My very first memories were of horror stories on albums my mom would get from the library. Charles Dickens’s “The Signal-Man” and the tales of Edgar Allan Poe remain vivid in my memory. I loved “Shivers,” a Frog and Toad story by Arnold Lobel. In seventh grade I read August Derleth’s “The Lonesome Place,” which had a profound impact, but it wasn’t until the summer after eighth grade when I read my first Stephen King novel (The TommyKnockers) that everything changed.
Which 3 of your books would you recommend readers start with?
Do you have a favourite horror sub-genre, and why?
I love them all. That’s a cop-out, but I really do. I’ve dabbled in many areas already, and in the next couple years folks will also see me take on historical horror The Dismembered, epic old-school horror The Dark Game, post-apocalyptic Nightmare World, winter horror The Stars Have Left The Skies, creepy mystery/thriller Marla, and aquatic horror (top-secret project I can’t talk about yet).
Most terrifying book you’ve ever read.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub. That book changed me. And of course there about three dozen Stephen King novels that curled my hair and made me dizzy with terror.
Who do you consider the King and Queen of horror fiction?
Stephen King and Shirley Jackson.
Your favourite horror film (adapted from a book) & why
Hmmm...I loved the IT movie from 2017. I think filmmakers are realizing the more they honor the spirit of King’s writing, the better the adaptations will be.
Horror book that you’d like to see adapted to film & why?
Robert McCammon’s The Wolf’s Hour. It would take a gargantuan budget, but if done right, it would mix horror, James Bond-style action, historical, romance, and high adventure into a single film. I think it could be brilliant. Or a Netflix series.
Best horror TV?
I just saw the pilot of Black Mirror and loved it. Mindhunter is unnerving and excellent too.
Did you write in other genres or straight to horror?
No matter what I do, it seems to gravitate back toward horror, and I’m absolutely okay with that.
Tell us briefly about your route to being published
Long, arduous, and grueling. I was rejected by every agent and publisher in the world. And that made me read more, study better, write more, and ultimately, write better.
Tell us about your fans
I love them. I really do. There will always be negativity, but the fans outshine the naysayers the way a raging bonfire incinerates a candy wrapper. My fans are amazing and I love them endlessly.
Horror doesn’t seem to be as well respected as other genres of fiction. Why do you think that is?
Horror is reduced to its basest examples. I’m not against movies like Hostel or Saw at all--I like any story that’s done skillfully--but I think folks fixate on the bloodshed and spilled entrails and begin painting the entire genre in unfairly broad strokes. The fact is, the aforementioned films do represent a legitimate subgenre in horror, but horror is so much more than that one gore-streaked subgenre. Horror is full of humanity and love and truth, and it often contains more of those elements than other genres do.
Do you think horror is ready for a renaissance?
I do, and I’d argue that it has already begun. Movies, television shows, and the world of fiction are already teeming with talented writers, and what’s more, they’re writers of varied ages, backgrounds, and experiences. That diversity will help sustain the new boom and drive it toward greater heights. The most substantial obstacle still to be overcome is the societal stigma toward the word “horror”; folks will go to absurd lengths and put themselves through endless verbal acrobatics to avoid using the word horror even when the work to which they’re referring is obviously horror. You can call it “dark suspense,” “paranormal thriller,” or anything else you’d like, but it’s still horror. I’d love for folks to recognize the silliness of this denial and just call it what it is.
Tips for new writers of horror fiction.
Gravitate toward do; avoid don’t. Be very careful about what sources you listen to when it comes to writing advice. There are many who declaim in loud voices who have never really accomplished anything of worth in the field. Choose your mentors wisely. When you do receive advice, adapt that advice to fit your style rather than adopting the advice wholesale to the detriment of your voice. You can’t be someone else. Be the best version of yourself, the version influenced by those you trust and by those who speak from a place of experience and good faith.
Do you believe in evil?
Absolutely. There’s evidence around us every day. Sadly, most evil I see comes from humankind. We have an endless capacity to resist empathy and to choose selfishness.
What scares you?
The truest but most obvious fear would be something happening to my wife or my children. A more enjoyable fear to talk about would be...sharks. I’m deathly afraid of them. I’m also afraid of mandolin slicers because I had a run-in with one whilst trying to cut a cucumber.
3 most scary words in English language?
Out. Of. Time.
Do you celebrate Halloween?
Big time. My kids and I really get into it. My wife not as much, but she’s not into scary things the way my kids and I are. My youngest, particularly (a seven-year-old daughter), is insistent on decorating the whole house with bats and skeletons and dangling specters. I love it!