An Interview with James Newman & Mark Steensland

Published June 14, 2019 by MommaCat

Welcome to Cat After Dark, Mark – and welcome back James!

First things first. Let’s talk about this second book the two of you collaborated on. After THE SPECIAL how much beer did it take to decide that writing together again might be a good idea? How did you overcome the obstacles of being on opposite ends of the country?

James:  No beer required on this side of the table (I prefer Jack-n’-Coke anyway). Mark’s a dear friend and a fantastic “idea man”. The latter has worked to my advantage because it seems he’s always ready to collaborate at the perfect time – when I’m in a creative rut and desperately need an idea to grab hold of me and refuse to let go.

As far as my co-writer living on the west coast while I’m here in North Carolina? It’s not a problem, because I’ve been involved with quite a few collaborations over the last few years and none of them were “in person” (before I started IN THE SCRAPE with Mark, I just finished up SCAPEGOAT with Adam Howe, who’s located in the U.K.!).

Mark: Believe it or not, no beer was involved in either decision. Even though In the Scrape is very different from The Special in terms of subject matter and tone. James and I have known each other at a distance for a long time. I adapted his novel Animosity into a screenplay and have repeatedly tried to get it made into a movie. No luck, so far. But maybe after the movie version of The Special comes out, someone will be interested. Best part about right now is that location is not an obstacle anymore. Even with my filmmaking. My films have been scored by composers in England and in Italy. All via the internet.

Separately or together, what are you each working on for future release?

James:  I’m working on a few solo projects, mostly shorter stuff, like a novella I’m excited about called HOMEWRECKER. I’m itching to jump into a new novel soon as well. Most likely the novel will be another collaboration. It’s too early to run my mouth about that project right now, but I will say it’s a vampire novel and it will be the first time I’ve collaborated with this fellow.

Mark: The paperback of Jimmy the Freak (which I co-wrote with Charles Colyott) should be out later this month. Then I’ve got a longish short story called “The Black-Jar Man” which has been accepted for an anthology coming out later this year (I think).

What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working? And what are some of the items on your bucket list?

James:  I read constantly. Watch movies. My wife and I collect those silly Funko Pop figures. I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family, hiking and biking, except when college basketball season comes around (go Tar Heels!).

I don’t really have a bucket list. I’m not what you would call an adventurous sort, with a desire to jump out of a plane or swim with sharks or anything like that. I would like to go to Europe one day, to see Stonehenge if nothing else, so I guess that applies here.

Mark: Sleeping. Otherwise, I am working. Even on vacation. Especially on vacation. I’m gathering new information about people and places and whatever else I can so that I can figure out a way to write about it in the future. My bucket list is being able to do it full time.

If you could spend the evening having drinks with any one person in the history of the world, who would you choose and why?

James:  Jesus Christ.

If drinks are a must, He could turn water into Jack-n’-Coke instead of wine, I suppose. All joking aside, once that was taken care of . . . I would love to know if He feels like there’s anything mankind is doing right. Anything at all. Because I know there’s got to be something.

Mark: My dad. He died when I was six-years old, so I hardly knew him. Now that I know so much more about him, I wish we could talk about it. He served in World War Two and was decorated for being injured and for bravery (Silver Star). He worked in radio and television in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I’d love to find out more about that. Then he became an Episcopal priest and did all kinds of stuff, including marching with Martin Luther King, Jr., at Selma, Alabama after Bloody Sunday. I’d probably need more than an evening.

If you could swap bodies with one person for one day who would it be and what would you do?

James: Batman. I would just do what he does, ‘cause Batman is the coolest.

You didn’t say this person had to be REAL.

Mark: I’d switch with Stephen King and spend the day tweeting about what an awesome writer Mark Steensland is.

What five books would you like everyone to read? And what are you reading now?

James: 

  1. BOY’S LIFE, by Robert R. McCammon. It’s my favorite novel of all time, and the only book that ever made me cry.
  2. CHRISTINE, by Stephen King. Although it’s rarely cited as one of his best, this one’s probably my personal fave of King’s work, if I was forced to pick just one. CHRISTINE perfectly captures what it’s like to be an angry young man who’s bullied endlessly, a fragile soul who’s easily sucked in by something that ultimately will be his undoing. I can relate to that, as I hated high school with a passion and it left scars that remain to this day.
  3. SHARP OBJECTS, by Gillian Flynn. Aspiring writers who want to know how to craft flawed characters, characters your readers will root for even if they don’t always adore them or agree with the decisions they make . . . well, it doesn’t get much better than SHARP OBJECTS.
  4. LIGHTNING, by Dean Koontz. Man, how I loved his early work. This one’s a prime example of how a master craftsman can successfully mix multiple genres and transcend them all to reach mainstream success. Is LIGHTNING a thriller? Sci-fi? A spy novel? Romance? It’s all of the above, and it’s wonderful.
  5. TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFIT, by Lawrence Block. The best “how to” book on writing fiction, as far as I’m concerned. It’s like a master magician pulling back the curtain, showing you all his secrets. I can’t recommend this one highly enough to anyone wanting to make a go at this writing game.

As for what I’m currently reading: THE FRIGHTENERS by Peter Laws (a nonfiction book about what it means to be a horror fan in “polite society” and why we dig this stuff, written by an ordained Baptist minister!) . . . an unpublished novel called DEVIL’S CREEK by Todd Keisling (this thing won’t stay unpublished for long, though, ‘cause it’s fantastic) . . . and I’m finishing up RECEPTION by Kenzie Jennings (think Bentley Little through a woman’s perspective, then ramp up the craziness tenfold – so much fun!).

Mark: Only five? Okay. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevksy. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson. Ghost Story, by Peter Straub. The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty. I’m currently reading Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson. Again. But Yorgos Lanthimos is making a movie out of it and I can’t wait to see what he does with it.

Is there another author’s character that you identify with? Or one you wish you could go on an adventure with? Be specific!

James:   The Losers’ Club, from IT. That was my gang, back in the day. From building dams in the “crick” (as we’d call it down South) for no reason, to awkward interactions with the opposite sex (I never thought girls were “gross”, but that didn’t mean I knew what to say to them without looking like a fool), to being pursued by bullies hefting armloads of rocks (in our case, instead of a labyrinth of sewers, we were chased onto the excavated cliffs near a local bowling alley, a place that still exists today less than a mile from where I sit) . . . I lived through it all and I wouldn’t change a thing, because those experiences made me who I am.

For the record, there was no ancient entity that took the shape of a child-eating clown in my story. Although that would have made things even more interesting.

Mark: The Three Investigators, by Robert Arthur (and lots of other authors). I started spending summers with them when I was in third grade. And for years, I wanted to actually be them. I even tried to start my own detective agency when I was nine. Didn’t work out, fortunately. And I discovered I could write about adventures and have even more fun than reading them.

If you were unable to be a writer, what would you like to do to make the world a better place?

James:   Although I rarely write nonfiction, nor am I a filmmaker, I think in an “alternate reality” I might be a documentarian. I imagine that would be a great outlet for creativity, while also making people think. As a fan of documentaries myself (I watch almost as many of these as I do horror movies), I’m especially impressed by those that can either inspire me to research a topic further, or can actually change my mind on that topic, destroying any preconceived notions I might have had from the beginning. I think if a filmmaker can pull that off, it’s a powerful thing.

Mark: I teach film classes in college when I’m not writing. So I am doing something to make the world a better place: teaching them how to make better movies.

How would you like the world to remember you?

James:   As a good father and husband who occasionally wrote twisted stuff that people were stoked to read, and who kept his readers consistently surprised at how different each story was from the one before it.

Mark: I hope people remember the work, not me. That’s what counts more as far as I’m concerned.

Check out Mark’s page here!  It has all his links (like IMDB and YouTube)  Follow Mark on Twitter and Facebook.  

Follow James on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and his sometimes updated website.

IN THE SCRAPE is available at Amazon.com

InTheScrape

IN THE SCRAPE  is a coming of age thriller/horror story about two brothers set in rural North Carolina.  The boys are picked on and dream of nothing more than getting out of of their bad situation.  Their father is abusive; at 9 and 13 years old they woefully ignorant and unprepared.  James and Mark work seamlessly together crafting a tale that’s believable, horrifying and gutwrenching.  Available from Silver Shamrock Press in paperback and kindle.

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An Interview with Erik T Johnson

Published December 1, 2018 by MommaCat

ErikTJohnson

Welcome to Cat After Dark, Erik It’s so nice to meet you. I’m glad that you were able to take time out of your schedule to let us get to know you a little bit better.

Are you a full time writer or do you hold down a regular job as well?

I used to work a full-time job and write at night/whenever I could. Last year, a few things happened that led to my decision to find part-time employment so that I could concentrate more time and focus on my writing. Currently I work just two days a week, which is awesome. Every other day it’s writing, writing, writing . . .

This move to part-time work was precipitated by two factors:

1) I got sick of the bullshit that is a requirement of working full-time—the toxic atmosphere of petty bosses; backstabbing; under-the-bus-throwing; the necessity to conform with cultural “norms” that restrict your ability to express your true personality; the hypocritical concepts like “transparency” and “breaking down silos” and so forth. Look, I’m 45, my life’s half over (if not more than that) and then I’m nothing (In my opinion). So I made a commitment to myself to be exactly who I am, 100% no bullshit for the remainder of my years. And I’m a writer, and I’m a rocker, and I say what I think and feel. I figure, if that gets me fired in the future, so be it. I’ll live on the street, whatever. Because writing—and music—are all I really care about.

2) My writing career began to pick up traction. YES TRESPASSING was very well received by critics and by a faction of readers who enjoy literary Speculative Fiction; I’ve been getting invited to and into more and more high-profile anthologies, doing successful public and private readings on a fairly regular basis, and have slowly but surely become more involved in professional writer’s associations, such as The Horror Writer’s Association (HWA), PEN America, and The Author’s Guild. Sitting on panels at, and attending conventions, has further helped to raise my profile.

I’ve also seen the quality and range of my writing improve in precise correlation with the amount of time I’ve had to dedicate to the (hard but rewarding) working. Most importantly, peers whom I respect have pointed this out to me, without any begging on my part, which is highly validating and encourages me to strive to become ever better.

Basically I feel pretty optimistic about where it’s all going.

What are you working on now? What does your publishing schedule look like for the future?

I have a bunch of exciting things going on.

The biggest, to me, is the formation of the FOU4, a “band” of four writers—Josh Malerman, J. Daniel Stone, John F.D. Taff, and yours ambiguously. With a fifth author (the superior Joe Schwartz), we put out I Can Taste the Blood a few years back, and it became an Amazon #1 bestseller. That book consisted of five novellas with the same title—I Can Taste the Blood.

We’ve become a four-piece—like most of the great rock n’ roll bands—and our current project, I Can Hear the Shadows, consists of one novella from each of us. I’m proud to say that we all agree that our four contributions here far excel the pieces in I Can Taste the Blood. We just finished wrapping up the manuscript, which includes a forward and afterword by Josh Malerman and an introduction by John F.D. Taff, as well as afterwords to each novella (written by the authors themselves) We’re currently shopping around for a publisher.

The plan is for the FOU4 to become a series-making outfit, to continue making “albums” together as long as people wanna read ‘em. We are a personally and professionally tight unit and to be honest, I’m psyched to see what we do next (On the not-so-Q-T: We’ve already that idea ready to go, and it’s going to be very different and awesome . . . )

Next up? I’m working on a novel based on my Private Investigator character Martin Box. YES TRESPASSING contains six Martin Box stories, and when the book was released, just about every review singled these stories out as being especially fun and awesome, one reviewer going so far as to say that they were worth the cost of the whole book—I was humbled and inspired to do more with Box. So the novel, which is coming along (about halfway through), has been a blast to write so far, and I’m planning to finish it in about six to seven months—then it’s pitch time! Oh, and it’s titled MARTIN BOX IS DEAD, and it involves a bunch of cases, including a job where he gets hired to kill God.

With editor and author supreme Michael Bailey (proprietor of Written Backwards press, who put out YES TRESPASSING), I’ve completed a dark fantasy/Young Adult novel that takes place in an alternate 19th Century, focusing on a skeleton boy named Sunday. The novel follows Sunday’s adventures on an off this fantastic location, and is intended to be the first in a trilogy.  We’ve worked out synopses for the next two books (and even the next SIX—because if it does well, we’re doing a series of seven volumes). We asked some of our most respected peers to read it and so far everyone’s loved it; now it’s—you guessed it—pitch time! Our hope is to find a publishing house for it in 2019.

In terms of the near future, I’ll be on hand at Dark Delicacies bookstore in LA on October 28th for the Launch of Birthing Monsters, a beautiful, unique anthology of writings on Shelley’s Frankenstein, being put out by delightfully brilliant Firbolg Publishing. I’ll be signing and reading along with a bunch of other contributors (whose presence there I will be honored to share). The introduction is by S.T. Joshi, and the Table of Contents include these talented and occasionally award-winning folks::

Darren Speegle

Michael Bailey

Marge Simon

B.E. Scully

Doctor Alex Scully

E.F. Schraeder

Robert Payne Cabeen

Jason V. Brock

Bruce Boston

Carina Bisset

Adam Bolivar

Scott Edelman

Eric Guignard

Thierry Jandrok

Brian Evenson

Lisa Morton

The other thing coming out, perhaps around the same time as Birthing Monsters, is Chiral Mad 4, edited by Lucy Snyder and Michael Bailey. I’ve had the great luck to’ve been included in every installment of Written Backwards’ groundbreaking Chiral Mad series to-date. Chiral Mad 4 is probably the most special:

The editors have chosen to make this an anthology of collaborations, and the competition was fierce, so I am super-proud about getting in here. My FOU4 brother J. Daniel Stone and I wrote the story “Ghost Drawl” together; the full Table of Contents (God I am lucky fucker; check out my fellow contributors!) are:

4 short stories:

“The Substance of Belief” – Elizabeth Massie & Marge Simon

“Home and Hope Both Sound a Little Bit Like ‘Hunger'” – Seanan McGuire & Jennifer Brozek

“Wolf at the Door” – Anthony R Cardno & Maurice Broaddus

“Ghost Drawl” – Erik T. Johnson & J Daniel Stone

4 novelettes:

“Golden Sun” – Richard Thomas, Kristi DeMeester, Damien Angelica Walters & Michael Wehunt

“Peregrination” – Chesya Burke & Lawana Holland-Moore

“Detritus Girl” – P. Gardner Goldsmith & Valerie Marcley

“Asperitas” – Kristopher Triana & Chad Stroup

4 novellas:

“How We Broke” – Bracken MacLeod & Paul Michael Anderson

“The Long and the Short of It” – Erinn Kemper & F Paul Wilson

“The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward” – Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear

“In Her Flightless Wings, a Fire” – Emily Cataneo & Gwendolyn Kiste

4 graphic adaptations:

“Firedance” – Jack Ketchum & Glenn Chadbourne

“Fade to Null” – Brian Keene & Daniele Serra

“The Ghost of the Bayou Piténn” – James Chambers, Jason Whitley & Christopher Mills

“Sudden Sanctuary” – Glen Krisch & Orion Zangara

Check out the Written Backwards website for more details, or for direct links to purchase any of these titles.

. . . And I’ll have more announcements soon (very cool stuff that I can’t talk about yet)!

What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working? And how would you spend your time if there were no restrictions in place – either time or moneywise?

This is pretty much all I do: Write, read, draw, listen to music, play music, record music, and play in an Iggy Pop/Stooges cover band, METALLIC K.O. (We’ve only rehearsed 3x, but what rehearsals—hope to be gigging by fall of 2018). In the latter I just do Iggy, which is a fucking blast and we will take no prisoners. When that gets going I’ll be adding a section to my website, eriktjohnson.net, dedicated to that project.

If you had a superhero power, what would it be and what would you do first?

Cliché as it sounds, I think invisibility is a no-brainer. As a writer, I am naturally inclined towards seeing the forbidden (going so far as to watch myself for salacious neural events). I’m that guy who has to go as far as possible and then some, push the envelope so hard nobody can find it, striving (if failing) to write the most beautiful, filthy, outrageous, thoughtful, compassionate, humorous, satirical, scary, poignant, terrifying shit that I can. Fuck the stars; I believe in shooting for the harder targets of dark matter. I am the posterchild for going down in flames. I’d rather fail attempting to accomplish the impossible than safely produce work that takes no risks.

Where was I? Oh yeah, invisibility . . .

If you could spend the evening chatting with any one person from history, who would you choose and why? Language is not a problem.

Nikolai Tesla. Because, I mean, NIKOLAI TESLA!

You’re a guy who clearly loves words, I didn’t realize just how much until I read YES TRESPASSING, how do you think your fascination with language came to be?

I wrote my first “book” when I was five. It was called “My Life as a Convict” and ended with me getting my head cut off as punishment for murder. I’ve always been enraptured by words. I grew up in a family that held a lot of esoteric/occult beliefs, so I had things like The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Finnish Kalevala, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and tons of other mythic literature on hand. These ancient books contain poetry in every line and to this day I am an ardent reader of ancient texts; I find the alien word constructions and conceptions intoxicating.

From the Book of the Dead:

I am the great Benu-bird which is in Heliopolis, the supervisor of What Exists . . .

As for What Exists, that means his injury. It means Eternity and Everlasting.

As for Eternity, it means daytime; as for Everlasting, it means night.”

How gorgeous and mysterious is that?!

One more . . .

The Kalevala:

He pushed stones straight into their mouths,

stacked rocks on the flat side for the best singers,

for those most proficient in song.

Thus he sang such men—one hither, on thither—off to treeless clearings,

fallow fields, to fishless ponds quite without perch,

sang them under the current into foam,

into rocks in the middle of the rapids,

to burn like fire, to flash like sparks . . . “

I also love poetry and feel more fiction writers should read it. The great poets like Rilke and Wislawa Szymborska, Lautréamont, Fernando Pessoa, and Anne Carson (to name a few) are such masters of language—magicians, really. I aspire to that in my prose. Why not write the most wonderful sentences you can?

More modern fascinations with language came through my discoveries of such authors as Mervyn Peake, Herman Melville, Clarice Lispector, Italo Calvino, Borges, Lord Dunsany, Georges Bataille, and William Burroughs, among many, many other Masters of the Word.

What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?

Three is a toughie. But these are close:

1. Moby Dick (Melville)

2. The Gormenghast Trilogy (Mervyn Peake)

3. The Maimed (Hermann Ungar)

If you could choose one time and place in history to visit for a day, where would it be and what would you do?

I would go to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1969 and see The Stooges, Alice Cooper, the MC5, and The Flamin’ Groovies play on the same bill (Golden-Age Detroit rock is my favorite genre, though I love everything from Mahler to Leonard Cohen and Slayer).

What makes you laugh?

Almost everything.

How would you like the world to remember you?

I’m more interested in how I’ll remember the world. Particularly in the interesting situation wherein such a recollection could be possible—and complete. I know when I’m dead I’m not gonna care what they think since there’ll be no “I.”

Erik T. Johnson has appeared in numerous periodicals and award-winning anthologies, including the #1 Amazon bestseller, I Can Taste the Blood (alongside bestselling author Josh Malerman and John F.D. Taff). Erik’s short fiction collection, Yes Trespassing, was called “electric” by Malerman; THIS IS HORROR UK wrote: “One of the best, most beautifully written collections of this or any other year. Erik T. Johnson is writing at a level that all authors, new and veteran alike, should aspire to. Because what Johnson has achieved with Yes Trespassing is nothing less than absolute greatness.”

I have read much of Erik’s work prior to reading YES TRESPASSING, and enjoyed it all.  Frankly, YES TRESPASSING blew me away.  I was thrilled to learn that he has more planned for PI Martin Box and hope that all of you will purchase and read this stunning and eclectic collection.

 


 

An Interview with Alan Baxter

Published November 1, 2018 by MommaCat

AlanBaxter

 

Welcome to Cat After Dark, Alan! It’s so nice to meet you. I’m glad that you were able to take time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.

It’s a pleasure, thanks for having me.

When did you start telling stories? When did you seriously consider trying to make your living at writing?

I’ve always told stories, since I was little. As long as I can remember I made up imaginary worlds and inhabited them. I told a lot of lies as a kid, but it was really just me testing out the idea of stories! I decided to take writing seriously in my late 20s. I wish I’d started sooner, to be honest, but I had a big shake up in my life at about 27 or 28 and one of the things that came out of that was the decision to take writing seriously and actively pursue publication.

Who are some of the authors that influenced your writing? After reading the incredible MANIFEST RECALL, I’m guessing Tom Piccirilli would be one of them.

That’s a huge compliment that MANIFEST RECALL makes you think of Tom Piccirilli! I absolutely love his work and it’s tragic he died so young. To be compared to him is an honour and he’s definitely an influence. Probably the biggest influence on me is Clive Barker. Otherwise, there are so many people I could cite. Off the top of my head there’s Stephen King, Ursula K Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Shirley Jackson, H P Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Jack Ketchum, William Gibson, Roald Dahl, China Mieville… I could go on and on!

roald dahl

What are you working on now? What does your publishing schedule look like for the future?

Well, right now I’m between projects and in the planning stages for a couple of things. I’m toying with ideas for a follow-up to MANIFEST RECALL. It seems people are keen for more Eli Carver! I’m also slowly getting together an outline for a new dark fantasy trilogy. In the meantime, I’ve got a new novel coming out in November from Grey Matter Press (same publisher as MANIFEST RECALL). That novel is called DEVOURING DARK and it’s a kind of London crime meets supernatural vigilante horror mashup. It’s a bit of a Lock, Stock, and Two Supernatural Assassins. I’m quite excited for that release. And I’ve just sent a new finished manuscript to my agent, which is a kind of supernatural thriller, a bit like Stephen King meets Jack Ketchum. So I’m staying pretty busy!

ManifestRecall

What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working? And how would you spend your time if there were no restrictions in place – either time or moneywise.

Well, I’m a career martial artist and as well as writing; I run a kung fu academy. I love that work as well, and it takes up a lot of my time when I’m not writing. Otherwise, travelling with my family is my real joy. If I didn’t have the kung fu school to run, and money was no object, I’d take my family around the world as many times as we could manage. I can write anywhere, after all.

If you could spend the evening having drinks with any one person from history, who would you choose and why?

Man, that’s a tough one… Does it have to be someone dead? Because, I’d honestly love to sit and chat with Clive Barker!

clive

What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?

Aarrgghh! I can’t answer that! I think Clive Barker’s THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW might be my all-time favourite novel. But I don’t think I can pick just three favourites. I love so many books for so many reasons. One perennial favourite is CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and we’re reading that with our 4 year old son at the moment. I’m getting so much joy from watching him enjoy it as much as I always have. Right now I’m reading GODBLIND by Anna Stephens, which is a dark, grim epic fantasy novel and so far it’s outstanding.

If you could trade bodies with one person for one day who would it be and what would you do?

Elon Musk. And I’d give away the vast majority of his fortune to a bunch of charities that really need it.

If you could choose one time and place in history to visit for a day, where would it be and what would you do?

I’d love to live a day in ancient Egypt. It would be a fascinating insight into so much that’s completely alien to my own lived experience. I’d just immerse myself in the culture and try to see and hear as much as possible. It would be good, of course, if I could at least understand the language for this day.

egypt

What book do you wish you had written? Think fame not fortune.

I don’t. Only I can write the books I write and other people can write the books they write. I don’t want to have written any other books. But I sure would like to get as well-read as someone like Stephen King or J K Rowling or George R R Martin, but for the books I write!

How would you like the world to remember you?

Hopefully as someone who was kind and generous and fun, and who left behind a bunch of really great books that can be enjoyed for years to come.

 

I was lucky enough to read the aforementioned DEVOURING DARK this past summer and what a fantastic novel it was!  Alan already described it as a mash-up, and yes, a beautiful mash-up it was – of thriller, fantasy, horror and crime.  There is something for everyone in this deeply dark depiction of death.  And yet like everything there are two sides, so it’s not as heavy as I make it out to be.  It’s a very satisfying read that I hope you will pick up along with MANIFEST RECALL (read my review for MANIFEST RECALL on the Randon Reviews page) both from Grey Matter Press.

devouring dark

 

AlanBaxterbooks

An Interview with Steve Rasnic Tem

Published September 23, 2018 by MommaCat

steve rasnic tem b&w

Welcome to Cat After Dark, Steve! It’s so nice to meet you. I’m glad that you were able to take time out of your schedule to let us get to know you a little bit better.

Of course—I’m always grateful for opportunities to talk about my writing.

You’ve been a professional, not to mention award winning author for many years now. Do you remember the first story you submitted and sold to a publisher?

I started submitting stories when I was still in high school, around 1967, mostly to magazines like Fantastic and Amazing. In graduate school I published a lot of poetry in university and small magazines, and some brief pieces of prose (such as a section of what would become my novel Blood Kin in Juice magazine out of Kentucky). But I didn’t get paid for any of that. My first actual professional sale was “City Fishing,” in 1980, to Ramsey Campbell for his New Terrors anthology. I sold it before I was married, so it appeared under the “Steve Rasnic” byline. It’s part of my collection City Fishing.

What are you working on now? What does your writing/publishing schedule look like for the future?

Like most writers my working day is split between promoting and preparing old work, creating new work, and “reseeding” my imagination for future work. My middle-grade Halloween novel The Mask Shop of Doctor Blaack comes out early October, so I spend some time each day talking and writing about it (including doing interviews like this one). I have two story collections coming out next year—Everything Is Fine Now (a collection of YA stories from Omnium Gatherum) and The Night Doctor & Others (the best of my recent horror in a nifty hardcover from Centipede Press)—so I’ve been giving input on covers and endlessly proofing the pages. As for new projects I’ve been working on some science fiction stories about climate change and expanding my zombie story Bodies & Heads into a novel. And in and around all that activity I’m watching movies incl. lots of documentaries, reading books and magazines like Science News, jotting down ideas for stories I may not write for years to come.

If you could spend the evening chatting with any one person from history, who would you choose and why? Language is not a problem.

Helen Keller would be interesting. My late wife Melanie was legally blind, and we talked a great deal about how it was for her growing up, and how her brain processed the limited imagery it received. I would like to get Keller’s perspective on some of those issues.

But if I had the stomach for it, I think I’d really like to talk to Adolph Hitler. He was monstrous, but by definition he was also human. I wonder if I would be able to perceive the evil in him just by talking to him, and if he would seem that much more “evil” than a number of political personages we have now. Would the evil be immediately obvious, or would I have to dig for it? It would be a really useful and enlightening perspective to have.

What makes you laugh?

Pretty much everything, given the right circumstances. The human comedy. I firmly believe that if you’re going to dwell on the dark aspects of life then you need to balance that out with a heavy dose of comedy. So I watch comedic movies and TV shows, and I follow stand-up comedians as well. Some of my current favorites are the ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, Demetri Martin, Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, Tina Fey, and Hannah Gadsby—her Nanette special is an incredible blend of comedy and tragedy.

What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?

It would be hard to pick just three, but let’s go with Kafka’s Collected Stories, Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Currently I’m reading The Silent Garden: A journal of esoteric fabulism from Undertow Publications in Canada. It’s a terrific anthology of weird writings.

Have you discovered a new to you author recently that excited you with their storytelling ability?

That’s a hard one to answer only because we’re living in a golden age of fiction, I believe, and I’m discovering a wonderful new writer I’d never heard of before every couple of months. But the latest would be Olga Tokarczuk, whose Primeval and Other Times is this incredible concoction combining fabulism with a sweeping sense of time and history.

How did you introduce your children and grandchildren to reading? What kind of books do they like?

With both my children and grandchildren I bought them comic books and let them read my own (I’ve always been a huge fan). But for Christmases and birthdays I would also give each of them a large box full of books including Caldecott and Newbery winners and whatever was popular for younger readers that particular year, children’s classics, etc. I wanted them to at least have the opportunity to read the best work for children. They haven’t always continued to read, but I have at least one granddaughter who reads enthusiastically and would like to be a writer someday. Her favorite reading is adventure, fantasy and supernatural tales. For my two daughters it’s true crime, especially anything involving serial killers.

If you could swap bodies with one person for one day, who would it be and why?

I think I’d like to be some sort of forest animal for a day. I think human beings could learn a lot if they could tap into a non-human perspective, especially about empathy for and appreciation of the natural world. It would make us healthier I believe.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I watch a ton of movies, and see a movie in the theaters at least 2-3 times a week. I also volunteer for the Citizen’s Climate Lobby—I don’t want to leave that huge problem for my descendants to solve. I meditate at least once a day, and I play around with visual art—drawing and painting—for my own enjoyment. I think it helps the writing.

How would you like the world to remember you?

Realistically speaking, the world forgets most writers—including the popular ones—within only a few years after their death. And yet to maintain quality I think you have to try to write as if you know you’re going to be read down through the ages. So I don’t worry about what the world thinks particularly. I do hope my children and grandchildren remember me as a good and loving father/grandfather. And that everyone else I love remembers me as someone who cared for them and wanted to make their life just a little better by being a part of it. That’s really as much of the world as I care about in terms of how I’m remembered.

Steve can be found at all your favorite social media sites. Check them out!

Webpage

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Instagram

 

I posted my review for THE MASK SHOP OF DOCTOR BLAACK on the Random Reviews page of this site back in August.  If you haven’t had a chance to read the review, now’s the time! Then run, don’t walk – or click like a bunny quick to your favorite online retailer and order this book today.  It may be billed as YA, but that’s misleading.  It has kids as the main characters, so that might lead you to think it’s for kids.  Nuh uh.  It’s  for everyone to read every Halloween.  Enjoy!

An Interview with John F.D. Taff

Published August 1, 2018 by MommaCat

JohnFDTaff

 

Welcome to Cat After Dark The King of Pain! It’s a thrill to have you here, John, I’ve enjoyed reading your stories for quite some time. I guess the obvious place to start is with your nickname. How did you come to be called “The King of Pain”?

Thanks for having me! And thanks for enjoying my stories.

Yes, my “King of Pain” nickname. When Tony Rivera at Grey Matter Press first read my novella collection The End in All Beginnings, he thought of how he could market it and me. What was it that was the thread that kind of drew all the stories together? What he settled on was the emotional resonance that much of my work has. In other words, Pain. So…King of Pain. I think that when it first got out there, we were both a little embarrassed about it. But it seems to have articulated something that many readers have felt about my work, too. And so we’ve both come to embrace it. Grey Matter is publishing a new collection of short stories from me later this summer entitled Little Black Spots, a reference to a line in The Police song “King of Pain.” If that doesn’t say I’ve embraced the nickname, nothing will.

What are you working on now? What does your publishing schedule look like for the future?

I’m actually pretty busy right now. I’ve got that collection, Little Black Spots, coming out this summer. It’s composed of 50% previously published work and 50% brand, spankin’ new stories. I should be able to make an announcement soon regarding my big, sprawling end-of-the-world novel The Fearing. Me and my four blood brothers—Joe Schwartz, Erik T. Johnson, J. Daniel Stone and Josh Malerman—are working on stories for a follow up to our collection I Can Taste the Blood, this one called I Can Hear the Shadows. I’ve got another big iron in the fire with a group of other authors, for a project that should be announced soon. Then, I’m working with Brian Kirk on a project and with Josh Malerman on at least two other things. I’m hoping to have my next novel, He Left, done this summer. Whew. That’s just for this year and next.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I like to read, though that’s getting harder and harder to do, at least for pleasure. Other than that, I love movies, cooking, hanging out with my wife and pugs. We also have a fairly large garden, and I like to tinker around with that. I collect an inordinate number of things, mostly Hot Toys Marvel figures and Star Trek ships. Yes, I’m a geek.

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My Sadie!

A post shared by John F.D. Taff (@johnf.d.taff) on

When did you first start telling stories? Do you remember your first story?

I’ve always, and I mean always had a love for reading, and that led to me trying my hand at writing from a fairly early age, if just to entertain myself. I don’t remember my first story, but when I was young I was really into Marvel Comics and Sherlock Holmes and Ellery Queen short mystery stories. I tried my hand at writing and illustrating comic books, and I remember writing little horror/detective story pastiches. I seem to remember writing some story when was probably 12 or 13 that involved a space shuttle disaster—kind of weirdly prescient—though I don’t remember much about it and don’t have a copy of it anymore.

If you could spend the evening having drinks with any one person from history, who would you choose and why? Language is not a problem.

Hmmm…I’ll answer that in two ways. First, who would be fascinating to have a few drinks with? Poe. Wouldn’t that be an evening? I think he’d be all kinds of crazy interesting. Who would be fascinating in a more uplifting sense? Lincoln. Though he probably wouldn’t drink, and I’d be too frankly amazed to drink.

What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?

My three favorite books of all time? Sheesh. I’ll give you three, in no particular order. First, The Throat by Peter Straub, my all-time favorite writer and one of my (if not the) favorite novels. The Second would be The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson, which is actually a 10-book series, and as such is a cheaty way of answering your question. The third (or more precisely the 12th) would be Night Shift by Stephen King. That was my introduction to King and his mastery of the short story and as such occupies a special place in my reading heart.

Right now, I am reading Priya Sharma’s lovely All the Fabulous Beasts, a collection of her beautiful short stories, and Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman. I love Malerman’s work. His collection Goblin was one of the absolute best books I’ve read recently, and this new one and its weird western vibe has really hooked me. I just finished Brian Kirk’s upcoming book Will Haunt You, which is a stunner, and Erik T. Johnson’s brilliant dark fantasy Sunday, which he wrote with Michael Bailey. Look for these two books soon.

If you could switch bodies with one person for one day, who would it be? What would you do?

Oh lord, probably someone younger and thinner. And I hesitate to share what I’d do, other than eat and make myself fat all over again.

When you write, do you usually listen to music? If so, what type? Does it affect your storyline?

Yes, I generally have music going when I write, to help me set the mood. But I can’t listen to music with lyrics, as it makes it difficult for me to write. So a lot of classical music and soundtracks. But music plays a huge role in my writing, showing up in my stories and helping to define characters. I also love musicians who are great lyricists, as I look to song lyrics to help me with titles.

What were your favorite books growing up?

I loved anything Sherlock Holmes. Books on ghosts and UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti and Bigfoot aWnd other paranormal stuff played a major role in my reading list. I also loved books like the D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths and Book of Norse Myths. Science fiction (Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein) and fantasy (Tolkien, Donaldson,Vance, Silverberg, Zelazny) also played a huge part in my reading as a teenager. When I finally got into horror, it was Poe, King, Straub, Rice, Garton, Ketchum, Barker. They were the biggies.

How would you like the world to remember you?

If I’m remembered at all, I’d like to be remembered as a writer that people liked to read. And, of course, a helluva nice guy.

lbs

Well, since doing this interview last spring LITTLE BLACK SPOTS was delayed.   So, I still haven’t read it as it’s still going through the editing process and has a publishing date of September 11, 2018.   Keep watching the Random Reviews page since I’ll update that as soon as I finish what is sure to be an awesome read.  

Be sure to follow John on Twitter.  Keep up with his incredibly prolific writing schedule. His webpage is worth checking out – don’t forget to bookmark it!  And as you can see from beautiful Sadie’s picture above, he is also on Instagram.  One of these days I will figure out how to maneuver my way around there…

 

 

A 2nd Interview with Luke Walker

Published April 12, 2018 by MommaCat

LukeWalker

 

Welcome back to Cat After Dark, Luke! It’s great to have you back.

Luke sent me his manuscript DEAD SUN while he was still editing it and told me that he plans to self-publish it very soon. So that’s the first thing we’ll talk about. At the risk of saying too much – I despise spoilers – I’ll let you know it’s about life, death, angels, demons, and ummm saving the world. Does that about sum it up, Luke? What else would you like to say? When can people buy it?

DEAD SUN is a dark fantasy (or light horror) about all the fun things you mentioned. Angels, demons, dead people and saving the world. All worlds as it happens. To sum it up, there’s a midway point between life and death where the dead are met by a loved one who’s passed on and then guided to Heaven or Hell – and neither place is exactly as you might expect. Problem is, there’s a blockage because someone has convinced dead people their lives have been unfairly cut short. They’re going no further forward so this midway point is growing. Soon, it’ll be in our world which is why angels and demons are involved along with a woman named Emma who’s looking for the soul of a deceased family member. Unless they can work together and undo the blockage, everywhere will become this dead world.

Most of my stuff is dark horror; Dead Sun is quite a bit lighter although the stakes are as high as I usually go. More so, probably, seeing as all of reality will be destroyed by. . .I’m not saying.

What are you working on now? What does your publishing schedule look like for the future?

I’ve got a few things on the go. After signing contracts with Hellbound Publishing for two books (The Unredeemed and The Dead Room) recently, I will soon have work to do on them. Also, Kensington Gore will be republishing my novella The Mirror Of The Nameless which has been out of print since last year. They’ve contracted me for a new novel, as well, which is outlined and looking pretty fun. So, I’m looking at four books over the next year or so. I did write the first draft of a new book earlier this year but with these contracts and books, that will have to wait a while.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing when you’re not working? And how you spend your time if there were no restrictions in place – either time or moneywise.

There’s not a lot of time that doesn’t involve writing or my 9-5, but when I am free, it’s reading, films (usually bad action or foreign horror) and time with my wife and friends. Occasionally, I sleep. And I do like a small glass of sherry at Christmas.

If you could go back in time and change one thing (knowing with absolute certainty what you were doing was right), what would do?

Wow. A heavy one. I’m with Dr Weizak in The Dead Zone when John Smith asks him about going back in time.

Or, you know, if there was a modern-day equivalent, I’d probably do the same without needing to travel in time.

What would your last meal consist of?

Depends on the manner of my death. I would say a good curry but that could be unpleasant for all concerned. How about a nice steak and a few pints? Yeah. I can dig that.

Find everything you ever wanted to know at:  www.lukewalkerwriter.com

Luke’s Twitter address – @lukewalkerbooks

Follow Luke on Amazon and get news on all of his books here.

And here’s the kick-ass cover for DEAD SUN!

DeadSun

An Interview with Robert Dunn

Published August 5, 2017 by MommaCat

RobertDunn

Welcome to Cat After Dark, Robert! It’s so nice of you to take time from your vacation to let us get to know you a little bit better. Maybe we could start off with your vacation….

What are you up to? Obviously you can’t quite get away from writing, since you’re doing this, but are you having some other sort of fun time?

Thanks for having me. I’m taking a bit of a vacation to meet my second grandson. He’s nine months already and I got to hold him yesterday for the first time. What fun! His name is Robert too. How great is that?

And you’re right, there is no getting away from the writing life. The fantasy of course, is that we can write books and everything else is hammocks and boat drinks. Heck, writers can’t even make their own schedules the way we always dream. I’ve travelled across the country dragging my laptop so I can talk with you, set up promo work on my latest Katrina Williams mystery, A PARTICULAR DARKNESS, edit a work in progress, and keep up with the unending e-mails.

But there is always room for a little fun.

What are you working on now? What does your publishing schedule look like for the future?

Always working! I just sent off the manuscript for A MOMENTARY LIFE, (Hurricane) Katrina Williams book 3. My original agreement with Lyrical was for two books with an option for a third. Right after I sent off the finals on the second book my editor gave me the news that they wanted more Katrina stories. I was happy with that and jumped right on the third book. So A PARTICULAR DARKNESS Katrina Williams #2 comes out 9/12/17 and you can look for two more books next year.

Weaving through that same bit of time I was writing a gritty, border noir called DEAD MAN’S BADGE. That found a home with an amazing publisher, Brash Books. I’m busy getting that ready for a first quarter 2018 release.

The currently writing, work-in-progress is a near future science fiction/horror novel that I’m thinking will be a short novel. I won’t have time for a 100,000 word book with all the commitments for mysteries.

What’s on your bucket list? Have you crossed anything off lately?

My bucket is so leaky. It seems like anytime I have a new inspiration for something I want to accomplish, I get drawn off by something else. Focus is not always my strong suit. Most of the things I really want to do are more personally fulfilling than adventurous. There is always an old car waiting to be restored but I end up simply keeping my truck running. There is always the big book deal, but I keep working on all the great smaller ones without worrying about the dream deal. And there is the hammock I dream of. Now that’s a big bucket thing for me. Maybe I need a one of those fund me things for the world’s best hammock. I have a perfect spot on the back porch.

 

 

When did you first start telling stories? Do you remember your first story?

I recall very well a story about a WWI flying ace chimp. He flew a biplane with machine guns that fired bananas. That was 4th grade I believe. I remember also that instead of saying, The End, I capped it off with an end page that read, The Living End.

After that I wrote things constantly. I wrote plays for the class to perform in 5th and 6th grades and novelized a comic book series in spiral notebooks. It never stopped from there.

What would you put in your backpack if you were to spend a week on a deserted island?

Toilet paper. You never know about the accommodations on those deserted islands. After the essentials were taken care of I would stuff the backpack with my laptop, I’m (almost) always working. My Kindle loaded with a few great books. A solar charger because I think of those things. And then I would worry about how to bring enough ice and diet Dr. Pepper.

tpdrpeppersolar-charger-kindle

 

 

 

 

What are your three favorite books? And what are you reading now?

Reading now is easy. It is all nonfiction at the moment. I have How To Clone A Mammoth by Beth Shapiro going along with Spillover by David Quammen, Rabid by Bill Wasik and a couple of others. The one by Beth Shapiro is because I’m researching for a novel about animals restored from extinction and genetically modified. The others are because I have an interest in plagues, and disease. Fun guy aren’t I?

Favorite books—that’s hard. At any time that list will shift. But almost always you will find, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein, Salem’s Lot by King, Lonesome Dove by Larry Mc Murtry, and something from Craig Johnson, one of the many greats from James Lee Burke and anything by Shelby Foote.

Limiting it to three favorite books—I don’t think I can decide.

Who influenced your writing the most? Do you think you are still evolving?

Those are questions that are definitely tied together. I am still evolving from the early influences of Poe, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. I loved adventure and horror but the books I had access to were mostly classic. For a long time I thought that was the way “real” books were written. That shifted as I discovered comic books. Later, I was drawn to science fiction in large part by the incredible cover art. I fell under the influence of Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury. They led me to Vonnegut and many other wonderful authors. In each phase the influence of the authors was like seasonings in a stew. They blended and spiced everything I did. After that I began reading mysteries. I went from Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie to Elmore Leonard. But I think I hit my niche with the amazing horror and thriller novels of the 1970’s. I read so much King, Blatty, Benchley, Masterson, Matheson, Straub etc. there was no way not to be influenced.

I still keep finding new influences and new author loves. It will always be with pride that I point to several reviews of my novel A LIVING GRAVE, that compare that book to those of James Lee Burke.

If you could choose one book to visit for a day, what book would it be and what would you do? (You have healing potions.)

Jurassic Park of course! Crichton was a master. And dinosaurs… How could I not?

What 7 people from history would you invite to a dinner party and what would you serve?

Pancho Villa, Hemingway, Sgt. Alvin York, Sgt. Henry Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, Colonel James (Jimmy) Doolittle, and Clarence Darrow. We would go to Hooters for wings and talk about manly things.

How would you like the world to remember you?

I don’t care and doubt that it will to any degree. My kids though, and family beyond them—I want them to remember me well and fondly. I hope there are stories told about me for generations. A hundred years from now I can only hope that my descendants know who I was, get an occasional laugh from the family lore, and are proud to have me as part of their heritage.

I’m on FB, https://www.facebook.com/RobertEDunnAuthor/

I’m often on Twitter, @WritingDead

Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/548149.Robert_E_Dunn

Thanks for letting me take part!

Robert

 

 

 

These are books best read in order.  Book one, A LIVING GRAVE introduces Katrina Williams, an Iraqi War vet turned Sheriff’s  deputy.   Author Robert Dunn has created a world of flawed, real people who do stupid, hateful and hurtful things to one another. As a military brat himself he wrote what he knew about and his character Katrina follows in her family’s footsteps and goes for a career in the military, then chooses to join the sheriff’s department.

Her cases are convoluted and gruesome. More power to you if you can figure out the answers by the midpoint! Robert Dunn has done some fine writing, unlike most thrillers out there. The publishers at Lyrical Underground have already asked him for another, and I couldn’t be happier to see this series continue. Fine writing, thoughtful titles and very real scenarios make this a series not to be missed.  You can buy Robert’s books at Amazon, B&N or wherever fine books are sold.

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