(Interview) Talking Horror with the New Kid in Town, Patrick Lacey.

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I came across Patrick Lacey in 2015. He was one of the new authors signing with Samhain Publishing.  I reached out and invited him to the Samhain Author Secret Club I’d started on Facebook.  He seemed cool. I read his novella, A Debt to be Paid, and found that he was also talented. I suddenly realized that I’d seen his name before. Looking through my bookshelf, I found that we’d published alongside one another in an anthology called, PAVOR NOCTURNUS: Dark fiction Anthology Vol. II.  He had a great story in there called, “Pen Pals”.

We  all know Samhain collapsed shortly after firing Don D’Auria. Lucky for us newer guys at the company, Sinister Grin Press was there to catch our fall.  Shortly after announcing that my latest (Chasing Ghosts) would be published by SGP, Lacey announced that they had also picked up his novel, DREAM WOODS.

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The book was originally signed by Samhain, but after they announced their intentions to close, they allowed a number of authors to retrieve the rights to the unpublished books.

Between the release of his Samhain novella, and Dream Woods, Lacey also put out an amazing collection of short stories (which you should go buy right now) titled, SLEEP PARALYSIS.

I’ve only known the guy for about a year, but it already feels much longer than that. So, let’s bring him in and poke at his brain. Let’s enter Lacey’s Dream Woods….

 

 

Glenn Rolfe: The first thing I noticed about this book was how much it felt like a lost Bentley Little book…hell, it could have been called, The Amusement Park. I know you’re a big Little fan. We’ve both mentioned how great we think his novel, The Store, is.  Do you feel like his fingerprints are on Dream Woods?

PATRICK LACEY: Oh man, there’s no denying it. For me, Little is one of the all-time masters and one of the few horror authors that consistently scares me. Some of his imagery is so odd, bizarre, so out there, that it gets under your skin in a way you can barely describe. I mean, this is a guy who wrote a short story about a farmer falling in love with a potato and managed to make me lose sleep. He’s a freaking genius. So I channeled my inner Little in some of the scenes within Dream Woods. I, too, like to take every day scenarios and make them seem just a bit off before ramping up the weirdness factor.  There’s a certain vending machine scene that I think/hope would make Mr. Little proud.

GR: There’s some punk rock going on within the characters. I know you play, did you have a band, and how much of what Vince and Audra are going through personally have you felt yourself. 

PL: For sure. I grew up north of Boston and there was a decent music scene in my little town. Lots of punk and hardcore and metal. I spent almost every weekend in high school going to shows and eventually playing at them with my own bands. As far as Vince versus Audra, I actually don’t fall into either category. Vince is an aging punk rocker who’s taken to adulthood completely, whereas Audra is pushing it off as much as possible. I’m still as immature as I was back in high school. I just hide it well. I also don’t think one has to become a slave to the system just because they have a full time job and turn thirty. Rock and roll knows no age.

GR: This story takes place at an amusement park, but within that, you get to play in a hotel setting, too.  I love hotel stories. Hotels seem to be among the most perfect playgrounds for horror writers. Did you find that to be true?

PL: There’s this book. I think it’s called The Shining? Kidding. Yes, hotels are breeding grounds for horror stories. Whenever I stay at one, I like to wander the halls at an hour that would make me seem quite creepy. I think about all people who have stayed there over the years and start to get the heebie jeebies. Plus, I always seem to wind up at a vending machine. Sensing a theme here.

GR: I loved that you really made sure to make each of the main characters decipherable from one another. Each faces their own personal demons or struggles. Did you spend a lot of time crafting each of them, or was it one of those things that just developed naturally during the writing process?

PL: Glad you found them decipherable! I’m not a big plotter but I do have an idea of my characters’ main issues when I start a book. That said, they often end up steering me in different directions. For instance, I didn’t know one of the Carter boys was going to be diabetic until I started typing away on his first chapter. His condition actually became a big part of the book and I started to run off with the idea of a theme park knowing your true fears.

GR: Dream Woods was originally supposed to be a Samhain Publishing title. How exciting was it to hook up with Sinister Grin Press?

PL: I was a huge fan of Sinister Grin before working with them and they were always on my list of dream (pun intended) publishers that I wanted to work with. They are great to work with and saved the day when something came up just prior to this book’s publication. I’m talking a real eleventh hour scenario. And I’ll be working with them again in the near future.*

GR: You got to attend your first Scares That Care this past summer. What were some of the highlights and takeaways for you? And you can skip Saturday night (if you want).

GR: Of course, I’ll skip over Saturday night. I mean, what kind of guy would I be if I mentioned the ten or so pitchers of beer that we split, or the countless karaoke videos I took of you, or one of us sleeping on a sidewalk. Anyway, it was the…best…con…ever. I got to meet so many awesome readers and writers and despite the debauchery, every single vendor and attendee is constantly aware of how amazing the charity is. My main takeaway, though, would be how delicious the hotel bar’s chicken wings were. #priorities

GR: Oh, the memories…all that beer…   Back to the interview. Which authors would you say have been a huge influence on you? Any that are under the radar?

PL: In addition to Bentley Little (did I already mention him?), there’s Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Stewart O’Nan, Graham Joyce, Elmore Leonard, Brian Keene, Richard Matheson, John Skipp, Sarah Langan, and Joe Lansdale for my formative years. For newer (relatively speaking, considering some of these folks have been at it for over a decade) peeps that are influencing me as we speak, you’ve got Paul Tremblay, Adam Cesare, Laird Barron, Kristopher Rufty, Jonathan Janz, Mercedes M. Yardley, Orrin Grey, Michael Weihunt, Aaron Dries…the list could go on forever. Also, this guy named Glenn something or other.

GR:  I know that guy! I also know you’re a scary movie guy. Do films play into your writing? If so, which ones and what aspects in particular do you feel find their way into your work?

PL: Maybe? I’ve had a plethora of people call my writing “cinematic” but I’m not good at self-analyzing my stuff. My favorite types of horror movies are those that bend reality. Think A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jacob’s Ladder, The Beyond, In the Mouth of Madness, etc. I definitely think they’re present in a lot of my work. I have a novel sitting with a publisher right now that’s my love letter to this type of story.

GR:  I loved Jacob’s Ladder. Very trippy!   Okay,  let’s do some rapid fire:

Best horror movie to watch: See above.  A Nightmare on Elm Street. Seen it more than any other film ever. It’s the first movie I remember watching and it never, under any circumstances, gets old.

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Favorite fancy beer: Belgian Strong Dark ale brewed with cinnamon, on oak chips with figs.

Favorite crappy beer: Gotta go with PBR. I mean it won a blue ribbon. Did you know that?

Favorite book to read in October: Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge is one of my favorite seasonal reads. It’s like Halloween Hunger Games. I wish I was reading it right this moment.

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Would you rather (Death Edition) …be hit by a bus or punched out of a helicopter: I hate to take the obvious route but I’d rather be attacked by two transformers that moonlight as a bus and helicopter, respectively. First, I’m riding the bus when it morphs into its robot counterpart, therefore crushing me within its robot bones. As I’m hurled out onto the street, with my last few dying breaths, I see a helicopter transform into its robot counterpart and guess what? Its fists? You guessed it. Both propellers. One punch and I’m all guts and gore strewn about. But like I said: obvious.

 

GR: Obvious?  Yep. What’s next for you? Books to read, book releases, conventions, podcasts?  Feel free to mention anything you want.

PL: Let’s see. I’m reading an ARC of Where the Dead Go to Die by Aaron Dries and Mark Allen Gunnells (to be released by Crystal Lake Publishing) and it’s great so far. For my next release, Sinister Grin will be putting out my second novel Darkness in Lynnwood. It’s a small town horror novel about a teenage cult and is the most personal book I’ve written yet. It may or may not have driven me to the brink of insanity several times during the writing process. That should be released early to mid-2017. Then for conventions, I’ll be at Rock and Shock this October 14th, 15th, and 16th, hawking my books alongside my pals Adam Cesare and Bracken McLeod. And you bet your ass I’ll be back at Scares That Care next year. In fact, I think I have a table with that Glenn guy I mentioned earlier.

GR:  Oh yeah…that’s going to be fun.  Anyways, thanks for stopping by, jerk. 

PL: It was my pleasure, bastard.

 

 

Follow Patrick’s Blog tour for DREAM WOODS below:

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Follow along the tour with these hashtags: #DreamWoods #ScreamWoods #PeskyBear

Dream Woods, Synopsis

  • Print Length: 135 pages
  • Publisher: Sinister Press
  • Publication Date: October 1, 2016

Follow your screams…

When Vince Carter takes a shortcut to work he notices a billboard that nearly sends him into an oncoming van.

The ad is for Dream Woods, New England’s answer to Disney World. It closed decades ago, but now that it’s back in business, Vince is eager to take his whole family, hoping the magic he remembers will save his failing marriage.

His wife, Audra, isn’t so sure. She’s heard the rumors of why the place closed. Murder. Sacrifice. Torture. But those are just urban legends. Surely there’s nothing evil about a family tourist attraction.

The Carters are about to discover that the park’s employees aren’t concerned with their guests’ enjoyment. They’re interested in something else. Something much more sinister.

Welcome to Scream Woods!

Patrick Lacey, Biography

Patrick Lacey was born and raised in a haunted house. He spends his nights and weekends writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable. He lives in Massachusetts with his Pomeranian, his mustached cat, and his muse, who is likely trying to kill him. Find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter (@patlacey), or visit hiswebsite.

Praise for Patrick Lacey

“This collection has it all, showing the world that Lacey can write and do it well. From frightening, eerie, soul-stamping to funny and gross, this book has it all. The man’s imagination is incredible. A must read!!!!” – David Bernstein, author ofA Mixed Bag of Blood

“It’s a rare and joyful thing for me to read a book and realize I’m in the hands of an author who can go absolutely anywhere, who works without a formula and without a net. Such is the case with this stellar debut collection.” – Russell Coy, Amazon Review

“This fast-paced novella has terror on every page and will keep you searching the shadows in your home far more often than needed.” – Russell James, author of Q Island, on A Debt to Be Paid

Purchase Links

Amazon

 

(#Share the Horror: Interview) Heather Herrman Touches on Horror in the Heartland, Women in Horror Month, and Her Mom’s Book Club Reading Her Novel.

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Glenn Rolfe:  Hi, Heather! Thanks for doing this interview with Share the Horror! Congratulations on your excellent first novel, Consumption, and an extra hell yeah! for making the preliminary Bram Stoker Award ballot for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. That’s a whole lotta awesome.

Heather Herrman:  Thanks, Glenn! I’m really excited about it and very honored to be considered.

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GR: Let’s talk about the book. How long did it take from first draft to final manuscript?

HH: The first draft was completed in about seven months. I was very disciplined about writing 2,000 words a day because, frankly, it was the only thing keeping me sane. My husband and I had just moved across country from Portland, Oregon to Minneapolis, MN, in the middle of the recession, and despite (or maybe because of) my multiple, incredibly useful humanities degrees, I couldn’t find a job to save myself. I finally found an amazing VISTA position with the Minnesota Literacy Council, with whom I then worked for another four years, but my job didn’t start until noon, so I had the morning free to finish the novel. After that, I got an agent in about a month by sending out about sixty or so queries. And then… nothing. Nada. This was 2009, before the Walking Dead, before the zombie craze, and at that point my book was about 145,000 words long. A tome. And there weren’t any publishers willing to take a chance on that for a first novel. Fast-forward four years to my agent sending it out again, Hydra picking it up, and me completely revising the novel to cut about 50,000 words. I still mourn my earlier version, but I think what it is now is what it needed to be to get published as a first novel, and I’m really proud of it.

GR: I always wonder what it would be like to sneak a peek at the original versions of certain novels. I bet Consumption would be great. Wonder what else you did to this town?Why did you bring this evil to poor little Cavus?

HH: Dude, Cavus was asking for it. JK. But seriously, I am very intrigued by the transformations small middle-America towns have experienced in the last few decades. I grew up in farm country, spending a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm in the small town of Bennington, Kansas. And even from when I was a kid to now, I’ve seen so much change, specifically in the way farming happens. For example, I just did a harvest ride along with my uncle, who still farms and is now, in fact, one of the bigger farmers in the state. He said that whereas before his dad—my grandfather—used to work from dawn ’til dusk during harvest, now they worked all night sometimes, because technology provided lights and automated steering to make this possible. This meant that for farmers, there was no longer any natural “end of the work day;” the natural cycle had been shifted. He and I talked about how this was a really hard thing for a farmer and a farmer’s family. But technology had to happen, and it is, in a lot of ways, a good thing—farms can produce much higher yields than they did before. However, at what cost? Because now we’re talking about mono-crops with giant yields and what struck me is that even though I grew up in the middle of farm country, when I come back home I can’t eat any of the food that the farmers are growing. All of the food in restaurants is flown or trucked in. This—along with small farms disappearing and with them their lifestyle—seemed to beg the question, if we aren’t consuming what we grow, what are consuming? And obviously I mean that on more than a literal level. What is filling what the disappearing farming lifestyle left behind? And thus Cavus was born. I didn’t set it in Kansas because I needed the mental distance to write about it honestly. Cavus is actually based on a small town in Montana that I drove through on the move to Minnesota.  I can’t for the life of me remember which one, just that it had this incredibly creepy energy.

GR: One of the aspects I really enjoyed was the bizarre creatures your Feeders become when they slip their human disguise and take form. That, among other things, reminded me of Bentley Little. More than just horror or monsters, The Feeders (or you) put these really macabre images in my head. And it’s always alongside something ordinary or something that appears ordinary. I think there’s a scene when John is walking back to Bunny’s and there’s this little girl, and thanks to all of the previous freaky imagery, we’re sort of on the edge of our seats to see if it’s really a little girl or something else. I loved that. I’m assuming Little is an influence for you?

HH: Man, it’s so interesting you say that because a few people have made that comparison. I’m completely flattered, but I don’t think he is an influence that I realized until hearing people say so. I read several Little books in the past years, and going back to think about those books, I think they really did creep into my sub-conscious, especially some of those gorgeously disturbing images he creates (I’m thinking of the dead in The Walking). Anyway, if asked I’d put King or Katherine Anne Porter as immediate influences, but I wonder if the more powerful influences are sometimes the ones buried in the deepest depths, the true raw stuff that just kind of oozes out when you write.

GR: I love Little, so it is definitely a compliment. Of those Little books that you have read, any stick out to you?

HH: As I said before, I loved The Walking. The Summoning is also great. In both of these books you get monsters that go beyond the traditional, which I really appreciate. A vampire isn’t just a vampire, and a zombie isn’t just a zombie. Anyway, thanks to you, I’m going to go back now and try to read all Bentley’s work at a stretch, which is something one of my old professors did with any author he really liked. He’d take a summer and work his way through an author’s entire publishing catalogue, no matter how deep it was. He said this was the best way to get to know an author as well as learn from them as a writer. I’ve only done this a few times, but I think Bentley and I are about to spend the summer together. I hope he likes tequila.

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GR: I thought the factory bit, these mother fuckers getting ready to unleash this to the rest of the world was scary as hell. I know King brings religion and God into a lot of his works. You used the communion wafer in here as that potential weapon to take down the world. Is there a religious stance going on here? Or is that just where the story demanded to go?

HH: Did my mom put you up to this? Seriously, she just gave me a talking to about those poor church-goers and their communion wafers a few nights ago. For whatever reason she and her nursing friends have decided to read Consumption for their book club (god love them), and my mom wants to be prepared with an answer about why her daughter is going to hell.

Truthfully, I find much to loathe and admire about organized religion, and I think the communion wafers were just my way of exploring that. Any organized institution begs corruption of power, and religion has had some splendid examples of this. At the same time, you most often find your Everyman there, trying to do good, trying to find something to believe in. For me, those communion wafers harkened back to the consumption theme. As in, what are we consuming beyond the physical food we’re eating? Communion wafers are symbolic, and they’re meant to represent something holy and good, and yet what if even this isn’t safe from globalized capitalism in its greediest form? In what ways do we already infuse religion with politics and use it to sway the opinions of believers from all walks of life? Which is not to say that I am not a believer, or that I don’t think religion is important or doesn’t produce some very good things like charity and a structured belief system that can be a strong foundation for families and communities. But. And. To believe in such a system is to question it. And if you can question it and still find belief, if you can step outside of your glass bubble where everyone thinks the same thing as you and believes the same things you do, and still find a way to bring that belief to life, then, I think, you have something truly worthwhile.

GR: How are things going with Hydra? How is their marketing team and your overall experience with the publisher been?

HH: Hydra is incredible. Truly. Sarah Peed and Ashleigh Heaton in particular have worked really hard on getting the book out there and making sure it was all it could be. I certainly have had to do a lot of my own publicizing (as do all authors these days)—for instance, I came up with the idea of a blog video to go with Consumption’s release—but any time I had something like that I wanted to do and asked for their help they were completely on board. I also did a Mary Shelley b-day party on Facebook with two other Hydra authors whom I really admire—Michael M. Hughes and Adam Cesare. That was a lot of fun. What I really appreciate about Hydra is the level of talent that they bring in. I think the books that they have out there and are currently curating are top-notch.

GR: Growing up in Kansas,  are there any scary incidents from your youth that may have led you down this path?

HH: The usual childhood stuff, I guess. As do all kids, I experienced some rough patches growing up, and I remember one of my earliest horror books was King’s It. I was in sixth or seventh grade and borrowed it from my aunt’s house (she didn’t know), and it scared the shit out of me. But more than that, it comforted me. It took me out of any bad stuff happening in the real world and let me not just escape, but believe in the importance of small actions and small people. Which I think really good horror does. By which I don’t mean handing us a neat good and evil dichotomy on a platter, but forcing us to find the grayness and walk within it. As for any particular scary events happening, I think its more landscape for me. As I said before, I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm, and at night I would go outside and listen to the coyotes, and there was such beauty and wildness there, that I just knew there was so much more than what we were seeing. I still find a magic when I go back there. And also my friend’s basement was completely haunted, so there’s that.

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GR: I know that February is Women in Horror month. With all of this blow up over the Oscars and whether or not African-Americans are getting hosed or not, I was wondering your feelings on Woman in Horror vs. Men in Horror. I saw actress Stacy Dash, who happens to be black, on Fox News talking about how having channels like BET and the BET Awards where you can only be nominated if you’re black is a double standard and that they need to do away with those if African Americans are going to try and play this card. I know this isn’t as deep rooted an issue as race, but some do bring discrimination into it. Personally, I think ladies can be twice as vicious as guys, but WiHM did make me look at how many male authors I was reading vs. how many woman authors. It was predominantly male for me. It did convince me to purchase books by Shirley Jackson, Rena Mason, and Mercedes Yardley. Does WiHM mean anything to you? Do you see it as something that’s necessary or not? Is there a problem in our industry?

HH: First let me say I think it’s really badass of you to actively take a look at your reading list and think proactively about what that meant and how you could change it. Kudos.

Actually, inequality of race and gender are old bedfellows, going all the way back to suffragettes and abolitionists. So I think talking about them in tandem is gonna happen regardless—though obviously each also contains its own, complex issues. But to your specific question, I’ve said a lot of things lately about women in horror, and posted a video about the lack of women on the Stoker ballot. That video kept me up a few nights—I posted it right when the ballot came out, and we were on vacation, and I kept second-guessing myself and thinking that I should have polished it more, or said things in a clearer way so that men didn’t feel like I was specifically attacking them, but at the end of the day I just needed to say something and get it out there without overly-censoring myself which, I think, is a real danger for women. And honestly, almost everyone in the horror community—especially HWA members, have been incredibly supportive. They were and are already talking about the issue and recognizing a need for change. I admire a lot of what they’ve done with, for example, recruiting more women for specific chapters and creating a Diversity Committee, but I think we’re all on the same page in saying there’s still a lot of work to be done. When you’ve got the Stokers preliminary awards ballot with over 70 percent men on it, there’s a problem. Let’s not sugar-coat it.

By and large I think horror readers and writers are one of the smartest groups out there—people who haven’t maybe always fit in elsewhere but find a home in horror. Horror can either reinforce the status quo or explode it, and obviously, at least for me, it’s the latter possibility that’s the most interesting. Which would, in my mind, dictate a need for inclusiveness in storytelling. You’re going to see the exciting stuff happening in genre first— we already are—and that’s why I think horror and specifically the HWA is an important place to honor this.

But, you know, I’m new to this game. I should just make sure that’s out there. Plenty of other women horror authors have already taken up the cause of getting great work by women published and noticed. HWA president Lisa Morton comes to mind. So I don’t want to have the audacity to come in an presume to speak for all women. It’s a complicated topic, and we’re all just figuring it out, but we’ve got to figure it out together. And to answer your specific question, yeah, I’m all for Women in Horror month. Do I wish we didn’t need it? Sure. Is there a danger that it boxes women into a little, safe corner where they can just eat crumpets and drink their tea? Absolutely. But anything that brings more women’s fiction to the public is fine by me.

In regards to Stacey Dash and her comments—when she said what she said, I think you also have to look at the context in which she said it. Which means thinking about who her audience was, and what the benefit vs. the risk of saying what she said might be. She is absolutely entitled to her own opinion, and discrimination of race or gender, while tied in many ways, are also their own very complicated issues. I would never presume to know what a person of color, for example, might be experiencing. But I will say that in terms of gender and writing, we’ve got a problem that is deeply systematic. I would never say let’s just throw more women’s names on the Stoker Ballot, for example, because that’s not going to solve anything. We all want work based on merit—there’s never a question of that. But we need to think about the deeper issues—like how do we even get women’s work and voices to the table in the first place and, in my mind, perhaps more importantly, deeper into the publishing and literary world so that more of the behind the scenes decisions such as what books are being published and reviewed are in the hands of a much more diverse membership. This of course goes for race and gender both.

There are so many stories that need to be told, and giving voice to them will only make horror, and all genres better. What we absolutely don’t need to do, however, is to demonize one group of people—let’s say white men—because that gets us absolutely nowhere. And some of the biggest advocates for increasing women’s recognition in horror come from men. But what we do need to do is have a dialogue that goes beyond the usual finger-pointing or victim vs. man in power that we’re so used to having. This is a nuanced issue and everyone, including men, should feel that their story is valid. We may, however, need to do more thinking about what that actual story is and the inherent privilege (of which I also as a white, cisgender, hetero woman enjoy) that entails. But this doesn’t have to mean a winner/ loser situation. It’s like thinking, as an author, that for me to do well, somebody else has to fail. When in truth, we both do better if we both succeed. The more books out there being valued, the wider the audiences reached and the stronger the market.

GR: I do my Share the Horror page partly because I love to bring things to people’s attention, partly as a way to pay it forward, and basically share any knowledge that I have or that of my interviewees. You’ve done some great YouTube videos offering up advice to writers. Is that kind of the same deal? Is it something you enjoy doing? (You guys can check her YouTube Page HERE )

HH: I love the concept of Share the Horror. A sincere thank you because you are truly bringing a much needed resource to the genre. And yeah, that is, I guess, what I like to do with my videos and blog in regard to writing in general. Not that I have it all figured out, far from it, but I have taught it a lot and had some great teachers myself, and so when I start thinking about a topic in my own writing, I’m interested in putting it out there just to enter the ever-evolving dialogue of what it means to be a writer

GR: What’s next from Heather Herrman?

HH: Currently I’m about 3/4 of the way through a new manuscript with the tentative title ’Til Death. It features a failing couple at a marriage retreat that also happens to harbor a serial killer. This book has been a lot of fun for me, and whereas Consumption tackled a lot of big ideas, this one has allowed me to cut loose a little and just enjoy the blood.

GR: Okay, it’s time for some rapid fire!Give me three of your favorite scary movies:

HH: The Descent, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and High Tension.

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GR: Name a book you got so caught up in that it made you yell out loud:

HH: Not yell but just kind of put it down with a sigh and think motherfucker, I will never be able to write like this, how did you do it and why didn’t I think of it first? That was Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind. Oh! And also the short-story “The Debutante” by Leonora Carrington. Go read it right now. The BEST, gorgeously insane horror story ever. Now, if you’re talking about throwing a book in anger, pretty much any book every written for a child under two. It’s called iambic pentameter, people. Learn it. And dear god can someone please write something that I can read 500 times and not vomit? I think a children’s book line penned exclusively by horror writers is definitely needed. Maybe featuring titles like, Even Zombies Potty. I’ll keep working on it.

GR: An album that you own that you don’t want anyone to know you own?

HH: Hey, I’ll claim them all. No shame here. Shakespeare Sisters, maybe? I busted out “Stay” at a New Year’s party we were hosting last year and had to by dragged off the living room table with boos for my rendition. I like a lot of classical music as well because I used to play cello, so there’s some pretty over-the-top tear your coattails and bleed your suffering stuff like Rachmaninoff in my collection.

GR: You have a day completely to yourself. You’re not allowed to write. What are you going to do instead?

HH: First I’m going to get outdoors some how some way, maybe a quick game of basketball, and then I’m going to hit up a brewery. I am a big fan of small-batch local beer, and there’s such exciting stuff happening with it right now. Surly, though not so small anymore, will always hold a special place in my heart. Since this is fantasy, I would also like a giant truffle (fungus, not chocolate) to eat like an apple while this is happening. And of course capping all that off with a scary movie while eating popcorn with milk-duds (and you gotta put the milk duds in the popcorn) couldn’t hurt. I realize I haven’t mentioned my kid once here, poor little dude, but I’m gonna assume he is with a babysitter who is exponentially more fun than I could ever be. Oh, and there’s definitely some reading going on in there somewhere. Maybe during the Surly-drinking/truffle-eating phase? Okay, wait. Can we pretend my liver and stamina are still 21? Because then I’d throw a live show of some sort in there. Maybe catch a band at the Slowdown or something and stare creepily at the lead singer while dreaming about what it would be like if I could actually sing. But if I do that I’m going to also need some late night pizza from Gumby’s, and they don’t deliver to Omaha, so…. Also, this is sounding like a lot of work. Let me just revise and say Read. Beer. Truffle. Movie. Perfect day. Done.

GR: Thanks for doing this, Heather. Good luck with Consumption and the Stokers.

HH: Thanks, Glenn!

 

Find Heather at her official site: Heather Herrman

And go buy CONSUMPTION!

She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

 

 

JOHN EVERSON AND THE ART OF SEX, GUTS, KE$HA, BEER, AND THE HORROR WRITING BUSINESS.

“As he joined the captain, she shuddered, and the red glistening mess that had once been her belly opened wider. Too wide.

The rookie turned away, his gorge rising as the woman’s insides turned out.”– from The 13th by John Everson,

The 13th was my introduction to John Everson. I remember receiving the paperback in the mail as part of the Leisure Horror Book Club. Like many of the authors, John was new, and like the majority of the Leisure titles at the time, John was fucking good. I instantly logged him in with Brian Keene and Richard Laymon. When I got Siren a bit later, I knew I had found another horror author who was terrific at messing with every one of my emotions throughout a single novel.

Now with Samhain’s Horror line, John continues to play the dark arts over every tender nerve in our minds and bodies. But after digging into his world a little further, I’ve discovered he’s so much more than a great writer. Now, so will you.

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Let’s start at the beginning. When did you get started in writing, was it always horror, and who were the first authors who lit the fire for you?

The first story I remember writing was when I was probably in about 4th grade. All I can recall is that it had some connection to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series… so I guess I started out by writing Sci-Fi Fan Fiction! Growing up, it was really golden age SF that I read, along with the occasional ghost story and Edgar Allan Poe tale… so the first stories I wrote in grade school and high school were science fiction. Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford D. Simak, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, J. T. McIntosh… those were my first influences. They told stories that kept me absolutely enraptured… and made me want to tell stories to do the same thing to other readers.  Richard Matheson is probably the SF writer who really showed me the way, because he was the bridge between SF stories and horror. All of the tales I’ve ever come up with seem to have a bit of a macabre twist to them… and his ability to do that – and cross genres – was amazing.

I wrote some stories and poetry in high school, and more in college, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I submitted anything. It was 1993, and it had been a few years since I’d written any fiction. Just for fun, I was putting together a chapbook of some of my college stories, since my day job was desktop publishing, and in doing that, I realized some of the old tales weren’t too bad. I submitted them to a couple magazines and then wrote a couple new pieces. Once my first story appeared, at the start of 1994, I kept writing and submitting and never looked back. So this year has marked my 20th anniversary as a published fiction author.

Leisure Book Horror Club is where I discovered you. I remember reading The 13th and being floored. It was just a great story. I followed that up with Siren. Another great one. Talk to me about those Dorchester days. How did you hook up with Don?

The first time I met Don D’Auria was at World Horror Convention 2000 in Denver. I was there promoting my first short fiction collection, Cage of Bones and Other Deadly Obsessions, which was coming out later that year from Delirium Books. I had just finished an early draft of Covenant, called The Cliff, at the time, and described it to Don at one of the pitch sessions they hold for authors to meet editors at those conventions.  He said to go ahead and send him the manuscript, and I did, but then I never heard anything back… so I pitched him the same novel at World Horror Con 2001. And then again at World Horror 2002…..It was probably around that time that I finally got the formal rejection notice! I remember it took a couple years. But at the time, it seemed like anyone who was anyone in horror (outside of King, Barker and Rice) had a book with Leisure, so I was determined to “break in.” At World Horror Con 2003, I had a sequel begun – Sacrifice. So I pitched him both novels as well as a couple other ideas. He said very supportive things… but didn’t buy the books. Despairing, I gave up on my mass market dreams and contracted and published both novels in limited hardcover editions with the small press – Delirium Books — in 2004 and 2007. But I still pitched those books and other ideas to Don at every World Horror Con — 2004, 2005, 2006…. finally in 2007, after Covenant had won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel from the Delirium release, and Sacrifice had also come out in hardback, I pitched to him once more and he said “I want to have you on the imprint, it’s just a question of a slot. I might have something… soon.” I thought he was just being kind to a stupidly persistent kid, but then, literally 24 hours later, he came to me during the Mass Autograph signing where all the authors sit in a room and sign books for convention attendees and he said “can I talk to you?” I left my table and he offered me a two-book deal there in a coat check hallway at the World Horror Convention 2007 in Toronto. I can’t tell you how excited I was over the next 48 hours of that con!!!

Shortly after signing with Leisure, I was in New York on day job business and had the chance to stop in at Leisure’s offices to say hi to Don… and then I saw why it had taken so long for me to get a rejection letter years before. The wall on one side of his office was stacked from window to doorway four feet high with manuscript submissions! Talk about being lost in the slush pile! I can’t imagine the number of aspiring authors that sent books to him in the ‘90s and 2000s. Immense competition.

Once Covenant came out, Don bought three more books from me for Leisure after that. The 13th was the first original novel I did for Leisure (published in 2009), followed by Siren and The Pumpkin Man. As soon as Don landed at Samhain after Leisure imploded, I offered him NightWhere and he accepted it. The irony there was… my original idea for NightWhere was sketched out over a decade before – while I was still finishing Covenant. So Covenant launched me at Leisure and NightWhere, a book hatched in the same period, launched me with Samhain. And both “starts” were Bram Stoker Award finalists!

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That’s so rad! So, Covenant won the Stoker for best 1st novel, but you were crafting short fiction prior to that. Is short fiction where you started, do you still do it on a regular basis and which do you prefer: shorts, novellas, or novels?

Short fiction is what I did almost exclusively my first 10 years of writing. I still write short stories, just not as often since I’m focused on novels. But I’ve always felt that in many ways horror is best served by the short form – Poe’s stories were always the epitome of the perfect horror tales for me… and he never wrote a novel.

As for me… I’ve actually never written a novella. I’ve written well over 100 short stories, and a few novelettes (longish short stories). And now eight novels. But the one time I tried to write a horror novella… it went and turned into a short novel – The Family Tree, my latest. I still love writing short fiction, but it’s a different approach than novels. So now that I’ve gotten used to writing “long”… I find it harder to get in and get out quickly to write short fiction anymore. When I started writing 20 years ago, most of my short pieces were 2,000 – 3,000 words. Now I can’t seem to write a short story that’s less than 6,000 words! Novels train you to describe things more, do more character-building. You don’t have time for that in a short piece.

Covenant’s win. Was that intimidating for you? Or did you just accept with a smile and go back to work?

It was a crazy thing. I went to that award ceremony when my wife was 3 weeks from her delivery due date with our son – we asked the doctor  if he thought it was safe enough for me to go and he said yes… but what if she went into labor early and I was hours away?  I knew I wasn’t going to win… but I wanted to be there, to make the most of the nomination by meeting people there. And then I won!?!  I was so unprepared to win… I hadn’t even worn a suit jacket, just a shirt and tie to the ceremony.  It was an amazing night, and an amazing weekend… and then yeah… I went home and wondered, OK, how do I top that?  There was pressure. But eventually… you just do what you do and hope it’s good. Over the years, I’ve finished a couple books and thought to myself, “OK, well, that’s as good as it’s going to get. That’s your best.” You feel like you should just stop… but then you write something else that you’re proud of and think the same thing again.

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Your stories definitely go willingly into the erotica territory. Is this it a case of the story taking you there, or is there something funny happening when you sit down to write.   

I don’t know why sex and horror have always been a tag team for me… but they just seem to naturally go together. Most of the story ideas I come up with have an erotic element that, at least to me, seems integral to the plot. Hell, in NightWhere, there would be no story at all without it – the story is about a couple drawn to an underground sex club that is much more than the house of kink it seems to be on the surface. And Siren is patently about the temptation of forbidden sex – what does a Siren do but lead men to their deaths with song and sensual allure?  But there are stories that also have very little sexual element to them too. The Pumpkin Man has virtually no sex in it at all. The story didn’t call for it, so it’s not there.

Are there any monsters you leave to others or are you willing to write about any of them? Also, what is one story you want to write but haven’t yet?

There are a lot of horror novels written about serial killers and torture artists and cannibals and the like. People being imprisoned by some sadistic nutjob and trying to escape. That kind of horror is just not my area of interest. I’ve always said, if I wanted to read about evil human beings, I can pick up the newspaper. Me? I like to read about demons and otherworldly creatures breaking down the doors to our world. Stuff that extends beyond our current reality. That’s the stuff that I like to read…and thus write.

I have a few story ideas outlined that I’d like to write; most have a demonic element to them. I’ve always been attracted by the intersection of amoral demons and unethical humans allying and causing havoc… The latest novel that I’ve started working on is a sequel to Covenant and Sacrifice. I’ve started on it a couple times… this year, I’m hoping to finally follow it all the way through!

Are you writing full-time? And what is your writing schedule/routine (if you have one)?

My best year writing fiction brought in less than a fifth of what I make at my dayjob. So no… I don’t and never have written fiction full-time (unless you count the years I was a newspaper journalist. But that wasn’t fiction-writing). I honestly don’t foresee ever writing fiction full-time. It’s just not in the cards for 95% of writers, unless they have a spouse that can bring in the medical insurance and guarantee a regular income that pays the mortgage.  But that’s OK. That means I’m free to write what I want, when I want, since I don’t have to feed myself with it. There’s no pressure to write what I KNOW will sell and pay the bills, vs. what I feel like writing. Would I LIKE to have more time to dedicate to my novels? Sure. But I like knowing that I for sure am going to be able to pay the mortgage next month a whole lot more.

As for my schedule? It honestly changes with every book. There are books that have been done by getting up an hour early every day before work for three-six months (Siren). And there are books that I relied on pulling marathon sessions one night a week after the day job for a few months at a favorite pub (The Pumpkin Man, NightWhere). Most have been a combination of those methods. I tend to be a “binge” writer. I’ll write like crazy for a few days or weeks in a row and then not write at all for weeks. Depends what life is bringing at the time!

With three kids at home, I totally understand that!  When it comes to sitting down and getting to work are you typically a plotter or a seat of the pants guy?

I like to be entertained, so when I write, I am telling myself stories. Which means…seat of the pants. While I’ve outlined most of my books (a necessity to selling them before they’ve been actually written), I have had the most fun flying blind and just making it up as I went along (Sacrifice and The Family Tree). And even with outlines, there’s a lot of stuff that happens in a novel that you had no idea was going to happen until the moment you write it. The entire parallel plot of Siren following Ligeia’s imprisonment 100 years before the main thread of the novel? That wasn’t in the outline that sold the book to Leisure. And some readers have said that’s the best element of the story!

So you kept in contact with Don when he got the gig at Samhain?  I was so happy to see that Ronald Malfi (among others) was there to get the new line going. As a fan, I was hoping to see you there, as well. And then you popped up! How did that transfer go for you?

I had stayed in touch with Don after he left Leisure, and he let me know as soon as he landed. We were talking about what my first book for Samhain might be almost immediately afterward!  However, since I hadn’t actually written the book yet, there was almost a year of Samhain novels that came out ahead of mine — because he bought a lot of completed novels at the same time as he contracted my outline for NightWhere.

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The Family Tree. A Samhain October release! I know there’s a Megadeth song by that name….what are we in for with this new novel?

I’m not much of a metalhead, so I didn’t know that!

Violet Eyes, my follow-up to NightWhere, focused far more on spiders than on sex. After the crazy “50 Shades meets Hellraiser” reviews of NightWhere, I kind of went off in the other direction for Violet Eyes. But The Family Tree is a return to horror with a lot of erotic overtones. It follows a loner, Scott Belvedere, who inherits an old inn in Appalachia. When he goes to check it out and decide whether to sell it or keep it, he soon finds himself the object of obsessive sexual affection of the innkeeper’s daughter, as well as a couple other “friends” of the inn. Not a bad gig… but why? And are the stories of the curative powers of the sap of the tree that the inn is literally built around, true?  Scott finds that sometimes it’s better to leave your family roots… buried.

I love any horror stories wrapped around hotels, inn, and bed n’ breakfasts! This sounds amazing! I can’t wait.

Switching creative gears a bit…I ‘ve been to your site a number of times, but usually only look at the book info. I only recently noticed the art and music sections!  These are early passions for you? Was it art, music , or writing first and which did you feel you had the most talent in?

Music has always been my first love. I was playing the organ at five years old, and wrote songs all the time in grade school. There is no more fulfilling experience in the world to me than writing and recording a song. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing fiction. But a good song? I can put that on the stereo and play it over and over and over again and enjoy both the song and the feeling of accomplishment of having created it. I have no desire to read my stories over and over again! But ultimately, music is for the young, and itinerant. I think I had talent and could have gone somewhere… but only if I was willing to cash in everything else to go for it. And I wasn’t willing. Nevertheless, I need to be creative, whether it is writing music, writing stories, or creating digital art for books. I figured that I could continue a career as a writer long after any “pop band” career would be over… so that’s what I stuck with and focused on. You really can’t do it all… as much as I wanted to!

I know exactly what you mean. I’ve played in original bands for years, and have always been the main songwriter. Personally, I’ve written hundreds of horrible songs, but when I get to that “good one”, it makes all the flubs worth it. But it is nearly impossible to commit to both writing and music, and as you said, it’s a young person’s game.

Do you do book tours with each release? What is it typically like for you? Do you tag along with a fellow author (and if yes to that one, can you give us any great stories?)

From where I stand, book tours are a luxury of the past.  I used to do book tours throughout the Midwest when my Leisure novels were released. I’d schedule a couple dozen signings, and hit every Borders and Barnes & Nobles that I could in Chicagoland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis… and wherever my day job happened to take me (I have gotten to do book signings in Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angels, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and more thanks to dayjob trips!) I stayed in a lot of fleabags to sign books around the Midwest for a few years.

But for a mid-list author, book signings are far more about attracting a store’s existing foot traffic to buy your books that are in the store, then about having a legion of fans turn up specifically to see you. So the prerequisite is to actually have the stores carrying your books both before and after you appear. With the death of the Borders chain, there now IS no chain store that has a horror section. Barnes & Noble barely stocks any horror novels. So if you’re going to do a book signing, it’s going to be at a store that likely doesn’t normally carry your novels. That, for me, just isn’t worth the time. Because the reality is, if the store doesn’t already devote shelf space to your books, as soon as your book signing gig is over? They will return all your books to the publisher and not keep any in the store. That’s the cold hard truth of bookstore inventory management. In the old days, I could go to a Borders Store, sell 20 books at a signing, and leave 20 more at the store with “autographed by” stickers on the covers… and those books would be displayed and sell after I was gone. And then the store would order more. That was worth doing – because you built a sales track record thanks to your appearance. Now? I sell more books via Amazon and at conventions than I do through the Barnes & Noble chain, because they won’t keep most horror books available in their stores. So… what’s the point of doing signings there?  There’s no “tail” after the event.

I can’t let you go without discussing beer and pub food. In my mind, you and I have a Food Network show where I tag along with you across America and consume copious amounts of beer and burgers.  I like the idea of that Food Network Show. If we could do a few specials spotlighting the best chili pepper recipes in restaurants in the Southwest … it would be perfect!

That’s it; I’m going to the network! 

Back to the beer….I crawled out of my PBR phase in New Orleans at the WHC and discovered the magnificence of IPA’s. What are some of your favorite beers?

As for beer… at this very moment, I am wearing a Revolution Brewing t-shirt (I was in their Chicago brewpub last night after guesting at the Chicago Horror Film Festival) and sitting in a hotel room in Springfield (family trip). We just got back from a great dinner at Engrained, a brewery/restaurant down here.  I do try to check out the local microbrews in whatever town I’m in. Favorite IPA? Definitely Revolution Anti-Hero. Great name. Great beer. I’m also a huge fan of the Deschutes Brewery roster. Mirror Pond Pale Ale is great, as is Red Chair North West Pale Ale. I have been more of a fan of English brown ales than IPAs for years – Newcastle has been my drink of choice for probably 15 years… so my enjoyment of hoppier beers is still fairly recent… and so I demand that it be a smooth assault on the taste buds, rather than a murderous one. Goose Island has some nice easy-drinking ales – I like their Green Line and the new Rambler IPA (which replaced their nice Harvest Ale of year’s past). And Santa Fe Brewing’s Happy Camper IPA is a great session ale.

For German beer, I’m a big fan of Hofbrauhaus Dunkel and Ayinger’s Maibock. And Ayinger’s Doppelbock is great for a winter beer. Speaking of which… winter is coming, and every year I host a Winter Ale and Chili fest in my basement – I brew up some chili of various heat levels and a group of us share our favorite Winter Ales. Mine over the last few years have included Deschutes’ Jubelale, Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale, New Holland’s Cabin Fever and Great Divide’s Hibernation. Not surprisingly, I like the other beer varieties from all of those breweries as well.

For dessert? If you can find Tanilla Porter from Knee Deep Brewing… buy a case. And send me a couple bottles! Hands down the best vanilla porter I’ve had. Failing that… look up Southern Tier’s Crème Brulee. Mmm mmm Sweet Imperial Milk Stout.

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What are a few of the places someone who loves great beer and good food need to go to across the country?

Wow… that’s a question that could frame a book chapter!  If you’re in Chicago… go to Revolution Brewing. Great food, amazing beer. And the bar is held up by giant fists carved out of wood. Or drive out to the far south burbs and visit Flossmoor Station – one of the original brewpubs in a crazy nationwide explosion over the past few years of breweries with good food. This one was built in an old train station not far from where I went to high school.

In Denver, you have to stop at Breckenridge’s brewpub by the ballpark, and the less obvious Pint’s Pub, which cask brews the best English Ale I have ever tasted brewed in America.

In New Orleans, seek out NOLA Brown Ale – one of the best American browns brewed… and not distributed very widely. I have had it at Turtle Bay on Decatur a few times.

There are some great brewery/brewpubs in Michigan: Holland, Michigan’s  New Holland Brewing has an amazing bar and great beer. Founders in Grand Rapids is an impressive place to sample a lot of craft beer, some of which is only available on premises. And the place that introduced me to sours – Jolly Pumpkin, in Ann Arbor, is worth pulling up at a table for a night (I’ve done some writing there while on business trips.).  I’ve blogged about Ann Arbor’s brewpubs as well as Calgary, Canada’s here: http://www.johneverson.com/wordplay/?p=4786

In Vancouver, you want to head over to Granville Island and eat at The Sandbar (awesome food) while enjoying some of the ales from Granville Island Brewing, located just a couple blocks away.

In Seattle, head down near the ballpark and have a burger while sampling the many ales at Pyramid Breweries – my favorite was the Weiss Cream (with a tap in the shape of an ice cream cone). Elysian Fields has a couple brewpubs there as well and you have to stop at The Pike Brewing Company down at Pike’s Market. I could go on and on here… I’ve travelled a lot for work over the past few years, and been lucky enough to sample a long list of cool places!

These days? One of the best places for me is in the comfortable oak home bar I built (board by board!) this spring in my basement. (sadly, no, the taps on the ornamental tap display I created of my favorite beers don’t work. But the fridge is full!)

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I usually do a couple rapid fire bits so here you go:

Last novel you read?

Johns satan

Satan’s Fan Club by Mark Kirkbride. He asked me to blurb it and I loved it!  Before that? Fifty Shades of Grey. And you know what? I enjoyed the hell of out if. A refreshing lightweight change after all the horror I typically read!

Your guilty pleasure song?

Ke$ha. “Gold Trans Am.” Or really anything by her. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty at all.

No shame in the Ke$ha love. I’m right there with you.

Favorite non-horror film?

There are non-horror films?  Ha! There are many answers to that question because there are so many genres… and I love film. Things that have stuck with me? Goofy comedies like Johnny Dangerously and Better Off Dead. Feel-good dramedies like Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes. Or It’s A Wonderful Life – which I’ve watched nearly every Christmas for 40 years. Sci-fi genius like Bladerunner, Forbidden Planet, Brazil, Star Trek IV, Terminator and Star Wars. I list Alien as my favorite movie of all time, but I always have felt that skews more horror than sci-fi. How about The Incredibles? Or Monsters, Inc or Fifth Element? Crazy action movies like Machete and offbeat erotica like The Image or Salo? And what about strangely unforgettable excursions like Barbarella? What about the entire Hitchcock catalogue (some horror, but most thriller/mystery)? What about Akira Kurosawa, Orson Welles, John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Ingmar Bergman?  Lucas, DePalma, Spielberg, Cameron, Lee, Zemeckis… I can’t pick a favorite film. I can’t pick a favorite director.  I love too many films too much for that.

Love a lot of those, as well.

Grossest beer you ever tasted?

Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard.  Kind of what I imagine licking a wet, old dog would be like.

John, thank you so very much for doing this with me. We must grab that drink sometime.

I have a pint waiting for you!

Find John and his wicked ways in these places:

John’s Website (For his books, blog, music, art): http://www.johneverson.com/

John’s Amazon Library: http://www.amazon.com/John-Everson/e/B002BMHL52