13 Questions with Sarah Lotz

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Sarah_Lotz_pic_p 3Sarah Lotz is a screenwriter and novelist with a fondness for the macabre and fake names. Among other things, she writes horror/thriller novels under the name S.L. Grey with author Louis Greenberg, a YA pulp-fiction zombie series with her daughter, Savannah, under the pseudonym Lily Herne, and quirky erotica novels with authors Helen Moffett and Paige Nick under the name Helena S. Paige.

Her latest solo novel, The Three, will be published in May, 2014. She lives in Cape Town with her family and other animals.

1. What drives you to write?

Neurosis. And the fact that I am unemployable and have never wanted to do anything else (except become a rally driver maybe).

2. What attracted you to writing horror?

This is such a difficult question! I can’t come up with a clever answer, other than to say that this is the way the stories come out. I suppose it’s because I’ve been reading horror/spec fiction since I was a child, and wanted to write books that might give readers the same delicious scary-but-safe buzz I get out of it (I’ll get there one day …)

3. Who are your favourite horror writers?

Gah. So many. Top of my head, Stephen King, Sarah Pinborough, Kaaron Warren, Peter Straub, Joe Hill, Simon Bestwick and Alison Littlewood.

4. Which horror novels do you think every horror fan should read?

I Am Legend, Richard Matheson; The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barker; The Hellfire Club, Peter Straub; World War Z, Max Brooks; The Girl With All the Gifts, M. R Carey; Slights, Kaaron Warren; The Language of Dying, Sarah Pinborough (not strictly horror, but damn); The Stand, Stephen King; Dark Matter, Michelle Paver; Horns, Joe Hill; James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl.

5. Ebooks or paperback?Three-final (1)

Both.

6. What would make you pick up a novel by a new author?

A recommendation by a friend or a mention on Twitter – my timeline is filled with incredible book bloggers who really know their stuff.

7. Who is your favourite fictional character?

Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. Even though I’m arachnophobic, the thought of her death still makes me weep (pathetic, I know).

8. Do you plot your stories or does it just unfold before your eyes?

Both. Each novel is different. The next S.L Grey novel, which has a murder mystery element to it, needed very careful plotting. That said, it’s far more exciting not knowing for sure where a novel is going to end up (although my editor wouldn’t agree with me).

9. Do your characters take on a life of their own and do things you didn’t plan?

Yes. Constantly. It really makes me want to kill them off (sometimes I do).

10. Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?

Pure silence.

The Three cover 211. Do you do a lot of research for your stories?

Yes. Probably too much – I can get obsessive. One of my characters in my next solo book is from the Philippines, and I’ve been trying to learn Tagalog, which is taking things a little too far. On the upside, I now know how to investigate an air crash, perform an autopsy, cold read, and survive a zombie apocalypse, so it’s all good.

12. Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter. I’m no longer on Facebook after an awkward stalker incident.

13. What really pisses you off about writing?

Nothing about writing pisses me off, but I know loads of really talented authors who are unable to make a living from their craft. It drives me crazy that the rates for freelancers (for example) are still the same (or less) than five years ago. This is a particular blight in SA. If writers and writing are continually undervalued, then we’re going to miss out on a whole bunch of talent and potentially important novels in the future.

 

13 Questions with Jasper Bark

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

jasp 1 inks 300dpi cleanToday Jasper Bark is here as part of his Bring Jasper to Justice blog tour to promote his rather twisted novella – Stuck on You. Jasper can be stalked on his website, and Twitter.

1. What drives you to write?

I suppose it’s a matter of love and compulsion. I love reading, I love language and I love fiction. Reading for me is a physical as well as a mental pleasure, it’s also highly emotionally stimulating. I’ve loved playing with words, both their sound and meaning, since I learned to speak. Fiction, for me, uncovers and offers explanations for the mysteries of existence. The fierceness and intensity of my love for all these things probably fuels the compulsion I have to write. Like most writers, writing is as essential to me as breathing or eating.

2. What attracted you to writing horror?

I guess it’s a way of accommodating the more destructive sides of my personality and finding a safe way of managing and facing up to them. Fear and aggression are rarely useful or positive emotions. They often fuel one another and the only good thing in my life that has ever come out of either would be the horror fiction I’ve written.

3. Who are your favourite horror writers?

Heavens, I bet every writer who answers this question has problems with keeping the list short. My first love in horror was Robert Bloch, possibly one of the most underrated writers in the field. I love the way he structures stories and the way they build, like a joke, to a punchline that invariably catches you unaware. I also love his jet black, ever present humour, in both these ways he was more of an influence on my own work than I may care to admit. Reading Lisa Tuttle as an adolescent showed me how to harness my own fears and make compelling fiction out of them. She continues to terrify me to this day, especially her brilliant short fiction. Ramsey Campbell’s work did the same for me and still unsettles and unnerves me whenever I pick it up. Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont have also been very important to me and they allow me to segue neatly into the screenwriters I love as they wrote for the Twilight zone alongside the inestimable Rod Serling. Nigel Kneale was a TV writer of genius who has scared me senseless many times. To come full circle Stephen Volk is a contemporary screenwriter and who also writes the sort of short fiction that everyone should read for it’s savagery and sophistication.

4. Which horror novels do you think every horror fan should read?

Ah, now if you’d said books I would have gone for three groundbreaking anthologies Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, 999 by Al Sarantonio and Black Water edited by Alberto Manguel which every horror fan should definitely read. Novels are more difficult. Off the top of my head I would suggest The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Shining by Stephen King and The Third Policeman by Flan O’Brien, simply because it is a work of genius.

5. Ebooks or paperback?

When it comes to publishing I’m happy to see my work in either. For sheer reading pleasure I prefer paperbacks. I love the tactility of them, the musty smell of old books and the crisp, fresh smell of new ones. The feeling of turning a page and cracking a spine is sadly missing from an Ebook for me. Of course if I was to express my ideal preference it would be for a hardback.

6. What would make you pick up a novel by a new author?

An exciting or a novel concept that I hadn’t encountered before. Characters that intrigue me and also the author’s writing prowess, if they have a good style and ability to tell a great story I’m hooked.

7. Who is your favourite fictional character?

That’s a really, really tough one, but after staring at my groaning bookshelves for a while I’d have to suggest Daniel Pearse from the amazing novel Stone Junction by Jim Dodge. Another work of genius.

8. Do you plot your stories or does it just unfold before your eyes?

If I’m honest, it’s a little of both. I usually spend a lot of time plotting in advance but sometimes a story gets impatient with me and tells me to just sit down and write the damn thing. Even when I’ve plotted something quite tightly the story will often surprise me by taking unexpected turns. There is always a journey of discovery as you uncover the first draft, even if you think you know where you’re going. One of my favourite jokes goes: ‘Q: How do you make God laugh? A: Tell Him your plans.’ Bearing that in mind, I suspect you would probably have your novel in uncontrollable fits of giggles if you were to show it your chapter breakdowns.

9. Do your characters take on a life of their own and do things you didn’t plan?

Constantly! As I was coming towards the end of my second novel I was worried about a few loose plot threads and was trying to think of a sub plot I could quickly add to address them. Then out of the blue one of my characters suddenly revealed a whole sub plot that had been going on right under the main characters’ noses that completely reframed the whole story. I had no idea about this until she started to outline it. I sat there taking dictation from her thinking the whole while “why the hell didn’t I think of this?” She even made reference to all kinds of tiny events in the novel that I had forgotten about and suddenly made complete sense of them. Many reviewers commented on this surprise sub plot and singled it out for praise, but to this day I really don’t think I can take any credit for it. It all came from my female lead.

Sci fi visionary Philip K. Dick used to speak with his characters and consult them independently of his fiction. He was especially fond of a few characters and he would interact with them in a fictional realm, a little like divination. When he needed their support or advice he would sit at his typewriter and type “Phil walks into Leo’s office. He sits at Leo’s desk, wearing a hang dog expression. ‘Something on your mind Phil?’ Leo says. ‘Well I’m glad you asked,’ says Phil. ‘As it happens … &etc’.” He had on going relationships like this, with some of his characters, for decades after the books they appeared in were published. This is because the characters were independent entities to him. Grant Morrison also talks about putting on a fiction suit and stepping into stories and I’ve met Chaos magicians who claim to have summoned up and interacted with fictional characters in very real magical ceremonies. So I guess they’re all exploring a similar vein, which begs the question: do we come up with our characters, or have they always been there, simply waiting for us to write a story to house them?

10. Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?

It all depends on my mood, my environment and the passage of fiction I’m writing. I recently discovered that a lot writers share my habit of writing to film scores. These are great to write to because they’ve been specifically composed to tell a story and create a mood. For this reason they can be of great benefit to the writer wanting to enhance a mood in order to capture it. Music is also useful to create a bubble and block out the outside world so you can focus your concentration (something that is essential to a writer). If the work isn’t flowing though music can be one more distraction and is best dispensed with. In these instances complete silence is best.

11. Do you do a lot of research for your stories?

Shedloads! If you’re writing fantastical fiction and you want your reader to buy into your more imaginative concepts you’ve got to make every other detail as real as possible, which involves tonnes of research for me.

12. Facebook or Twitter?

I’m tempted to say neither. I spend more time on Facebook than twitter because I find it more focussed and less distracting. However twitter doesn’t have the same insidious undercurrent of dictatorial censoriousness that Facebook has. People don’t get blocked from Twitter with the alarming regularity that Facebook suspends people’s accounts and there’s not the same level of threat from the admins. The other thing that Facebook, like LinkedIn, gets totally wrong is the insistence that you must know people before connecting. This defeats the whole purpose of networking and runs counter to how most people use those sites. It’s like inviting a bunch of industrial professionals to a networking event and then insisting that no one talks to anyone that they don’t already intimately know. Beyond stupid really. They’re all useful in their own ways but I’m looking forward to the day social media evolves to address these issues. When that happens I’ll be at the head of the stampede deserting Facebook.

13. What really pisses you off about writing? STUCK ON YOU cover redo

More than anything it’s the business and admin side of the job, not to mention the precarious nature of freelancing in this field. People think of writing as a dream job, but they forget to take into account that you do it under nightmare working conditions.

Oh and one other thing that annoys me is getting to the end of an interview and realising that I haven’t plugged my latest book. I have a new novelette coming out from Crystal Lake Publishing, an extreme erotic horror called Stuck On You. I can positively guarantee that this will be the sickest, filthiest thing you’ll read all year. It will turn you on even as it turns your stomach. Trust your Uncle Jasp on this, you know it makes sense.

*

Stuck on You is a sick, twisted, quick read that will leave you uncomfortable and disturbed. It should also not be read on a full stomach, you may end up losing your lunch or dinner. Trust me on this.

And as a little extra, here’s a little Video Edition with Jasper having some fun with Zombies:

13 Questions with Joseph D’Lacey

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

pigbutcher2Today we have Joseph D’Lacey who writes Horror, SF & Fantasy, often with ecological themes. He enjoys being outdoors, eating vegetarian food and was recently adopted by two cats.

1. What drives you to write?

When I first wrote, as a kid, it was journal entries and poetry that just sort of fell out of me. In my teens and twenties, it was a way of clearing out my messed-up head. When I started writing ‘with a view’ around thirty, it was experimental, low-commitment stuff, just to see if I could do it. When I realised I could, I became much more focused.

These days, I see it as a way of sharing visions with the world. It’s tremendously exciting to know that what you create might reach an audience and genuinely touch them, even to the smallest degree. But it’s a craft too, a skill I constantly endeavour to deepen and develop.

Looking at it another way, though, I don’t know what else I’d do. I’m pretty sure not writing would be a terrible waste of my life.

2. What attracted you to writing horror?

My early experiences as a reader.

I jumped from kids books to adult horror at an age I sometimes think was ‘too young’ – perhaps nine or ten. I was nailed by it. It was like Neo uploading Kung Fu in The Matrix; I just couldn’t get enough.

At the same time, outside fiction, I was completely absorbed by the spiritual, the occult and the unexplained. Religions, philosophies, metaphysics, magic, tarot, i-ching, extraterrestrials – those subjects were always a magnet. If they’d taught such things in school I might actually have listened.

A mish-mash of those and other ‘systems’ – things I actually studied or practised later in life – is what you’ll find in my work. It doesn’t always add up to horror but it’s usually a bit off the wall.

3. Who are your favourite horror writers?

Adam Nevill, Simon Bestwick, Mendal Johnson, Michel Faber, Clive Barker, Stephen King, Conrad Williams.

4. Which horror novels do you think every horror fan should read? BlackFeathers-144dpi

Let’s Go Play at the Adams’, The Ritual, The Long Walk, Under the Skin, The Road.

5. Ebooks or paperback?

Both. And hardbacks. And comics. And menus. And ideas written on napkins. And love notes written on the backs of envelopes. And memos dictated into a phone. If it can be ‘read’, I’m interested!

6. What would make you pick up a novel by a new author?

A personal recommendation.

7. Who is your favourite fictional character?

I think it must be Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, from a fantasy created by Stephen R. Donaldson. He was a tragic figure, weakened by disease and never quite realising his own power. I also adored Uncle Oswald, from Roald Dahl’s imagination. Oh, and let’s not forget Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Sorry. That’s ever so slightly more than one, I realise.

8. Do you plot your stories or does it just unfold before your eyes?

My approach, and I can’t recommend it, is a bit like skydiving with a parachute that refuses to open. No planning. No safety check. No helmet – not that a helmet does anything other than change the shape of the crater you make when you hit the ground. I sort of launch with great intention and pray that natural forces beyond my ability to see or control will tie up all the loose ends.

That said, having train-wrecked so many novels and stories over the years – or even just wound up knocking my head against the wall until I get sectioned – I’ve started planning and writing outlines more recently. The catalyst for that was working with a screenwriter who knows everything about his story, and I mean everything, before he writes a single line of dialogue.

9. Do your characters take on a life of their own and do things you didn’t plan?

No. They do as they’re bloody well told. Story comes first. I don’t write characters who don’t serve the story.

TheBookOfTheCrowman-144dpi10. Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?

I can listen to most things except music when writing.

I think the lyrics and rhythms prevent my own rhythms from coming through. I find it hard enough to write without distractions, so, while I can work through traffic noise, construction work or earthquakes, listening to my favourite album would just fuck everything up before I even got started.

11. Do you do a lot of research for your stories?

I avoid it wherever possible – very distracting – but sometimes a tale will demand it. Like the one I’m working on at the moment. *kills self* I do try not to write too many of those.

12. Facebook or Twitter?

Both. Or neither, depending on my mood.

13. What really pisses you off about writing?

I don’t even know where to start. And I certainly don’t want to share a long, depressing list with your readers. After all, every writer has a well of blackness, full to brimming with disappointment, missed opportunity, failure, poverty, illness, addiction and all the rest of it.

The only thing I can say is that, despite the bad days, writing gives me a kind of hope I wouldn’t otherwise have.

You can stalk Joseph on his blog.

 

Women in Horror list

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

WIHM 2014February is Women in Horror month. A lot of websites and blogs are making lists of women in the genre. This morning I woke up to find out that I’d made it onto one of those lists. This is a list of women in horror that everybody should be reading. I never make it onto lists! It’s an incredible list of female writers in the genre that I admire and respect with names like Ellen Datlow, Kate Laity, Raven Dane, Nerine Dorman, Gabrielle Faust, Laurell K Hamilton, Helen Marshall, and Nancy Kilpatrick. Go have a look and maybe you’ll discover your new favourite female writer: http://www.examiner.com/article/february-is-women-horror-month-92-horror-authors-you-need-to-read-right-now

Requiem in The Citizen

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Requiem in E Sharp has a rather nice review in today’s The Citizen!

Full Scan Citizen Requiem review As you can see I got more stars than Patricia Cornwell. All in all I’m a happy little writer.

Here’s the close-up of the review:

Citizen Requiem review I was also interviewed by Nadine Maritz over on My Addiction!

Not a bad early birthday present. Well … I’m off to enjoy my celebratory slab of chocolate.

 

13 Questions with Monique Snyman

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

MoniqueToday on 13 Questions we have fellow South African author, Monique Snyman. Monique lives in Pretoria, South Africa with an adorable Chihuahua that keeps her company and a bloodthirsty lawyer who keeps her sane. She is a full-time author, part-time editor and in-between reviewer of all things entertaining. Her short fiction has been published in a number of small press anthologies, and the Charming Incantations series is being published by Rainstorm. You can find her at the following links: TwitterFacebookBlogPinterest, GoodreadsTumblr.

1. What drives you to write?

I suppose writing keeps me sane. My imagination is so vivid that I need some kind of outlet, otherwise everything is bottled up and my mind becomes too loud to bear.

2. What attracted you to writing horror?

Speculative fiction is progressive and constantly evolves with time. What scares us today may not necessarily scare us tomorrow, which gives writers the opportunity to think above and beyond in order to entertain their readers with the darkest parts of themselves. Horror is an especially challenging genre though, especially seeing as it is a highly competitive market. But I love a challenge and horror is a part of me, so writing horror just came naturally.

3. Who are your favourite horror writers?

I think Kim Newman is definitely one of my favourites, along with the usual suspects: Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub. Some of the lesser known authors that I enjoy reading is South African author S.L. Grey and Joan de la Haye (hey, that’s you!).

4. Which horror novels do you think every horror fan should read?

That’s a tough one, because there are so many wonderful horror novels available. However, the one book that’s stuck with me longer than most is Kim Newman’s Jago. It’s just so weird and creepy… I loved it.

5. Ebooks or paperback?

Paperback.

6. What would make you pick up a novel by a new author? Charming Incantations 1 bookcover front

I’m not too picky with reading books by new authors. However, if you want to impress me, I love a striking cover with a great blurb on the back, and if the formatting’s good too, I’ll probably buy the book.

7. Who is your favourite fictional character?

The vampire Lestat.

8. Do you plot your stories or does it just unfold before your eyes?

I’ve tried both methods in the past, but ultimately neither works for me. I’ve taught myself to dream out my scenes though. In other words, I watch my stories unfold like movies when I’m asleep and when I wake up I write them down…

9. Do your characters take on a life of their own and do things you didn’t plan?

Most of the time they have personalities of their own and I channel their personalities when I write, but as all authors struggle to keep certain characters in line, I too have extreme difficulty to make certain ones behave.

Roms, Bombs, & Zoms10. Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?

Yes, I like compiling playlists for my works in progress.

11. Do you do a lot of research for your stories?

That depends solely on the story. For horror I don’t do a lot of research, but for my fantasy and mythology based stories it’s a whole new ball-game. *winks*

12. Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook.

13. What really pisses you off about writing?

People, in general, tend to take writers for granted. But it irks me when great authors are pushed aside and forgotten while mediocre writers are turned into so-called ‘literary’ geniuses. It’s a peculiar and unfair method that pop-culture use to break a writer’s spirit.

About Charming Incantations: Enticed

When Lisa Richards’ parents died, she never thought her life would change as drastically as it did. Now she has to take over her father’s seat on a secret supernatural council, lead troops into battle against the ferocious Goblin Lord, and try not to get herself killed in the process.

To make matters worse, Lisa thinks she may be falling in love with the socialite werewolf who was simply supposed protect her.

Whoever said growing up was easy, clearly didn’t have to save the world every other week.

Get your copy of Charming Incantations: Enticed

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.