Alistair Cross is a man of many talents. His prose is powerful, by turn horrifying, humorous, or humane, his poetry faultless, and his bon mots as sharp and funny as a sixer of knife-wielding clowns. While you may not yet know his work offhand — his first novel was published under a pseudonym — I have every confidence you will soon count him as one of the best new horror writers to hit the stands.
Alistair and I met well over a year ago, shortly after his novel was published. I remember the first night he phoned; the chemistry was instantaneous. Within five minutes, we were both laughing maniacally, barely able to catch our breaths. We found ourselves accidentally brainstorming and, eventually, despite a promise to myself never to collaborate again, I asked if he’d like to try it because I knew he intimately understood the logistics of such an undertaking.
And, oh, what fun we’re having now. Look for our first novella later this year with a full length novel to follow. While neither of us intend to give up our individual projects, we have three or four other collaborations ready to go after that — and one of them just might trump nearly everything else. Read on…
Q: What made you decide to write horror?
A: I don’t think I really chose to write horror. I love to write, and what comes out is just usually classified as horror.
Q: What qualities do you think a good horror writer should have?
A: Any writer of horror needs to at least have a good, solid love of the genre. Also, good horror writers need to have a slightly twisted sense of humor. Without humor, horror just isn’t as good.
Q: What is the difference between good horror and bad horror?
A: Good horror is written by people who understand that fear is one of the cardinal passageways into the core of humanity. Good horror is generally written by folks who grew up on horror; books, movies, etc. You can’t simply decide to write—in any genre—if you don’t first have an understanding of the topic and a strong mental backlog of reference.
Q: What is the scariest book you’ve ever read, and why?
A: The “Space Cowboy” in Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game scared me. The description of that character is just creepy. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin also made me a little ill-at-ease. The scariest book though, was The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule. This book is a non-fiction account of Ted Bundy. Real life is always more terrifying than fiction. Horror is, after all, extracted from the real world.
Q: What are your favorite monsters, and why?
A: Vampires, because at their core, they are the essence of slow death. They are not, to me, romantic or glamorous figures—even though contemporary fiction demands it. They are creatures who depend solely on other life forms to sustain; parasites of the cruelest, most horrifying kind. They are death, animated.
Q: How would you advise a budding horror author?
A: Know your horror. The 80s are over and readers don’t accept slashers-for-the-sake-of-gore anymore. Also, you need to be unafraid of being afraid. You need to be on a first-name basis with fear if you plan to effectively write about it.
Q: What do you think prompts people to read horror?
A: They want to be stimulated. They want to read something that can get under their skin and hang out there for a while.
Q: Do you think horror writers are born or made?
A: Born. Absolutely. Just like any profession, the good writers of any genre will have the personality and character traits that make them good at it. You can get somewhat good at doing something outside of your element, but I don’t believe you can ever excel without the edge of that natural-born understructure.
Q: What surprises you most about the horror authors you’ve met?
A: That they aren’t scary. At all. In fact, they are funnier and quirkier than most writers I’ve met.
Q: Who is the scariest famous horror figure, and why?
A: Jack the Ripper, because we have no idea who he was. Facelessness is one of the core instigators of terror. On top of this, he was savage, shrewd, and elusive. Jack had it all…
Q: Who is your favorite famous horror figure, and why?
A: Aside from Jack the Ripper, I’d say Elizabeth Bathory or Delphine LaLaurie… because these women were truly wicked in a time when we weren’t socially equipped to accept, let alone deal with, evil women.
Q: Is there anything you strictly prohibit in your writing?
A: I have a few rules, yes. One, I never hurt animals. It’s a cheap shot. Two, I never write sexual assault for the sake of titillation, and three, I will not walk reader’s through the abuse of a child.
Q: Recently, an idea you and I are working on has interested a major player, which means we are about to go on a research road-trip in California. What excites you most about this get together?
A: Rolling down the window and singing at the top of our lungs. I’m also very excited about the haunted cabin up in gold country your friend has arranged for us to stay in. That will rock. Finally it’s going to be seriously cool having the meeting with that big guy down in LA.
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Alistair’s website will be live soon, and we’ll announce it here. Meanwhile, you can hook up with him at