May 29, 2013
Lisa Mannetti’s debut novel, The Gentling Box
, garnered a Bram Stoker Award, and she was nominated in 2010 both for her novella “Dissolution” and a short story, “1925: A Fall River Halloween.” She has also authored The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn
, a compilation of novellas—including the story “Dissolution”; a macabre gag book, 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave Your Lover
; two nonfiction books; and numerous articles and short stories in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Her story “Everybody Wins” was produced as a short film by director Paul Leyden, starring Malin Ackerman and released under the title “Bye-Bye Sally”.
As an editor, I’ve worked with Lisa several times over the past year or so. She kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Your debut novel, The Gentling Box, won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2008. That’s like strapping on a jetpack and blasting off into a writing career. How has the award helped your career?
Lisa Mannetti (LM)
: Winning was the single most gratifying event of my life. Years earlier, when I began writing horror, I placed second in a contest at one of the World Horror conventions and when the publisher mentioned my story would probably “garner a lot of interest for a Stoker recommendation,” I practically passed out in front of the mailbox onto my front lawn. So winning such a prestigious award was beyond my wildest dreams. I always try to write my best, but I thought of the Stoker as a true pinnacle that might be always beyond my reach—so it wasn’t on my mind at all during the writing. My goal was getting the book published. Winning for The Gentling Box
actually meant even more because two major agents could not sell it to any of the houses in New York. When it received acclaim, it signaled to me that my belief in the novel wasn’t misplaced after all. That’s really huge.
In terms of my day-to-day career, it’s helped smooth the way for subsequent books and projects, a new agent, and the publication of my work in general. In the old days, I’d write a story and sit down with lists of places that seemed like a “fit” with the piece, then start making the manuscript rounds. Now I’m asked to contribute to magazines and anthologies, so my stories are essentially sold before I write them. I’ve never felt like the prescribed theme was any kind of creative impediment--most editors have given me tons of latitude. Those invitations to contribute have been terrific. One of my stories, “1925: A Fall River Halloween” which features Lizzie Borden as a character, was nominated for the Stoker in 2010.
It’s also helped in subtler, but no less important ways, and a few examples come to mind. I’m now an active member of the Horror Writers Association (a long-term goal I finally met) and a new edition of the book will be coming out from Nightscape Press (I couldn’t be more delighted!). Most of all, it makes me very conscious when I sit down to write that it’s critical—imperative—to set high standards and (whether the result can be deemed successful or not) to strive to produce the very best work I can—or die trying.
WB: Much of your work might be considered historical horror. Do you enjoy doing the research required for these books?
LM: Oh my God, don’t get me started! Oh well, too late. I have a background in 18th and 19th century English literature, but even as a kid I was fascinated for what we now call research. Back then, I just thought of it as “looking things up.” As a result, I was always hunting through my mother’s medical textbooks (the more gruesome the picture, the better) and fascinated with anything odd or bizarre or frightening. Even in grammar school, I’d turn in projects describing things like leprosy or foot-binding. Anyhow, I love to research. I find that what I learn is a huge help—not just with creating atmosphere, but understanding my characters, developing plot, and just having a hell of a good time. Research creates a real spark in me and, aside from the excitement I feel, it often results in strange and wonderful combinations of ideas.
I’m working on a Houdini project now. I’ve been crazy about him since I was in third grade, happened to see a rerun of that old Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh movie and then went to the library and got a biography about his life. I have now acquired a huge assortment of books about him, about magic in general, and almost everything he’s written. I have 24 pages of single-spaced notes, but I’m only planning on writing a short story and turning that work into the bare bones of a film treatment.
Aside from having a mania for learning new information (a crucial aspect of being a writer), I consider research and ancillary reading as part of my daily work routine. I think the more you steep yourself in whatever world you’re creating, the better the outcome. Eventually, when you write, you let go of the research and begin to create—but by then the “world” you’re creating on the page is as familiar to you as the “world” of grocery shopping, your hometown, your friends, and family. With the Houdini piece, I even browsed his books about rope-tying tricks and paper magic. I won’t use any of that as far as I know—but, in addition to being a lot of fun to read, I know that it gives me insight to who he was as a person. Even if I’m not consciously thinking of certain information, it informs the background of my characters, the setting, the plot, and the story itself.
Even when I write contemporary stories I still research. With every book, novella, or story, I often find that, even as I write, I might dump something in and then check it out on the fly.
I think the first job of any writer is reading. If more writers read widely in all areas (not just in their own genres), writing as a whole would be tremendously improved. For starters, they’d know what’s been done before and a lot more of them would (hopefully) stop creating products that are essentially retellings. (I hear you groan—anything can be boiled down to its essence and, of course it will sound like the same story—but don’t use that as an excuse for laziness. Watching “Summer and Smoke” doesn’t feel the same as watching “Romeo and Juliet”). Reading more—and making it as important to your writing routine as writing itself—also results in knowing more acutely not just what’s been done, but what works and what doesn’t. It sharpens your critical skills and helps you understand what’s good or weak in your own writing. It also helps develop the bones of your work: structure, facility with words, pacing, dialogue, setting. Do you just want to tell a story, or do you want to tell it well and rivet your audience? Put another way, personally, I’d rather watch a film like “Dracula” than “The Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes”.
WB: Do you write from an outline, or do you pretty much improvise?
LM: I don’t write from an outline because I like to discover what’s going to happen as I’m working. I’ve written stories that started as a single sentence in my head, a vague, disturbing concept or a dream image, so I guess my process is closer to improvisation, even though--especially with novels—at some point (usually quite a while before the halfway mark) I know the end.
Outlines, for me, tend to straitjacket my creativity and leave me less likely to explore different avenues. I like being surprised or shocked and will pretty much try to let the characters run the show early on. For me, the time to streamline is after the first draft is written when I have a clearer understanding of a story’s logic, its stronger or weaker elements. I’ve always found that letting myself go down the garden path has led to really fascinating denouements. Outlines tend to revolve around plot development. I find, when I write and read, that I’m only interested in plot as it relates to character—and a really great character is not going to spring fully formed from a formula.
I know people “create characters” to serve the storyline, but I think when characters are subservient to the organic burgeoning of a story it diminishes the writing. It can be done—God knows there are enough movie thrillers featuring psychiatrists with violent amnesiac patients—but nobody who appreciates a really great story that’s superbly crafted is going to confuse a potboiler with The Haunting of Hill House.
WB: The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn is a slight departure from your usual work, more fantasy than horror. It clearly reflects your love for Mark Twain and for cats (Tom and Huck are cats in the book). How did that novel jump into your head?
LM: Tom and Huck were my actual cats and of all the cats I’ve owned through the years, they were the most spirited and lively—not just as kittens, but for years. I do mean years. Because they were twins, they interacted more than most cats do—right down to hunting mice in tandem. I swear they conducted campaigns that were so involved; one could only glean such master plans by reading about Hannibal or the lives of the Roman emperors. Tom cornered the wee beasts down by the washing machine, Hucky was in charge of flanking maneuvers, and they were pros. One day I actually did hear a mouse scream. It was so loud I heard it while writing in my office—one whole floor above their killing field. I did try to rescue it, but they frightened it to death when it ran under the dryer.
Tom was just about the smartest cat I’ve ever known—in addition to being hopelessly addicted to grabbing attention and generally showing off on all occasions. He had personality to spare and Huck was no slouch, either. [‘Their constant hijinks led to little “playlets” I created for my outgoing answering machine in Tom’s voice wherein he described recent mayhem, or gave blackmail instructions to those who were foolish enough to call and disturb his and Huck’s naptime by leaving a message. These dramas were so popular, that not only did total strangers and salespeople make comments, but if I didn’t change them every few weeks, my friends complained. “Hey, change the message, it’s been a month!” Much as I loved imitating a southern drawl and pretending to be Tom, it was damn hard to keep writing all those 60-second scenarios. The next thing I knew, he—I mean they—I mean I was writing a book.
WB: Where’s your favorite place to write?
LM: Anywhere the writing is going well. Seriously, in the summer (evenings) I write on my front porch. In the winter, I write in my office, which was the bedroom I had as a child. Some days, I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not. Not because the decor hasn’t changed (there are no Teddy bears cluttering up the joint), but because, by some weird principle of acoustics, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend, much less explain, it’s the noisiest room in the house. Here’s one example, from my current bedroom I cannot hear the front door bell (directly beneath that room) but it’s clear as day in the office, which is actually in the back of the house. Does that make sense? No, I didn’t think so.
WB: What is your writing schedule, and how do you maintain it?
LM: That’s been one of my biggest difficulties this past year, because my Dad became seriously ill and I had a series of annoying health problems, too. If that weren’t enough, I wound up with a broken toe and crutches as the souvenir prize. Essentially you just have to keep plugging. So, my preferred schedule is actually from when I get up ‘til when the day’s writing is done. Because of the noise here, though, I sometimes do stay up and work at night. It screws up everything else, but sometimes it’s the only opportunity I get to work—and when I’m not writing, I’m miserable.
WB: What is your biggest challenge when writing a novel?
LM: I have a tendency to be too critical of my own work and there are times I write and rewrite at the same time. Occasionally that stops the flow; if I hit an impasse that I can’t surmount, frustration ensues and I resort to gallows humor.
WB: If you could start your writing career over, what would you do differently?
LM: That’s a hard question to answer, partly because technology has transformed the industry almost completely. When I first started writing, self-publishing and vanity presses were anathema—you just didn’t give in even when 95% of the rejections you received contained the scurrilous (and dreaded) phrase: “You write well and, were it not for the current market conditions with a decided downturn in horror, this book ...” Writers can now “create” the market and get their work read, seen, noticed, and sold. I guess I would have had more faith in my ability, but that’s something that never really leaves a serious writer, anyhow. We always think the latest effort could have been done better and falls short of our intentions.
When I was younger, my fallback position at cocktail parties was to discuss my short stories and novels as if they were works in progress and belay my own embarrassment by mentioning the nonfiction books I’d had published. Nowadays, of course, almost no one asks if you’ve been published, since everyone can be published. Snoopy types do tend to inquire whether the work in question has appeared under the rubric of an actual company or whether you’ve whomped the whole thing together by yourself. But, hey, if they don’t know you well enough, they’ll never guess that Austin Dread Crypt Ltd. combines the names of your street and your tarantula, with an appropriately spooky word tossed in for good measure.
WB: If you could collaborate with another author, living or dead, who would it be and what would you write?
LM: Only one? Boy, this is hard. Well, I can’t pick one and I’m allowing myself two on the basis that I write both satire and horror. So, from the humor perspective, I’d definitely want to collaborate with J.P. Donleavy and write something wickedly fun and entertaining. For a collaborator on the dark side, I’d choose Peter Straub—because I’d learn so much. I’d follow his lead and write whatever worked for the project—hopefully something twisty, complex, and rich with meaning.
WB: What are you reading now?
LM: I’m reading Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. Somehow, I managed to get through all those years of school without reading much of his work and a few weeks ago (while recuperating from really ugly but relatively simple surgery) I happened to see the movie starring Bette Davis (circa 1933) and loved it. So I did what all reading doobies do these days and promptly downloaded it from Amazon. One of the really interesting things about the movie is that it completely eliminates the first third of the book—instead of seeing Phillip growing up, going to school, caroming around Paris, it begins with his failure there as an artist and goes on. I’m not aware of any other film utilizing the same technique, but the film definitely worked. I loved the book, too—so am on something of a Maugham kick and plan to read The Magician next.
WB: You wrote a short story for the Smart Rhino anthology Zippered Flesh 2: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad titled “The Hunger Artist.” The story is something of a precursor of the novel of the same title that you’re currently writing. Can you tell us a little more about this project?
LM: Before I delve into the intricacies of the novel, first I want to say thanks, Weldon, for giving me the opportunity to write a short story version for Zippered Flesh 2. The historical background of “The Hunger Artist” centers on a harrowing case that occurred shortly after the turn of the century in the state of Washington. Two wealthy sisters from England who (depending on your point of view) were faddists, health nuts, or light years ahead of their time, wound up being scammed and—much worse—starved by osteopath and “fasting specialist” Linda Hazzard. (Obviously, no fiction writer would dare make up that name.) The younger of the two sisters died. I first read of the case in a fascinating book called Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen. Naturally, he’s already done a superb job with the nonfiction account, so I see my novel as something more closely akin to what Jack Ketchum did with The Girl Next Door, based on the Indiana Torture slaying, and Joyce Maynard accomplished in To Die For regarding the Pamela Smart case. I’ve read additional materials, of course, and it’s exciting to take the facts and the sheer pathos of the tale and venture into new territory—literally with the setting, New Hampshire—and figuratively by adding traditional elements of horror: chilling atmosphere and supernatural events.
WB: One last question, just for fun. You’re planning an outdoor barbecue on July 4th, and you can invite four special guests—authors or fictional characters, contemporary or from the past. Who do you invite and what conversation would you expect?
LM: I’d definitely invite Mark Twain—and I wouldn’t care what he talked about—from all accounts he was always as entertaining as hell—or Sheol, as he’d have said.
Secondly, I’d ask Theodore Dreiser because his book, An American Tragedy, like my novel in progress, was based on a true crime. He also wrote what has always been, for me, a terrifying novel: Sister Carrie, which, like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, deals with a character’s downward spiral into disaster. The concept scares the hell out of me.
I’ve been doing some research for another little project recently, so I’d also invite Harry Houdini (a published author for those who don’t know his literary reputation) and Arthur Conan Doyle. Since their friendship tanked, then dissolved, it would be fascinating to watch them provide the fireworks. Even though you’ve only allowed me four authors, I’m including one other of my favorite contemporary writers, Robert Dunbar—not only one of the wittiest men on the planet, but also someone who could scout around the perimeters of the party and provide hilarious running commentary on social climbers, pontificators, and those generally spewing floccinaucinihilipilification. By the way, that’s a word I came across accidentally yesterday, and now you have to look it up, too—be grateful in these tech-tacular times you don’t have to haul out the OED.
WB: Thanks, Lisa, for a fun and informative interview!
Visit Lisa’s author Web site at www.lisamannetti.com, as well as her virtual haunted house at www.thechanceryhouse.com.
(A version of this review was also published in the May 2013 issue of Suspense Magazine.)
April 17, 2013
Charles Colyott lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere (Southern Illinois) with his wife, daughters, cats, and a herd of llamas and alpacas. He is surrounded by so much cuteness, it's difficult for him to develop any street cred as a dark and gritty horror writer. Nevertheless, he has appeared in Read by Dawn II
magazine; Terrible Beauty Fearful Symmetry
; Horror Library
Volumes III, IV, and V; and the Zippered Flesh
and Uncommon Assassins
anthologies from Smart Rhino Publications. His mystery novels, Changes
and Pressure Point
, focus on Colyott's acupuncturist, martial-arts-savvy protagonist, Randall Lee.
Colyott took some time away from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Let's get the geek question out of the way first. Zombie or robot apocalypse?
Charles Colyott (CC)
: Zombies, of course! I feel like we'd have a better chance against them ... unless we're talking the almost indestructible ones from Return of the Living Dead
, or the really awful ones from Brian Keene's The Rising
. Then we're just screwed.
: And one other nagging question: Why llamas and alpacas instead of cows and goats? Can you even milk a llama? And why would you want to? (OK, that was three questions.)
: My wife and I just sort of fell in love with alpacas before we even knew what they were. I liked the fact that we didn't have to use them in any way ... no killing, no milking, etc. We just cut their hair once a year (something which must be done anyway). I imagine it is possible to milk one ... but I can't fathom why anyone would want to. Our llamas act as guards for our alpacas, and they take their job pretty seriously.
: Chinese culture, especially martial arts, flavors the Randall Lee novels. How much of this is pulled from your past experience, how much from research?
: I do have to do a fair amount of research for certain stuff, but a lot of it comes from experience, too. I'm a mega-nerd for Chinese culture. I wanted to learn Tai Chi when I was a kid, but there was no one around us who taught the real stuff at that time. I really wanted to learn martial arts, though, so I ended up studying (over quite a span of years) other styles ... some Aikijiujitsu, Kempo, Capoeira, Lohan gung fu, and Aikido before finally finding my Tai Chi teacher.
: How much of Randall Lee is actually Charles Colyott?
: Oh, not too much (I hope)! When I was writing Changes
, I wanted to show how this guy learns how to live again after a pretty horrible tragedy. I think we have a pretty similar sense of humor, but I'm nowhere near as tough as Randall! And while I know a few things about Tai Chi, I don't really know much about acupuncture ... that's one of those areas that I have to research.
: The Lee novels are also liberally seasoned with humor, and it seems like you have fun writing the books. Is the humor just natural to your writing, or is it a planned writing strategy?
: It was definitely part of the plan. I wrote almost exclusively horror (and pretty dark horror at that) for a few years, and I decided that I wanted to write something a little bit more mainstream, something that my family would actually read without questioning my sanity ...
: I think horror and humor are kissing cousins. Your thoughts?
: Definitely. And in the hands of a really great writer like Jeff Strand, those cousins get downright incestuous.
: The short stories you've written for the Smart Rhino anthologies, especially for the Zippered Flesh
books, are absolutely creepy and much darker in tone than the Randall Lee books. Do you harness a different mood when writing horror? Go to the "dark side," so to speak?
: I think the dark side is always there, but it's a matter of degree. There's definitely some dark stuff in the Randall Lee books (Pressure Point
, especially), but that darkness isn't meant to be the focus. Music is what helps me to set a tone, though. I typically make little "soundtrack" playlists to help get a feel for a story.
: In one sentence, what is the future of publishing?
: I don't know if anyone knows, really, but I'm going to do my best to be part of it.
: Which author has had the most influence on your own writing?
: That's a tough one. I met Neil Gaiman when I was about 17, and he really encouraged me to write. I'll never forget that. In horror, Stephen King (of course), John Skipp, Jack Ketchum, Ray Garton, Rick Hautala ¡K a bunch of people! Mystery is easy, though. Robert B. Parker. I read something like twenty Spencer novels over the course of a summer because Parker's style is just awesome.
: What are you reading now?
: I tend to juggle several at a time. The Hunter
by Richard Stark, Flood
by Andrew Vachss (re-reading this one), Galilee
by Clive Barker, and Shada
by Douglas Adams and Gareth Roberts.
: So, what's your next writing project? A new Randall Lee novel?
: Yep! Jianghu
, the third book in the series, which is turning out to be the darkest and coolest one yet. I'm also collaborating with the super awesome Glen Krisch on a horror novel and working on the second book in my dark fantasy series.
Thanks, Charles, for a great interview, and good luck with your future writing endeavors! To learn more about this author, visit his web site at http://charlescolyott.wordpress.com.
(A version of this review was also published in the April 2013 issue of Suspense Magazine
May 11, 2012
Kealan Patrick Burke is a man of many talents—a skilled and promising horror writer, editor, artist, and actor. Born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, he came to the United States in 2001 to find his fortune in writing. During the intervening years, his work has garnered critical acclaim and awards, and he has been called “a newcomer worth watching” by Publishers Weekly
and “one of the most original authors in contemporary horror” by Booklist
Kealan’s stories have appeared in many publications, including Cemetery Dance, Corpse Blossoms, Horror World, Grave Tales,
and a number of anthologies. His work also includes novels (KIN, Currency of Souls, Master of the Moors, The Hides
), novellas (The Turtle Boy, Vessels, Midlisters, Thirty Miles South of Dry County
), and collections (Ravenous Ghosts, Theater Macabre, The Number 121 to Pennsylvania
The man truly is busy! Yet, when I asked Kealan to talk with us concerning his experiences, he kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Born in Ireland, coming to America--what was the hardest part, as a writer, of acclimating to the U.S.?
Kealan Patrick Burke (KPB)
: The hardest part of coming here, as a person, not solely as a writer, was leaving everything I knew behind: family, friends, the culture, and basically starting from scratch in a place I’d never seen outside of TV. It was a daunting task, and pretty terrifying for a guy who had scarcely been outside of his own country for twenty one years. But that same task provided ample fodder for my writing, broadening my horizons and widening my perspective to an infinite degree. More importantly, relocating here afforded me the opportunity to write uninterrupted for two years, an opportunity I hadn’t had up to that point, and in that space of time, I wrote and sold my fiction like a madman. So if I hadn’t made the move, it’s quite likely I’d never have seen my work in print, or have ended up pursuing writing as a full-time career.
: Do you work from an outline, or do you pretty much improvise?
: Generally I don’t work from an outline because I like to be surprised by where a story takes me, and plotting out every detail, every twist and turn, seems to suck all the fun out of it and runs the risk of sapping my enthusiasm for the project. Instead I’ll keep a notebook by the computer into which I’ll scribble plot points, twists and revelations, character traits and phrases I like as they come to me. The current novel, Nemesis
, for example, while not fully outlined, has roughly fifty pages of notes that wouldn’t make much sense to anyone else if they looked at them. To me, those notes are like an extended movie trailer. There’s just enough to know what the story’s about, but not enough to spoil it. If I ever tackle a book as big as Lonesome Dove
, or The Stand
, however, it may become necessary to outline just to keep things on track. We’ll see.
: What is your biggest challenge when writing a novel?
: Overcoming doubt. No matter how many novels I write, there always comes a point in the process where I wonder why I’m bothering with it, when the story whispers insidiously that it’s a pile of crap and we both know it, that I’m a fraud and should quit, that what I think is good will pale in comparison to the greats, that the idea has been written about before by better writers, that everyone will hate the book. It passes of course, usually a day or so afterward, because the compulsion to write is stronger than the doubt, but it’s a bitch when it happens.
: You’re a prolific writer. What is—and how do you maintain—your working schedule?
: My schedule is so all over the place, it’s a wonder I get anything done at all. Life and all its intrusions (like moving house recently, which took the better part of two months) have left me with a schedule no more complicated than: Write when you can; mull over the story when you can’t. It can be frustrating, but ultimately I find that by the time I do get to the computer, the words are ready and waiting like a dam about to break and I may end up putting in sixteen hour days for a few weeks. So even though it’s not as organized as I’d like, the work still gets done.
: What, in your opinion, is the best way to market your work?
: If I had a definitive answer to that, I’d be a lot better known. Obviously in this day and age of social networking, that’s probably the most viable way to raise awareness of your work, but that, and all marketing really, will only be effective if the work itself is good. Write a solid novel and worry about the marketing later. If the book has legs, it’ll learn to walk eventually.
: In one sentence, what is the future of publishing?
: If you could start your writing career over, what would you do differently?
: I’d be a little less naïve about the publishing industry. When I first started writing for publication, if a publisher showed interest in my work, that was enough for me. I didn’t do any research into their track records, guidelines, reputation etc., and ended up being ripped off more than once. It was a good lesson to learn, but I’d rather have learned it some other way.
: If you could collaborate with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you write?
: King, definitely. And I’d love to co-write a sequel to one of his classic works, like Salem’s Lot.
: You do far more than write. For example, you won Best Actor at the PollyGrind Film Festival for your role in Slime City Massacre. Is this something you'd do again? How has acting improved your writing?
: I think writing is acting. Essentially you spend your days in the minds of your characters assuming their roles, so to me, the only difference between that and acting on film is that other people are watching you do it on a film set. I did Slime City Massacre just for kicks and it was an amazing experience. And yes I would do it again. I’m actually signed up for another film project this summer, even though I don’t consider myself a serious actor, and have no illusions of fame or fortune. I just find it hard to say no to creative pursuits, no matter how off the wall they might be.
: If I looked at your bookshelf at home, which authors would I find?
: If I listed them here, the magazine would have to expand this issue to a three-volume hardcover set (I have more books than the public library), so instead I’ll just tell you the authors who take up the most space on my shelves here in the office: Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, Dean Koontz, Bentley Little, Robert R.. McCammon, John Connolly, Dennis Lehane, Peter Straub, Charles L. Grant, Cormac McCarthy, Norman Partridge, Dan Simmons, Graham Masterton, F. Paul Wilson, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Marshall Smith, and Jack Ketchum.
: What are you reading now?
: The Intruders
by Michael Marshall Smith.
: Nemesis: The Death of Timmy Quinn is coming out soon. What can you tell us about that?
is the fifth and final book in the Timmy Quinn series, which started eight years ago with the publication of The Turtle Boy
(available for free as a digital download on Amazon, B&N etc.). The books were previously only available as expensive hardcover limited editions on the secondary market, so I’m thrilled that they’re so widely available now.
, the veil that separates the realms of the living and the dead has come down and now the ghosts of murder victims are free to walk the earth without needing Timmy to facilitate their vengeance. With his girlfriend infected by something inhuman, and the world in chaos, Timmy must find the enigmatic and elusive Peregrine, the man responsible for the sundering of The Curtain, and destroy him before the revenants destroy us all.
: What’s upcoming for Kealan Patrick Burke in the next year?
: This year will see the release, in both hardcover (from Thunderstorm Books) and digital, of the aforementioned final volume in the Timmy Quinn saga, Nemesis
. In addition, Cemetery Dance Publications will release my novella Jack & Jill
, and I will be making it available digitally at the same time. Cemetery Dance will also be releasing a few anthologies featuring my work: Smoke & Mirrors, The Crane House,
and Shocklines: Fresh Voice in Terror
. And as always, there are deals in the pipeline I can’t discuss just yet!
: One last question, just for fun: Who is your favorite superhero and why?
: I’ve always liked Batman’s struggles with his inner demons, and the villains they gave him as reflections of those demons. And I absolutely love Christopher Nolan’s treatment of the character in the two films so far (though I liked Tim Burton’s efforts too, for different reasons.) So, Batman. Or is it The Batman?
: The Batman is probably correct—but The Batman and Robin sounds odd. Oh well …
Thanks for a great interview, Kealan. And we wish you all the best with your future work.
For more on Kealan Patrick Burke, visit his Web site
, his blog
, and his Amazon.com Author Page
. To sign up for his newsletter, just send an e-mail to email@example.com with “Newsletter” in the subject line.
(A version of this review was also published in the May 2012 issue of Suspense Magazine
Great Review for Zippered Flesh in Fangoria Magazine
Finally got the May issue of Fangoria
and read the review of Zippered Flesh
that folks had told me about. The reviewer, Christine Hadden, did a great job capturing the flavor of the anthology. She said "this compendium of depravity" has "something for everyone to be disturbed by," and that the stories "are hardcore studies of shocking monstrosities that will enthrall and entice even the most hardened horror fan." Doesn't get better than that!
October 30, 2011
I attended the 2011 Delaware Regional Writers Conference last month, and one of the workshops I attended was "Infusing Rhythm and Music into Writing and Performance." The workshop leader, Holly Bass, is a writer, poet, performer, and director, and was a founding member of the DC Writers Corps. Although the workshop was geared more toward poets, I was fascinated with the aspect of using music and rhythm in fiction writing.
Holly engaged the workshop participants in a number of group activities aimed at "freeing the voice." She introduced us to hip-hip poetry--first having us read written versions of the poetry, and then having us listen to recordings of the writers performing their own work. Of course, our readings of the poems were vastly different from the "real thing."
As an exercise, Holly asked us to write a poem using sound to provide descriptions. I'm not much of a poet, but here's what I came up with:
Slapping sand, water churns
Echoes on the undulating dunes
Cries of gulls, swooping birds
Chatter and squawk and scream and talk
Over a sole french fry in the sand
Lightning to the east, electrifying, diving
Thunder rolling, booming, moving, drumming, drumming
The sea is black, angry, locomotive-chugging
Storming the beach
OK, I'm no Sandburg. But, not bad, right?
Thank you, Holly, for an enlightening workshop!
September 18, 2011
When you think of counterterrorism political thrillers, perhaps Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, and Brad Meltzer come to mind. Soon, you may be adding Stephen England to that venerable list. His new novel, Pandora’s Grave
, the debut novel of his Shadow Warriors
series, is an action-filled espionage/military thriller sure to impress many readers and rightfully garner him many fans. (Read my review
!) And, at the age of 21, he has many years of writing ahead of him!
I asked Stephen to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and self-publication of Pandora’s Grave, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Pandora’s Grave includes many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim characters. Did you write character profiles before starting the novel, to keep things straight?
Stephen England (SE)
: Not really. I learned so many things about my characters through the course of the novel—I’m afraid it would have been a very boring book if I had attempted to lock them away at the start. To give an example—about half-way through Pandora’s Grave I realized that the character of Bernard Kranemeyer, the Director of the Clandestine Service, was really little more than another faceless bureaucrat. A major problem considering the major role he plays in the story. But then it occurred to me one day—what if? What if he was a retired Delta Force operative, an amputee who had lost his leg in an IED attack? It was quite literally as though someone had turned a light on for me—it’s those type of revelations that make writing so rewarding for me—those moments when you turn a corner and something fits so perfectly—I can’t imagine Kranemeyer any other way now. That’s who he is.
September 8, 2011
An archaeological team, including a number of Americans, disappears high in the Alborz Mountains of northwestern Iran. Days later, imagery from U.S. spy satellites reveals detachments of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps converging on the area. With the presidential election only months away, President Roger Hancock authorizes a covert CIA mission into the mountains of Iran to rescue the archaeologists. Little do the rescuers know of the ancient evil they must face, or that the events could lead to the next world war—or even the apocalypse.
So begins Stephen England’s thrilling counterterrorism novel, Pandora’s Grave
, the first in his Shadow Warriors
The lead character, Harry Nichols, is a church-going Christian, but also a highly skilled paramilitary operations officer who leads his team into dangerous regions of the Middle East, often on what seem like suicide missions. He faces moral dilemmas in his profession and is forced to make hard decisions, and this makes his character deeper and richer as the novel progresses. All the characters are well developed and thoroughly believable.
There is machismo and brutal violence aplenty, but England tempers this with a sensitivity and humanity rarely exhibited in espionage/action stories. There is little “black and white” here—the villains and the heroes are not always clearly discernible, adding to the overall suspense.
I was most impressed with England’s ability to maintain objectivity as he developed his Muslim, Jewish, and Christian characters throughout the novel, displaying a keen insight for character motivation based upon religious conviction, political ideology, and personal moral (and often amoral) predilections. There were many opportunities where the writer may have started to “preach,” but England deftly held his hand and created a balanced narrative, leading to a wholly satisfying conclusion (and, of course, a taunting taste of the sequel to come).
(A version of this review was also published in the September 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine
August 10, 2011
Tim Curran is a revered horror writer, the author of the novels Hive
, Skin Medicine
, Dead Sea
, The Devil Next Door
, and Biohazard
. His latest novel, Fear Me
, has just been published by Delirium Books.
The short novel is set in Shaddock Prison, a maximum security facility housing some of the most vicious, hardened criminals in the country, including the protagonist, Romero. When Romero gets a new cellmate, Danny Palmquist, he assumes the scrawny blonde kid won’t last in the hell that is Shaddock—but, he doesn’t know Danny’s dark secret and his own brand of “hell”. Whenever Danny is hassled or harmed, Danny’s brother takes bloody revenge on his oppressors. Despite the bars and walls, there is no escape from the horror unleashed every night as Danny sleeps. And the deaths are supremely gruesome.
Curran steers clear of prison clichés here, yet successfully immerses the reader in the rigors and inhumanity of prison life. As the lead character, Romero is a believable, complex character, but he is far from the convict with the heart of gold. He intercedes in defense of Danny, although it is likely to mean his own death, even before he discovers Danny’s true nature. But, even then, Romero’s motives are largely self-serving and more out of a sense of fairness than any real concern for Danny’s well-being. In Curran’s deft hands, the characters are well-defined, and the plot—while outlandish and horrifying—is ultimately thrilling and satisfying.
Many of Curran’s stories, while not Cthulhu Mythos pastiches, often contain Lovecraftian undertones. Fear Me
is no exception, and is certainly not for the faint of heart—the novel is filled with brutal violence, gore, slime, and ever-heightening suspense until the incredible climactic scenes. This is a must for Curran fans—or anyone who loves a fast-paced horror yarn!
(A version of this review was also published in the August 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine
August 6, 2011
Besides being an accomplished author of suspense novels and thriller stories (mostly dealing with crime, with a sly mix of humor), Starr Reina is also an Executive Editor for Suspense Magazine. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Los Angeles Chapter and nationally. Starr has won three ‘Best Speaker’ awards as well as ‘Best Evaluator’ at the Voice Ambassadors chapter of Toastmasters. She was a co-chair and main coordinator for the West Coast Author Premiere, a weekend long event. She is represented by the Cliffhanger Literary Agency.
Reina has appeared in a blaze and made her mark on the literary world with her Ivanovich series. The first is In the Name of Revenge
and the second, Deadly Decisions
. A third in the series is being penned as you read this. Reina is also the author of the young adult novella Cruel Whispers
and its sequel novel Cruel Past
Despite Starr’s busy schedule, she was happy to grant me the following interview. Enjoy!
Weldon Burge (WB)
: What do you find the most challenging as Executive Editor for Suspense Magazine? The most rewarding?
Starr Reina (SR)
: The most challenging I would have to say is poorly edited stories before they're submitted to us. I don't mean the paltry punctuation errors, but blatant misspelled words, misappropriate usages, and terrible formatting. The most rewarding? Well, I'd have to say everything else. I'm able to read the reviews, interviews, articles and stories first! The #1 reward is being part of such a fabulous magazine with a great team.
: You not only cohosted Suspense Radio Live with John Raab, but you were interviewed. What did you learn from these experiences?
: Both experiences were a lot of fun. I was able to speak with some great authors. I learned many things from various persons, such as how they write (style), their marketing endeavors, and much more. During my interviews, I was able to share some of the same information and it was a good feeling. Not to mention how my training from being in Toastmasters really helped.
: Coffee or tea or hot cocoa?
: Anyone who knows me can answer this question. Coffee, most definitely—but I do enjoy the occasional hot tea (or iced) and hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire in the winter in Big Bear.
: In your novels, In the Name of Revenge and Deadly Decisions, the first two books in your Ivanovich series, we have Pavel Ivanovich, a Russian heavy, and Italian mobster Carlo Mancini. How did you research to develop these two characters?
June 22, 2011
The following was published in the June 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine. I enjoyed the interview. Thanks to Shannon Raab for the great questions!
Being best known for his gardening articles hasn't stopped Weldon Burge from trying all sorts of things, literary-wise. He does freelance writing for many nonfiction and fiction publications. His nonfiction has appeared in Organic Gardening
, Fine Gardening
, Gardening How-To
, Birds & Blooms
, Flower & Garden
, National Gardening
, Delaware Today
, Country Discoveries
, Back Home
, The Almanac for Farmers & City Folk
, and other national magazines.
His fiction has been showcased in Suspense Magazine
, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine
, Grim Graffitti
, The Edge: Tales of Suspense
, Glassfire Magazine
, and Out & About
(a Delaware magazine). His stories have also been adapted for podcast presentation by Drabblecast, and have been accepted for the anthologies Don't Tread on Me: Tales of Revenge and Retribution
, Pellucid Lunacy: An Anthology of Psychological Horror
, Ghosts and Demons
, and Something at the Door: A Haunted Anthology
. Weldon had several projects brewing, including a police procedural novel and an illustrated chidlren's book. He is also one of Suspense Magazine
's book reviewers.
Currently, Weldon is a full-time editor for Independent School Management, which provides a wide range of products and services for private schools. He's been the editor of Ideas & Perspectives
, the company's flagship publication, since 1993. He created, posted, and maintained ISM's initial Web site starting in 1995, and is still involved in its development and content. He is also highly involved in the production of the company's other publications.
This month, we showcase our own Weldon Burge. He is always ready to do whatever we ask, and we are so honored to bring him to the forefront in Suspense Magazine
's Contributor's Corner for the month of June. Enjoy!
Suspense Magazine (S. Mag.): Fiction, nonfiction, blogging, full-time job, and a family. How do you juggle it all?
Weldon Burge (WB):
I do most of my writing around 2 a.m. on Saturdays.
Just kidding—but not entirely. I write wherever and whenever I can find the time: during my lunch break at work, in the evenings after dinner, or even at 2 a.m. on Saturdays. I live a life of deadlines (I’m a full-time editor), and I learned long ago how to prioritize my time. Family comes first. Everything else shakes out from there. So, I set deadlines for myself, but often find that I certainly can’t find time for everything—and that’s when prioritizing comes into play. The projects I deem the most important are the ones that get done. I have an extensive, ever-growing to-do list.
S.MAG.: You’re active in your local writing group, what is the biggest personal benefit of that association?
June 9, 2011
What if you were in your car, alone with your small child, and you came upon an emergency scene? Would you stop to help? What if, while you are trying to assist a victim of an accident or mugging, you leave your young child alone in the car, thinking he or she would be safe. What if, instead of help, the call to 911 brought a terrifying, sinister result? Who is the monster that, in the midst of the chaos and confusion of the scene, slips in and steals the innocent children leaving, behind no trace for authorities?
This is the premise of the new suspense novel, Cruelty to Innocents: The 911 Abductions
, by CK Webb and DJ Weaver, a mother-daughter writing team. The book is the first in a trilogy. I managed to catch up with the two during their blog tour in promotion of the book, and they were happy to answer the following questions.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: What inspired you to write Cruelty to Innocents (aside from the obvious wealth and fame)?
CK Webb (CK)
: LOL!!! Isn't wealth & fame enough? Actually writing has always been a big part of who I am, but I lost sight of that fact for a great many years—took a few, big kicks in the pants to get me straightened out.
DJ Weaver (DJ)
: CK came to me, told me about this idea she had for a movie, and then gave me the spill. She asked if I wanted to help her write it as a book. Knowing that she is a one-finger pecker, I figured, if I didn't help, she would wear her index finder to a nub. So, I agreed.
: Talk about your writing process. Do you discuss a chapter at a time, and then assign one of you to write it? How does this work?
: We sit down together and toss ideas around until we have a good outline.
: We always discuss a chapter before diving into it, where it is heading and exactly the outcome we would like to see. Then, I handwrite a few thousand words.
: When she finishes a chapter, she dictates to me while I type. I add things along the way and 'flesh' out the story. We both review the draft until we have a chapter that suits us both.
This is a Gardening How-To
article about maximizing vegetable garden space for the best production. Also included are links to some of my other Gardening How-To
articles on broccoli, hot peppers, and coleus.
This Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin provides practical advice about growing peppers.
Everything you need to know to grow root crops!
This is a National Gardening Association article about growing peas as a fall crop.
This brief article was published in the January 2008 issue of Horticulture