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

 

It’s Summer Sex, er, Poetry Time

It’s hot out, sweaty, even in the shade.  And the plants are loving it.  My tomato vines are heavy with delicious red globes, the trees laden with warm fruit just waiting to be eaten.  What is sexier than a peach?  This poem, Jugular Vine, was originally published in the Cemetery Dance collection, The Devil’s Wine, edited by Tom Piccirilli. It’s all about the delighting in the fleshy fruits of summer.

strawberry

JUGULAR VINE

Green tendrils twine tightly

holding heavy clusters of dark purple grapes.

Hanging hidden, sweet and dark and full to bursting,

they peek out from between leafy emerald shadows

to flirt with sunbeams, wanting warm kisses.

Grinning green faces form in the leaves,

mosaics of fronds weave larger faces,

all guardians of the rich violet jewels.

Tendril fingers clutch, then release

As a woman of flesh and blood gently plucks a grape.

She rubs it, revealing radiant darkness.

tinygreenman

The Green Man smiles as she holds it to her lips

to feel the plump round fruit with her mouth.

She inhales its warm sweet scent as she

slips it between her lips to

test the mettle of his juice, his meat.

Green Man’s flesh

is pierced by pearl teeth.

She tastes the sweet liquid as it squirts into her mouth.

She closes her eyes in delight

as sticky juice sprays her tongue and throat

The Green Man groans with her pleasure

as she plucks another succulent grape

and tastes more of his nature.

entwined

Green Woman drops

a tender ripe peach into a young man’s hands.

Softly, he brushes his lips against the summer globe,

Feeling the soft fuzz on firm flesh,

so smooth and golden pink, he inhales

her luscious feminine scent of warm flowers and lust.

She laughs, a breeze fluttering through the leaves,

as he bites into the fruit.

With his teeth he teases away the pit

that had hidden the very center of her flesh.

She moans with him as he revels in her depths,

pushing his tongue into the juicy sweet hollow.

Tongue delving, licking, teeth probing.

He devours her, his mouth and lips sticky

with her juices and her scent.

treelove

Green Man and Green Woman join

the fleshling lovers

as they taste and revel in their fruits.

They share the pleasure of red-blooded bodies connecting

in a meadow of green grass and sunflowers.

Hidden in summer grapevines.

Green Man and Woman ride the lovers

who shed their clothing like leaves in an autumn breeze.

They come together in bliss,

twining limbs like grape tendrils clinging, grasping, never letting go.

Kissing in the sun, making their own fruit,

They find the centers of one another, and of nature too.

 EueosOutros

 

Toasting Harlan Ellison

HarlanST

When I was a teenager, Harlan Ellison was my hero. I loved his stories and his prefaces to those stories. I delighted in his antics, and thought there was nothing better than going to listen to him speak at LA colleges.  Much later, after I was published, he invited me to his home after a book-signing at Dangerous Visions.  His house was every bit as amazing as he claimed, adorned with Nixon-era gargoyles and full of a lifetime of writing. And he was every bit as feisty and quick in private as in public.

I celebrated him in “Toasting Harlan Ellison,” written for the Cemetery Dance horror poetry collection, The Devil’s Wine, edited by Tom Piccrilli.  This is the first time it’s been seen anywhere else.

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Toasting Harlan Ellison

Come all ye young writers, bring ale and cup,

And I’ll tell you a tale that will make you

Proud of the profession that you have embraced:

The story of Harlan, a man with no

Fear and no hesitation;

He threatened producers with painful

Red bricks and dead gophers in boxes,

He scared them so badly, he shriveled their

Cocksureness and shocked them to bits

And Harlan, he said, “You ignorant

Men, you illiterate fools!

You should all drown in stinking

Harlequin  Romances and bunny-soft words,

You deserve nothing more than to be blinded by

Visions of danger and stories with pluck!

Your problem is that you don’t give a

Damn!” he finished and returned to his art,

And settling down, he let a great

Thought through his mind pass

And cried, “I’ll write what I want and you can all kiss my–”

But everyone knows that Harlan’s a

Hard man to fetter and cannot be mastered!

Here’s to you, Mr. Ellison, you’re my favorite

Bastard!

(c) Tamara Thorne 2003-2013

DevilsWine

FOOD AND SEX

I was sitting at my keyboard working on my new book and trying to ignore my hunger pangs when Jerod Scott stopped by to tell me he’d just posted an erotic poem on his blog, JSA Scribes.  Well, now I’m thinking about food AND sex, so I thought I’d share a poem I wrote a few years ago for an anthology called Devil’s Wine. Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I can go back to vampire sex!

blogburger 

HOT BURGER LOVE

 

Wendy’s so hot and juicy tonight.

“You want the works?” she asks, licking her lips.

Smiling coyly, she studies me.

She is fresh.

I am hot.

I nod.

She smiles then drops her gaze and asks,

“Jack’s in the box?”

“Not yet,” I reply. “He’s still in the bag.”

“Home of the whopper,” she murmurs

as she unwraps my package.

I can feel the salty heat steam forth as she pulls my offerings free.

“Super-sized,” she admires.

“Oh, darling Wendy,” I whisper as she offers me briefly a perfect white breast, “You’re so hot and juicy.”

I am a man of few clichés.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full, big boy,” she cautions.

She takes away her succulent breast

and bends to examine my provisions more closely.

First she investigates my buns.

Plain, the way I know she likes them.

No sesame seeds. (They get stuck in her teeth.)

And then she moves on to the meat.

“Mmm,” she says after a long moment. “Cheese. And extra mayo.”

Embarrassment pinks my cheeks like rough rose petals.

I take my whopper from her hungry hands and quickly wipe off the extras toppings.

She looks surprised that I would do this.

“You deserve a break today.” I tell her.

Wendy’s eyes glisten with appreciation and she bends to her supper.

After a moment, I ask, “Do you have the in and out urge?”

But she only shakes her head and mutters,

“Don’t bother me, I’m eating.”

© 2003, 2013 Tamara Thorne

Hot Burger Love originally appeared in The Devil’s Rain, edited by Tom Piccirilli