Back in the day on my old Macabre Republic blog, I had a feature called Pick Six with ____. It was a variation on the traditional interview, as the subject got to choose whichever six questions he/she would like to answer from a list of nearly forty items (questions and prompts pertaining to the writer’s own work, as well as his/her thoughts on the world of horror). I am hoping to resurrect this feature here at Dispatches from the Macabre Republic in the near future, but in the meantime here is a re-post of interviews with a trio of Halloween Lit luminaries:
Pick Six with Norman Partridge (originally posted 11/1/2012)
If there were a Halloween Hall of Fame, Norman Partridge no doubt would be a first-year inductee. He provided an instant classic for holiday readers in 2006 with his Bram Stoker Award-winning novel Dark Harvest (which was also chosen as one of the 100 Best Books of that year by Publishers Weekly). His various Halloween narratives (including a novelette-length prequel to Dark Harvest) are collected in Johnny Halloween: Tales of the Dark Season.
1.What is your favorite Halloween memory?
I’d have to open up my treat sack and toss in all the Halloweens I remember as a kid growing up in the Sixties. For me, that was the holiday’s golden age. Every kid in the neighborhood hit the streets, and the doorbells didn’t stop ringing all night long.
One year my truck-driver dad showed up on the big afternoon with cases of Crackerjack stacked in the back of his pickup. My mom took one look at all those boxes and thought he’d blown the mortgage for the month. All he said was: “Don’t worry about it, Ev…they fell off a truck.” Anyway, the front hall was piled high with Crackerjack when I left the house that night to trick or treat. We lived on a hill, but word got out. All the Crackerjack was gone by the time I got home, and my dad was handing out change from my piggy bank. I always have to laugh remembering that, though I didn’t think it was particularly funny at the time.
2.What, to you, is the scariest place in your hometown?
I grew up in Vallejo, California. The spot that really sticks out for me is Lake Herman Road, in particular the stretch of country two-lane that leads to the place where the Zodiac Killer murdered two teenagers. When I was a teenager myself, we’d cruise out there in the middle of the night, kill the headlights and the engine, kill the radio, and let the car drift in neutral until someone freaked out. Usually it didn’t take very long. Something lingers there.
3.Which person in your life has had the biggest influence on your writing career?
If we’re talking writers, probably Stephen King and Joe R. Lansdale. Other than that, I’d say my dad. He was a born storyteller, and the first yarns I remember are the ones he spun in the backyard on summer evenings–especially the weird stories about a house with bloody footprints and the Green Man, which came from his boyhood in Pennsylvania. I still remember the excitement I felt hearing those tales for the first time, and I try to recapture a little of that when writing my own stories. I want to get the reader’s blood pumping.
4.If you could change one thing about your writing career, what would it be?
I’d type “The End” more often. Right now, that’s my goal.
5.Three episodes you always try to catch whenever a Twilight Zone marathon airs?
I could probably give you ten, but here are three that come to mind:
“The Passerby”: Serling’s meditation on the Civil War, with a faded Southern belle and a wounded Confederate passing a dark evening together. The ending always gets me. Line for line, one of Serling’s best episodes.
“The Grave”: A weird western with Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, James Best, and Lee Van Cleef. What’s not to like? Plus, it reminds me of those stories my dad told in the backyard when I was a kid.
“Nick of Time”: A husband and a wife encounter a fortune-telling machine in a diner just south of Nowhere, U.S.A. This episode is my favorite example of what made Twilight Zone special. There are no special effects–just a great story, smart dialogue, and a cast that delivers (i.e. William Shatner as the desperate male lead? I’m sold!).
6.What was your favorite horror movie monster when growing up (and today, if different)?
I’ll stick with the Universal gang, and probably always will. My favorite is the Wolfman (a.k.a. Lawrence Talbot). And Kharis. What can I say? The cursed guys speak to me.
Pick Six [plus a bonus question in honor of the author’s birthday] with David Herter (originally posted 10/31/12)
A graduate of the 1990 Clarion West Workshop, David Herter is the author of Ceres Storm, Evening’s Empire, On the Overgrown Path, The Luminous Depths, and One Who Disappeared. His 2010 novel October Dark (part of Earthling’s Halloween Series) has recently been revised (expanded with new scenes and tightened by some 20,000 words) for ebook release.
1.If you could collaborate with any living writer, who would you choose, and why?
Well, since it’s Halloween, how about a departed one–Catherine Lucille Moore? Which I guess makes me Henry Kuttner. Working in tandem as they did, it would be a giddy pleasure to sit down at the typewriter just after she’d finished her portion in the midst of a sentence, then carry forward a masterpiece like “Clash by Night” so that the heating bills could be paid.
2.What is the best book you have read in the past year?
Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers. Best. Vampire. Book. Ever.
3.What is the best writing advice you ever received?
“If you can’t make it good, make it short.”–Gene Wolfe
4.Which person in your life has had the biggest influence on your writing career?
Briony Travers, my mom. She grew up in wartime Britain and Australia, was a librarian after college in Illinois, then married and became a housewife. Throughout a life of painfully deteriorating health, books were her sustenance. She loved mysteries most of all (Ruth Rendall, P.D. James), and biographies, but also Stephen King and Thomas Harris. She had a subscription to Publisher’s Weekly to keep apprised of the forthcoming titles. She could quote freely from Shakespeare and Tennyson. She knew a little something about everything.
5.What did you enjoy most about writing your last book?
My latest is a revision of my 2010 novel October Dark for ebook release. I enjoyed finally achieving the book I set out to write–sharpening the plot, weeding out the excessive nostalgia, darkening the horror. I also enjoyed delving more into the “lost film,” Dark Carnival, that haunts the book. In our world it’s a movie that Ray Bradbury tried and failed to make, eventually becoming the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. In my book the film was made but quickly vanished from sight, holding in its frames an optical curse against an undying Phantasmagoria magician and his dead love, a witch. The movie is a chess-piece in a decades-long battle between the magician and special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien. All hell breaks loose on Halloween, 1977.
6.What are you working on now?
The Cold Heavens. An epic space opera with an eschatological twist, inspired by Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore and the occult novels of the Austrian fantasist Gustav Meyrink. I’ve had a great time reading/rereading all of their works, as well as delving into German Romanticism, Fin de siecle Decadence and the Weimar era in Berlin. The resulting 275,000 words are set on Mars, Venus, and beyond, with a sequence in the heart of the book set in Meyrink’s haunted Prague. It’s the first of two books.
7.Your Mt. Rushmore of four all-time favorite writers?
Of horror writers? It would make for an eerie skyline at dusk. Robert Aickman, Gustav Meyrink, Shirley Jackson, and Manly Wade Wellman.
Pick Six with James Newman (originally posted 3/25/11)
James Newman is author of the novels Midnight Rain and The Wicked, novellas such as Holy Rollers and The Forum, and the short story collection People Are Strange. His latest novel, Animosity, comes from Necessary Evil Press, and bears a subtitle that resonates throughout the Macabre Republic: “An American Horror Story.”
1.What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Less is more. It’s all about the flow. Why use 100 words to say what can be said in 10? I prefer crisp, clean, lean ‘n mean prose that doesn’t waste a word. It’s what I like to read, so naturally it’s how I enjoy writing.
2.What is your greatest phobia?
That one’s easy: spiders. It’s worse than you could ever imagine, dude. I see one in the house, I start yelling for my wife or 11-year-old son to come kill it. I firmly believe that spiders are pure Evil on eight legs. Just sitting here thinking about those friggin’ things gives me goosebumps.
3.What did you enjoy most about writing your latest book?
The fact that I was writing (what I hope is) a disturbing horror novel set in the real world, populated by real people affected by events that could really happen. Animosity is about a bestselling horror writer whose neighbors turn against him after he finds the body of a murdered child, as they believe there must be some connection between the subject matter of his novels and his tragic discovery (because who could make up such twisted stuff without being a little sick in the head to begin with, right?). While what happens to my protagonist might seem a little far-fetched when things are at their worst for him, I don’t think there’s anything in Animosity that’s impossible. Or improbable, for that matter. People scare me, and the things we humans are capable of is more terrifying to me than vampires or werewolves or zombies. It doesn’t take much at all for folks we thought were our friends to transform into monsters, when they allow themselves to be misled by prejudice, gossip, and/or a mob mentality.
Humans might be scarier than spiders, in fact. But just barely. 😉
4.What excites you about the project you are working on now?
That it’s sort of a departure from what I normally do. The novel I’m working on right now is called Ugly As Sin, and it’s not a horror novel at all. It is a very dark story, but if I had to categorize it I guess I’d call it “white trash noir.” It’s a book influenced by the likes of Joe R. Lansdale, my favorite writer. Very Southern, with characters who might be hideous on the outside but beautiful on the inside, and vice versa.
I’m very proud of this one. I’ve had more fun writing Ugly As Sin than anything I’ve written to date. I can’t wait for folks to read it.
5.What do you think readers would be most surprised to learn about you?
That I’m a Christian. However, I say that with a loud disclaimer. I don’t consider myself to have anything in common with the kinds of people most folks think of when they hear the word “Christian.” I’m not a fan of organized religion, and can’t stand most of the bigoted, close-minded assholes associated with it. If that’s Christianity, then maybe I’m not a Christian at all…
Besides, I cuss too much.
6.Which one of your books would you most like to see developed into a movie, and who would be your dream cast for that film?
I think Midnight Rain would make a wonderful movie. Haven’t really thought about casting it in my mind, but it sounds fun.
For Kyle Mackey: how about Chandler Riggs (“Carl” from The Walking Dead)? He’s a little young at the moment, but he’d work. For his big brother Dan, who Kyle looks up to in more ways than one…gonna throw in an off-the-wall pick that only my fellow die-hard Tar Heels basketball fans will get: Jackson Simmons. Maybe Catherine Keener as their mom, Darlene? She never fails to impress. As poor “Rooster,” the young man framed for a crime he did not commit: Al Shearer (Glory Road). And as the despicable villain of the piece, Sheriff Burt Baker, I’ve got to go with Michael Rooker. He’d be just about perfect.