Interview with Female Horror Author Kat Howard

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Featured Horror Books Indie Horror Indie horror writers Women in Horror
End of the Sentence Cover
The End of the Sentence

How would you feel if you suddenly started receiving letters from someone you didn’t know? Personal letters, from someone who seemed to know more about you than you ever wanted to admit to yourself? The End of the Sentence (2014) delivers–it’s not only difficult to put down, (or stop listening to, if you opt to experience it as an audiobook) but it is also easily digestible and instantly gives the reader that desirable feeling of unease and fear.

With every turn of the page, we find ourselves more and more deeply immersed in the life of Malcolm Mays, a man whose life is falling apart as he moves into a foreclosed home in Ione, Oregon–what he doesn’t realize is that the original owner never left and doesn’t intend to. The end of his 117-year sentence is almost over…

Interview with Kat Howard

We found out that you’re not just a horror writer, but you have also explored the science fiction and fantasy genres, so what initially drew you to horror fiction?

I’ve always loved horror. Some of the first “grown up” books I read were by Stephen King, but even before that I loved stories that scared me. I like to write horror because sometimes that’s the genre that works best for what I have to say. Plus, it’s fun writing stories that might give people the shivers.

Can you tell me about how you and Maria Dahvana Headley decided to come together to co-write The End of the Sentence?

Maria’s a dear friend. We were guests at an annual convention (ConFusion) and made a comment about wanting to write something together in front of Bill Schafer, the head of Subterranean Press. He said he’d buy it, and we wrote a contract on his arm. (There was a much more official contract later.) It was honestly a joy of a project to write with her.

How did you come up with the idea of The End of the Sentence?

Maria had recently moved, and had been getting mistaken letters delivered to her address. Things kind of went from there.

Kat, we understand that this was your debut novella, how did it feel being named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014?

I literally fell out of my chair when I found out. I’m really proud of the work we did on this novella. It remains one of my favorite things that I’ve written, and so I’m always extremely happy to see it find readers. Seeing it recognized like that meant so much.

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone
A Cathedral of Myth and Bone

Is there anything new that you’ve published or are working on that you’d like to talk to us about?

As this is a horror venue, I have to say I was extremely pleased when my recent collection, A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, was long-listed for the [Bram Stoker Award]. It didn’t make the final ballot, but just to see it recognized was a delight. I’m currently working on A Sleight of Shadows, the sequel to my novel An Unkindness of Magicians.

A lot of our fans are actually aspiring writers and artists, do you have any advice for them?

I always feel a little weird about giving advice, because I feel like I’m still figuring things out myself. But I think that one of the great (and yes, sometimes terrifying!) things about writing or art is that there are so many ways to come into the field. Don’t cut yourself off because you think you’re too old, or you should have gone to a different school, or that people have already done what you’re interested in. No one else can make what you will.

Interview with Horror Author Ezekiel Kincaid

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Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers
Johnny Walker Ranger - Demon Slayer Book promo image

Tell me a bit about your background. I understand you were Pastor at one point in time?

Yes, I was in the ministry full-time for around twenty years. I served in churches across the
South in just about every position imaginable. I have three religion/theology degrees because
my passion has always been teaching and the intellectual side of things. My favorite areas of
study are supernatural and psychic phenomena, as well as the compatibility between the
Christian faith and evolution. I also enjoy philosophy. In fact, it was my faith which lead me into
horror writing. Both the Bible and horror deal with the supernatural, fear, survival, overcoming
terrible situations, and human depravity. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate
display of these themes. For me, writing horror was a natural cross over.


My decision to write horror caused big waves in my circles. Few were supportive while most
didn’t understand. The issue many have is the content of my writing. They balk at the violence
and profanity at times. I have explained over and over again that in the Bible, we see the same
thing. These issues are a part of human existence and God knows this. He meets us where we
are, and the Bible does not shy away from presenting the harsh realities of what it means to be
human. Therefore, if I as a still ordained ministers and committed to my faith, want to be faithful
to the pattern of what I understand as inspired Scripture, why should I edit my content?
This is the big issue I have with Christian fiction and why I would never write it. It’s fake and
doesn’t face the grittiness of reality like the Bible does. It sacrifices the depths and complexity of
life for some made up, stringent moral code.


I think when people found out I was writing horror, they thought it would be like Little House on
the Prairie meets Casper. They were disappointed.

You have been writing about the paranormal and horror for a while now. What is your favorite bit
of paranormal lore from your area?


I grew up in the small town of Central, just outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Anyone who
keeps up with the paranormal and haunted places knows Louisiana is a hotbed of activity. In
Central, there’s a haunted road. It goes by the name Frenchtown and was known for its
ferocious curves. Toward the end of the wooded road, it opened up a little, and ahead of you
would appear a bridge. This bridge was a once functional railroad trestle. The foreboding, rusty
structure would glare down at you, covered in satanic graffiti. Near this bridge was where most
of the paranormal activity had been reported. But it’s not just about the bridge. Rumors of a
Satanic cult in the woods near the bridge, along with a witch who lived in the last house on the
left (yes, Wes Craven would be proud) are the prominent legends which once swirled around
this trestle. It was said that if you crossed under the bridge, the cult members would kidnap you
and drag you back to their lair. In the forest behind the bridge was where the rituals took place.
Some have even reported seeing dead cats hanging from underneath the trestle.
There are also many other phenomena reported about this site, too many to list here. I am
working on an article about it and going into detail about all the paranormal activity associated
with the place.

This has been so influential on me I have based an entire series of stories around it and am
developing them into novels. The collections of shorts are called The Tetromet Chronicles and are
forthcoming through Stitched Smile Publications. I have had several of these stories published
already through other horror publishers

Have you ever experienced anything paranormal yourself?


Yes. I don’t talk about it much because one thing I have found to be true—the person who
shouts about all of their paranormal experiences all the time and say they have them every day?
They are full of crap. With that said, let me relay some of my experiences with brevity.
One experience I will never forget is casting a demon out of a woman. It wasn’t anything like
The Exorcist, but her husband had to try and hold her down. I bound the demon in Jesus’ name
and the strength left. I was able to then cast the demons out. There were only two. I can’t even
imagine how bad it would have been if there were more.


Me and my buddy were also shot at by a Satanic cult when we stumbled upon their meeting
place late one night. This was in Louisiana and we had heard about the site and went to do a
cleansing. We didn’t think anyone would be there since it was 2 a.m. on a weeknight. Boy, were
we wrong.


I have also had an intense encounter with a ghost. She is the subject of one of my other
forthcoming novels called Theodosia.


I’ve had psychic experiences of remote viewing, clairvoyance, and telekinesis.

Johnny Walker Ranger has some pretty interesting combinations within the name. Tell me a bit
about this character and what inspired you to create him?


Ah, Johnny. My first fiction novel and the character I love so much. With all the serious stuff I
just laid on everyone, there is something else you need to know about me. I love sarcasm and
socially awkward humor. I am a HUGE Bruce Campbell fan and have been for decades. I was
the guy in high school telling people they needed to watch Bruce Campbell movies. Their
response? “Who is that?”


Yeah, you horror fans feel my pain.


Johnny is a Bruce Campbell tribute. It is taking us back to the days of VHS tapes and when we
could joke about things and not get so butt-hurt and offended. But yeah, it is a nod to Bruce, but
it is its own story and Johnny is his own character.


I came up with the story at a very low point in my life. Things with ministry went bad fast
because of jealous colleagues and pissed off people who wanted me to be a puppet pastor. I
was in a transitional period of my life and I needed something to make me laugh. So, I came up
with Johnny.


And the name?

I just came up with something I thought sounded like a drunk and pissed off redneck. Johnny
will always and forever be my favorite character I have come up with because he helped me
through such a dark time in my life. Even now, when things get bad, I go back to writing Johnny.
I am almost finished with Vol.2 and I have already started an anthology of stories written by
Johnny.

As a horror writer what have been some of the biggest challenges in releasing this story?


Johnny is not for everyone. We had an editor bail because she kept getting triggered by the
story. We also had to fire a cover artist because he couldn’t come through and give us a
finished product. He got mad and went to social media and slandered me and Stitched Smile
Publications. He really focused on me because I was a pastor and am an outspoken Christian.
He went on and on for weeks and it finally died down. But still, he won’t let it go. He bought a
copy of the book and gave it a one star review on Amazon…but at least he bought the book!


What was your favorite scene in the book to write and what did you enjoy most about it?


Without a doubt, the Bootcamp chapter. It is towards the end of the book and Johnny is training
people in his church on how to kill demons. Here are some of the highlights.

The next few moments were beautiful. There’s nothing more melodic than the
sound of someone huffing when they get kicked in the nuts. As I perused the rows, I
came across a kid who looked to be about fifteen. Real nerdy looking fella; coke bottle
glasses, button up shirt, and skinny jeans. Blood gushed from his mouth, and he was
crying. I got in his face and went all-out Gunnery Sergeant Hartman on him.
“What in the fuck is this? Are those tears, private?”
He sniffed. “N-n-n-no, sir.”
“It’s not? Well shit on me and call me Commodious. Ladies and gentlemen, we
have a freak of nature here who can make it rain from his eyes. Is that rain coming from
your eyes, private?”
“N-n-n-no, sir.”
“Well then what the hell is it? It damn sure can’t be tears, ‘cause you just told me
it wasn’t. And I know for damn sure you aren’t fucking stupid enough to lie to me. So
what are they, private?”
He dried up real quick, but I kept at him.
“Listen here, el nerdo. If you are crying here, do you know what’s gonna happen
to you when you’re in war? Well, I’ll tell ya. You’re gonna piss yourself like a neutered
dog and run home to your Xbox and action figures. Now, if I catch you crying again, I
will body slam you to the ground and pee on you! Understood?”
“Y-y-y-yes, s-s-sir, D-d-demon S-slayer s-s-sir.” He sniffled a few more times
then got back into ready position.
“Good. Carry on, private.”

A few rows over, a fat dude who looked like Newman from Seinfeld raised his hand and
called for me.
“What do you want, Newman clone?”
“You can’t be serious? You really want us to electrocute each other?”
I marched double time and got in his face. “Serious? Serious?! Do you wanna know what
serious is, Newman? Serious is rescuing your pure virgin bride-to-be from becoming a sacrifice
to Satan. Serious is picking Toby brains out her hair before you make out with her. Serious is
fighting an angel cause he done pissed you off. Serious? You damn better believe I’m serious.
Ask me if I’m fucking serious again. Go ahead, Newman, I double damn dog dare you. You ever
ask me that again, I’ll shove that stun gun so far up your ass, when I turn it on, it’ll shave your
face, got it?”
Newman started to mutter.
“I can’t understand you, lard ass. Get your tongue outta the jar of Crisco and talk to me.”
“Sir, yes, sir, Demon Slayer sir.”
“Ya damn right! Now get to shocking, you pew-sitting, casserole-eating, toe-tapping
shittards!”

You must be a pretty big horror fan yourself, can you give us some movie and book recommendations?


I am. I am going avoid suggesting the big names in horror because most of us have seen the
movie or read the book. Before I give my suggestions, I will say The Exorcist and Legion by
William Peter Blatty are my favorite horror novels.


For reading I recommend the following:


Mine, by Robert McCammon. Best opening chapter of any book I have ever read.
Out Are The Lights, by Richard Laymon
Mark Of The Werewolf, by Jeffery Sackett
The Hunger Moon, by Ramsey Campbell
Night Warriors, by Graham Masterton
Hobgoblin, by John Coyne
Light Source, by Bari Wood
The Revelation, by Bentley Little

Again with movies, I will give some that are not mainstream


The Abomination, 1986
Galaxy of Terror, 1981The Nest, 1988
The Kindred, 1987
The Boogens, 1981
Witchboard, 1986
House II: The Second Story, 1987
The Beast Within, 1982
The Brain, 1988


Where can we find and stalk.. I mean follow you online?


Twitter: @EzekielKincaid
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ezekethefreak/
Website: https://ezekielkincaid.wordpress.com/


Where can we get your latest book and other works?
My books and other anthologies I have been published in can be found on Amazon.
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=ezekiel+kinciad&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
Free reading can be found on Stitched Smile’s WordPress site
https://stitchedsmilepublications.wordpress.com/
And Horror Bound
https://www.horrorbound.net/?author=5de80c37c09a8973f9c333cf

Interview with Horror Author Gavin Gardiner

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Featured Horror Books Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing.

The truth is, I took to the writing game quite late. Although a life-long lover of horror, the idea to try my hand at writing my own novel didn’t come until I hit 30, and was the result of endless evenings dissecting the genre with my friend and horror analyst Ewan Rayner. Our conversations eventually led me to wondering whether the expanded understanding I’d developed from these challenging chats could translate into my own story. 

In the three years it took to complete For Rye and find a publisher, I also wrote a novella, several short stories, and a bunch of non-fiction pieces, all of which have also been published in print and online. It’s funny how such an impulsive undertaking, born mostly of curiosity, can end up taking your life in a whole new direction. Guess I’ve got Ewan to thank (or blame) for that. 

Horror Author Gavin Gardiner


The story is set in a town called Millbury Peak. Can you tell me a bit about the town you created?  

Millbury Peak is indeed my own invention. The most interesting kind of horror to me is that which festers behind closed doors, kept unseen behind a façade of normality. My mum summed up this kind of horror perfectly with two words: seems normal. I believe this brand of suspense resonates with us because there is an unspoken demand that we all go about our daily lives as functioning members of society, and to varying degrees bury our own writhing horrors within us. We must all seem normal

Anyway, I had the feeling that a small country town would be the perfect setting for this high-standing, respected family whose lives are, in actuality, a living hell behind closed doors. The husband and father of the family, Thomas Wakefield, is the adored town vicar. He also happens to be the cause of the hell his family must endure. 

Geographically, Millbury Peak effectively ‘replaces’ the town of Newark-on-Trent in the East Midlands, with the River Trent being overwritten by my fictional River Crove. The story opens in the city of Stonemount (again, made up) which replaces Nottingham, and I also created an island in the Outer Hebrides called Neo-Thorrach which features in the story. As you can see, I’m somewhat carving out my own fictional world within our own world. I’m afraid the reason for this is, at this time, strictly confidential. 

The book sounds like a crossover between murder, psychological horror, and maybe the supernatural. Can you expand on that and give us some background on where that came from? 

A crossover between murder and psychological horror is a great description! There are two mission statements about my work that I plan on sticking to for all my fiction. One of those is that my work will never be supernatural, and the other…well, that will be revealed in my next book. 

Regarding my avoiding the supernatural: I want to make it clear that I have a deep love for supernatural horror. The Blair Witch Project is my all-time favourite horror (and perhaps film) and so it’s not that I lack an appreciation for it. 

The decision to base everything I write in our own reality – on stuff that could happen – originates from my fascination with the human mind. Although the supernatural opens up exciting possibilities for a writer, where there are no limits to the things you can conjure up, I believe that no monster can be as terrifying as a monstrous human mind. This is probably why true crime has had such a resurgence and is so overwhelmingly popular at the moment: people are most disturbed by that which could be living next door, or the thought that even their own loved ones could become something truly horrifying. 

Taking my work in this direction also compliments another interest of mine, which is moral complexity. This is something I feel had been lacking in horror for some years, and is somewhat becoming more prevalent, but not to the degree I want to explore it. When you read one of my books, there’s every chance the ‘goodie’ and ‘baddie’, in the traditional sense, will flip by the end of the story. I’ve thought a lot about our designations of good and evil – our insistence on drawing a line between us and them; our denial that the most despicable humans are not a different species, but in fact just a series of arbitrary conditions away from being you, me, or any of the cherished faces smiling warmly over the Christmas dinner table – and I have great interest in my work exploring not only what it takes to make a human monster, but also how slippery the spectrum of good and evil really is. Dealing solely with people, not ghosts or goblins, will allow me dig perversely deep into this theme. 

We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Full disclosure: I’m a new writer! I only started my novel three years ago, but have worked my butt off in that time. I’ve remained mindful every step of the way as to what lessons I’ve had to learn, and have plans to start a YouTube series detailing these very lessons. 

The list is endless, but if I could go back and give myself any advice, it would be that self-doubt is not only normal, but necessary. I really had a hard time with this, constantly doubting whether all my work was worth it, or whether the story was a waste of time. I still harbour massive doubts about every new writing project I take on, big or small, but I’ve come to the realisation that it’s that very same doubt that drives me to push my work as far as I can take it.  

I was recently asked in another interview which part of the writing process I find the hardest. I answered (rather awkwardly) that they should all be as hard as each other. If any part of writing a book feels ‘easy’, or is a bit of a ‘break’ from the rest of the process, then you’re not working hard enough. It goes without saying that everyone is allowed to create something just for the fun of it and put that creation out there, but I always advise new writers to remain mindful of their objective. If that objective is to create something that’s going to truly grab a reader by the lapels and shake them, stay with them, and not let go, then they have to take a long, honest look at the effort they’re putting in and evaluate whether it’s enough to meet that objective. 

So embrace the self-doubt, make it work for you, and never forget to push yourself and your work to the limits of your creativity and endurance. Greatness isn’t born out of nothing. Bleed for your work. 


What/who are some of your major influences? 

In terms of literature, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein shattered my perceptions of what a novel could achieve. Also, I doubt I’d ever have written a book had Jeff Long’s criminally underrated and not-spoken-about-enough The Descent (nothing to do with the brilliant film) didn’t exist. 

I was deep into movies before literature, and my list of cinematic influences is wildly expansive. I think it’s important for a writer to seek inspiration from as many mediums as possible, and I’ve found films to be a useful way of expanding my storytelling palette. Absorb enough films, and you need only close your eyes during the writing of a difficult scene to see how a cinematographer or director or lighting technician might handle its execution. 

We live in a fortunate time when we have a positively bloating wealth of cinema and literature to look back on, and I’d urge writers of every genre to gorge on it all, and find ways to channel it into their own work. 

Where can we get this book after release?  

My debut horror novel, For Rye, will be available from April 9th through most major outlets such as Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, and Foyles, and you can also pre-order it now. Visit my website to whet your palate and see if you’re up to the horrors to come: 

What are you working on next?  

I’m currently knee-deep in the planning of my next novel, Witchcraft on Rücken Ridge, a folk horror set up a mountain full of caves, cults, and cannibals. As for how the ‘witchcraft’ element ties into my previously-detailed mission statement of ‘no supernatural stuff’, you’ll just have to wait and see… 

For Rye Horror Book cover

Want to dig in? Read the first 3 chapters for free

Website: www.gavingardinerhorror.com 
Linktree: https://linktr.ee/GGardinerHorror

Interview with Horror Author John McFarland

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Featured Horror Books Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers
Horror Author John McFarland

PB – Tell me a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing.
JM: I have always been a fan of horror. As a young kid, I loved the old Universal classic movies, Frankenstein and Dracula and the whole crew, as well as the giant monsters of the 1950s, the postwar dread of the new atomic age. I also loved the Roger Corman Poe films of the 1960s. I mention movies because like a lot of young people, the movies moved me toward reading the stories, and discovering that the original literary versions of many of my favorite tales were much more complex than the film versions. In my teens, I discovered a volume called The Modern Library Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. This book was pivotal for me. In addition to Poe, with whom I was well acquainted by then,  it gave me an introduction to and love for the great horror stories of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was my first introduction to M. R, James, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Hitchens, Arthur Machen, Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, and many others.


PB – What kind of research and background did you use to create the town of Ste. Odile or is it based on your own experience?
JM: Ste. Odile is based on the real old French colonial Mississippi River town of Ste. Genevieve, founded in 1732, which is about 60 miles south of St. Louis. My fifth great-grandfather, orphaned in an Indian raid as a toddler in 1750’s Pennsylvania, was bought from the raiding party by the parish priest of nearby Fort De Chartres for 5 barrels of whiskey, and as an adult became one of the patriarchs of Ste. Genevieve. Having discovered the regionalism of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, I wanted to do the same for horror and make my fictional town sort of the Yoknapatawpha County of Hell. Coming up with a name for my town was a challenge. I liked names that started with an ‘O’ and the name Odile appeared on many a gravestone in the town’s ancient cemetery, so that’s the name I chose. The first expression of my horrific regionalism came in my 2010 novel The Black Garden, in which the region as well as many characters I still reference, first appeared. Two years ago, traveling in France and Alsace, my wife and I were stunned to find there is a REAL Ste. Odile: a mountaintop retreat dating from the 8th century.

PB – It seems your writing spans time periods. What inspires you to pick a certain time period to write in?
JM: My love of the aforementioned 19th-century classics is my biggest inspiration. Emulating the classics has been one of my goals. Also, many of my stories are set just before or after World War l. That period has left an indelible mark on me, in considering what a shock to civilization that war was. Victorian mindset and tactics met horrific, destructive 20th-century technology and the human wreckage that it left behind was a shock to the sensibilities of culture and civilization. There’s also this: one thing I learned from studying Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot and others of that era, is that there is something incantatory about words and language. They can convey moods and vistas of imagination beyond mere meanings, just through sound. the sounds of the words have import as well as their definitions. I find more opportunity and justification for that when writing about some past time. Its removal from a time and place I am not entirely at home in.

PB – What has been the greatest challenge to writing in a fictitious town? How do you keep track of the details with so many stories?
JM: Keeping track IS the biggest challenge. When I started to write The Black Garden, I drew a detailed map of the fictitious town with all street and place names in evidence so I could keep the geography straight. I also write short biographical sketches of the characters I am introducing so I can keep them consistent. The stories are very interrelated and it does take a lot of double-checking to make sure dates and relationships make sense and are consistent.

PB – Do the stories in Ste. Odile overlap or have shared themes?
JM: Yes, very much so. I wanted to create a mythology. Characters first mentioned in The Black Garden, often figure in new stories and will in future ones, too. I want that connectedness. Thematically, starting with one of my first Ste. Odile short stories, The Little Dead Thing, I wanted to create a horror of isolation, otherness and self-contempt into which an added horrific element is introduced.  My characters often live very ordinarily, if pariah-like lives, which are intruded upon by some new unsettling fear.

The-Dark-Walk-Forward-Front-Cover-With-Quote

PB – We talk a lot of new authors. If you could go back in time and give your young author self advice, what would it be?
JM: Find kindred spirits, other writers with similar passions and play ideas and works in progress off each other. Read even more than you did. Write every day.

PB – Of the 19 stories which is your favorite?
JM: That’s a tough one. My very first published fiction was One Happy Family which was taken by T. E. D. Klein for The Twilight Zone Magazine. That tale was also taken by Martin Greenberg for his anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, so that, since 1985 I have been able to say I have been anthologized with the likes of Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson and Isaac Asimov. So I have a great affection for that one, but I think my work evolved somewhat after that. I guess I would say the book’s namesake, The Dark Walk Forward, has the impact, the emotion and the tragic conflict of human needs I most value in expressing.

PB – Whats on your reading list right now?
JM: Well, I love a good ghost story. I am preparing one I am calling Phrygia House, and have done lots of research on what works best in these. I have recently read all of Susan Hill’s classic tales, which I purchased directly from Susan herself, a very gracious lady, and Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter. I can’t recommend that one enough. Have also read Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, Nicole Cushing’s The Half-Freaks, some Thomas Ligotti, whom I had never read before, Philip Fracassi’s Behold the Void. Also re-reading some classic’s like Crawford’s The Upper Berth and Oliver Onions‘ The Beckoning Fair One and LeFanu’s Squire Toby’s Will.

PB – Anything else you’d care to share with our paranormal horror fans here at Puzzle Box Horror?
JM: There’s a possibility that my new publisher Dark Owl Publishing, who has been a dream to work with, may be interested in re-issuing The Black Garden, as well as its sequel which is in the works, Azmiel’s Daughter. They may also venture into young reader territory in the future, and my series about Bigfoot, Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom and Annette: A Big, Hairy Grandma. Both of these are out of print in English, but popular in Croatian and Slovenian. We’ll see what happens!10) Where and when can we get the new book? The Dark Walk Forward will be released on December 1 from Dark Owl Publishing.

About the Author

John S. McFarland’s short stories have appeared in numerous journals, in both the mainstream and horror genres. His tales have been collected with stories by Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, and Richard Matheson. His work has been praised by such writers as T.E.D. Klein and Philip Fracassi, and he has been called “A great, undiscovered voice in horror fiction.” McFarland’s horror novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010 to universal praise, and his young reader series about Bigfoot, Annette: A Big Hairy Mom, is in print in three languages. This story collection is his first.

You can follow the release of “The Dark Walk Forward” here at Dark Owl Publishing.

Interview with Horror Author Laird Barron

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Short Horror Stories

Recently, Puzzle Box Horror had the privilege of speaking with horror author Laird Barron about his life, his work, and his influences. Laird, an expat Alaskan, is the author of several books, including The Imago Sequence and Other Stories; Swift to Chase; and Blood Standard. Currently, Barron lives in the Rondout Valley of New York State and is at work on tales about the evil that men do.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you started in horror writing?

Picture of author Laird Barron
Photo Credit: Ardi Alspach

I started writing as a kid. I was into science fiction and fantasy–Star Trek, Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings. The typical pop culture stuff in the 1970s. When my family relocated from the suburbs to the wilderness, things took a darker turn. I enjoyed telling stories to my younger brothers. We spent many a winter night alone with snow and wind pressing against the cabin and our parents off to town. My siblings were particularly riveted by the spookier tales. Eventually, that translated to my writing horror. I experimented with high fantasy and various kinds of science fiction. Ultimately, it became clear that my affinity for the macabre outstripped everything else.

Has growing up in Alaska influenced your writing at all?

She left a mark. With rare exceptions, I didn’t write about Alaska until more recently. I’d gained distance but needed time. The geography and climate have always strongly influenced my work. Alaska was all about rough edges and extremes. The weather, the people, the swing between months of light and darkness…

I haven’t been back since ’96, but I dream of it often. It’s a lot of psychic pressure heaving against the bulwark of a dam. Past few years, I’ve vented more of it into my stories. Still haven’t decided how I feel about that turn of events except to acknowledge what’s done is done.

The Imago Sequence by Laird Barron book cover
The Light is the Darkness by Laird Barron book cover
Occultation by Laird Barron book cover

You’ve written a wealth of short stories. Do you have any favorites?

Over time, a writer’s career reveals a sort of fossil record of their obsessions. Twenty years on, I’ve published enough stories to see them as delineating several different modes. The crime/noir mode; the contemporary weird mode; the science fiction/fantasy mode. First person posthumous… Most of it horror-inflected. Which is a roundabout way of saying, it’s tough to objectively determine a favorite or most “successful” piece of work because there’s a real apples and oranges element. But…

Personal favorite: “Andy Kaufman Creeping through the Trees.”

Best: “Parallax.”

Creepiest: (and for me, creepy is paramount) A forthcoming story I sold to Ellen Datlow called “Tiptoe” for her Shirley Jackson tribute anthology—When Things Get Dark.

Are there any anthologies or magazines that you are particularly excited to have been published in?

I’m grateful to every last editor who has made a place for me in their magazines and anthologies.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction set the tone for my career. It was, and might still be, the Holy Grail for writers tilling the science fiction/fantasy/horror fields. The heavyweights were featured there since 1949. King’s Dark Tower was serialized in those pages. Zelazny and Bradbury wrote stories for the mag. I’ve only become more aware of the importance of selling my first handful of pro stories to Gordon Van Gelder—two of which were cover novellas. There are world-renowned bestselling novelists who moan and groan to this day because they were never able to crack the ToC. So, yeah, a big, big deal.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction June cover
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction May cover

Penning introductions and afterwords for collectors’ editions of Ray Russell’s The Case Against Satan; Jim Thompson’s Pop 1280; Peter Straub’s KOKO; and Michael Shea’s The Autopsy & Other Tales.

I’m also proud to have work reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s anthologies. You’re doing all right when Ellen takes an interest in your writing.

What scares you the most?

The declining state of the world should be enough to scare anyone.

What/who are some of your major influences?

Now, there’s a topic. My blood type is labeled “the ecstasy of influence.” I break down this incomplete list into three stages of life.

Adolescent: DM’s Guide, especially Appendix N; Edgar Rice Burroughs; Robert E. Howard; Roger Zelazny; Stephen King; Clive Barker; Edgar Allan Poe; Robert Service; Louis L’Amour; etc, etc.

Adult: Shirley Jackson; Jack Vance; Karl Edward Wagner; Robert Parker; John D MacDonald; Anne Sexton; Peter Straub; Michael Shea; Charles Simic; Mark Strand; etc, etc.

Old Man Winter: Livia Llewellyn; Stephen Graham Jones; John Langan; Paul Tremblay; S.P. Miskowski; Kelly Link; Aimee Bender; etc, etc.

Blood Standard by Laird Barron book cover
Black Mountain by Laird Barron book cover
Worse Angels by Laird Barron book cover

We talk to a fair amount of new writers. What tips would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started based on what you know now?

Like plenty of other people, I’ve my share of regrets. Career missteps aren’t among them, happily. By the time I started publishing, I’d spent twenty-odd years preparing for the day. I’d done my research and had a clear vision of the writer I wanted to be. That and some career advice from Gordon Van Gelder put me in a decent position.

A sentiment I carry from childhood? If you want to make art, make art. If your family and friends are supportive, wonderful. If not, fuck ‘em. The world pays lip service to pursuing your dreams, but the cold reality is that lots of people will act as living roadblocks to your dreams. The worst of the worst will profess to hold your best interests at heart. Don’t let them steal your fire.

Can you tell us anything about what you’re currently working on?

I’m working on a dark fantasy/horror novel and a handful of stories for upcoming anthologies. If all goes well, I’ll also hand my agent the next horror collection late this year, or early 2022.

If you’re interested in learning more about Laird Barron, check out his website at www.lairdbarron.wordpress.com. You can also follow the author on Twitter (@LairdBarron) and Goodreads (@Laird_Barron). Finally, to purchase books check out the author on Amazon.

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