1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I started my blog "Uncle Doug's Bunker" exactly three years ago. That gave me experience in writing articles and reviews. The blog landed me a position at "Weird Tales Magazine" running their website and Facebook page. I created about 90% of their web content which improved my article writing skills and I was promoted to on-line editor.
Back in July when I was still on-line editor for "Weird Tales", the fiction editor was purchasing Flash Fiction for the website. I wasn't all that impressed with what I was being given to publish. So one afternoon I foolishly thought, "Shit, I can do that."
I was mulling it over and a simple "punch line" came to mind. I tried turning it into a 500 word flash piece. No matter how hard I tried, I get idea in at under 800 words. For the fun of it I showed it to David A. Riley and he liked it. He encouraged me to lengthen it and it grew into the 1,2K word novelette "Indian Summer". I managed to sell it. This sale sadly gave me the impression that I might actually be able to write.
So blame it on David Riley and Fireside Press that I'm bombarding unsuspecting editor's with my rushed stories.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
How do you define younger? :-)
I started reading at a very young age and the writers who work I began to seek out were probably the same ones every kid started looking for. Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, H. G. Wells, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Clifford Simak, Richard Matheson, Arthur C. Clarke. And I was nuts about the Doc Savage and Destroyer series. During my teens I considered Harlan Ellison a god.
What do I read today?
I love the Agent Pendergast Novels. I continuously read Gary Braunbeck, Wilum Pugmire, Jack Vance, Charles L. Grant , John R. Fultz, Darrell Schweitzer and Anne K. Schwader
I still read lots of pulp to this day by the likes of Hugh B. Cave, Leigh Brackett, Clark Ashton Smith, Manly Wade Wellman, and C.L. Moore.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novella October Harvest?
As I mentioned in your first question I came to me as a simply punch-line for a flash piece. I built it into a generic Halloween/Autumn short story. When the decision was made to turn it into a full blown "story", it became clear that I needed a setting and a flavor. Being my first story, I knew that I better write about what I love and the kind of setting I like best.
I grew up in Newark, Ohio. Back then Newark was a blue collar working town of about 35 thousand people. Newark is the real world counterpart to Gary Braunbeck's "Cedar Hill". So since Gary has Newark pretty well covered I knew that I'd have t pick another setting. Before Newark, we lived in the small Southern Ohio river town of Portsmouth. This section of the state is known as Appalachian Ohio. Southern Ohio used to be worlds apart from the Central Ohio I grew up in and this appealed to me. I could give it a southern rural flair (at least that was my aim) and still place it in a reality that I was familiar with. I love southern gothic/weirdness. Look at William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers and Joe Lansdale. Not counting Lansdale, all the others have settings and plots that are just waiting to be given that tiny nudge that would send it all plunging into the Twilight Zone. My mother came from North Carolina and I always had the impression that southerners have a deep appreciation for the bizarre, outlandish, eccentric, and insane.
And I think that this attitude makes for some great story telling.
So this was what I was aiming for. It's up to the reader to decide if I pulled it off.
And I owe a huge amount of debt to Davis "Night of the Hunter" Grubb. He set much of his straight and Horror fiction on the West Virginia side of the Ohio. His stories are set about 50 miles up river from where "Indian Summer" is set.
Oh, and I have to mention Clifford Simak, even though he wrote predominantly Science Fiction, his stories and novels have a strong rural feeling that greatly appeal to me.
Sorry for running off at the keypad.
To tell the kind of story that I needed to tell in a southern vein I knew that I needed the following.
A small river town with secrets.
A slightly daft kid who slides into insanity.
A terribly dysfunctional family
Sex gone bad.
An old piece of run down property.
An evil senior citizen.
All of these elements mutated into "Indian Summer".
4. Will we ever hear about crazy Koad again?
Yes! Farmer Koad and his Grave Worms will definitely return. "October Harvest" wasn't nearly as ambitious as "Indian Summer". It was a hell of a lot more fun to write though. It's also quite a bit goofier as "Summer". I think that its a simple, gory, and fun story.
I intentionally wrote the ending to "October Harvest" in such a way as to give the events closure, but to also leave the door open a tiny bit for a sequel.
5. What was it about scarecrows and pumpkins that made you decide to use them in this manner?
Halloween! I love Halloween! I have at least 5 more Halloween stories in me. I say "at least" because I've already set down the 5 plots/ideas on paper. I know that the market is small for these kinds of stories, but i love them so much. And my love of the season will hopefully carry over into my writing an give them that little something extra.
I know that Pumpkins and Scarecrows are Halloween mainstays/clichés but I wanted to tell a traditional horror story.
And to be honest, "Dark Harvest" by Norman Partridge was a huge influence on "October Harvest". The main difference between his "Harvest" and mine is that his is magnitudes better than mine. Lovecraft's "The Festival" also played a huge part influencing "October Harvest". Oh yeah, and all those wonderful Halloween covers "Cemetery Dance Magazine" uses trip my trigger like nothing else.
Did I mention that I'm nuts about Halloween?
6. What can you tell us about your previous works?
Uhh, there aren't really any previous works. "Indian Summer" was first genuine piece of fiction. I've published three more stories since then along with a few "Drabbles" and Flash pieces.
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
Eventually I'd like to try writing some "soft" science fiction. I've probably read more SF than any other genre. The borders are kind of soft, but I'm definitely going to write some "Dark Fantasy". I've actually sold an "erotic" horror story. I had to force myself to write it simply to see if I could. I wrote it for a "Lovecraft" themed anthology coming out from Scott R. Jones' "Martian Migraine Press" called "Resonator". It's all stories inspired by HPL's "From Beyond" and the same named film. Scott was wise enough to turn it down. It was simply and extended lovecraftian dirty joke. I have one more idea for a disturbingly erotic and humorless horror story. That'll be my last attempt though at "erotic".
And of course I'd love to write "paranormal romance" if it would make me a millionaire.
Seriously! I have no artistic pretensions. I'm not proud either. I'd be all over "sparkly vampires" and "mommy porn" if I thought that it would make me rich.
Like the man said, "It's better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven".
8. What would you do if you saw what was happening in that pumpkin patch?
Run to the nearest phone booth (do they still have those things?) and call Doc Savage and led him and his aids take care of things.
9. When it comes to the paranormal--from ghosts to spells--what do you believe in?
I believe that people will believe in anything if it relieves them of responsibility, gives them power and wealth, or lets them feel superior.
I've never seen any evidence or experienced anything out of the ordinary in my life. I won't go so far and say that the supernatural doesn't exist. But I wouldn't bet any money on it. I dearly love the concepts, but I've never personally experienced anything that would make a believer out of me.
And once again, I won't lie. I'd wet myself if I actually would see a ghost or UFO.
And I do have an irrational fear of the Mothman and Grays.
10. Which of your stories, if any, would you like to see as a film or TV show?
I'd love to see Steven Spielberg film "Indian Summer" (which I'll be doubling in length this year.), slap my name across the front, and give me a great big check!
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
A regular name in the smaller presses with a reputation for writing competent and entertaining stories.
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
Being horribly frustrated at not being creative at something.
I also suffer from a terrible case of "Hey! Look at me!"
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
I'm wrapping up the first draft of what started out as a straight forward Halloween (did I mention that I'm crazy about Halloween?) story. It had now morphed into a 25K word Dark Fantasy novella. It's of another small town/Ohio/Autumn story that has grown beyond my original intentions.
I've done my homework and utilized Scottish, Cherokee, Appalachian, and Ohio folklore/Mythology and tied them together using their common themes. I've then added a large dose of John Keel's world view.
It's a hybrid Horror-Dark Fantasy- Adventure.
It's my take on Bradbury, Manly Wade Wellman, and the Sidhe.
I'm in love with it. It's scary, fun, and exciting. (I hope.)
And I've promised myself this time that I will TAKE MY TIME in polishing it.
It's my own fault, but so far, as much as I'm proud of them, my longer stories have been rushed and suffer from poor/sloppy/lazy editing. I have no one to blame but myself for this.
This time I hope to remedy this by forcing myself to override my own impatience and enthusiasm and take it a bit more slowly. Both the story and the potential readers deserve this. I don't want to be remembered as the guy who wrote mildly entertaining and sloppy stories.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
Joe Landsdale! I love his evil "down hominess". He can take the most god awful things and make you laugh out loud in spite of them.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
1: I've entered this game very late in life. I'm 53 years old.
2: I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm teaching myself as I go along.
3: I consider myself incredibly fortunate and extremely lucky to have gotten this far with my writing.
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