13 Questions with Mark Alan Gunnells

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today we have Mark Alan Gunnells in the interrogation seat.

Mark Gunnells author pic

Mark loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his fiance Craig A. Metcalf.

You can stalk Mark on his blog and on his Amazon author page.

  1. What drives you to write?

Honestly, it seems to be something inborn.  I just have a compulsion to tell stories, it feels like an innate part of who I am.  Without it, I’m not really me.

  1. What attracted you to writing horror?

I think the limitlessness of it.  Anything can happen, anything is permissible, nothing is taboo.  And yet you also have to ground it in enough reality that the more otherworldly aspects will be easier for the reader to swallow, making it a fun challenge.

  1. Who are your favourite horror writers?

May be cliché, but Stephen King is a definitely a favourite of mine.  I also love Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, and Anne Rice.  Each author is very different, but they all have something I admire.  And the unifying thread is that they all seem passionate about the stories they tell.  The late Richard Matheson, while not just a horror writer, I think wrote some really terrific stories that are considered classics now for good reason.

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

A few by King come to mind.  Salem’s Lot and The Shining I think are near perfect horror tales.  One details an entire town, and one a more isolated location with just a handful of characters, but they are both handled to perfection.  Misery I think is a brilliant, tightly-paced thriller that is not only terrifying but has a lot of very intelligent things to say about writing.  I think Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire was a game changer.  At the time it was published, it was wholly unique and showed that even the most standard horror tropes can be explored in fresh and original ways. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum I truly believe is the best of visceral, gut-wrenching horror.  You are totally invested, which makes the horrors all the more painful.

  1. Ebooks or paperback?

I’m equal opportunity here.  I am addicted to story, and therefore the vehicle through which the story is delivered isn’t all that important to me.  I initially was wary of ebooks, just because there is a tactile pleasure in holding a book, but once I started reading digitally I got lost in the story in the same way.

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

I certainly have no prejudice against new writers, so all that is required is for me to read a description that sounds appealing.  That simple.  Of course, recommendations from people I know have similar taste as I do doesn’t hurt.

  1. Who is your favourite fictional character?

That is a tough one, but I might have to choose Annie Wilkes from King’s Misery.  He pulled off an impressive feat here, creating a villain that was horrifying, but also making her a complex character with multiple dimensions.  There were times I found myself actually feeling sympathy for her, then having to remind myself how insane she was.  That is rather awe-inspiring.

Mark Gunnells - Flowers in a Dumpster

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

I’m definitely not a plotter or an outliner.  I may go in with a brief sketch in my head of how the story will unfold, but it is always loose and has built into it the freedom to be tossed aside once the story takes over.  That’s my favourite part, when the story starts leading me instead of the other way around.  I always say writing is as much an act of discovery for me as it is one of creation.

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

Sometimes my characters truly do come alive and do things I never expected, and it is an exhilarating feeling.  The goal is to always have the characters come alive, but sometimes they come alive instantly so before I even start putting them down on paper, I know what they are going to do because they’ve already told me.  Other times, and these are often the best times, I think I know a character, but once the story is rolling, they say to me, “No, I’m not going to do that.  I am going to do this instead.”  Some characters have gone in drastically different directions than I anticipated, even altering the direction of a story.

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

I don’t listen to music, but I don’t really have silence either.  I’m lucky that I get to write during the downtime of my day job, so I can’t exactly call it quiet but it works for me.

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

Depends on the story, really.  Some tales don’t require that much, but when a story does require research I definitely dig in.  I set a lot of my stories in real places, so I like to visit them and get the layouts right.  If I’m using Wicca in a story, I visit practising Wiccans to make it believable.  The internet also makes research so much easier.  If I need to know how much gas was per gallon in 1955, or how big Lake Michigan is, I simply pop over to Google and have the answer in seconds.

  1. Facebook or Twitter?

Facebook all the way.  Twitter confuses me.  Seems to me if you can say what you have to say in 140 characters or less, it might not be worth saying.  I feel Facebook offers more opportunity for real in-depth discussion and interaction.

  1. What really pisses you off about writing?

Writing itself doesn’t piss me off at all.  It truly is a joy for me.  There are rough days, and times when I struggle with a plot, but overall the experience is one of pure pleasure.  What really pisses me off is the business aspect.  It doesn’t come natural to me, and the self-promotion that is part and parcel of being a small press writer can be daunting.  Too much and you’re obnoxious.  Not enough, you aren’t reaching the people who might actually be interested in your book.  Some publishers, like Apex and Crystal Lake, have been wonderful at helping promote, but often the writer has to do the heavy lifting, and that is hard for me.

African Speculative Fiction Society is launched

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

I’m very excited to announce that the African Speculative Fiction Society has been launched! Here’s the official press release.

African Speculative Fiction Society




ASFS logo


A new award for African Science Fiction and a new professional body for Africans SFF professionals will be formally announced at the upcoming Ake Festival.

The African Speculative Fiction Society will promote science fiction and fantasy by Africans. Its 60 invited Charter Members include writers, editors, artists and publishers.

The members will nominate and vote on the new, multimedia Nommo Awards for African Speculative Fiction.

The Nommo Awards have four years’ worth of prize money in advance thanks to benefactor Tom Ilube. Says Mr Ilube, “Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales is important because the link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.” 

The Nommo Awards and the ASFS will be formally announced at the Ake Festival this coming November. From then on members of the African Speculative Fiction Society will be able to nominate works in four categories: Best novel, best novella, best short story and best graphic novels. Each year, prize winners will share $3,000 of prize money.

The first prize-giving ceremony is scheduled for November 2017, as part of the Ake Festival. Plans are afoot though to alternate the ceremony between West and East Africa.

Chinelo Onwualu, editor and co-founder of Omenana magazine is the lead spokesperson for the African

Speculative Fiction Society. She says … “The ASFS will provide a place where writers, readers, and scholars can come together to find information, connect with each other, and act as watchdogs for their collective interests.” 

The award is pan-African and is open to authors and artists with African citizenship, or who grew up in Africa or who live abroad and have at least one African parent.


Chief ASFS Spokesperson Chinelo Onwualo chinelo.onwualu@gmail.com
Kenya Moses Kilolo mkilolo@gmail.com
Malawi Shadrek Chikoti shadai79@yahoo.com
Nigeria Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu frednwonwu@yahoo.com
South Africa Nerine Dorman nerine.dorman@gmail.com
Uganda Dilman Dila writing@dilmandila.com
United Kingdom Tade Thompson tadethompson@gmail.com
Zimbabwe Masimba Musodza masfin@gmail.com


Fury: Excerpt on W24

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

According to W24 Fury is your new favourite South African horror novel, and I have to say I quite agree with that sentiment. And there’s a brand new, never before seen (unless you’ve read the whole book already) excerpt from Fury up on W24.

Go read it! And then let me know what you think.

You can also watch the book trailer.

You can download it from: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk,  Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Or get the paperback from: Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, and Readers Warehouse.

13 Questions with Ray Garton

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today I have the incredible Ray Garton in the interrogation seat. He’s a very brave man.

Ray Garton Author Photo

Ray Garton is the author of the classic vampire bestseller Live Girls, as well as Scissors, Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Ravenous, his new Moffet & Keoph investigation Vortex, and dozens of other novels, tie-ins, and story collections.  He has been writing in the horror and suspense genres for more than 30 years and was the recipient of the Grand Master of Horror Award in 2006.  He lives in northern California with his wife Dawn where he is at work on a new novel.

You can stalk Ray on his website: raygartononline.com.

  1. What drives you to write?

I’m afraid if I figured out exactly what that is, it would vanish like a phantom.

  1. What attracted you to writing horror?

Nothing attracted me to writing horror, I just found that when I wrote, that’s what came out.  Even before I was able to write, I would draw stories in panels, and they were almost always dark and even violent.  I found that no matter what I tried to write, it turned out that way.  I could write a love story, but it was a dark love story that didn’t end well.  I could write something funny, but it would be funny in a dark, disturbing way.  It wasn’t that I was attracted to writing horror, I sort of wrote it naturally, and that was the only genre where I fit.  Fortunately for me, I happened to come along when the big horror explosion of the ‘70s and ‘80s was at its height.

  1. Who are your favourite horror writers?

There are so many.  The list of horror writers who have influenced me and continue to teach me how to write horror is a long one, but I’ll give you some names.  Richard Matheson, Thomas Tessier, Shirley Jackson,  Stephen King, Charles Dickens, Richard Laymon, Robert Bloch, T.M. Wright,  Mary Shelley, Peter Straub, Angela Carter, William F. Nolan, Clive Barker, Nicole Cushing, Jason Brock, Michael McDowell, Robert McCammon, Rod Serling, Jonathan Maberry, James A. Moore,  — it’s endless.   Then there are writers who don’t work in the horror genre but have written books that have had the same impact on me as a great horror novel, like Joseph Heller’s Something Happened, William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini, William Goldman’s Marathon Man and Magic.  Those are only people who write horror or have somehow struck me in a horrific way.  That doesn’t include all the other writers who’ve helped and continue to help shape me as a writer and feed my imagination.  And as soon as I submit this, I’ll think of other names I should have mentioned.  I hate questions like this.

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

The novels that made me realize fairly early on that horror should be about people first, and that once you had learned that there really were no limits to what you could do were Stephen King’s Carrie and The Shining, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, and Richard Laymon’s The Cellar.

  1. Ebooks or paperback?

I can’t smell an ebook.

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

Anything that captures my attention and imagination — title, cover,  jacket copy, something I’ve heard about that author, anything at all.

  1. Who is your favourite fictional character?

At the moment, it’s Donald Trump.  As far as literary characters, I have many, but the first to spring to mind is T.S. Garp in John Irving’s The World According to Garp.  He’s a flawed man who’s extremely curious about everything, talented, so human.  I love the arc of his life in that book.

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

I’m a lousy plotter.  If I outline a whole book, I lose interest in it because it feels like I’ve already written it and I know what happens.  I prefer to start with an idea or a character or both and let the story unfold as I write it.

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

Oh, god, yes.  They’ve changed the entire direction of novels.  Once they’re up and running, I’m pretty much just following them to see where they go.  If they run into a wall, I backtrack and start over from a certain point.

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

Sometimes I have music playing, sometimes I’ll run an old familiar movie that I love as background noise or to set a mood, something I know well enough so that I’m not distracted by it, something that might set a mood in much the same way music does.  I never used to be able to work in silence, but I often do these days.

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

I do as much as the story requires.  Sometimes that’s a lot just to get comfortable with an unfamiliar subject so I can write about like I know what I’m talking about.  Even if I don’t.

  1. Facebook or Twitter?

My preferred personal information gathering center and tracking device is Facebook.

Vortex Cover

  1. What really pisses you off about writing? 

Don’t get me started.  You’re trying to get me started, aren’t you?

Something that pisses me off about writing are the wrong-headed ideas about writers and writing held by so many non-writers.  It’s not work, for example.  It’s not a craft.  I’ve met plenty of people with that attitude.  People who know me well enough to know better still ask, after being apart for some time, “Are you still writing?”  I’ve been writing full time for over thirty years and people still ask me that question.  It’s asked in the same way one might ask, “Are you still collecting stamps?”  Or, “Do you still golf?”  They’re not asking about a profession, because nobody asks, “Are you still a veterinarian?”  Or, “Do you still build buildings?”  Writing is that little thing you do that’s kind of odd.

Sometimes it’s not people outside the writing business who hold wrong-headed ideas about writers.  For example, here’s a tip: Never ask a professional writer to write for free (with the exception, of course, of charitable anthologies).  Just don’t.  What makes the writer a professional is the fact that he or she gets paid for his or her work.  The right word for this job is “amateur,” someone who is not a professional.  Someone who has exchanged writing for money.  It’s also someone who may not be very good at writing, and definitely someone nobody’s ever heard of.  Because you get what you pay for.

Another one, but this one is kind of weird.  I’m shy.  I always have been.  This surprises a lot of people because once I’m comfortable with you, it goes away and is usually quickly forgotten.  But in new situations around people I don’t know, I’m terribly shy.  Drinking used to be a quick and reliable remedy, but I don’t do that anymore and haven’t for a long time.  There was a time in my life when it was seen as nothing more than what it was: shyness.  But since I became a published writer, it suddenly became a stuck-up attitude, a sense of superiority.  It’s the same thing it has always been, it’s still exhibited in the same way, but because I’m a novelist, for some people it becomes something completely different and suddenly I’m an egotistical prick.  He’s too good for us is the conclusion often reached.  Once I discovered this, I was horrified.

I’ve worked hard on overcoming my shyness and I manage to hide it better than I used to (although I still maintain that it’s much easier after a few cocktails), but it’s still there.  I find it very difficult to approach people I don’t know and I’m often tongue-tied in social situations with strangers, but it’s better than it used to be.  It has NOTHING to do with what I do and it doesn’t mean I think I’m better than everyone else because I’m a novelist, which is so opposite who I am that it’s funny.  I’ve met writers and people of any profession, all professions, who think they’re better than others and I don’t like them.  If I had my way, I’d never talk about my work except for professional reasons, but what am I going to say when someone asks what I do for a living?  “I prefer not to disclose that information.”  People would either think I was a government spook or a lunatic  I know, I know—First World problems, but annoying nonetheless.

You can’t possibly have enough space for me to go on.  I will complain endlessly about minutiae if allowed.  I’m like a gentile Larry David but without the genius.  If we were having this conversation in person, my wife would be standing behind me waving her arms at you and frantically shaking her head.


Vortex is on my TBR pile. Have you read any of Ray’s books? Oh! And I would suggest stalking him on Facebook and Twitter. He is probably one of the most amusing authors on social media, especially if you have a twisted sense of humour like me.

Shadows: New Book Trailer and Author Reading

Hello My Freaky Darlings,

I had some fun this week making a new book trailer for Shadows as well as filming me reading the first scene from the book for you.

I made the first book trailer for Shadows way back in 2009, when Shadows was released for the very first time. Since it’s been re-released I thought it was time for a new one.

Here’s the old one:

And here I am doing a quick reading of it:

So … what do you think?

If you enjoy my videos, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. And while you’re subscribing to things,don’t forget to hit the subscribe button, if you haven’t already, on the top right hand corner of this page. That way you can stay up to date with new releases and all the goings on.

Guest Post: Podcasting with Alasdair Stuart

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today Alasdair Stuart has hijacked my blog to talk about podcasting, so pull up a chair and listen to the wise man.


Hello there, I’m Alasdair. I run Escape Artists, a podcasting company. I LOVE my job and will use any excuse to talk about it. Delightfully, Joan has given me that excuse and as ever I’d like to thank her for being a fantastic human. Thanks, buddy.

So! Let’s talk about podcasting!

Escape Artists has got four shows and a magazine. The podcasts cover science fiction, horror, fantasy, YA and the magazine covers all of them with an emphasis on fun. Every podcast episode is free and a magazine subscription is $10 for four issues. The magazine’s about to celebrate its first year and the shows have clocked up 1500 plus episodes between them. We’ve been going just under ten years. That, given I started doing this on a dial up connection and a headset that clicked every time I breathed, blows my MIND.

It also begs the question; where do you start?

Easy. Right here, with me. Below I’ll talk about one of my favourite episodes from each show and a favourite story from Mothership Zeta, our magazine. They’ll be links to subscribe or listen so go explore and find out what we’ve been up to.

escape pod actual

Escape Pod


I love this story and anyone who knows me will be able to figure out why by the end of it. It’s one of those brilliant, annoying, beautiful puzzles that assembles itself as you listen. Don’t think too hard, just hit play.




To celebrate our 500th episode, Pseudopod is spending the next ten months releasing one story from each decade of the 20th century. Most of those will go to subscribers but this one, an epic piece by the incomparable Fritz Leiber, is available to everyone. It’s massive, at 13,000 words but it’s so worth it.




We love the big numbers because they give us an excuse to push the boat out a bit. This elaborate, precisely detailed story about intrigue and spectacle at a VERY exclusive party is no exception and features an all-star cast of some of our best narrators.

cast of wonders

Cast of Wonders


Eugie Foster was one of the all-time greats, an author who could change gear, or genre without missing a beat. Her work was hilarious, magnificently sweary and filled with incredibly gentle, well observed kindness. This story, about a cancer patient discovering that she can communicate with the animals around her, was one of her last and best works.

mothership zeta

Mothership Zeta


In a world where you live forever, something impossible has just happened; a murder.

Now, a hard bitten and actually kind of grumpy detective catches the first, last and most important case of this version of his life. But can he solve it before he’s consigned to his next job?

This is BRILLIANT. Marina’s got an incredible eye for language and for a story that features violent death and character distress this is really funny. Not to mention inventive, witty, sweet and sure to make you wonder what you’d do with forever…

So that’s us. We’re weekly, we’re entirely donation powered and with Mothership Zeta we’re starting to move into epublishing too. If you like what you read, please subscribe in itunes or your podcatcher du jour and subscribe to MZ here for just $10 a year.

Oh and I’m on twitter at @AlasdairStuart and the company is at @EAPodcasts. Come say hi! Trust me, we’ve always got a good story for you.


Are you a fan of podcast? Have you listened to any of the ones mentioned here (if not go listen to them NOW!). Let me know what you think of podcasts.

Nobody owes you

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Here follows a wee bit of a rant. Sorry!

There seems to be this sense of entitlement going around in the publishing industry and it pisses me off. I’m here to tell you that nobody owes you a damn thing. Reviewers and book bloggers don’t owe you. Readers don’t owe you. The book buying public doesn’t owe you.

If a reviewer or blogger doesn’t want to read your book, they don’t have to. If they read it and still don’t want to write that review, they don’t have to. If they do it’s because they are being awesome and taking the time out of their busy schedule and are being generous, so be grateful! Don’t be a demanding douchebag, don’t send a nasty message demanding that they write that review. And also – if you want a review, send the reviewer a free review copy. They aren’t going to buy your book and review it for you, especially if you’re going to be a schmuck about it. Sending that review copy is just good manners.

And if people are talking about other writers on Facebook or twitter and aren’t talking about you, don’t burst into the conversation and demand that they talk about you instead, that just makes you look like an ass. Don’t do it! They don’t owe it to you to talk about you and your books. Seriously they don’t.

I also hate to break it to you, but even your own family and friends don’t owe you anything. If they don’t feel like buying your book or sharing that tweet or Facebook post you did about your book, they don’t have to. If they do, it’s because they really want to and because they love you, but they really don’t have to.

Also nobody in the whole wide world owes it to you to buy your book or to tell anybody else to buy it. I know it sucks, but that’s life. And hopping around on social media demanding attention isn’t going to help either. Suck it up cupcake. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

The only person who owes you, is you. You’re the only person who owes it to yourself to pull your finger out of your arse and do that hard grind to get people, like reviewers and the book buying public, interested in your book. Nobody else is going to do it.

You want reviewers to review your book? Ask them nicely. Look at their review policy. Do they review the sort of book you’ve written? They do, great. Send them exactly what they ask for on their review policy page and remember to be polite. You’re asking for a favour, remember. Repeat the process with the next reviewer and the next one and the next one. And before you know it people will be talking about your books. But it’ll only happen if you ask them nicely, because nobody owes you a fucking thing.

So get off your arse and get to work.