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Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | BLOG

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I’m not sure I would say I am a born writer as much as I have always felt called to write. It’s important to me to make sure of my God-given talents. Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed.

What was your inspiration for Amos Faces His Bully?

Like my first book, Little Shepherd, this story places fictional characters in a Biblical setting. My first inspiration was to continue with the format of my first book—make it a series of unrelated, yet similar, stories. There are others planned.

My primary reason for writing Amos Faces His Bully, however, is very personal. I was bullied as a child; teased from the day I entered elementary until the day I graduated high school. Yet, with all the awareness of bullying and the anti-bullying programs that exist in our cities and towns today, bullying still exists. As I’ve worked hard to prevent my own child from being bullied, I wanted her to know God could provide her—and other victims of bullying—with peace and strength.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Faith often plays a role in my books. Whether it be a young shepherd boy who must trust that God will keep his sheep safe while he visits the newborn King, or a bullied child seeking courage to deal with his tormenters, reaching out in faith has many rewards. A Christmas Kindness, while not faith-based, has themes in it that some might consider Christian values. Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and A Christmas Kindness show young people as problem solvers.

How long did it take you to complete this picture book?

The first draft of Amos Faces His Bully took a few days…but that’s the easy part. It’s the editing process that takes a while. You’re not only looking for typographical or grammar errors. You’re looking to trim away the unnecessary words. You’re clarifying your meaning. You’re seeking out repetitive words or phrases. Even after a book is published, it’s not uncommon to wish you had done something differently.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Um…no. Total panster who waits until there is a fair amount of time to sit down uninterrupted to write. Usually that means once a month at writing group, but I’ll take what I can get.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Writing a book about a youngster being bullied when you were bullied and friendless for most of your childhood tends to bring up bad memories. Thankfully, as many of us discover, the years after high school bring with them a level of maturity the bullies—and you—didn’t have in school.

What do you love most about being an author?

It’s amazing to be able to go to Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com or other online retailers and find my books there. Have to admit that is a special feeling.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self-publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

All my books are published by independent publishers. After the manuscripts were accepted, the process—while not exactly short—was fairly painless. I’ve been blessed to work with wonderful people at both publishing houses. That’s why I keep going back with each new book.

Where can we find you on the web?

My friends say I am all over the Internet. Having worked in online book promotion and using social media for my current job means they probably aren’t too far off. I am out there a lot. The best places to find me are:

Website: http://ccmalandrinos.com

Blog: https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cheryl-C-Malandrinos-170542359697682

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ccmalandrinos

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ccmalandrinos

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4341623.Cheryl_C_Malandrinos

 

About the Book:

Title: AMOS FACES HIS BULLY
Author: Cheryl C. Malandrinos
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
Pages: 20
Genre: Christian children’s picture book

 

BOOK BLURB:

Amos is targeted by the town bully because he is so small. When word reaches Amos of his friend David’s battle with Goliath, he thinks back to what David told him about putting his faith in God’s protection. Perhaps the same God can help Amos face his bully too.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Guardian Angel | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Indiebound.org

 

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A former writer of technical manuals, award winning author Michael Kechula now focuses on what he loves most: writing speculative flash fiction. Some of his works combine nasty horror with humor. He's the author of A Full Deck of Zombies: 61 Speculative Fiction Tales. Kechula is one of the most prolific short story writers I've ever encountered on the net. Over the past 4 years, his work has been accepted by 121 magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, India, and the US. Last December alone, he got 35 stories accepted, and he's had as many as 6 stories accepted by various magazines in a single day. Is his productivity a result of a pact with the devil? Read on to find out.

Thanks for being here today, Michael. Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I’m 69 years old, a retired technical writer and course developer. I’ve been writing nonfiction forever, but I didn’t start writing fiction until I was 63 years old.

I live in the Phoenix area. Lived in Las Vegas for three years where I wrote manuals for casino slot machine technicians. Before that, I lived in California in what is known as Silicon Valley where I worked for the IBM Corporation for twenty-seven years.

I now write fiction everyday and critique dozens of flash fiction stories every week. Sometimes I critique novels.

I’m not a poet, and will never be one. I’m not a novelist and never will be one. I don’t think I could write a novel that anybody would care to read. I’m sure my poetry would be so bad, I’d lose my citizenship and be banished from Planet Earth.

A few years ago, I discovered a literary form called flash fiction. I joined FlashXer, a Yahoo writing group, owned by Pam Casto, a flash fiction guru. Joining that group changed my life. Almost all the hundreds of stories I’ve written have started as responses to prompts issued three times a week by Irv Pliskin, moderator of FlashXer. A prolific writer, Irv is a World War II bomber navigator who survived being shot down and confined in German POW camps.

I’m a digital photography nut. I have six digital cameras—one for various kinds of subject material. Fiction Flyer Magazine will publish my photos online starting in their next issue. I’m particularly fond of taking super macro photos where I can get the camera right inside a flower, or take a picture of, say, a bee in which you can count the hairs on its fuzzy body.

Besides being the author of 29 nonfiction books, you now also write flash
fiction in various genres, including horror. For those readers who aren't
familiar with the term, what is flash fiction, exactly?

In liue of an adequate description of flash fiction, I’ve devised my own: a story told in as few words as possible without sacrificing a smooth read. This implies the story will move forward at a brisk pace, won’t contain superfluous details that aren’t vital to the plot, and won’t have cryptic passages that throw readers out of the story. Most magazines consider flash fiction to be a tale of 1,000 words or less. Thus, my flash fiction consists of no more than 1,000 words.

Flash fiction is a unique literary form. It’s vastly different from the literary form we call novels. Writing techniques that work wonderfully well in novels are deadly to flash fiction.

After analyzing hundreds of stories of 1,000 words or less, I’ve noticed three distinct kinds of flash fiction being published today: genre, literary, and anecdotal. To me, genre flash fiction is a tale in which a protagonist has a goal, and one or more antagonists do all they can to prevent the protag from achieving that goal. By literary, I mean stories that have little or no plot, and are loaded with artsy and cryptic details. As to anecdotal, I mean stories that tell of Grandma’s first trip to Disneyland.

I prefer writing and reading genre flash fiction, mostly of the speculative fiction genre. I consider speculative fiction an umbrella term that consists of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, plus their many subgenres. For example, two subgenres of fantasy are urban fantasy and magical realism.

I’ve taught novelists how to write genre flash fiction, at no charge. I’ve even taught my students to write a speculative fiction tale in as few as 55 words. All my students get their flash fiction published quite frequently, and some have won contests.

I used to have my own online, speculative fiction magazine, Flash Tales. Although I paid $10 per accepted story, I had to shut it down after a few months for lack of quality submissions. I found writers didn’t even bother to read the very first line of my guidelines in which I specified I wanted only sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. So, I was flooded with kiddie tales, romances, pointless literary tales, and crime stories, just to name a few. Further, writers who were obviously novelists didn’t seem to have a clue about how to write flash fiction. They approached flash the same way they did when writing a chapter of a novel. In doing so, they filled their flash with tons of unnecessary descriptions.

I’ve formulated a rule about flash fiction. I call it Kechula’s Rule #1 for Flash Fiction. It never fails to be true, and I see it in endless streams of manuscripts I critique every week. Here’s the rule: In flash fiction, excessive description = little or zero plot.

What type of horror do you write?

A heady mixture of nasty horror and humorous horror. Combining the words humorous and horror sounds like an oxymoron. However, I’ve entered contests that have asked for humorous horror. To give you a flavor of what I mean by humorous horror, I entered and won 2nd place with a story, “A Good Feed,” in which a zombie liked to tear heads off beautiful women so he could eat the contents of their skulls. And yet, he was also quite fond of chocolate chip cookies. When learning this, city officials decided to trap him by using chocolate chip cookies. How they did this and what happened when the zombie stuffed himself with cookies is what injected humor in a horror setting.

Is it hard to mix horror with humor?

I’ve found it quite easy. When writing a horror story, I often find myself getting the must ludicrous plot ideas. Very often I write several versions of the same story just for fun so I can exploit these ideas. Thus, I may develop a flash tale that’s a bit chilling, and then write a version that may give readers some chuckles. 

Tell us about your latest collection, A Full Deck of Zombies – 61 Speculative Fiction Tales. What was your inspiration for it?

Actually there were 61 inspirations, one for each story. This collection is quite broad in it’s contents. It contains speculative fiction tales that were previously published by online and print magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, and US. Several won first prize in writing contests.

I wanted to find another home for these stories as a collection. So I contacted Bob Preece, owner of Books for A Buck, www.BooksForABuck.com. He liked what he saw and we signed a contract.

To give you the flavor of this collection, which is available in both eBook and print form, here’s the blurb I wrote for the back cover:

Not all zombies are fearsome and disgusting. Some sing, dance, play musical instru-ments, and even tell jokes. These loveable creatures like root beer, granola bars, and chocolate chip cookies. You’ll find these fun-loving, cookie-munching zombies lurking between the pages of this book. But you’ll also read about some you’d never want to meet even if you were carrying a bazooka.

Not limited to zombie tales, this book includes a host of zany characters from outer space: ghost bugs; Martians who wear ten-gallon hats; Martians who stop commuter busses to take surveys; Martians who joyously amputate their own fingers to accumulate points for free Disneyland trips; and many more.

Then too are stories of ordinary Earth folks, like the guy next door who hugs corpses for a living, the gal down the block who falls in love with a zombie, your co-worker who snacks on alien finger sandwiches, your best pal who takes college courses with zombies, and dozens of other weirdos.

By now, you’ve guessed that most of the sixty-one stories in this book are humorous speculative fiction tales, a species not easily found. However, to keep you from busting a gut from laughter and incurring high medical costs, we’ve toned down the hilarity by in-cluding a few tales to make you cringe and hide in the closet. After reading them you may even want to seek the assistance of an exorcist.

All sixty-one stories were previously published in magazines and anthologies in Austra-lia, Canada, England, and the US. Editors called them a hoot. Readers said they were hilarious. But the dark ones aren’t funny–unless the macabre makes you break out into uncontrollable laughter.

Now that you have an idea of what to expect, buckle up your seat belt, open the book, and enjoy the ride. 

Do you outline your stories before you write them, or are you mostly a stream-of-consciousness writer?

Though I’m well versed at creating outlines from my professional writing and course development years, I never prepare an outline for a work of fiction. No need to when devising a flash fiction tale. When I get an idea, I sit in front of the computer, and start writing whatever comes to mind. Afterward, I edit my work ruthlessly to achieve my ideal of what comprises a flash fiction story.

What themes obsess you when writing horror stories?

Themes of transformation. Especially when it comes to zombies. Recall that all zombies started out as vital human beings who died, then were resurrected through nefarious means. What a concept! Corpses transformed into the walking undead. They’ve intrigued me since I used to see them in B-movies, on dish night, at movie houses in the 1940s. Even Bob Hope confronted a zombie in one of those creepy old movies.

I didn’t write my first zombie tale until I was 64 years old. Never knew I could write such stories.

This year, I’ve been particularly interested in writing tales about animated severed heads. For example, in one of my stories, a severed head floating inside a liquid-filled jar is a contestant on a TV show, “Hedonist For A Day.” He wins. The prize is a visit to a Pleasure Palace where every means of giving physical pleasure is provided continuously for twenty-four hours. He’s the first severed head to win in the history of the show. Consequently, the show’s producers are stumped on how provide the prize to a severed head suspended in liquid inside a glass jar. Especially since the head will die if it’s removed from the jar. You can see the complications. But the enterprising producers find a way, adding a further dimension of horror. 

If you were a character in one of your own stories, which storyline you'd definitely not want to experience?

I wouldn’t want to be the detective in “Searching For Dr. Harlow.” He gets a contract to find an Anthropology professor who disappeared in Haiti while searching for zombies. The detective ended up getting attacked by zombies, who tore flesh from his face with their teeth. The poor detective discovers there was no way to stop the pus that flowed continuously from his cheeks. Modern medicines, sacrificing countless chickens to voodoo gods, exorcisms, and drinking putrid hoodoo potions didn’t stop the flow. And that was just the beginning of his sufferings. The moral of this story is: nobody escapes zombies.

Nor would I want to be the protag in my story, “A Deep Cut.” This lonely guy pays Madame Majestic to raise his girlfriend from the dead for one last night of lovemaking. The price is $100 plus a freshly butchered piece of his flesh. When the girlfriend materializes at midnight, she’s a putrid, leaking corpse. Horrified, he demands she depart. The price to make her disappear is another piece of his freshly butchered flesh. Ouch! Morals of this tale: (1) be careful what you pay for. (2) when sacrificing your flesh during occult cutting rituals, make sure you know what they’re going to chop off. 

What's the scariest book you've ever read?

Though it has a sci-fi theme, I’d say, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Perhaps even scarier is The Manchurian Candidate. Though considered a Cold War political satire, the ramifications of that story never ceases to horrify me. What could be scarier than confronting brainwashed humans who are programmed to kill? In fact, when you think about it, the character in that story is very zombie-like. Killing scenes in that book horrify me. By the way, I reread these two books every year. Both play very heav-ily on themes of transformation. When you think about it, who would want to be transformed against their will into soulless, zombified, mannequins? What pure, unadulterated horror!

Do you think horror fiction is declining, thriving, or has reached a plateau?

I think it’s thriving. Hundreds of speculative fiction magazines around the world seek short horror works every month. And new horror writing contests are an-nounced monthly. 

What do you do on Halloween day?

I’m retired, so I hang around the house, watch horror movies, and pass out candy.

One year I put on a weird wig, but it scared little kids who came to the door so much, I removed it. I’ll never use it again. I think life itself, these days, is scary enough for kids.

In the past four years, your work has been accepted by 121 magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, India and the US. Last December alone, you got 35 stories accepted. Since then, you got about 125 more stories accepted. Some days, you've had 6 stories accepted in a single day from a variety of magazines. What is the secret of your productivity–a pact with the devil, perhaps?

Perish the thought! It’s more like a pact with myself. For the first time in my life, nobody is sticking a hand in my face and trying to thwart my productivity. Such things happened in the corporate world when my tech writing productivity unnerved peers and even the very managers who were in charge of my career. I could write a very scary nonfiction book about what happens to writers who far exceed expected norms, and how they are punished for their superior productivity.

Now that I’m retired, there’s nobody to stand in my way and say I’m going to far, too quickly. Perhaps it’s a kind of revenge against a corporate system that insisted it valued extremely high productivity, but didn't know what to do with a person who actually supplied it.

I set a goal for myself when I started writing fiction: to get published in 100 magazines. Well, I achieved that within four years. Now I’m fishing for another goal. Haven’t yet decided what that should be.

I write for the fun of it. Plus my head is constantly full of story ideas. My IDEAS file on the computer has over 150 entries waiting to be developed. I have four tape recorders, which I keep in strategic places. One is always on my nightstand. I wrote a number of tales based on thoughts that came to mind upon waking up. One example is “Ghost Bugs,” a humorous spec fic tale. I woke up with the words ghost bugs in my mind. Grabbing my tape recorder, I asked myself out loud what on earth a ghost bug was. That led to an hour’s worth of dictation. A few hours later, I wrote the story, and submitted it to Alien Skin Magazine the same day. They accepted it within twenty-four hours.

Another story developed that way was, “Midnight Hugs,” about a guy who gets a job hugging gorgeous, female corpses. A mad scientist hired him, thinking it was a way to bring them back to life. Alien Skin bought that one, too.

I said earlier that I didn’t start writing fiction until I was 63 years old. Though I wanted to, I found I couldn’t get a sentence on paper. Reminds me of the problem the protagonist had in the movie, Throw Momma From The Train. Well, I didn’t have the same relationship problems he had that caused the block. In fact, I still don’t know what caused my block, which lasted ten years. It was broken by a creative writing professor in Las Vegas, a fabulous, master teacher named Dr. Sherry Rosenthal. PhD in Comparative Literature. We made a pact. I said I’d attend her fiction writing class if she’d find a way to break my fiction-writing block. She did. I dedicated my first book of 50 stories to her for doing so. 

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket, and you can’t get published if you don’t submit. If you want to get published frequently, consider writing flash fiction in the speculative fiction genre. Magazines around the world clamor for spec fic submissions every month.

Also, be a storyteller first and writer second. The world is full of talented writers who can combine words in artsy ways and get A+ on every paper in their creative writing courses. But not so many can devise compelling stories that editors find irresistible.

Finally, if you chose to write horror flash fiction, consider becoming a minimalist. By that, I mean use only those words necessary to tell the story. To do this, omit weather reports, what people are doing with their eyes, what they are wearing, that they turn to talk to somebody, and hundreds of other superfluous details—unless they are absolutely vital to the plot. Don’t be cryptic. Avoid pompous, inflated prose. Write lean and mean stories. Edit ruthlessly. Submit like there’s no tomorrow. Do this, and you may find your horror works–and anything else you write— getting published at an astounding rate.

Thanks for the great interview, Michael!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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What was your inspiration for your first novel, Ghost Road Blues? What’s it about?

It got started in a couple of different ways. My grandmother (who died in 1978 at 101) told me as a boy about the myths and legends –or as she called them ‘beliefs’ of the supernatural. I grew up knowing a fair bit about the folklore of supernatural and occult beliefs, and while writing several nonfiction books on the subject I got the idea for a novel in which the characters encounter the supernatural as it appears in folklore, which is substantially different from the way it is most often portrayed in popular fiction and film.
Ghost Road Blues deals with a small Pennsylvania town whose industry & tourism is built on its long-standing haunted history. They have Hayrides and a huge Halloween Festival…but they discover that the town is far more haunted than they think, and that turns out not to be a good thing for the residents or tourists.
It’s the first book of a trilogy, informally known as the Pine Deep Trilogy. The series continues with Dead Man’s Song and will conclude with Bad Moon Rising in June of 2008.

For most writers, having their first book published by a big NY publisher is a dream come true. How did this come about? Did you initially find an agent?

Ghost Road Blues is my first novel, but not my first book. I’ve been a nonfiction author for thirty years. I’ve written over a thousand magazine articles, plays, short stories…the works. I served as my own agent for selling the nonfiction books –and this is not something I recommend. My first books were textbooks I wrote for a number of college courses at Temple University (Judo, Self-Defense for Women, Introduction to Asian Martial Arts, etc.). Then I did some martial arts books for a small press. When I decided to try my hand at fiction –which was totally new territory for me—I decided to look for an agent.
I made a wish-list of the agents who worked with the authors I most admired, particularly those writing in the same genre where I wanted Ghost Road Blues placed. I wrote a heck of a query letter and approached the top agents I could find. When I got go-aheads to submit my book, I gave each some time to read the material and then I invited them out to lunch, one at a time. I like face-to-face book pitching, and over lunch we talked about my book, other books I wanted to write, and about the book world.
From those encounters I was able to choose from a couple of agents who offered to represent me. I believe I made the best choice for me. My agent, Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger Agency (formerly of Trident Media Group) has sold eleven books for me since April 2005. Six novels and five nonfics. She sold Ghost Road Blues to the second editor who read it and Pinnacle Books has done a marvelous job with the series.

Ghost Road Blues just garnered the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel of the Year. How does this make you feel as a writer?

On top of the world. It’s a somewhat surreal experience to try something totally new –book length fiction—and then have it become a celebrated book. I would have been happy just to see it in print; but the Stoker win was terrific. It’s supercharged me, too.

Tell us a bit about your other books. What was your inspiration for these books? Which themes obsess you?

Since I come from a background of magazine feature writing I have the writers’ knack of becoming obsessed with a topic –for a while. Aside from the martial arts books I’ve written, I’ve also written articles about dating, mixology, jazz, blues, film, gastropod farming (no, that’s not a typo), business, parenting, writing, technology, folklore and dozens of other topics. When I’m in research mode I want to know everything I can about a subject, and then I find that one element –the hook—that will give me something unique that I can pitch.
For books, I feel that I’ve kind of ‘been there, done that’ with martial arts. I’ve been an active jujutsu practitioner for 46 years now and I’ve written extensively about it. In 2002 I ‘moved on’ from that topic and became more fully enmeshed in folklore, which has always been a passion of mine. I suppose it’s the closest thing to an abiding ‘obsession’ with me. There’s so much to say on the subject, even within my area of specialty, which is the folklore of the occult and paranormal.
My first book on that subject was The Vampire Slayers’ Field Guide to the Undead, which is the only book I ever did under a pen name (that of Shane MacDougall). It started me in that direction, and after I landed my agent I gave her a proposal for a new book on vampire folklore, Vampire Universe, which she very quickly sold to Citadel Press. Before I’d finished writing that book the deal got tweaked and expanded so that I was now under contract to write three more books in the same, ah…’vein’. The second in that series, The Cryptopedia (co-authored with David F. Kramer) just debuted on September 1. That one is an occult/paranormal dictionary covering thirteen different subject areas (from divination to UFOs). The final two in that series are tentatively titled They Bite! (which discussed supernatural predators) and Vampire Hunters and Other Enemies of Evil, scheduled for release in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
In 2008 I’m diverting from folklore for a pop culture monster book: Zombie CSU: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead, also for Citadel, in which I ask real-world experts in forensics, law enforcement, medicine, and science how they might react and respond to zombies (of the Night of the Living Dead variety). All lots of fun.

What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual novel?

I’m a very disciplined writer, but I allow for a lot of flexibility. I write an outline first and character profiles. Then I sit down and draft out a very rough ‘preliminary synopsis’ of what the finished book might be like. I like complicated storylines and deep-reaching character development, and that has to be planned to some degree. However I have never finished a project that bears much resemblance to the original outline. Books are organic and they’ll change in the telling. The outline allows me to remember the underlying logic of the story, but I often let the characters drive the car.
Also, as you develop a scene there is an internal logic that often necessitates story changes you did not initially predict. This is cause and effect as applied to writing, and that allows the story to take on a pattern closer to reality.
I write every day, and I did that long before writing became my 9-5 job. I’m a believer in that saying: “If you write every day you get better every day.”
I roll out of bed around 7:30 and by 8-ish I’m at my desk. I set goals for myself –usually 4000 words per day. If I write more, that’s great, but it doesn’t mean I can write less tomorrow. On weekends I scale it back to about 1000 words.

Which element of fiction writing comes more naturally for you—plot, characterization, description, and dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?

Character development and dialogue are easiest, though all of it takes work. Complex plot is the hardest because you have to both entertain the reader and keep him guessing. You can’t make the puzzle too hard for them to grasp but at the same time you have to be aware that readers are smart, savvy and experienced, which means that they’ll be thinking two or three steps ahead. Balancing plot development and its twists and turns requires a lot of thought, and most of that occurs when you’re not at the keyboard. For some bizarre reason I get my best plot twist ideas while I’m in the shower. Who knows, maybe by shampooing my hair I’m stimulating brain cells; and it’s a much happier result than when I sing in the shower –which I do badly and at great volume.

What goes on inside the mind of the horror writer?

It’s not cobwebs, bats and spiders. Writers, particularly horror and thriller writers, spend a lot of time in their own heads. We poke into old closets and dusty attics, places where we’ve stored our fears and the memories of hurt and trauma. Horror writers generally start out by taking what scares them and writing about it so that they can watch it from a distance, gain some perspective over it, and then resolve it. It’s great therapy; but more importantly it allows others (readers) who have had similar experiences, to see that these are things that happen to a lot of people. We write about loss, heartbreak, abuse, neglect…and we build horrific elements around them to make the tales less overtly individual (to ourselves) and therefore more widely accessible. It’s a fascinating process.
We also listen to the voices in our heads. For most people this a red flag and medication & restraints might be involved. But for writers –and not just horror writers—our characters are, to some degree, alive in our heads. We allow them to talk to one another. Very often the best scenes and dialogue come from the characters inside the writers head being given license to talk and act. Then we go write it down. I believe it was Bradbury who said that writing is 99% thinking about things, and then the rest is typing.

Why do you think so many people enjoy horror fiction while at the same time loathing death and violence in real life?

Because horror fiction provides us with safe chills. We love the adrenaline rush on a rollercoaster, especially when it feels like it’s about to go off the rails, but we really, really need to believe that it won’t. Horror fiction is a rush. It satisfies the need to experience the whole range of human emotions. That’s why horror often has romance, humor, and other emotional qualities in it.
And for many it’s a way to reinforce the belief that monsters can be overthrown. In real life there are real monsters: abusive parents, violent criminals, rapists, hostile governments, terrorists…and for most people this is all way beyond their control. They feel disempowered by these threats. In horror fiction we can feel the same intensity of fear but in the end (usually) the good guys win and the monster dies. Never underestimate the power of closure, even if it’s escapist closure.

Are you still expected to do a lot of marketing and promotion on your own, or does your publicist/publisher take care of all the planning?

Unless you’re king of the bestseller list, if you’re an author you’re expected to do a lot of promotional work yourself. Until just recently (when I hired a publicity manager) I had to set up my own signings, create my own swag (those cool giveaway items authors sometimes have), and so on. My publisher, like many in the business, will do a little but not a lot. It’s an economic thing; plus they know that writers who want their books to succeed will hustle a lot of this themselves. It’s not fair, but there it is.
The trick is get into the mindset where you enjoy the process. And I do; though I did hire the publicist because of time constraints. I have to write 2 ½ books per year, so my time is getting limited.
After Bad Moon Rising comes out next year I’ll be writing fiction for another publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and they’ve offered to provide me with a publicist. That’ll be just dandy.

Would you like to share with our readers some of your current or future projects?

Aside from the books I already mentioned, I have a short story coming out in the anthology History is Dead, edited by Kim Paffenroth. It’s an antho of zombie stories set prior to the 20th century. My story, “Pegleg and Paddy Save the World” is a comedy about two moonshiners who run afoul of gangsters and zombies in the days leading up to the Chicago Fire. I’m collaborating with playwright Keith Strunk on a movie script based on the story.
I’m also shifting gears a little bit in fiction and am writing a bio-terrorism thriller, Patient Zero, for St. Martins Press. It’s the first of a series of novels about a police detective, Joe Ledger, who gets recruited by a secret military organization to help stop a group of terrorists who are planning to launch a weaponized disease that turns people into zombies. It’s not a horror novel, however, and I even have a decent medical explanation for how the zombies function. This book is tentatively scheduled for release in early 2009.
And I’m working on developing a couple of horror-related projects with collaborators, including a script for a graphic novel.
I’m also launching an online horror ezine, Cryptopedia Magazine (www.cryptopediamagazine.com). That’s going to be great, with lots of top writers and artists involved.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

My main author website is www.jonathanmaberry.com; but I’m also co-founder of a writers education center, The Writers Corner USA (www.writerscornerusa.com), and we’re just about to launch a number of online classes for writers. On MySpace I can be found at www.myspace.com/jonathan_maberry and www.myspace.com/cryptopedia.
I haven’t really started much of a blog, though I dearly want to. It’s a time thing. I’ll get one rolling when I’m sure I’ll have the time to provide interesting things for my blog readers to share.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to break into the horror genre?

First off, one sad reality about the business is that ‘horror’ per se is not a thriving genre. Top writers like Stephen King, Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons, Anne Rice…they never labeled themselves as horror writers. Most often their works are published as ‘fiction’, ‘thrillers’ or ‘suspense’.
To break into the business of writing horror I suggest pitching your book as a ‘supernatural thriller’. You still need to approach agents and publishers who work with horror, but the labeling matters, especially in the book pitch process.
Also, writers should learn as much as they can about the business of writing. Craft will take you only so far; but after you’re done typing –like it or not—your book becomes a commodity. Everything from that point on is business. Those authors who understand this thrive; those who don’t…don’t. There is a conceit within the creative community that writers make lousy businessmen; and that’s total crap. Writers are best at research –so go and research what it takes to make a good book and a good deal.
And, when pitching a book, make sure your pitch letter doesn’t get bogged down by trying to tell every last blessed plot point. That’s the wrong time to make those points. Be brief, be interesting, and always include information about why this book will satisfy the needs of readers who love this genre. To you it may be about the book, to the readers it may be about the book; but to agents, editors, booksellers, etc. it’s about how much money that book will make. When a writer learns the business he gets to participate more actively in the discussion phases, which means he’s more likely to make the kind of money that will give him the time to write and write and write.

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