Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mother Horror's Top Ten List of Literary Villains

It's a well known fact that I don't watch horror, I read it, so I can't pick villains from movies or book adaptations--I'm just picking the villains I loved to hate in the books I've read. So the criteria is books that I've read and based on the actual hate I felt while reading the book. In no particular order:

Joffrey Baratheon- A Song of Ice & Fire Series, G. R. R. Martin.
Has there ever been a bigger asshole in fantasy fiction? The rage I felt during certain scenes was boiling point hot. I lusted for Joffrey's death so hard, it was distracting to my reading--it was all I thought about.
Henry Bowers- IT, Stephen King.
It would be an easy choice to pick Pennywise but the ancient, evil demon clown didn't give me hate fantasies quite like Henry Bowers did. I remember the first time I read IT, Bowers scared me more than Pennywise because I was young and I could feel that tension between the bully and the bullied as though it were my own. Later, as a mother, I thought about a kid like that carving his name into my son's body and I could lose my shit--you know that feeling? It made me cry with frustration and anger. I hate Bowers and his Goons. Burn them with fire.
Aunt Ruth-The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum. 
I know I didn't finish this novel (seriously too much for my soul to contend with) but I read enough to have an everlasting hatred of Aunt Ruth. Especially because she is based on the real life psychopathic torturer, abuser,
Gertrude Baniszewski. Of real or fictional villains, Aunt Ruth holds my number one place for most vile creature and I hope there is justice in the afterlife for her. Look at that face! The face of unbound evil.
The Man in Black-The Dark Tower Series, Stephen King
He goes by many names. He works for the Crimson King. If you are a die-hard fan of Roland Deschain than your natural-born enemy and most hated villain for life is the sorcerer, Randall Flagg. One of my favorite books where he appears is in the Eyes of the Dragon. I read that book when I was like 13 and I think I had a villain crush on him because of this illustration: He's kind of wickedly attractive.
"Momma"-Brother, Ania Ahlborn
One of my favorite horror books, Brother is one of those books you binge read in one setting. My burning hatred for Michael's whole family gave me the nightmare fuel to finish this book strong, but nobody was more foul than Momma. There were so many times I wanted to supernaturally reach through the book and throttle her with my own hands. She is one sick, bitch.
Jack-The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
JACK. That POS! I hate that kid. I seriously hated on that kid from the moment he starts rebelling against Ralph. The constant questioning of order and rules, the systematic teasing and bullying of poor "Piggy" and gentle Simon. This book is just a bully finding that he has no accountability or authority and takes it to the worst possible extreme. I wish someone would have pushed him off a cliff or stabbed him with a bamboo spear. Stupid Jack.
Daisy Fay Buchanan-The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Man, Daisy is the worst woman in all of classic literature. First of all, she says the stupidest things,

"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the think folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such – such beautiful shirts before."
And second of all, she destroyed the finest man in all of classic literature--mostly because she's the most selfish, self absorbed idiot ever written. I have no idea how Fitzgerald was able to pen such a deplorable character but man, I hate Daisy with a passion.
Shelley- The Troop, Nick Cutter
Yeah, Yeah, the Troop. If you read it, you know that there is something released on an island that ends of terrorizing a troop leader and a small group of boys on a campout, right? Right. But that's not the real threat or the villain, the real villain is Shelley. OMG I hate this child. What is WRONG with him?? It's no surprise I hate this character because he's like Jack from the Lord of the Flies but like a billion times worse. I wanted him to die SO BAD.
Pazuzu- The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty
I had to have this demon on this list. Pazuzu, Captain Howdy, is a formidable enemy. The scenes in the book where this ancient demon is really going after it with the exorcist and Father Karras are so terrifying. I mean, who can look their own personal demons in the face as they are delivered to you from the malnutritioned, ravaged body of a possessed 11 year old girl. There isn't anything scarier than that.

The Judge- Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
A huge, hairless, man with zero morality and maybe even immortality or some kind of supernatural ability? Maybe the devil himself? I don't know but this character freaked me out. This was a rough read, mostly because I had no idea what the Judge was capable of--answer: Everything and anything.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Danger! Horror Books Dead Ahead!

One only has to walk into my new, small house in order to learn a very important fact: There's a reader in this home. My husband built these amazing bookshelves for me that take up an entire wall and then even stretch across the top of the entryway into our kitchen. It looks like we live in a library (which is more than OK with me).
Upon closer inspection, one will notice that 75% of the books qualify as horror. People will say, "Oh, someone likes Stephen King!" to which I will tell them that I've been collecting his books since I was very young. I only had *all* of his trade size books by the time I graduated high school but then as I grew into more of a collector, I began upgrading to hardbacks as I found them in thrift stores, book & garage sales.
Often times, this will prompt one to ask,
"Why do you like horror books so much?" the sound of judgement thick in their voice.
 I tell them:
I like horror because it always makes me *feel* something. Think of it this way, in my real life, I'm a very cautious person. I don't do anything that could put my life in danger (except drive a car--because I must in order to be a functional adult). I don't have any desire to live life on the edge. I don't want to get in a shark cage to look a monster in the mouth. I don't want to jump out of an airplane or bungee jump off a bridge. I don't go on scary carnival rides or try exotic foods. I'm just not adventurous by nature.
Except with books.
Horror is the only genre that allows me to feel reckless.
Maybe this book will hurt me.
I might have nightmares.
This book could terrify me--it could make me never want to go camping in the woods! (I hate camping--too risky)
This horror book could insist that I sleep with the lights on or it could haunt me for the rest of my life. These horror books are dangerous and there's a part of me that likes to feel like I can take risks somewhere.
But don't ask me to watch the movie versions of these tales...
I have to draw the line somewhere.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Author Interview: Jason Pellegrini

You know, in all honesty, as a reader/reviewer, it's always a little nervy when you read a book by an independent author that is very present on social media. I mean, what if I hate it?? What if I can't even finish it? (This has actually happened and the author was very gracious about it and I plan on reading more by that same author--just so you know.)
So when Jason Pellegrini asked if he could send his book, Booth to me in exchange for an honest review, I was a little hesitant. But I was intrigued by the book's synopsis:
"At dawn, on the day of his execution, Joseph Bateman finds himself reflecting on his life, one filled with poor decisions and evil people. Even his lifelong best friend played a pivotal role in earning Joseph his seat on death row.
A phenomenon occurs as the electricity meant to kill Joseph is sent through him, and his essence is ripped from the body he has known his entire life and thrown into a new one. Only the body he now inhabits isn’t new at all; it is the body of a person who lived over a hundred years before Joseph’s birth.
Now living in an unfamiliar era of history and trapped inside a foreign body, Joseph learns he has been sent back for a reason: to earn redemption for his damned soul and to find a sense of peace he has never known. All he needs to do to get there is to prevent one of history’s most infamous murders."
 I read and reviewed this book and I loved it! I also read his novella, The Cool Kids and loved that as well. Now, I'm very excited to say that I have both books, signed to give away to one lucky reader and that giveaway is being hosted on my Twitter! So go! Go now and Re-Tweet and follow both of us for a chance to win!
All that being said, here is my exclusive interview with author Jason Pellegrini:
Mother Horror: Jason, when did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

Jason Pellegrini: In 2007, a friend of mine released his debut novel. I had picked up a copy to show my support. Back then, I wasn’t much of a reader, but I decided I would give it a go. While reading his novel, I began to wonder if maybe writing was something I could do. I had a bunch of story ideas from a few years back, when my friends and I attempted to write a screenplay (we failed miserably at it), that I thought were really great concepts. I toyed with a few of them for a while. There was a lot of stop and go in the beginning. Also, I wasn’t very good at it back then. I eventually landed on a story idea that stuck. One that I could really sink my teeth into, creatively. That idea grew until it became a full blown novel. That novel would go on to be my debut novel, The Replacement.
 MH: Where does the inspiration for your stories come from? Specifically Booth—so original.
JP: Inspiration can come from anywhere. Literally anywhere. I’ve gotten inspiration for story idea from world events, or listening to a song. I got the idea for my last novella, The Cool Kids, because I posted a photo of my godchildren on social media and captioned the post ‘The Cool Kids’. The photo did nothing to inspire the story, but the caption I used got me thinking, and I developed an entire story from it.As for Booth, the inspiration for it actually came from Stephen King’s 11/22/63. While reading King’s novel, which is a story about a man who travels back in time to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I started thinking to myself that it would be cool if someone wrote a story involving Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Then I realized that I could be the person who wrote that story.I started brainstorming and coming up with story ideas until I had something I thought was really good. I almost put The Replacement on hold to work on it. Then I told a friend about my idea and he proceeded to explain to me how the story just made no sense. He also found a lot of holes in my plot, which immediately deflated my motivation to write this particular story. In hindsight, he was right and my original concept of Booth wasn’t very good and I think had too many similarities to King’s novel, which was something I did not want, because, despite being my inspiration, I wanted the two stories to be polar opposites.

The desire to write this story stayed with me, though, and I eventually went back to the drawing board. I soon came up with another idea I felt had potential to be a great story, and when I presented it to the friend who had shot down my original idea, he gave me the thumbs up and told me I had my next novel.
 MH: If you were an ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?
JP: My mind keeps going to Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked. But that’s just because it’s my favorite ice cream flavor. But if I, personally, was a flavor of ice cream, Half Baked would be the furthest from me!

This is actually the toughest question on this interview! So I turned to the internet and took a quiz! According to this online quiz, I am vanilla, which actually makes sense to me, now that I got my results. I don’t need any grand gestures in my life to fulfill my desires. It’s the little things in life that make me happy; friends, family, and a good book. That answer is spot on!

 MH: What scares you these days?
JP: Death. Recently, the concept of death petrifies me. I think it is natural thing, to fear death. We all think about it at some point. It has definitely influenced my writing, too. A major plot point of Booth is what happens when humans die, and even in The Cool Kids, where the themes of the story is pretty lighthearted, I touch on the subject. Those aren’t the only stories I am working on or have in my head that revolve around the notion of death.
 MH: Your novella “The Cool Kids” has such a great cover, did you draw it yourself? I saw on Twitter some sketches that you did, so I thought I’d ask—any stories with illustrations in the future?
JP: I came up with the concept art for it, but it was done by a wonderful artist, who turned my idea into a reality. She did have to put up with my OCD and probably super annoying critiques. She was a real sport about it, though. As far as future illustrations go, that’d be amazing and definitely something that is a possibility for future works. Assuming an artist wants to put up with me!

Rapid Fire Questions:

Jack Nicholson’s Joker or Heath Ledger’s?
Both were phenomenal, but I’m going to go with Ledger’s. His portrayal will never be able to be duplicated.
Chocolate or Candy?

Paperback or Hardback?
Paperbacks are probably my preference, but I own more hardcover books because they look nicer on my bookshelves. So I find myself reading more hardcover books.

Friends or Seinfeld?
Friends. I’m in the midst of my gazillionth watch through.

Take Out or Dine In?
Dining in. I find cooking (and baking) fun and therapeutic.

Coke or Pepsi?
Mountain Dew!

Music or Movies?
Definitely music.
 MH: If you could only read one author for the rest of your life, who would you choose?
Stephen King. No question.
 MH: You are a self published/indie author—do you want to keep it that way or do you also send query letters to agents/publishers?
As of this interview, and for the foreseeable future, my plan is to continue to self-publish. Now, if I was offered a big time deal by a big publishing house, I’m pretty certain I’d take it. But until then, I’m happy continuing down the path I’m on. I’ve found the entire self-publishing experience to be fun, actually.
 MH: Is there a work in progress coming that we can get excited about?
JP: There sure is!

Oh, were you looking for more in depth answer than that??

I’m not really ready to start giving out details at the moment, but I am working on a few different projects. Including my next full novel. Not sure about release dates yet, so that’s really all I can tell ya… for now.
 MH: What movie or TV series would you recommend from 2017?
JP: I don’t get to the movies that much. So the only recommendation there I have from 2017 is IT. Loved it! As far as TV shows go: Stranger Things Season 2, Godless, Big Little Lies and Mind Hunters.
 MH: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
JP: Never stop learning. It’s the answer I always give to this question. I’m a firm believer that the moment you think you have nothing left to learn is the moment you’ve failed at what you’re doing. Any person, no matter how long they’ve been doing what they do, can get better. Tom Brady, who is pretty much considered to be the greatest quarterback in football, just spent his entire offseason last year, attempting to perfect his long ball. At forty years old, and eighteen years at the top of his profession, he still works to better himself. I’m positive it’s no different for seasoned authors, like Stephen King. It should be no different for you, either!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Apart in the Dark by Ania Ahlborn

Apart in the Dark

Now available for the first time in a print edition—two terrifying novellas from bestselling author Ania Ahlborn, “a great storyteller who spins an atmosphere of dread literally from the first page” (Jeff Somers).

New York, 1977. The sweltering height of the Summer of Sam. The entire city is gripped with fear, but all Nell Sullivan worries about is whether or not she’ll ever make a friend. The self-proclaimed “Plain Jane” does her best to fit in with the girls at work, but Nell’s brother, Barrett, assures her that she’ll never be like them. When Nell manages to finally garner some much-yearned-for attention, the unthinkable happens to her newfound friend. The office pool blames Son of Sam, but Nell knows the awful truth…because doing the devil’s work is easy when there’s already a serial killer on the loose.

Maggie Olsen had a pretty ordinary childhood—swimming and sleepovers, movie nights and dad jokes. And then there were the other things…the darker things…the shadow that followed her home from the cemetery and settled into the corners of her home, refusing to let her grow up in peace. Now, after three years away from the place she's convinced she inadvertently haunted, and after yet another family tragedy strikes, Maggie is forced to return to the sweltering heat of a Savannah summer to come to terms with her past. All along, she's been telling herself, it was just in your head, and she nearly convinces herself that she'd imagined it all. But the moment Maggie steps into the foyer of her family home, she knows. The darkness is still here. And it's been waiting for Maggie's return….

Friday, January 5, 2018

Author Interview: Kristi DeMeester

My first Kristi DeMeester read was, "Beneath" released by the publishing company Word Horde last year. I saw an article that said it was the best, new horror of 2017 and I was beyond intrigued, mostly because it was written by a woman and I'm all about supporting female horror authors.
I put in a request to get an ARC and I was accepted.
I loved Beneath! From my review on Goodreads,
"Dark and disturbing, the prose sort of washes over you like briny, brackish water and leaves you feeling unsettled and dirty at the end of the day."
In other words, DeMeester does not hold back and can write horror with the best of them.

Later in the year, we got "Tales From a Talking Board", also from Word Horde, in our Nocturnal Reader's Box. This collection had some hit & miss stories in it for me, but a definite hit was the first story, written by DeMeester. It was haunting and beautiful at the same time--super emotional too for being such a short story.
Lastly, I got to read Kristi DeMeester's short story collection,
Again, this was a knock it out of the park collection and moved Kristi DeMeester into my "favorite horror authors" status. 
From my review on Goodreads, "Each story brings diversity to the author's book of skills. I believe she could literally explore *any* topic, no matter how mundane or simplistic and craft it into something that sinks into the marrow of your bones to unsettle you at a core level."
**I'm currently hosting a giveaway for this collection on my Instagram and Twitter! Thanks to Apex giving me an extra copy for you guys to enjoy!
After fangirling over Kristi so much, I worked up the nerve to ask her if she'd be willing to do an interview with me and she graciously accepted. So here we are! My questions to Kristi DeMeester and her brilliant answers:
Mother Horror: Kristi, when did you discover that you had these horror stories in you that wanted to be told?
Kristi DeMeester: I'd always loved scary, unsettling stories, but through high school and college I never considered writing my own. I was a vigorous reader but did no real writing on my own outside of a handful of terrible poems and some embarrassing blog posts. The writing bug didn't truly hit me until my last year of college. I wrote my first real short story on notebook paper during lunches while I student taught. After that, I realized what had been missing from my life was this desire to craft stories. I kept writing and decided to go back to school for a Master's in Professional Writing. For a long while, I tried to write literary, but I was stifled, and it was only when I graduated with my Master's degree that I drifted back to horror. Since then I can't seem to keep the unsettling out of my stories.
MH: I’ve noticed a few themes in your stories that I highlighted in my review of your short story collection, Everything That’s Underneath; specifically mother & daughter relationships: Can you tell us what fascinates you about this female bond?
KD: My own anxieties and fears regarding motherhood often creep into my stories because they are such a large part of my waking life. And I think it's an unspoken fear that many women have. Family and the bonds that are there are these uncontrollable things that can often be convoluted or strange or violent or heartbreaking. I like to explore that because it's, selfishly, a way of working out the many, many issues I have with my own mother and trying to come to terms with that relationship. And also, I feel that in horror, this is a relationship that is often either ignored or examine from one angle only, and there are so many components to consider. The field is rich with horrors.
MH: The horror you write about gets under my skin so effectively because it’s so organic and natural in its nature. Can you explain your inspiration behind the terrible things you write about?
KD: I think the natural world, the things in are lives that real, are the most terrifying. When I write, I'm trying above all to unsettle myself. Things that if I saw I would recognize as part of my life but also strike such an odd note that I would not be able to keep the fear out. The lack of understanding or knowing why something is happening when it should be natural or that others would see is natural when you know that it's not is terrifying for me.
MH: If you were an ice cream flavor, what flavor would you be and why?
KD: Blue Bell Banana Pudding

MH: Who is the first person to read a finished piece of your writing?
KD: Damien Angelica Walters or Michael Wehunt
Mother Horror's comment: It kind of blew my mind that the first to read Kristi's writing was another favorite author of mine, Michael Wehunt. You can read my interview with him in the previous post!

MH: If you were to dump out the contents of your purse on a table between us, what would we find?
KD: About seventeen different lipsticks/glosses. My wallet. A pen. My phone. A thousand crumpled receipts. A piece of black obsidian to ward off negativity. A Hot Wheels my son handed me to carry and was never taken out. A small bottle of ibuprofen.
MH: Describe your writing space…what creature comforts do you need while you write?
KD: Right now, I write mostly in a chair in the reading nook in my bedroom. I usually have a glass of wine or a beer with me. And some kind of ambient music. My go to is Lull.
MH: Is there a WIP right now that we can look forward to reading? Something new in 2018?
KD: My second novel is out on query with a handful of agents. My third novel is with beta readers, and I'm 20,000 words into my fourth novel. So far in 2018 I'll have short stories in a handful of places, but nothing big is on the books. Yet.

MH: Rapid Fire Questions:

Mountains or Oceans?


eBooks or Physical Books
Too hard to chose! I like eBooks for ease of reading, but there are still some books where I desperately want the physical copy!

Music or Film?

Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio?
YUCK. Neither.

Sharks, Spiders or Snakes?
Sharks. Spiders and snakes, ironically, terrify me.
The 80s or the 90s?
Nirvana or Pearl Jam?
MH: I loved your debut novel, Beneath. Where did the idea for this cult and the ancient threat come from?
KD: I spent most of my childhood in a fundamentalist religion. That kind of blind faith that ignores logic and sometimes ethics and is the intersection between holiness and flawed humanity was something I wanted to explore. The snakes were just a bonus. :)
MH: Lastly, If you could only pick one author to read for the rest of your life, who would you choose?
KD: Joyce Carol Oates.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Author Interview: Michael Wehunt

First of all: Michael Wehunt's website is sick. Here, go look and then come back...sick website.
Second of all: Wehunt's collection of short stories, Greener Pastures, is so good--it's going down as one of my top five reads of 2017.
And third of all: This is how all author photos should look! Don't you agree?
It's serious and contemplative without being pretentious or too stylized. Other authors, take note!
Without too much fanfare, I'd like to just present to you the interview--it really needs no introduction:

Mother Horror: Hi Michael! I’m very excited to have this opportunity to interview you. I read your collection of stories, Greener Pastures, based on a recommendation by Nick Cutter on Twitter! I bought it and then almost immediately, the owners of Nocturnal Reader’s Box told me your book was coming in an upcoming box. But I was pretty proud of myself for picking it up first. Ha! Can you tell me about how being featured in the subscription box was for you? Your book was all over Instagram (#bookstagram)

Michael Wehunt: Thank you, Mother Horror, for having me!

The Nocturnal Reader’s Box was a great experience in more than one way. I think the biggest is realizing how widely popular and admired it is, which is proof that there are a great many dedicated horror fans out there looking for books to read. As an author—particularly in the small-press world—it can seem like the only influential platforms book lovers go to for discoveries are Amazon, Amazon, and Goodreads, which is owned by Amazon. This can shrink your perspective and cultivate the idea that there simply aren’t many readers these days. The Nocturnal Reader’s Box word of mouth, particularly on Instagram, opened a door I hadn’t peeked through before, and it was invigorating as a writer.

The box also helped Greener Pastures find some readers that might have never heard of it due to it not traveling in the same circles as others. Only some of my pastures (hehe) grow in the traditional horror territory, while many of them are grazed by weird fiction creatures and irrigated by less identifiable waters. The term “weird fiction” can be off-putting for some, but that word “weird” has a wide aesthetic range. It can hold a lot inside of it, definitely including horror. And at their hearts, these are horror stories, too. I’m a horror author, too. I’m just trying to explore the human heart while hopefully giving people a few nightmares.

One of the most crucial and exciting things for an author is rippling out to wider readerships, crossing over from sub-subgenre to subgenre to genre. While Greener Pastures had done satisfyingly well in the larger horror world, the Nocturnal Reader’s Box kicked that up a notch, for which I am grateful. And their fans are great! I can tell they’re serious about reading and giving their love to books they feel deserve it. So it really means something that my collection has been, so I’m told, received so well (with many beautifully composed photographs of it, too!).

Mother Horror: Where do you get inspiration for your stories? In other words, what fascinates you? Captures your attention in the natural world?  (I loved reading the “behind the story” accounts in the book! I love when authors do that!)

Michael Wehunt: The mundane fascinates me. There is such great beauty in regular life, with its regular people and their regular relationships and regular problems, that I could write about only that and be content and fulfilled. Heartbreak and grief fascinate me, particularly what the mind and heart go through during the loss of a loved one. When I read Raymond Carver for the first time (far later than I should have), I felt the striking of a chord of kinship. Just the machinations of day after day, finding and losing people. I find myself inspired by those who wouldn’t consider themselves inspiring, partly because they wouldn’t. A life with a small scope isn’t a small life.

I love driving down country roads and watching the power lines, where our nature bleeds into truer nature. Walking half a mile into the woods and just standing still, looking at the way the trees cut the sunlight, how a forest sounds different than anything else even though it seems like such a hush, the way the different canopies overhead (skinny pines, thick crowned oaks) frame the sky. More than any of those sensory details, the very fact that I’m in the woods calms and grounds me and almost makes me a truer version of myself, with some of the pretense stripped away. I grew up near the Appalachian Mountains, and as they’re some of the oldest mountains in the world, they’re worn down like an elderly dog’s teeth and heavily forested. So there, too, I am in the woods, and they are like home. And though it’s a rare treat for me, I love being near bodies of water.

The problem, of course, is that I love creepy stuff so much! Creatures, the occult (and religion, if you tilt it and look at it from an only slightly different angle), things under the bed, things that crawl out of the woods, the blank spaces between stars, and so on. So my deepest inspiration of all comes from a place where the uncanny rubs up against the everyday, like the way those power lines hum along the dense tree lines of those country roads. How does the mundane react to the strange or supernatural, and how might the mundane context of a life absorb these things and change with them? I enjoy a straight-up creepy horror story when it’s done well, and I enjoy a strictly literary exploration of a theme with prose I want to linger over, but when the two…not just meet but become symbiotic…that can be beautiful and rarefied. A lot can be explored there.

Mother Horror: Do you carry a messenger bag/man purse? Can you tell us what’s in it right now? Literally everything. If you don’t—what’s in your pockets?

Michael Wehunt: I have a pretty huge messenger bag because I like to keep certain things close to me. In it right now: Blessing the Boats, a poetry collection by Lucille Clifton; Strike Sparks, a retrospective poetry collection by Sharon Olds; my laptop; headphones; a visitor’s guide to Monhegan Island in Maine (from a trip in late August); three tiny pocket notebooks; two pens, both black ink; one yellow highlighter; a pack of gum; a granola bar I didn’t realize was in there and is now going into the trash; a contract with Electric Literature from last year when they reprinted my story “A Thousand Hundred Years” that I haven’t filed away yet for sentimental reasons.

Mother Horror: I always like to ask what authors have been an influence on you as a writer or in your formative years as a reader BUT let’s change it up a bit and see what authors are on your radar right now? Who are you currently reading? Who do you want to read books from that you haven’t yet?

Michael Wehunt: There’s such a wealth of talent in horror and weird fiction right now. Some call it a golden age and it’s easy to see why. 2017 is the Year of Women Horror Writers Completely Crushing It, which has been wonderful to see. Kristi DeMeester, Nadia Bulkin, S.P. Miskowski, Gwendolyn Kiste, and other notables all saw their debut collections come out this year, and I recommend them all. I expect to see some of these names on award ballots in the coming months.

Perhaps because I was writing my first novel most of the year, I’ve been on a bigger non-dark binge than usual, almost like my habits prior to being an author myself. I think I wanted the horror and darkness in the novel to come from a place that covered my entire experience rather than allowing anything from the past six years, when I began devouring horror and weird fiction, to seep into my book. I always tend to go back and forth between horror/supernatural and non-genre fiction. Those two halves of me overlap heavily, as I mentioned, and I need to keep both tended. I read a lot of poetry, too, slowly. This year's favorite has probably been Sharon Olds, though Mary Oliver infected my novel more. I also mention all this partly to give context to my two favorite books I read this year: The Light of the World, a memoir written by the poet Elizabeth Alexander after her husband suddenly passed away, and Autumn, a novel by Ali Smith. Both are delicate, rich, gorgeous, and heartbreaking in extremely different ways.

Right now I’m reading Shadows & Tall Trees 7, an anthology of “literary horror and weird fiction” stories. My story “Root-Light” is in it, and I’ve been itching to read the others. It has some of my favorite authors in it.

As for authors I've never read, I’ve heard so many good things about Louise Erdrich. Her work apparently blends elements of magical realism into an earthy literary mode. She has a new novel, so a new batch of good things are going around about her right now.

Mother Horror: If you were an ice cream flavor, which one would you be and why?

Michael Wehunt: Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz. I haven’t seen it for a few years now, and I miss it. Coffee ice cream with espresso bean fudge chunks. That is absolute perfection and nothing else will ever come closer to describing my soul. My partner says I should be Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch because it fits me a little better, but I’m going with the buzz. However, there is some dishonesty there. I love coffee very dearly, but I am very low-key and not the spiritual embodiment of caffeine. So regular old chocolate ice cream would be acceptable. My life is pretty boring, really, just the way I like it.

Mother Horror: What things distract you the most from your writing?

In terms of actual distraction, nothing is more of a time vampire than social media, particularly Facebook. I’m definitely not alone in that, and I need to start enforcing strict social media silence time for myself. But what pulls me away from writing far more is day-to-day life. Playing with my dog, spending time with my partner, and going for walks with both. Those aren’t distractions, though. If anything, writing is a distraction from them. Finding a balance between day job, creative job, and the people and pleasures in my life is crucial, and I don’t think I’d write anything at all without that balance.

Earlier in my career, worrying about submissions, comparing myself to other authors, being impatient, not writing as much as I thought I should be, and many other things like that distracted me greatly. I think it’s an important turning point in every author’s career and well-being when they learn (it’s a difficult lesson and one that is never learned entirely) to just let that stuff go. It doesn’t matter as much as you think. Do what you can, when you can, as best you can. Always improve yourself because yourself is all you can improve.

Mother Horror: Is there something you’re working on right now that we can get excited about?

Michael Wehunt: I’m not working on anything especially exciting right now. A couple of months ago I finished writing my first novel, and I’m very excited about it. It’s called The Lighted Hand. Since then I’ve written a short novella and a novelette. I’m hoping all of these find exciting homes in the near future. This week I started a new story, which should bring me very close to the point where I’ll start officially putting my second collection together. I have far more than enough stories for the next book, but like before, I want to be very picky about what I select to go in it and what I do not.

Mother Horror: My favorite question!! Michael Wehunt, as a writer of horror and strange, dark fiction…what scares you?

Michael Wehunt: Death terrifies me. Not so much my own death but losing the ones I love. It’s been pointed out several times (including in the book’s story notes) that many of the stories in Greener Pastures deal extensively with grief and loss, and the reason is because I often write about it in order to explore it in different ways. Grapple with it, so to speak. And in this way, emotions scare me.

When I was young, I was completely and utterly horrified by wasps, hornets, bees, anything that could fly and sting. Phrasing it “when I was young” implies that this was only when I was a child, but this phobia persisted until I had been an adult for a long time. It’s better now, but I still get nervous enough around them to count it as a fear. And yes, wasps and bees do make various appearances in my work.

In a more abstract way, the unknown scares me…or fascinates me, to be more precise. I think it’s largely why I’m drawn beyond the usual villains of horror into the less clear area of weird fiction. Thinking something (a person, a door, a forest, a film, a basement) ominous is X but it turns out to be not even Y but really this undefined Z one never could have considered…or not learning what it is in the end at all. I find masks to be creepy, especially those that look either blank or very realistic. Doppelgängers. Holes in the ground, the smell of rich soil breathing out. Animals acting strangely. Anything that is unnatural, sign me up.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Author Interview: Ian Rogers

Early in my Season of Horror adventure this year, I read several author collections of short stories. It seemed to be a trend for me and I enjoyed all of them very much. One of these collections was Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers.
 "...I would say that's his wheelhouse, the ones that are drawing you in with clever dialogue and humor but also carry around a sense of the creeps lurking around the edges..." My five star review on Goodreads. Read the FULL REVIEW

After reading all the stories in that collection, I really wanted to read more and had a browse on Ian's website. A description of a book called SuperNOIRtual really caught my attention. I believe Ian said it was out of print but he offered to send it to me. *JOY* *RAPTURE*
It came in the mail with a collection of chapbooks. I was just over the moon excited!
 "...Felix Renn is my new favorite detective. He's moody, a bit of a wise ass and a total lone wolf..." My four star review on Goodreads, read the FULL REVIEW

After reading and reviewing both books, I decided I'd like to interview Ian Rogers for the blog and he graciously accepted. So here is that interview for you now. Enjoy!

Mother Horror: Ian, I always like to start out by asking: What kind of kid were you, growing up? Tell us about little Ian Rogers. What kind of books did you read? Did you have a favorite sweater?

Ian Rogers: As a kid I was the shy, loner type, and a total nerd -- comics, video games, horror movies. Not much has changed with adulthood, only I found a woman who's willing to put up with all of that, mostly because she's a bit of a nerd herself. Like calls to like, I guess!

My reading tastes are all over the map. I'll read anything as long as it has a decent story. I tend toward horror and detective fiction, because they're my favourites, but I read all the genres. To me books are like food. I like to try a bit of everything because you never know what you might like until you give it a chance. People who won't try anything new are only missing out. 

I don't have a favourite sweater, but I've got a robe that I pretty much live in when I'm writing. My office is in the basement, and it's always cold down there, even in the summer, so the robe is not just for comfort but also for warmth!

MH: Who are your major influences both then and now, as a reader and a writer?

IR: As a horror writer I suppose it's not much of a surprise to say that Stephen King is my biggest influence. My mother was a King fan and she always had his books lying around the house when I was a kid. The general rule of the house regarding horror books and movies was, You can read and watch what you want, but the moment it gives you nightmares, you're cut off. My father has never been much of a horror fan. He leaned more toward Louis L'Amour and National Geographic. I came to Westerns later in life, but I have a deep respect for L'Amour, who knew he wasn't any great shakes as a writer, but was happier to be remembered as a great storyteller.

I was also heavily influenced by classic crime writers like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. They had prose styles that managed to be both dark and lyrical. And I was immediately drawn to their tales of private investigators fighting against insurmountable odds. My favourite author of detective fiction is Ross Macdonald, who was one of the first writers to really explore the emotional and psychological depths of the detective character. He really paved the way for the likes of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books and Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. I would also count Elmore Leonard as a major influence simply because he wrote the best dialogue in crime fiction, and his characters, especially his criminals, were always so real and believable. 

MH: I found you because you tweeted a picture of Nick Cutter playing basketball at your house in teddy bear PJs. I nosed around a bit and found that you were the author of a book called, “Every House is Haunted” a collection of short stories. Can you tell me a little bit about the history behind that book?

IR: Ahh, the internet. Craig is such a sport to allow that picture online. Or maybe I never told him... I don't recall.

Every House Is Haunted is the culmination of my first five or six years as a published author. It includes most of the stories I sold during that period, and I feel it's a good introduction to my work, both in terms of style and content. 

MH: I recently read SuperNOIRtual, a collection of short stories that take place in the Black Lands with a reoccurring protagonist named Felix Renn. I really, really loved it and I was excited to learn Felix was going to get his own, full-length novel. Can you tell me more about that character, in particular and then what you have planned for him?

IR: I created Felix because I wanted to write a series of stories featuring a private detective in a world where the supernatural exists simply as a matter of course. There's no magic, no witches or wizards, or anything that people are using to make their lives better. In my world, the supernatural is a deadly force that people are struggling to understand, and to live with. It's like a dark cloud hanging over the entire planet. A world where parents can no longer tell their kids that monsters don't exist. They learn about it in school. I wanted to explore what that world would be like, and I thought using Felix as a guide would make for some interesting stories.

I also wanted to put my own spin on the private eye character. In the classic stories, the PI is usually a hard-drinking tough guy who wears a trenchcoat and a fedora. He has a back-talking secretary with whom he has sexual tension, but they never do anything about it. With Felix I decided to explore what would happen if the detective finally made a move and got romantically involved with his secretary. Then I took it one step further and said, What if they got married? That still wasn't quite interesting enough for me, so I took it even further and said, What if they got married, then got divorced, but discovered they're still not quite done with each other. They're not interested in getting back together, but they kind of need each other in ways they can't admit or articulate. That interested me. Having written several Felix Renn stories over the years, I will say that Felix's relationship with his ex-wife/assistant, Sandra, is one of my favourite things about the series.

I'm currently working on the first Felix novel, which will be called Sycamore. It's about half finished, and when it's done I'll be jumping immediately into the second book, which is already outlined and ready to go. 

MH: Do you have any other novels in the works?

IR: I finished a supernatural thriller called The Underwood that's currently making the rounds with publishers right now. I've got another standalone horror novel ready to go, but I won't be getting to that one until the Felix books are finished.

MH: As a writer myself, can you tell me, the best way you can, what it feels like to hold your book in your hands for the first time?

IR: It's pretty incredible. Holding it in my hands, I was immediately taken aback by seeing my name on the cover. It's a moment I've fantasized about for a long time. But mostly what I thought about was all the people who had gotten me to that moment. I was at my publisher's house, standing in their kitchen, when I finally got to hold a copy of the book in my hands. I thought about all the people who encouraged and supported me over the years, all the way back to my mom who always had those Stephen King books lying around the house. That's why I ended up dedicating Every House Is Haunted to her memory.

MH: If you were an ice cream flavor, which flavor would you be and why?

IR: Probably something with raisins, since I hate them, especially in ice cream. If I was a flavour I liked, I'd just end up eating myself. I realize this is an odd, back-handed way to suggest that I secretly hate myself, but trust me, it's the raisins I hate. And spiders. But you rarely find them in ice cream. At least not on purpose.

MH: What do you enjoy doing when your not writing? Is it something to do with cats?
IR: When I'm not writing I'm usually reading or watching a movie. Or if the weather is decent I enjoy going for walks. My cats are always climbing on me or sleeping on me, so it's nice to get a break from all that, and a good long walk is a great way to stir the creative juices, especially if I'm logjammed on a particularly difficult plot point.

MH: I’m curious about your writing space, what does it look like and what time of the day do you find you are most productive?

IR: I write in an office in the basement. It's fairly large, with its own bathroom and walk-in closet. Bookshelves on every wall, packed well beyond capacity, and a couple of cardboard boxes on the floor that the cats sleep in. I wanted to move my coffeemaker down there, but my wife says if I did that she'd never see me. She's probably right.

I'm most productive in the morning, usually right after my first coffee of the day, when the caffeine is perking in my veins. I used to be a night owl, but my wife, who goes to bed most nights at 9pm, has changed that for me. Instead of staying up all night writing, I switched to mornings. It's probably healthier in the long run, but I always enjoyed the nights because it tended to be quieter and with fewer distractions.

MH: Lastly, what terrifies you? Fascinates you, currently?

IR: What terrifies me? Spiders. And U.S. politics.

Fascinates me? My wife. Constantly.