuff. Thank you. I loved it. Thanks for reading.
I was being daft, obviously, with my simple ‘yes’ answer to your last question. I’m lonely, so here are my links:
If you’re rich you can donate to me through Amazon and receive a free book. I think that’s how it works?