I wrote short stories for years, but most were either rejected or the small press magazines they were supposed to be in folded before they appeared. It got to be kind of weird for awhile there because five or six magazines went under on me. I was like the kiss of death! Then in 1995, my first story appeared in a small magazine called Stygian Articles, long gone now. After that, I started publishing short stories regularly. It was several years before I wrote any novels. I wanted to start in the time-honored way by concentrating on short stories. Eventually, I got into better magazines and then I wrote some novels. I kept working at it, trying to get in with better publishers with every book. Eventually, I got in with Delirium, Cemetery Dance, Thunderstorm, and a few others. But it took time and hard work. There’s no substitute for that unfortunately.
What do you love about being an author?
I like creating characters and examining lives in detail, then throwing my people into the worst possible situations to see how they react, to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. That’s the real kick for me. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself in the process.
Well, I’m a simple guy. I’d choose Zadok Allen from Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” He seems like a fun old guy. We’d get drunk and he’d tell me tales of old Innsmouth and the goings-on out at Devil Reef and we’d eat…calamari.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?
Honestly, I’m a big fan of Asian horror. If they made Nightcrawlers into a movie, I’d love to see an Asian take on it. I could see Takeshi Kitano playing Lou Kenney. He’s one of my very favorite actors and he could bring the depths of sorrow necessary for Kenney, and play it tough when things got ugly.
What scares you?
What doesn’t? Death, age, isolation, loss, infirmity…the very idea that your entire life, the one you know and trust and count on, the one you woke up with in the morning can be completely destroyed by the time you go to bed at night. That’s really what horror fiction is about: examining the terrors and anxieties of daily life, putting them under the microscope and trying to make sense of them. We horror writers give them the faces of monsters, but that’s entirely metaphorical. The real monster is what fate might have in store for you and the idea that it might be closer than you think. Take Pet Sematary by Stephen King, for instance. It’s not really about the dead coming back. It’s about the awful ethical question of having the godlike power to bring back somebody you’ve lost. The Monkey’s Paw thing. Do you have the moral right to subvert the natural order of things to ease your own pain? At its core, the book is really about that question and the horror of having to survive the loss of a child which is probably the most horrendous nightmare a parent can ever know. How about The Rats by James Herbert? It’s not really about mutant rats. The rats are representations of social decay, poverty, and the government’s complete apathy towards the struggles of the underclasses. We got ours, so fuck you. And I’m not pointing a finger at the U.K. by any means. That same underlying message is equally applicable in the United States and probably dozens of other countries.
Although I suppose many Americans would pick a Stephen King novel, I would choose James Herbert’s The Fog, which I think is extremely influential on everything that came after it. There had been apocalyptic type novels before, but never had one been so bleak, so dark, so intimate and personal and violent. Besides, it’s just a damn good read!
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?
I would go back to the 1960s when I was a little kid. It’s one of the most volatile periods in U.S. history and one that brought the most change. Some historians like to say the sixties really started either with the Cuban Missile Crisis or the assassination of John F. Kennedy and ended with Watergate, even though that happened in the early seventies. Everything changed. People finally took a good look at the corruption and bullshit that was poisoning not only the country but the world. Unfortunately, few of the lessons we learned are remembered today.
If I’m in a cynical mood, I would borrow the mantra from the X-Files: trust no one. Thankfully, I’m usually not that cynical. The best advice is to treat people exactly as you’d like to be treated. That seems obvious, but so many people forget to do it.
What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?
The last book I read was called Devil’s Drums by Vivian Meik, a collection of horror stories with a voodoo theme that was originally published back in the 1930s. Medusa Press just reprinted it. The original edition was very, very rare and worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars to collectors. It was nice to finally read it after hearing about it for so many years! Great weird pulp tales of zombies, ghosts, curses, and witch doctors set in Africa, where Meik lived for some time. Fun stuff.
If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?
I would probably write hardboiled crime fiction because it’s my second love after horror. I’ve already written one novel like that, Street Rats, which will finally be reprinted later this year. I’d very much like to write more books of that sort. Elmore Leonard type novels, only much darker, more violent, and more bloody.
Where can fans find you online?