Thirteen Questions with Alistair Cross

 

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…

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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.

* * *

Alistair’s website will be live soon, and we’ll announce it here. Meanwhile, you can hook up with him at
www.alistaircross.com

 

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Jack the Ripper, Bigfoot, and Elvis: Exploring Eternity

Now that Eternity has hit the stands, I want to call your attention to Mike Aronovitz’s discussion and review of Eternity,  recently Eternitypublished on Hellnotes.  Take a look and please give it a “like” if you think it’s as awesome as I do.  I’ve gotta tell you, I’m in heaven!  Alice Walks, his first novel,  is officially one of my all-time favorite ghostly tales.

Eternity is one of my favorites. I always love research and this book required lots of it.  I became an expert on Jack the Ripper, Bigfoot, and the lore that belongs to Mt. Shasta, a sacred site way up at the north end of California.  While the town of Eternity is much smaller and quainter than the real city of Mt. Shasta, Icehouse Mountain  is very much like Shasta itself. I patterned the geography and roads on those of the real mountain. And the lore.  Mt. Shasta, scene of a crystal-packing “Harmonic Convergence” some years ago, has everything from UFOs to golden cities built inside the mountain. It’s said the Count St. Germain wanders the slopes dispensing wisdom, and that Lemurians still live deep in the bowels of this sacred mountain.  Add Jack the Ripper and a couple of Elvises to the mix, and you’ve got Eternity instead of Shasta.

I’d say more, but Mike’s review sums things up better than I can.

If you’ve read Candle Bay, you’ve seen references to Eternity and Icehouse Mountain there.  In Candle Bay’s sequel, currently being written, some of the vampires of Candle Bay head north for a huge vampire family reunion taking place there.  Look for plenty of cross-references and meetings, but you don’t need to read Candle Bay or enjoy Eternity or vice versa. They’re all stand alone, but I love putting everyone – and every book – in the same world.  Most of all, I love sneaking in tiny references and seeing if anyone notices.

For instance, Sheriff John Lawson, of Moonfall, is the younger cousin of Sheriff Frank Lawson of Eternity.  And Sheriff Tully, Eternity’s new sheriff, is from the town of Santo Verde. (Santo Verde is loosely based on Redlands, CA.)  I suspect he probably went to the carnival with Ricky Piper of Bad Things.  Both undoubtedly went apple-picking up at Moonfall, loosely based on Oak Glen) since it’s only thirty minutes up the mountain.

PERSONALIZED BOOKS FROM DARK DELICACIES

I’ll be signing at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, California at 2 pm on September 14.  You can order autographed and/or personalized copies from this terrific horror-oriented bookstore by going to their website then clicking “Signings/Events” in the upper left, and scrolling down to September 14, where you’ll see The Sorority, The Forgotten, Bad Things, and Eternity listed.  Order and, in the notes, let them know what you’d like in the way of personalizations or signings. (You can specify something — and if it’s a gift, make sure you give the name! — or you can leave it to me, your choice.

Candle Bay, Moonfall, and Haunted – last year’s releases – aren’t listed but you can order them as well. Just write them in in the notes section, along with personalization requests.  These three are a bargain at $4.99 a piece!

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The Theme is Vampires (and Sororities, Ghosts, Evil Nuns, Jack the Ripper, and Halloween)

Joining me are Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, signing her new Count Saint-Germaine novel, Night Pilgrims, Amber Benson signing  the 2014 Buffy calendar, and — squeeee! — Lara Parker, the original Angelique from the original Dark Shadows, signing her novel, Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising.  (I was Angelique for Halloween in sixth grade. Oh, the beautiful gown my mother made for me! I wish I’d  kept the photos!)

This Eternity Review is Better than Sex!

Mike Aronovitz. author of Alice Walks,  has put his reviewer and professorial talents to the test with this review of Eternity, just published on Hellnotes.  Take a look!  I’ve gotta tell you, I’m in heaven!  Alice Walks, his first novel,  is officially one of my all-time favorite ghostly tales.  (His first guest blog is just a couple posts down.)

You can pre-order Eternity in paperback now.  It will be available everywhere in early September. (Or you can get an e-format today.)  You may also order signed and personalized copies by emailing your request to Dark Delicacies I’ll be signing there on September 14, 2013.

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The Heat is Tyranosauric so Cool Down with Some Hot Horror!

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It’s hot out there. Stinking hot.  What little shade there is isn’t enough. You need relief!  Whether you choose to relax at the beach, stretch out by the pool,  or  just plant yourself under a fan,  it’s time to relax and read something chilling. Or think about sex.  Or even better — both!

Candle Bay is a little town full of vampires on the sweet central coast of California.  If you’re craving perfect weather with the tang of salt and blood in the air, the crash of waves, digging your toes in the sand as you walk along the beach exploring caves and tide pools in hopes of finding floaters, Candle Bay is just the book for you. It’s the place where you can enjoy the ocean breeze against your face and the fangs in your neck!

Eternity is a little town far up in the redwood forests of northern California.  A sweltering summer day is pleasantly cool here as you amble the pine-needled forest paths, enjoying  the sounds of nature and the screams of Jack the Ripper‘s victims. In fall and winter, the seasons in which this twisty tale is told,  the skiing is to die for. So are the tours of Little Stonehenge, where you can learn all about Icehouse Mountain’s weird history and, if you’re lucky, see lots of fresh body parts!  But to really cool off,  join Saucy Jack, Jim Morrison, Ambrose Bierce, not just one, but two Elvises, and Amelia Earhart as they work to befuddle Eternity’s new sheriff, Zach Tully.  By the way, Tully predates Eureka’s sheriff by a few years, but Sheriffs Lawson and Carter sure would like each other. (And Colin Ferguson, if you’re reading this and don’t mind being typecast, call my agent.)

If you prefer your weather cool but not icy, why not travel to Moonfall, in inland southern California.  It’s a mile-high apple growing community on top of a mountain overlooking Santo Verde, and it’s probably no more than 80 degrees there even as the towns below hit the 100 mark.  In Moonfall, you can get cold cider, apple pie, and an education at St. Gertrude’s School for Girls – St. Gruesome’s, as the locals call it – that will curl your short hairs.  The nasty nuns of St. Gertrude’s really enjoy punishing the girls in ways that would get them in deep trouble if they weren’t nuns. There are old murders, new murders, the nuns’ odd-tasting mincemeat pie, and lots and lots of ghosts in tiny Moonfall and it’s witches versus nuns at St. Gruesome’s, so move over Satan’s School for Girls — you’re old news!  It’s almost Halloween as the tale unfolds. The dog days of summer are blessedly gone and the crisp air carries the autumn scents of chimney smoke, pumpkin, and blood.

For a very brief time, all these reads can be had for $2.99 — as Alfred E. Newman and Trader Joe’s say — Cheap!

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Candle Bay: http://www.amazon.com/Candle-Bay-ebook/dp/B009EHR8UU/ref=pd_sim_b_3

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Moonfall: http://www.amazon.com/Moonfall-ebook/dp/B009TZRUKK/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1

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Eternity for Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Eternity-ebook/dp/B00AA3WWW6/ref=pd_sim_kstore_3

Eternity for Sony Readers: https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/tamara-thorne/eternity/_/R-400000000000000884229

James Gandolfini and Candle Bay

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When The Sopranos debuted on HBO,  I’d never seen any of The Godfather movies, Miller’s Crossing, or any other gangster flick.  I had absolutely no interest in the genre.

But I did have HBO and my husband wanted to check out The Sopranos, so I watched it. I watched it again.  And again. I still didn’t love the mafia genre, but I couldn’t resist The Sopranos. We’d watch it the night it aired and then again before the next episode.  I didn’t want to like it — this was a culture I still had no interest in, nothing in common with — but James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano,  he just kept drawing me back in.

I don’t think anyone else could have done that.  Gandolfini’s lovable psychopath, Tony Soprano, was pitch perfect, fascinating, charismatic, and vile, all at the same time.  Because of Tony, I watched The Godfather and the other classics and developed a new appreciation for them.

A couple seasons in, I decided to write my vampire novel, Candle Bay, and something fun popped into my head: what if the pater familias of the clan, Orion Darling, had a thing for The Godfather? Maybe he had a long history of faddish fascinations and his current one was with one don or another.  I already knew he had more than a passing similarity in looks to Robert DeNiro — what more could I ask for?

And so, in Candle Bay, Ori’s office mirrors  Don Corleone’s, he watches Sopranos reruns and played the Godfather theme in the background.  He even acts like Corleone, delighting in playing at gangster games.

I am currently well into Candle Bay’s sequel and when I began, I considered giving Ori Darling a new all-consuming interest, but decided against it. With James Gandolfini’s untimely passing, I’m doubly glad Ori remained smitten with Tony Soprano.  Here’s to you, Mr. Gandolfini.  RIP.

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Serial Chat: Rituals of Writers

SERIAL CHAT: THE RITUALS OF WRITERS

Being a writer isn’t a choice. It’s a condition and those of us afflicted are intimately acquainted with the suffering we were born to endure. Because our tortured lives are lived in the service of our art, we strive to sacrifice our very souls at the altar of literature for the sake of presenting the world with the beauty of our pain.

Today, we have decided to share with you the burdensome joy of our oft-flailing endeavors to create for you, Dear Reader, the finest, most insightful fiction our poet-souls can spew forth.  We shall reveal our rituals and our deepest secrets so that you may understand what all writers go through every day of their tormented lives to give the gift of verseful prose and to keep the word-thirsty demons of our condition at bay and our sanity at least partially intact.

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TT: So, Jerod, I used to use heroin to spark my imagination, but that wasn’t quite elegiac enough, so now I make my own absinthe. Not only is it a staple of great literary tradition, I also find the color green clarifying and provocative and it allows me to maintain both creativity and beauty in my life. Do you have a similar support system?

JS: I gave up absinthe when my liver protested too much. I replaced that sweet nectar by the very bonnet Laura Ingalls Wilder wore when she was compelled to write her Little House on the Prairie series. It still brandishes the magic of long ago, which really was beneficial when channeling Sterling Bronson in Beautiful Monster. http://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Monster-Mimi-A-Williams/dp/1615727752/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1364789288&sr=8-17&keywords=beautiful+Monster Tamara, what attire do you don to conjure up your tortured brilliance?

TT: I dress as a Union gunnery officer, circa 1864, because after all, isn’t writing a war with words?  Words are my rifle, my computer is my sabre and rattling it is my life.  I’ve worn this outfit for all my novels except Moonfall* when I found it necessary to dress in a full Felician nun’s habit, complete with the garters and holey leggings of the Benedictine monks.  Do you perform any rituals to enhance your performance?

JS:  I believe that to get to the creative depths of our souls, we must maintain the precarious balance of each of our universes by creating and destroying in equal portions. That being said, my rituals include but are not limited to breaking furniture, smashing mirrors, throwing champagne glasses into the fireplace, watching I Dream of Jeannie reruns, and animal husbandry.

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No, but seriously, my real rituals are far less spectacular than any of those.  I like to wear electronic nipple clamps while I’m slaving over my work. There’s something about the power juicing through my body that I believe adds an adventurous edge to my writing. I also center myself by counting the hairs on the back of my left hand.  There are many hairs and this helps me find inner peace. It’s my Zen moment of the day and I always look forward to it.  Do you have any rituals, Tamara?

TT: I do, but none as interesting as yours, I’m afraid.  I keep a framed signed photograph of a young Samuel Clemens over my computer.  It’s been handed down in my family since he presented it to my great-great-grandparents, Chester and Sarah Bellham as a wedding gift in 1859.  (They were traveling after their wedding on the very first steamboat he piloted after receiving his license.)  Each evening, at the end of the working day, I close my computer and light a votive candle kept on the little altar below the portrait.   Then I choose thirteen ants out of my husband’s ant farm and hold them, one by one, over the flame with long tweezers until they crisp while I recite these lines partially from Tolkien:

Cut the cloth and tread the fat!

Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!

Pour the milk on the pantry floor!

Splash the wine on every door!

Hubba hubba shebop shebop

Hobbits, don’t let my new book flop!

Those lines have spoken to me since I was ten years old in ways I can’t begin to explain, even to myself. Perhaps it’s merely silly superstition, but I believe that these small sacrifices aid my creativity.

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JS: That’s amazing, Tamara. I do the same thing, but I didn’t admit it earlier because I didn’t want PETA to go after me.  I do it a little differently. My altar includes a painting of Stevie Nicks and a tambourine, which I shake vigorously before sacrificing my ants to her. After the sacrifices have been executed, I look up to the Stevie Nicks painting and recite the following lines three times:

“Just like the white-winged dove…

Sings a song, sounds like she’s singin’

Ooh, baby, ooh, said, ooh…”

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TT: Why Stevie Nicks?

JS:  Why Mark Twain?

TT: Good point.  We all contend with our private demons in our own ways.  Jerod, they say no book is written by just one person, so tell me what role your wife plays in your writing life.

JS: She lies. She tells people I’m a plumber because she’s very embarrassed, but in private, she’s quite supportive, going so far as to help me count the hairs on the back of my hand to help me focus. I couldn’t do it without her because she’s a far keener mathematician than I.  What of Robert Damien?  How does he cope with your literary mistress?

TT: Threesomes.  Well, Jerod, in closing, what advice would you give to new writers?

JS: As a natural born writer, you’re surely already hanging on to life by the thinnest of threads, so my advice to invest in plenty of anti-depressants, read books such as The Story of O by Pauline Réage, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, and of course, The Back Passage by James Lear. Also, find a good luck charm – worry stones. It’s nice to have something to rub whilst pounding away at your work, and according to ancient legend, worry stones are also good for your circulation depending on the vigor of your worry. Additionally, porn is good because it clears the mind, but make sure you have a keyboard cover.  Exercise.  Kegels are great because you can do them right at your desk and the keyboard cover also comes in handy. Also I glue leather elbow patches to my Lycra Spandex unitard and carry around a meerschaum pipe because it makes me look literary. I advise all new writers do something similar. Think like the writer — BE the writer! What’s your advice, TT?

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TT: I advise always taking writing very, very seriously. There’s no joking around when it comes to being a Published Author.  This is a business, damn it, and you must be a professional at all times. Make sure, as well, that your subtext is well thought out and inserted consistently so that people will know just how brilliant you are–and obviously, you must be sure there are always many deeper meanings in whatever you are writing. Thinking like Camus is excellent for romance writers, and I recommend Nietzsche for humorists, but the cant of any serious philosopher will fit the other genres.

Any more to add, Jerod?

JS:  Yes. I agree one hundred and seven percent.  You must take your art as seriously as you do every breath you take. Each move you make and each claim you stake in writing is important. You don’t put on the red light. Just write. Write like the wind. And remember, I’ll be watching you.

TT: One last question, Jerod. However did you get the original Laura Ingalls Wilder bonnet?

JS: eBay.

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*You can find links to Moonfall and all of Tamara’s other books at the all new and ever so exciting http://tamarathorne.com

Serial Chat: Session One

The subject of serial killers is always interesting, and having both done a good deal of research on the topic, fellow horror novelist Jared S. Anderson and I got into an in-depth back-and-forth e-mail conversation about it. After re-reading the e-mails, we thought it might be interesting to use as a blog post. Jared and I have both written about killers and what follows is Part One of our own thoughts as well as what we learned along the way. 

Here is the first question he asked me. It got the ball rolling and turned into a more of a mountain than a ball, really…

JSA: Who is your favorite serial killer, and why?

TT: Let me look through my serial killer trading cards. . . Seriously, I have a lot of favorites. I’m more interested in the ones like Ted Bundy who easily pass for normal, than the creepier types like John Wayne Gacy. The triad of Jack the Ripper, H.H. Holmes and the less well known Austin Ripper (aka The Servant Girl Annihilator) intrigues me. Of the three, only H.H. Holmes was captured. Holmes was active between 1886 and 1894, when he was captured. He built a huge “murder hotel” and was most active during the Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893. He is often referred to as  America’s first serial killer.

But he was not America’s first, despite the title. That dubious honor more likely goes to the Austin Ripper, who was never captured. He was active from 1884 through 1885, and was named “The Servant Girl Annihilator” by writer H.H. Munro (Saki), who was living in Austin, Texas at the time.

There’s a reasonable chance that the Austin Ripper moved on and became Jack the Ripper, active in London in 1888. The crimes were similar. Some, including H.H. Holmes’s descendant, postulate that Holmes was the Ripper, but other than similar handwriting, there is currently a lack of compelling evidence.

I think these – particularly the two Rippers – fascinate me because of the mystery. There’s so much room for conjecture.

Jared, who is your favorite?

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JSA: If I had to choose a favorite, I’d also go with Jack the Ripper. Because his identity is unknown, we can fill in our own blanks about who he was. He murdered so openly it’s hard to imagine he was sane, and yet, whoever he was, he clearly didn’t stand out from the crowd so much that he gave himself away.

Another one who has always fascinated me is Jeffrey Dahmer. Whereas killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy exhibited a lot of typical sociopathic personality traits such as a firm conviction they’d done nothing wrong, a heightened sense of ego, etc., Dahmer never denied or tried to justify his actions. I find that fascinating. He simply admitted what he’d done, and accepted the consequences. I read a lot about Dahmer when I was researching, and I was surprised to find that a good number of researchers believe Dahmer’s conscience was intact. That’s hard to fathom considering the crimes he committed, but there’s just something different about him that makes him a bit of an anomaly.

TT:  That’s a very good point.  He’s worth further exploration!

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JSA: I also have a particular fascination for the killers who fit into society so well as to go unnoticed. When we think of serial killers, I think a part of us believes we’d know one when we saw one, and I don’t believe that’s entirely true. When I was researching serial killers, I would look at photographs or watch videos of certain killers, and try to determine if, in all honesty, I would be able to sense anything dangerous about them. While I have a hard time believing I wouldn’t have been a little creeped out by John Wayne Gacy, I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have given killers such as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer much notice. To me, these guys appeared to be perfectly normal, intelligent men.

I was intrigued though, while reading a book about Ted Bundy, by how many women who’d met him claimed they just felt something wasn’t “quite right” about him. Many of the women who evaded Bundy did so simply because some inner voice warned them against him. So, on that token, I wonder if there isn’t some kind of instinct inside all of us that tries to protect us. The question, though, is, would we heed that instinct, or just ignore it?

TT:  I think we all have an instinct, but defining it is difficult. The best explanation of our “knowing” I’ve ever read comes in Gavin DeBecker’s book, The Gift of Fear. People who listen to their instincts are much more likely to live longer, safer lives. The trouble is, we often tend to denigrate our feelings as silly nonsense. We go ahead and get on the elevator with the man in the business suit who looks entirely normal even though our instinct is to run. I wonder what Bundy’s “tell” was. Eye contact? Lack of it?

JSA: I don’t know. No one I read about ever explained what it was exactly that made them uneasy. Just a “feeling.” It’s interesting. So why do you think, as a society, we’re so interested in serial killers?

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TT: They walk among us, they look like us, they sound like us, but they are not like us. I think the otherness is a big part of the fascination. If you’ve ever found yourself dealing with someone who does not react like ninety percent of the population, you already understand this. I knew a writer many years ago, not long after my first book came out, who wrote a first novel and sold it. He was overjoyed. But the book was very long and his editor suggested cutting one of the characters in order to shorten it. He asked me about it — I’d read the manuscript — and without a clue about what I was stepping into, I said I thought cutting was a great idea. This was a character that was non-essential and anything important he did could be moved to the main hero. I told the writer my thoughts.

Holy crap! The shit hit a dozen fans. My jaw dropped as I watched this guy go ballistic. He ranted and raved and said nobody understood. And then he screamed and cried. Okay, I knew none of this was normal, but I wouldn’t have called it insane behavior, just a tantrum. But then, I saw his insanity when he said the editor wanted him to kill his father. Evidently he’d named this character after the long-dead parent and somehow this brought Daddy Dearest back to life. At this point, I stopped answering his calls. It was my first brush with insanity and I didn’t like it.

However, it’s fascinating, isn’t it? Serial killers hide the insanity, but we know it’s there. Certainly not in the form I saw with the new writer, but they are even further removed from our emotions and morals than he was. They are foreign.

What kinds of experiences have you had with crazy?

JSA: I’ve met, and in a couple cases, known, people whom I’m certain totally lacked a conscience. The interesting thing is, the majority of sociopaths are not violent. To lack a conscience, and have a murderous temperament is a rare–and pretty unfortunate–blend of psychological problems. That’s not to say sociopaths who aren’t violent aren’t dangerous, they are. It’s just that most sociopaths are what are termed “blue collar” criminals, and are more likely to be found committing various–and usually very crafty–small crimes, rather than outright murdering folks. If you get the chance, read The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout. According to her and the studies she’s researched, one in every 25 people has no conscience. This book is a kind of if you think you’ve never met one, you’re wrong wake-up call.

I found when writing Sterling Bronson (in Beautiful Monster) that creating ways to make him sneaky and underhanded was actually harder than making him a killer. I never diagnosed Sterling in the book, because I wanted readers to be able to fill in their own blanks, so I’m not saying he was an outright sociopath, but in order to write him, I had to understand, to the best of my ability, the way these people think. It wasn’t easy, and in a lot of ways, it wasn’t fun, but overall, I’m pleased with his outcome.

You’ve written about serial killers a few times. What kind of research did you do, and what was your experience in the fictionalization of a monster?

TT: One of my serial killers is definitely not without conscience, but a prisoner of his own desires. The others are traditional psychopaths. In researching, I read everything I can about a multitude of serial killers and their pathology. I find interviews with sociopaths very interesting. I also like to talk with profilers, cops, and other experts and read books like Mindhunter, written from their expert perspective.

I rather enjoy writing from the killer’s perspective — I find it freeing and, sometimes, very therapeutic.  Certainly it’s a disturbing process, but I like it. A lot.  I tend to dream in character points of view while writing and those are more disturbing — and useful — than anything else.

JSA: Ha! Glad I’m not the only one who dreams of his characters… even the killers! Tell me one of your dreams and I’ll tell you one of mine.

There is more of this to come later. We don’t want to overwhelm you, so we’ve decided to post this in small installments! Next time, Jared and I will discuss dreams and writing, as we’ve both utilized our dreams as a writing tool and, since dreaming of serial killers makes for great stories, we also got pretty heavily into that discussion. So…to be continued!

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It’s Taken an Eternity…

It’s taken an Eternity, but the book is up and ready for download on Kindle and should be available for other formats this week. *It’s now on Smashwords at  at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/257154 . Nook and Kobo will be ready shortly.

Here’s the Eternity tease:

WELCOME TO ETERNITY
A LITTLE BIT OF HELL ON EARTH

When Zach Tully leaves Los Angeles to take over as sheriff of Eternity, a tiny mountain town in northern California, he’s expecting to find peace and quiet in his own private Mayberry. But he’s in for a surprise. Curmudgeonly Mayor Abbott is a ringer for long-missing writer Ambrose Bierce. There are two Elvises in town, a shirtless Jim Morrison, and a woman who has more than a passing resemblance to Amelia Earhardt. And that’s only the beginning.

Eternity is the sort of charming spot tourists flock to every summer and leave every fall when the heavy snows render it an isolated ghost town. Tourists and New Agers all talk about the strange energy coming from Eternity’s greatest attraction: a mountain called Icehouse, replete with legends of Bigfoot, UFOs, Ascended Masters, and more. But the locals talk about something else.

The seemingly quiet town is plagued by strange deaths, grisly murders, and unspeakable mutilations, all the work of a serial killer the locals insist is Jack the Ripper. And they want Zach Tully to stop him.

Now, as the tourists leave and the first snow starts to fall, terror grips Eternity as an undying evil begins its hunt once again…

Welcome to Eternity