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. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Author Interview: Kealan Patrick Burke

My slippery slope decent into horror began innocently enough with stealing Stephen King books off my mother's bookshelves when I was thirteen. Eventually I had read all of them. Then I moved out, started a family of my own and began building my Stephen King collection (now my daughter steals my books).
However, I think it was Autumn of 2016 when I started binge reading horror books and then I sort of forgot to stop and read my other books of different genres. I'm currently in a horror TRENCH of which I might never escape (but I'm not really trying to get out, I'm just really digging the trench deeper).
Now that I'm fully immersed in this dark corner of 'book world' I get some recommendations from people who have been there for a long time. Several horror lovers told me I had to start reading Kealan Patrick Burke's books, specifically to start with Blanky.
So I bought it and I loved it. You can read my review HERE on Goodreads
Before I even read the book, I asked Kealan if I could interview him after my first experience with his writing and he graciously agreed. I'm really so honored to present that interview with you now:

Mother Horror: Hi Kealan, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. I really appreciate it. I recently read your novella, Blanky and enjoyed it very much. I’ll be moving on to read *everything* you have to offer now, so my book buying budget thanks you for that. I noticed in the back of Blanky, in your “About the Author” you’ve always known you would be a writer of horror stories and yet, it seems like you’ve had lots of different careers. Did you write while you worked those jobs or did you wait until you could be a full time author?

Thanks for having me, and my (completely insincere) apologies for leaving you wanting more!

All those jobs listed in my bio were due to the economical necessities of real life. Writing may be the dream, but eating is a necessity. I’ve been writing since I was old enough to know how, but, in every respect, I had to work my way up to doing it for a living. So, as I made my way through life, I bounced from job to job trying to find something I enjoyed that could finance the eventual goal of writing full-time. And while I can’t say I ever really enjoyed any of those jobs (except maybe fraud investigating), they allowed me to keep being alive, and being alive is an important tool for a writer.

Mother Horror: That “About the Author” section also said some of your books have been optioned for film. Which ones specifically and is there a movie coming in the very near future we can get excited about?

Peekers, Sour Candy, and Kin have all been optioned by some notable movie folk, though what might come of that, if anything, remains to be seen. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to say as little as possible until there’s concrete news to share. Hopefully I’ll be able to say more soon…

Mother Horror: I’m currently working on writing my own horror novel so I’m always very curious about the writing practices of successful writers such as yourself. Can you tell me a few lessons you learned the hard way?

Never use more words than you need. This sounds obvious, but when I look back on my earlier work, I’ll see sentences like: “She turned around and walked across the room to the door”, which is, frankly, shit. “She went to the door,” would do just as well. The character isn’t made of sticks, so every movement isn’t worthy of documentation. Always remove unnecessary words.

Don’t fall in love with your own voice. This ties in to the previous point, and happens when you first start to find a rhythm in your work. There’s as fine a line between confidence and overconfidence as there is between poetic prose and purple. Early on—and I’m still sometimes guilty of this—I’ll fall into the trap of lyrical description that, while it may look pretty, doesn’t convey enough to justify keeping it. Like, if you write six sentences of lavish, beautiful prose, but then realize all you’ve done is describe a floor lamp. It may be sexy, but if it doesn’t advance the story in any way, it needs to go.

Criticism: if you put your work out there, it’s going to be disseminated, dissected, and shredded. Not everything you write will be gold, and readers will not be shy about letting you know that. Learn what you can from the criticism (because if ten people are saying the same thing, it might be time to listen) and discard the rest, but never, ever, take it personally, even if the review compares you to an untalented burlap sack full of squirrel balls. Good reviews are great for the ego; informative bad reviews are great for your toolkit and advancement as a writer.

And you should always be learning, soaking up new information, new tricks, new ways to tell the story. If you ever reach a point where you think you have nothing left to learn, you’re in the wrong business and should probably get a job as a substitute diving board straightener.

Mother Horror: Congratulations on your Bram Stoker Award win for Turtle Boy. Can you tell us what the nomination process is like and then how it feels to have won such a prestigious award in your specific genre?

I’m not sure how the process goes these days, as I haven’t been a member of the HWA in a very long time, but back then, any member of the organization could recommend a work for nomination. If the work got enough recommendations, it would advance to the preliminary ballot. From that, a jury would decide the nominations. At least, I think that’s how it went. My recollection is hazy. What I do know, though, is that after learning that I had won the award, I immediately ran to the phone and called my mother back in Ireland to tell her the news. She proceeded to do a jig out in our back yard. Then I bought a few bottles of champagne and got very, very drunk.

I’d spent my teens reading books that bore the words “Bram Stoker Award Winner” on the cover, and even though I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, I knew I wanted to have the kind of career in which (a) I’d have a book out there for people to read and (b) that it would be good enough to bear those same words on the cover one day. I don’t think I had any realistic expectation that it would ever happen, but happen it did, and I was ecstatic.

Mother Horror: I apologize in advance for this (actually, no. I don’t.) but I always ask the authors I interview what flavor of ice cream they would be and why. I think it’s extremely telling and now you must answer it. (I think Nick Cutter skipped this one so I’m not allowing it as a ‘skippable’ question)

Mint chocolate chip, because it probably seems different and interesting, but in the end, is pretty standard stuff and probably not very good for you.

Mother Horror: I saw that you also own a book cover design company. Which honestly, doesn’t surprise me because the covers of your own books are very compelling. Is this an endeavor born out of a passion for good book design?

Like all those other jobs, it came about as a practical consideration. When I first started making my backlist titles available for digital publication, they needed new covers. There were a lot of them and covers weren’t cheap. Given that I was broker than an upside-down beggar with holes in his shoulders, I decided to call upon my crude abilities as an image thrower-together, acquaint myself with the intricacies of Photoshop, and do them myself. That was about five or six years ago, and, as with writing, I’m still always working to get better at it. But yes, I think good book covers are essential, for more reasons than just marketing. Nobody gets drawn to an ugly book unless the ugliness is the point.

Mother Horror: I read a quote somewhere once about how a book is something started by the author but finished in the hands of the reader. I think this strongly resembles the way I felt reading Blanky. The way the narrator is so intimately connected to the reader is something that lasts through the entire story and then the ending is ambiguous enough to be left to interpretation by each individual reader. Is that a relationship you intentionally have with your audience in all your storytelling or was that specific to Blanky?

I would definitely agree with that quote, and I’m often fascinated with how readers can derive different meanings from my stories, and how sometimes all of them can be completely at odds with my original intent. I used to think that because I wrote the story, my opinion was obviously the correct one. I mean, who would know the true meaning if not the creator, right? But then it was suggested to me that the novelist might not always be the best judge of their book’s meaning, and my head exploded. It was an idea that had never occurred to me. Then, a few years later, a reviewer wrote a dissemination of my Timmy Quinn series in which he asserted that the books were all about fathers and sons, and family as a whole. This was certainly not my intention. To me, the books were just creepy ghost stories. But when I looked back on them, I saw that he was indeed correct. It was all right there on the page, and yet, somehow, I’d written that in there without being aware of it. Again, head exploded. So yes, to me the reader is an essential collaborator. Otherwise books are just a bunch of words on the page. I love hearing people’s interpretations of my work, and I love ambiguity. I love reaching out to the reader and asking them, “Well? Was he batshit crazy in the end, or did all of this really happen?” It’s a collaboration.

Mother Horror: Lastly, what scares you Kealan Patrick Burke? What are you fascinated by and will we see these things in future stories?

I think anything that scares me already appears in my books, many times over, and will certainly inform future work: death, depression, isolation, loss of identity, loss of memory, insanity, and being alone and/or unloved. To me, we are the scariest things, who we are, what we are, what we can become, what we do to each other, and what comes next.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10 Things I Learned Because of Bookstagram

First, what's "Bookstagram"? It's a hashtag on the social media platform, Instagram. You can find me right HERE. Basically, the real definition of #bookstagramming is having a dedicated account just for posting books. I started doing it about two years ago and during those two years, I've learned a few things about myself in the process. I thought you'd like to hear them and see if maybe you can relate:

I used to think that being a book nerd and loving books was an introverted, lonely affair. It's NOT! Now, after being apart of this book lovers paradise on Instagram, I don't know that I could ever enjoy books privately ever again. Book loving is a very communal past time! People love to share what they're reading and see what others are reading and then discuss these matters to death. I can't explain it fully, but now that I know this, I can't go back.

Writing reviews is something I am wildly passionate about. I take great pride in finishing a book and then formulating the words to describe how I felt before, during and after a read. I am careful about not overdoing a synopsis (because do you even know how much authors agonize over writing the book blurb on the back? I would never try to explain a book's plot--it's already been done to the best of the *author's* ability). I also steer around any potential spoilers, I like going into most books totally blind and even someone's opinion of a detail can cloud my judgement. I used to not care about these things but now that I know people are reading them, I do. You can find my full reviews on Goodreads HERE

I never knew I would love taking pictures of books so much. I seriously sit with a blank look on my face, my eyes all glazed over and my face slack, daydreaming about how I want to photograph certain books. It's ridiculous. I see things in nature and think, 'I need that pine cone for a photo'. I'll do anything for a great photo, including keeping a bowl of stale popcorn around so I can keep using it for photos, make a pot of coffee so I can have a mug next to a book or even buy stupid props at the dollar store. I swear, its weirdly the best thing ever.

There is a phobia that I have now, thanks to bookstagram. It's booknerdaphobia and it's the fear of not being able to finish all the books you own. It's real. If I allow myself to look at the spines of all the fantastic books I own that I haven't read yet, I could die of heart attack thinking that I might not EVER get around to them. I start to think of ways I could sit in my house and JUST read books. Can someone pay me to do this? Is this feasible? Please, please let me read all these books. *I'm crying now*

So I used to think that famous authors sit in these ivory towers and write books and then they pat themselves on the back for a job well done. This is not the case. Authors are real people with real feelings. They want/need people to read their books and then write reviews, good or bad. If you love an author and their books, encourage them! Promote them! Tell others so that your favorite author can keep making a living off of what they are so good at! I follow their blogs, subscribe to their newsletters, write reviews on Goodreads and then I post that on Instagram and Twitter. Often times, the authors thank me for this and it feels good to be in such a glorious win/win situation.

If Facebook is like the family you were born into and are bound to by obligation then Instagram is the community you belong to because you chose it. It's a very specific niche community, almost like subscribing to a magazine about knitting or fishing, bookstagram is a subscription to books and all the people who feel the way you do about them. It's a beautiful thing and I have met hundreds of amazing people there. People who I call more than just "internet friends". Real life friends. All over the world. Seriously amazing.

My cute friend in Ireland, Jo


I learned that just like in any group of people who are interacting on a daily basis, there will be those people who probably should not have a social media platform. Social media is a very tricky business. It's difficult to stay true to who you are in the face of so much diversity. There is always the temptation to be jealous or envious or view a thing like bookstagram as a competition. I have had to draw a very hard line with people like that. There are also people who use public platforms to spread their ugliness! I remember an instance where this guy was just stirring up controversy of all kinds within the bookstagram community and it was cool to see a bunch of levelheaded people come together and just sort throw him out on his ass. Like, get your shit together pal. Go spew your hate on YouTube or something.

I learned that my true calling is horror. I have always dabbled in it. I have collected all of Stephen King's books and I started collecting other horror books too and then bookstagram came along and just blew shit up! I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a rep for a company called The Nocturnal Readers Box and every month I was getting hooked up with more horror than I could keep up with! I followed accounts with other people who love horror too and getting all these recommendations for more and more and more people are starting to love it too, one of my friends, Ashley, just started on her horror loving journey and she casually dubbed me Mother Horror one time in our private messages. It sorta stuck and now, it's my jam. Lovingly guiding new and seasoned horror enthusiasts through their TBR stacks of scary stuff. Keep. It. Coming.

Bookstagram feeds my drive for a creative outlet. It's killing two birds with one stone--it's helping me to become a more aggressive, avid reader as well as letting me showcase my artistic side with the photos and reviews. I see that others get the same positive benefits from it as well and as a sidenote: If bookstagram is causing you anxiety, stress or any other negative feelings, I highly recommend that you take a long break to get yourself sorted. So often I see people fussing about feeling bad about this thing or that thing and if you can relate to that, then just remember who you are apart from Instagram. It's not where we should be getting our identity or self worth. I struggle with it too sometimes so I'm not judging, just encouraging.

Lastly, I learned that I don't nearly have enough books and bookish accessories and I will gladly accept donations. Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kickstarter Campaign: Death of the Horror Anthology

Interview with Artist/Writer Kelly Brack 
Subject: Death of the Horror Anthology Kickstarter

I’ll start off by saying, I saw that beautiful cover art for Death of the Horror Anthology by Adam Gorham on Twitter and it stopped me dead in my tracks! Did you have a vision for the cover that Adam worked from or was he inspired from one of the stories? I’m curious what the story is behind that cover.

Kelly- To be perfectly honest, I was a little taken off guard when Adam Gorham even agreed to do the cover in the first place. I didn’t anticipate a yes and was merely asking for the sake of asking. So, when he agreed to do it, I had zero idea of what I wanted. I briefly mentioned the idea of a werewolf. I thought that with a theme of (Inner Demons), there is no greater inner demon in the horror genre of a beast trapped inside the man. Other than that, I got out of Adam’s way, and he came up with a beautiful cover with an ominous feel that looks like an instant classic for all that love horror.

I’ll tell you, I was turned on to Gorham’s art from seeing his illustrations in Nick Cutter’s book, Little Heaven. I actually wish more novelists would seek after illustrations for their books—how can we make this happen Kelly! *laughing*

Kelly- I agree! I don’t know how we can make this happen. But I am on board! I love the use of illustrations in novels.

There are so many talented people involved in this project. Was this the collaborated effort of multiple artists or was this your idea and you approached everyone to see if they wanted in? Tell me about how this idea was born.

Kelly- It’s funny how it came about. Firstly, I was looking to get more content out there and was given advice to do some more short stories while I wait for a couple of my larger projects to conclude. I love the idea of community projects and the anthology seemed like a great collaborative endeavor. I approached a few writers that I have a huge amount of respect for (John Ward, Cody Sousa and Jed McPherson) and asked if they would like to take part. Subsequently, I asked Bryan Hill (Postal, Romulus) if he would be interested in taking part as well. I asked him after a night of drinking and a higher level of courage. After he said yes, I kept the train rolling and asked Ryan Ferrier, Vita Ayala, Katy Rex, the writer’s of The Dregs. These are all people that I never thought i’d ever get the chance to work with, so as you can imagine, I was very humbled but up for the challenge.

Kelly, are you comfortable telling us a little about what your story is about? Maybe a little teaser? I know that all the stories have a theme of “Inner Demons” so maybe you want to elaborate on that a little for your personal contribution?

Kelly- The thing that intrigues me so much about ‘inner demons’ is that it’s such a broad concept. I don’t think anyone would feel restricted to their story telling and will make for some very compelling horror stories. In my case, I am doing a story with one of my favourite artists on the planet, Chris Shehan. I’m very aware of Chris’ wide range and skill level, so I felt very free to go as big as I wanted. We are doing a story titled ‘Old Wounds’. When writing, I really wanted to take a familiar concept and put our stamp on it with a new and fresh take. There’s not a whole lot that I want to give away, but I will say that we play with the idea of no free will.

So, why horror? Are you a big fan of this genre in literature or film? If so, what artists are big influences for you—movie directors, authors, etc.

Kelly- I’m not entirely sure why I picked horror. I believe I was on the phone with John Ward one night going over the details, and after being asked what the genre would be...I just said “horror”. It was a first instinct and felt right, so we stuck with it. It’s actually funny how I came up with the name of the anthology. I had a night of paranoia and felt that I was going to mess this project up. I said to myself that if I mess this project up, it will be the death of the horror anthology. After hearing that out loud, I thought it had a ring to it. I am a fan of the horror genre, but often feel that a lot of the tropes are being over used to an incredible extent. For film, I love the classics. Halloween is probably the movie that truly terrifies me the most. The simplicity of the tone, directing and concept really captured my imagination. For books, I’m a massive fan of Alan Moore’s work on Swamp Thing. What he did with that character will always be transcendent and influential on anything that I do.
Even if the story isn’t the best, I always appreciate horror films with practical effects. Books will obviously be Swamp Thing. Alan Moore’s entire run is breathtaking. Tom King and Mitch Gerads had a single issue of Swamp Thing within their Batman run. Not only did I love that one shot story, but it is probably the most influential to the story Chris and I are doing. Sandman by Neil Gaiman is always a classic, but most recently I would recommend The Dregs by Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson, both of which are a part of this anthology.

So Kickstarter, if this project gets fully funded, what will be your initial plan of attack—is it full steam ahead for all the artists involved or will this be happening slowly over a period of time? Do you have a soft target date?

Kelly- Once funded we have deadlines set in place. We have a lot of variables to take in account. The creators involved are not only busy with other, better paying projects, but have personal lives as well. With the holiday season coming up we added a little buffer for that reason as well, just to be safe. We plan on all of our stories to be complete by end of January and we will have digital copies ready for our backers in February and project an April print month.

It would be awesome if a publisher got a hold of this and it was available to the public at large, is that part of this project’s potential? Tell me about your projected goals?

Kelly- I agree. I would absolutely love if this book was not only successfully funded, but published after the fact. With the talent involved, and the story concepts, I very much think it’s of high potential for that to be a possibility. I tend not to think that far a head however. Currently, my goal is to give the best horror anthology that we can.

Finally, If this project is successful (and I think it will be) could there be more collaborations like this in the future??

Kelly- I certainly hope so! Death of the Horror Anthology Vol. 2 does have a ring to it! But again, I am not thinking that far ahead with anything. I’m very much grounded and hands on with what is happening currently. So, thinking of those possibilities doesn’t really cross my mind at the moment.

Kelly- I would like everyone to know that this anthology isn’t just full of talented people, but great, supportive people as well. We are having a blast doing what we are doing, and it will show in the 200+ pages of stunning black and white! Before we go, let me say thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you. Any and all help making this project come to life is truly appreciated!

Thank you so much Sadie!

 Brendan Purchase-- "Come In"
MELISSA HUDSON - "Watcher on the Bridge."