Author Interview: Jason Bovberg

Author Interview: Jason Bovberg

Can you tell us about your new book, Blood Dawn?

Blood Dawn brings my wacko apocalyptic-horror/sci-fi Blood trilogy to a close. It’s a saga that I like to call a cross between John Carpenter’s The Thing and George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. When I first started the trilogy, zombies were all the rage—but even then I could sense that the fad was reaching saturation point and even beginning to implode on itself. There were zombie kiddie books and joke books out there, fer chrissakes. So, I wanted to tell a story that had some zombie trappings but then diverted into something incredibly strange and new. That was the intent.

Blood Red (2014) tells its apocalyptic-horror story from the perspective of Rachel, a disaffected, moody teen who happens to survive an initial alien attack thanks to a genetic quirk. She scrambles through her infected town, wading through masses of fallen bodies, searching for her lost father. The story is told in real time and is very fast-paced. It has the feel of a zombie tale, for sure, and yet it’s something altogether more strange. This is also very much a coming-of-age tale, with an almost reluctant heroine who just happens to be a smart girl in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Draw Blood (2015) continues the story in the immediate aftermath of the events of Blood Red—but this time from the perspective of Rachel’s father, Michael. For this book, we have a new, more adult perspective of “the end of the world,” and we learn new things about the meaning of the attack—and there’s a new sense of urgency, particularly now that the fallen bodies have really begun to go on the offensive. And Michael has some of his own secrets that spice up the story. This is the father-daughter tale of the saga, and it’s also the Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy.

Blood Dawn (2017) finishes off the trilogy from the perspective of yet another character—Felicia, a formerly infected person who has been turned back to humanity but who retains a shadow of what was inside her. This book brings closure to the mystery of the infection and really amps up the horror and gore. It definitely goes out with a bang, as you can perceive from the book’s cover. Rachel makes a big comeback as our heroine, but she’s definitely sharing the spotlight with the fascinating Felicia.

I’ve enjoyed playing with perspective in these three books, obviously. I love books that approach an event—in this case, a ghastly End of Days event—from multiple points of view, each informing the next, each adding a little more to the mystery, and all of them adding up to a more collective, gratifying whole. In that sense, I hope I’ve created a saga that has paid most of its attention to a few key characters in the midst of an insane, existential, alien attack. That’s what it’s been about for me, anyway.

Did you intend for this to be a trilogy when you started the BLOOD saga?

About halfway through writing Blood Red, I knew what I wanted to try with perspective, and I knew it would take three books. And that’s when I knew exactly how to end Book 1—on a huge narrative cliffhanger but on a strong and devastating character note. Every once in a while, I’ll page through the final chapter of Blood Red and feel that gutwrench: “Oh sweet Jesus, what did I do to you? I’m so sorry!”

Playing God is so fantastic. And in the case of the Blood saga, I knew early on that I would be the god of a trilogy.

Where did it all begin for you as a horror writer?

Cancer.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease at 19, and although I had written stories before then through high school, it was after the diagnosis when my output began turning dark. It was my way of dealing with the unfairness and monstrousness of it all. I’ve since experimented with several genres, from crime to magic realism to porn, but five years ago I knew that I wanted to return to my roots and really go hell-for-leather. The Blood saga is the result.

Who are your favorite authors and which of their books mean the most to you?

About the time of the cancer diagnosis, I was reading a lot of Clive Barker. His Books of Blood stories mean a lot to me—intricate dark worlds of horror, many of them described as so-called body horror, which I was going through myself. It’s probably not a coincidence that I’ve used the word Blood in my saga—and that blood itself plays such a huge part in the narrative.

Since then, I’ve devoured a lot of horror novels and stories, and I’ll take a moment to mention some personal, maybe unsung favorites: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell, Deadweight by Robert Devereaux, Blackburn by Bradley Denton, Under the Skin by Michael Faber, Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, and—recently—The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading Ill Will by Dan Chaon—so far, a fascinating story also told from multiple perspectives and set in various timeframes. It’s an unsettling book that keeps you off balance. I can already tell I’ll be reading more from Chaon.

I’m interested to hear about how you write. Do you lock yourself away? Burn the midnight oil?

I’m a father to a couple girls, and I also own my own technical writing/editing business, so really it’s a matter of finding the time and opportunity. I fit in fiction whenever I damn well can—and that can be a tough proposition after spending the day immersed in language, either editing or doing other kinds of writing! Often, the opportunity will come when I need to drop a kid off at the gym and I can spend two hours writing at a restaurant or coffee shop. I’ve also been known to plop myself in front of a football game and let that play in the background while I type unspeakable horror into my Surface.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

When you have a fractured schedule, like mine, the toughest thing is keeping a strong, consistent narrative through-line in your given project. The reality of my situation is that a week or two might go by between writing sessions, but even so, I have to keep up a certain momentum in the story. People who write every day on a rigid schedule have the advantage of built-in momentum—or at least it’s easier to achieve that way. I find that my work comes out of me in chunks, separated by dry intervals, and for that reason, the revision process and second draft become more vital to the power of the story. I have to find the through-line later in the process and make sure the narrative has a consistent thrust.

What is your favorite horror movie?

I’ll name my top 3 of all time: John Carpenter’s The Thing, Ridley Scott’s Alien, and John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London.

As long as we’re talking movies, I’ll mention that one of the big motivations for telling my trilogy from three different perspectives stems from the original idea for Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield. Over time, we were supposed to get several “found footage” films from different perspectives on the same apocalyptic event. So, Cloverfield—not only for point-of-view but also for that feeling of real-time, you-are-there immediacy—was one source of inspiration for the Blood saga.

Have you thought about your next book?

I’m thinking of returning to the genre and tone of my first book, The Naked Dame, which is a throwback noir set in 1950s Los Angeles. I had a lot of fun with that book. I’m feeling the need to write something a bit less dark after the splattery insanity of the Blood saga.

Author Interview: Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason

Author Interview: Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason

Thanks to the awesome Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason for sharing their thoughts with me:

Congratulations on your Bram Stoker Award nomination for Mayan Blue. That’s a great achievement! How did the book come together, what was your inspiration?

Thanks so much! Melissa was watching a show about how people believe the Mayans may have migrated into the southern parts of the United States and we thought it would be a unique idea for our debut novel. We have written together since we were little girls so working together was easy. We outlined the story and started writing it.

Where did it all begin for you as horror writers?

We’ve always been those kids who love Halloween, monsters and spooky stuff. Our mother is also a fan of horror movies so she always supported our love for scary movies and books. We wanted to be storytellers after listening to our father tell ghost stories around the campfire.

Mayan BlueI’m interested to hear about how you write, and how do you divide up a story between the two of you?

We outline the whole story and write mostly by hand before typing it out. The typed version becomes a second draft. We get together about five days a week to write together and that’s when we decide who will take over certain chapters depending on our schedules. We also call each other a lot to read what we’ve written and decide together if the story is going how we want it to.

Do you ever have disagreements on the direction of a story?

No, if something comes up in a story that we be both can’t agree on we just talk it out to find a solution. In the end every decision is based only on what makes the story better.

Who are your favorite authors and which of their books mean the most to you?

We read a mixture of genres but our number one choice is always horror. We really admire Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Ronald Kelly, Roald Dahl, Tolkien, and King. The Lord of the rings and the Dark tower are really special to us.

What books are you reading now?

We’ve been reading Adam Cesare, Paul Tremblay, Gabino Iglesias. Too many books to name but these authors are really awesome.

What is your favorite horror movie?

American Werewolf in London and The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

What new material can we look forward to reading next?

We have a novel coming out soon through Bloodshot Books called Those Who Follow.

Author Interview: Nicole Cushing

Author Interview: Nicole Cushing

I’m excited to bring you an interview with recent Bram Stoker Award winner Nicole Cushing. Her latest book The Sadist’s Bible is out now.

First of all, congratulations on your Bram Stoker Award for Mr. Suicide!  How does it feel to be honored among such company as past winners Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, and, my favorite, Clive Barker?

It’s exciting and satisfying. I’m proud of the book and the Stoker award validates that pride. I’m also happy for my editor/publisher, Ross Lockhart. He took a risk by publishing something controversial. It’s gratifying to see his risk publicly rewarded.

Sadists_Cover_digital (1)Can you tell us about your latest book and where the inspiration came for it? 

In April, 01Publishing released my novella The Sadist’s Bible. Like Mr. Suicide, it’s a work of transgressive horror fiction.

It was inspired by a strange vision I had while resting on a rooftop in New Orleans–a day-dreamy, half-hallucinatory vision of a savage mystical realm. (And for those who might be wondering, I was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time. Nor was it an actual encounter with the supernatural. Nor am I nuts. It was just a particularly vivid flight of the imagination.)

I don’t want to describe this vision in more detail because I don’t want to spoil the plot. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything, though, by saying it was a disturbing experience that inspired a disturbing book.

Do you remember the film or book that first ignited your passion for horror? 

I grew up in a conservative, religious household that restricted my access to horror films and books. But it was hard for them to censor television, because I eventually had a little black-and-white TV in my room. So I watched a lot of horror-related TV programming, and that’s how I got my fix.

One of the UHF stations showed horror movies (mostly from the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s) each Saturday afternoon on a program called Creature Double Feature. That was one of my main sources of horror back in the day. I also enjoyed a lot of anthology series (which seemed to flourish back in the ’80s). Freddy’s Nightmares and Tales from the Darkside were two of my favorites. (Though the opening theme music to Tales from the Darkside scared the shit out of me.) I remember watching a few episodes of the ’80s reboot of The Twilight Zone as well as sneaking a peek at old late night reruns of Night Gallery. (I never saw the original ’60s Twilight Zone episodes until I was an adult. For some reason they weren’t in syndication when I was a kid. At least, not where I was living.)

Where did it all begin for you as a horror writer?

Well, I first attempted to write horror fiction about twenty years ago–right after I got out of college. However, I lacked the work ethic and stability to make a true go of it. After the first few rejections came in, I gave up.

A few years later, I made another attempt. That time, I got in touch with a local writers group. But I still didn’t have a great work ethic. I mostly used the writers group as a party group. I did manage to sell a handful of stories. Ultimately though, that effort also fell apart.

In 2008 I was in my mid-thirties and I decided to make yet another try. By that point in my life I had acquired enough maturity and enough of a work ethic that I was able to withstand all the rejections. I enrolled in a few inexpensive writing workshops that were quite helpful. And I’ve been writing steadily ever since then, working as hard as I can to get better and better. It’s been a long slog, but I’m so glad I didn’t give up.

Author headshot B&WWhen do you normally write? Do you lock yourself away and have a set routine? 

When I get up in the morning I read for an hour. Then I start writing. I’m fortunate. I don’t currently have a day job. So I might spend eight or nine hours a day writing or attending to writing-related business tasks. I try to keep to a strict schedule. Routine is what keeps me from watching cat videos all day.

Who are your favorite authors and which of their books mean the most to you?

I’m a huge fan of Thomas Ligotti (an author of short stories that straddle the line between cosmic horror and literary fiction). His collection Teatro Grottesco ranks among the greatest horror books ever written. (And I don’t say that lightly.)

I also very much enjoy the work of Jack Ketchum. At his best, Ketchum offers the reader a heartbreaking, emotionally-honest depiction of cruelty, trauma, and loss. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in his masterpiece The Girl Next Door.

Do you have a favorite story you’ve written?

Nope. Once I write something, it’s in the rearview mirror and I don’t think about it too much. Maybe one day when my writing career is over and I’m a toothless old hag in a nursing home, I’ll have the time to think it through and decide on one.

What scares you?

Death, heights, mice, roller coasters, terrorists, debt and ignorance. Not necessarily in that order.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading The Annotated Poe, edited by Kevin J. Hayes. It’s a beautiful hardcover with lavish illustrations. Hayes provides a wealth of information in this edition of Poe–information that can increase a reader’s understanding of both the author and his work.

What are you currently working on? 

A novella tentatively titled Broken Animals.

Do you have any advice for new authors? 

Remember that the writing is the main thing. Focus on that. Don’t focus on the controversy du jour on Facebook. Don’t focus on drama. Don’t focus on the resident egomaniac in your local writing group. Don’t focus on the egomaniacs out in the blogosphere. Don’t focus on marketing or developing your so-called “brand”. Not when you’re new, at least. Just write everyday and read everyday. Get better at your craft.

Thanks, Nicole!

Author Interview: Barbie Wilde

Author Interview: Barbie Wilde

Book ShotI’m delighted to be joined by the wonderful Barbie Wilde! If you haven’t read The Venus Complex or Voices of the Damned, you must!

How did Voices of the Damned come about?

I had the idea of doing a collection of my short horror stories a while ago, but I wanted to do something different. Paul Fry of SST Publications contacted me back in November 2014, complimenting me on my debut dark crime novel, The Venus Complex, which he had just finished reading. He said that if I ever had a project, then to please consider his company. I’d already done a couple of reviews of Daniele Serra’s art books for SST publications: Veins and Skulls (for Fangoria) and I Tell You It’s Love (with a story by Joe Lansdale), so I was familiar with the kind of projects that SST was involved with. They specialize in doing quality full color art books amongst other things.

The art and illustrations in Voices of the Damned are magnificent and really complement the stories. How did you pull those together?

We got Daniele on board immediately. Dani had already done the cover art for my debut dark crime novel, The Venus Complex, and I adore his work. Then I thought: why not ask Clive Barker? He generously allowed me to use three of his artworks: one for the cover and two to illustrate couple of stories in the collection. (And big thanks to Mark Allen Miller, VP of Clive’s Seraphim Films for helping coordinate this.) Then I asked Nick Percival, because I loved his work on the Hellraiser Boom! Comics, then Steve McGinnis (who I had met at Toronto’s Horror-Rama convention in October 2014), Ben Baldwin, Tara Bush and Vincent Sammy all said yes. I’d worked with Eric Gross before on our “Cilicium Pandoric” project and so he created the artwork for “The Cilicium Rebellion”. I was thrilled with the results that these amazingly talented artists came back with. Paul Fry did the wonderful interior and exterior design of the book, so combined with the haunting, visceral and beautiful illustrations, Voices of the Damned is a very special project for me.

I loved The Cilicium Trilogy and the order of female cenobites. It just left me wanting more of your vision of the Hellraiser universe. Might we see more stories or a full-length novel? (Pretty please?)

What I’d love to do is a graphic novel of the rise of Sister Cilice…

Do you have a favorite story in Voices of the Damned? If so, why is it your favorite?

“Sister Cilice” was my first horror story, so I’ll always have a special love that one. (Thanks to Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan for asking me to contribute to the Hellbound Hearts anthology, which started me on my horror story journey.) However, I also love “Zulu Zombies” (I’m writing the screenplay for that one) and “Gaia” as well. Actually, all my stories are my babies, so it’s hard to pick out one particular favorite.

2014 Chronicle F CenobiteYou’ve had a diverse career so far including film, television, and music. How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid: scripts, stories, etc., so when “acting left me behind” as thespians say, it was a natural progression to move into writing. And I wrote most of my scripts for the TV shows that I presented in the 80s and 90s, so that was helpful as well.

When do you write? Do you lock yourself away?

I write at different times of the day. I often get my ideas right before falling asleep. But I’ll never remember them if I wait to the next morning, so I have to get up and write them down.

Actually, one of the weirdest times that I wrote a chapter (a particularly erotic murder scene) for The Venus Complex was after I’d downed numerous Margaritas while watching the Eurovision Song Contest.

What scares you?

Home invasion. Basements. Spiders. Authority. I’ve written about the first two in “Gaia” and “Botophobia”.

Who are your favorite authors and which of their books mean the most to you?

Clive Barker (Weaveworld, The Hellbound Heart), Dashiell Hammett (The Thin Man), Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep), Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley, Strangers on a Train), Ernest Hemingway (A Moveable Feast and anything else he’s written), Shirley Jackson (The Lottery), Stephen Volk (Whitstable).

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Leytonstone by Stephen Volk, Monsters by Paul Kane and Ricochet by Tim Dry.

Barbie Wilde Photo by Robin Chaphekar with VCWhat’s next?

I’m writing a screenplay based on my short horror story, “Zulu Zombies”. I’m thinking about a sequel my dark crime novel, The Venus Complex.

Thanks, Barbie!

SST [the publisher] have now decided to do two editions of Voices of the Damned:
1. A full color, standard print, Trade Hardback
and
2. A full color, premium print, Deluxe Edition Hardback. When ordered directly from SST’s website, the Deluxe Edition will come with a free collector’s edition paperback of just the artwork. Both these editions will be available on Amazon on the 31st of October (but not the free paperback art book, as mentioned before.)