1) So, this is hardly your first book from what I can tell. Go ahead and tell me about your first publication, and what you’d tell the author you of then if you had the chance.
Well, LOW is technically my first work. I was just bound and determined to get put out through a publisher instead of self-published. I initially started writing this back in 2009. It was a 70 page typed novella at first. Then I completely LOST it in a computer SNAFU!!! I was dreadfully sick. Spent the weekend plotting everything out and writing as much as I could remember verbatim in each scene. I sent the computer to a forensics specialist to recover anything possible but because I did a system restore while scrambling to recover the document, it scattered everything to the four winds of my hard drive. He got the first 12 pages but the rest was just some random phrases here and there that I had to piece together like some crazy jigsaw puzzle and plug into the scenes with what I had rewritten that first weekend. Then the rewrite began. And as I started to write I had an idea to expand the story into a full novel and somehow my tragedy led to something wonderful.
I finished it around 2012. After multiple submissions, rejections, rewrites, and repeat I finally decided to take a break and do something different. I decided to get my name out there. So, first I made a author profile on Facebook, started making friends etc. and interacting with people, and then I had the idea for Ashley’s Tale and put that out. I had an incredible response from people, including Becky Narron and Brandy Yassa, who worked at Stitched Smile Publications. They loved it. And a short time later they came to me and said “Hey, Stitched is doing an open call submission for novels. You got a novel you could submit?” And that’s how LOW came to be with SSP. So, If I could say anything to the me of October 2015, the me who decided to throw himself out there and self-publish a novella, I’d tell him “Thank you for having the guts to self-publish even though you were scared about putting yourself out there like that. It paid off.”
2) What would you say to someone who writes a positive review of your work but didn’t like the ending of your last book Warm, Dark Places are Best? What’s your opinion to critiques from non-editors?
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion or preference. You can’t expect everyone to like everything you write, especially something like Warm, Dark Places are Best. That was a rough one. As far as editor vs non-editor, it depends. I have a few beta readers that are not editors that I trust their opinion very much. They’ve been reading the horror genre for a long time and they give great feedback. When I read negative reviews from strangers I look to see what kind of things they say and whether it really holds water or not. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. If it does, I’ll do my best to take it to heart.
3) Okay, flip the script! You get a negative review from a writer who you respect and he tells you exactly what he didn’t like about your story (let’s say Character development) and how that caused issues for him. Do you weigh the opinion of writers the same as editors?
If it’s a writer I respect, yes. Probably more so than an editor.
4)I loved “The Fall of St. Louis” in Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies, it was a great read. What inspires these stories for you?
Well, first off, THANKS!!! I had an absolute blast writing that story! I laughed so much writing Asmoday’s parts. But to your question, dear sir. In general, I have a hard time being given a topic and coming up with a story idea. Probably something I need to work with, but so far, the Muse has been good to me. I generally am just putzing along and listening to music or watching TV and I’ll hear a phrase or see a flash of images and something will spark and my mind will start to think and run with it and the next thing I know I have a kernel of an idea. Like I just grabbed hold of a kite flying in a thunderstorm with a key on it like good ole Ben Franklin and lightning happened to strike. Maybe. I don’t know. And then I just start working that kernel of an idea and shape it. LOW was like that. I was driving down the road listening to a playlist on my IPod and it just happened to have the songs ‘All Nightmare Long’ by Metallica and ‘Low’ by Testament back to back. And when I heard them, for God knows how many times that particular time made it, in a row all of a sudden something sparked and bam, I had a basic kernel of an idea that I worked and worked and worked. Sometimes I’ll just be zoned out doing stuff and an idea will drop on my brain like a piece of molten lead or something out of nowhere. For me, those “inspired” ideas always seem to yield the best stories. Even with ‘The Fall of St. Louis’ for the Monsters vs. Zombies anthology, I didn’t try to force that story idea. I just kind of waited on it and the first thing that dropped into my brain was demons and demon lords. If the undead are taking over the earth, one, no souls are going to hell for them to torture and two, there’s less living souls for demons to tempt and possess etc here on earth. Satan’s gotta be pissed!! LOL. So maybe he might be willing to “help” humanity out. And it went from there.
5) What first got you interested in writing as a career?
I started writing poems and short stories in high school. I wanted to be an author back then. I had plans to go to college and be either an English Lit teacher or a Journalist who was an author on the side. Of course, life did not go that way. I got married and we got pregnant. I ended up becoming a cop. I didn’t write for several years. Then I just started back up writing poetry. I left the police job after almost 12 years and entered the professional training industry just over 11 years ago, teaching High Speed and Tactical Driving, Off Road Driving, and Hand to Hand Combatives to Military, Law Enforcement, Bodyguards and private citizens full time. A few years later was when I started working on LOW.
6) And what attracted you to writing in our dark corner of fiction?
My sister got me into reading horror in high school. Stephen King’s short story ‘Survivor Type’ was my gateway drug and then I devoured the rest of the book Skeleton Crew and went from there. I read lots of different horror. Loved Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series, particularly. I took a break for a while. Later, after I left the Police Dept. I got into reading Neil Gaiman and H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft really brought me to the ‘dark side’ so to say. He is my favorite author and I absolutely love cosmic horror in general. Laird Barron is phenomenal and William Holloway and Brett Talley also have some incredible work in the cosmic horror vein.
7) To all the would-be writers out there, what is your one piece of writing advice, other than practice, that you would stress.
Don’t box yourself in to one type of story or one sub-genre, etc. when you first start out. Write whatever you feel inspired to write and see where it takes you. Words flow best when the Muse is speaking.
8) Now onto why we have you here, Low, a hellish looking novel that we’ll likely blister through the pages as we devour the story. Tell us a little about it.
Officer Adams is fed up with life right now. His marriage is finally collapsing a few years after the loss of their child and justice is not being served in his city like it should be. He wants to be happy for a change and he wants to make sure the bad guys get theirs, but will he stay within the lines to accomplish these two goals or stray into immoral waters. Chad Bigleby has a good cause but is taking the low road to get the money he needs and is willing to do whatever it takes, which is going to put him at odds with Officer Adams and more importantly put him on the radar of Pleasant Groves newest residents, Mr. Phailees and Phobos. A supernatural being and his companion with a hellish hunger for sinners of the treacherous sort, who betray those who have put their trust in these people who once posed as friends, confidants, parents and lovers. Once you’re on their list they will mark you and hunt you down in your nightmares. Chad Bigleby’s actions and Officer Adams’ investigations put them both on a collision course with Mr. Phailees and Phobos and they soon find that everything around them, everything they believed to be true is not what it once seemed. They will have to face not only Mr. Phailees and Phobos but the hell that is in their own hearts if they are going to make the right decisions and survive to salvage their lives by the end.
9) Now what would you say “created” the main character? Combination of real live people? Media personalities? Movie or television characters?
Officer Mark Adams is a lot of me, actually. Not everything, certainly, but there’s a good bit in there to create his core. And definitely the parts where he’s kicking ass, cracking the occasional joke and chilling with his friendly peeps on the street and coworkers. That was me all the way. (On the flip side, no one should draw any one for one correlations between my wife and Adams’ wife, Amy. Just fyi.)
10) I know when I write I listen to music, so I always ask this: when you write, what blasts in your ears?
I listen to all kinds of stuff depending on the mood, but metal and alternative is a large part of my preference, especially 80’s metal. I love Voivod (their album Dimension Hatros from the mid 80’s is still my all-time favorite album), Megadeth, Dio (HUGE Dio fan, especially the Holy Diver album), Testament, Anthrax, Pantera, Metallica, Iron Maiden, and an obscure, little known heavy metal band called Wild Dogs. I really loved Living Colour as well and love their more recent stuff too. I was and still am a big fan of a Christian heavy metal band called Resurrection Band (or Rez Band for short) who first started back in the late 70’s.
As far as modern bands go, I’m pretty eclectic and with ITunes I may just like a song or two from a band and pick that up versus a whole album. That being said, Billy Talent is a criminally underrated band as well as Hurt. All their stuff is really good. Tool, A Perfect Circle, Delta Rae, Elle King, Disturbed, Godsmack, Muse, NIN, Nostalghia, The Pretty Reckless, Halestorm, Kidney Thieves, Lacuna Coil, Flyleaf, The Agonist, Portishead, Soundgarden, Audioslave and I found this kind of bluegrass band (and I’ve never done bluegrass before in my life) recently called The Dead South. They’re friggin awesome! Picked up several of their songs.
I’ll often take one song in particular and just loop it. If it gets me in the zone and keeps me there I’ll stick with it, even for hours on end. Some of my favorites for that are: Danzig – Show Me How the Gods Kill, Ministry – Stigmata, Maylin – Tout Autour De Moi (discovered that one in the Indie movie Goddess of Love which is absolutely amazing if you’ve never seen it), Wooden Wand – The Mountain (found this one in another Indie movie called Julia, which is also extremely good), Masha – Gather up the Devils (from the movie Let us Prey), Public Image Ltd. – The Order of Death (from one of my favorite Scifi / Dystopian / horror movies ever – Hardware), Black Sabbath – Eternal Idol, Iron Maiden – To Tame a Land, Sisters of Mercy – Colours, NIN – Every Day is Exactly the Same, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult – Daisy Chain for Satan. And probably my all-time favorite song since childhood when I bought the 45 single record is Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry.
A huge part of LOW was written to the band Hurt. They really just got me in the mood for that book, especially a few of their songs – Abuse of SID, Alone With the Sea, Et Al, House Carpenter and Wars. I looped all five of those songs at different points.
11) So, with this story we have atypical supernatural entity interfering with mortal lives with Officer Adams, but what kind of conflict will there be? Will we be looking for a traditional antagonist, or something more?
LOW is primarily a story about internal moral conflict, about the struggle between good and evil inside us all and the hell we create for ourselves through our own ethical failures. Chad Bigleby will provide a portion of the external conflict as Adams investigates a case that he is involved in. But it will be Mr. Phailees’ engagement with both Bigleby and Adams as well as other residents of the city that will create conflicts of numerous types, including moral temptations, numerous night terrors, suicidal and homicidal inclinations, and full out physical conflict with Phailees and Phobos as things escalate. Plus, multiple small sub-stories will all embody the theme of “how low will you go” and depict the depravity of man in all his weakness.
So, Mr. Phailees will not be the “typical” antagonist. He will fill multiple roles: hunter, tempter, provider of knowledge and dare I say mentor figure in some twisted ways and yet he will be the one controlling the chess board and Adams and Chad both will have to make crucial choices by the end, choices that Mr. Phailees will have left them with not much in the way of pleasant options.
12) Is there anyone who has helped you with you writing? I know my wife has helped me a great deal by being my proverbial bouncing board for a number of projects.
My wife was very helpful with my novel LOW. Since then though I’ve had a few people who have been routine beta readers who have helped out a lot with their feedback. Lisa Lee, Lisa Swearengin and Brandy Yassa have been the most consistent readers. The three of them along with Ta Bratcher, Ruthann Jagge and Morgan Pearson helped out a lot with feedback on my Ashley’s Tale series, especially part three which will be coming out in a collected edition early next year. William Holloway and Jason Morton have also been a great help on certain works. William Holloway is a phenomenal cosmic horror author, so when I wrote a full on cosmic horror novella recently, entitled ‘Where the Gods Sleep’, I was very happy to get his two thumbs up feedback along with some critical suggestions for improvement in some places.
13) Final question: If we were thrust into a world where the supernatural was real, what horror creature would you fear the worst? Assume that the supernatural is fully understood and that we’ve had throughout the history of mankind.
Man, that’s a tough one, but I think it would be a toss-up between demons and vampires. The demonic because of our inherent weakness and vulnerability to a world behind our world that we can’t touch and influence but it can touch and influence us any time it chooses, but vampires, if of the sort that can think and is intelligent, they can build empires in the dark and rule from the shadows, influencing our society on every level and taking what they please when they please. Both are immensely frightening.