Talk about yourself—Who are you? Where are you located? Anything you feel mentionable here.
I’m a guy who locked away the creative child I once was for far too long while I blindly pursued financial success, almost losing myself in the process.
I came back to fiction after a 15-year stint in the business world, and when I began to write stories, I felt that I really came alive. I’d discovered I had a knack for writing after blogging for several years, but I’d kind of ignored the part of me that loved to read and watch twisted dark tales. Discovering the stuff lurking in the shadowy corners of my imagination has been surprising, and writing is the only “work” I’ve done where time slips away and I feel I’m really centered in my purpose.
My family relocated to Boulder, Colorado last summer after over a decade in Southern California. Currently, my life is consumed with finding time to write and publish my work with two toddlers running amuck. The stories I write are usually horror, suspense, dark fantasy, or just plain weird, but I do have a sentimental side and like to write things that are more existential and thought-provoking.
You can find a number of my short stories on my website, and a bunch of photo-inspired fiction on my Instagram.
What are you currently writing and what inspired it?
While I’ve been seeking publication on my first novel the past year, I’ve been working solely on short stories which I post on my website and Instagram, and also ones I submit to magazines, anthologies, and contests.
Lately, I’ve been dialing back my output for the work I put up online and focusing more on building my writing credits. Currently, I’m working on a piece unlike anything I’ve ever done, a retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh for an anthology submission I’d really like to be a part of. I also have a new novel in development inspired by some events in my life and some ideas from a lot of the New Age self-development teachings I was consumed with during my business years. I can’t say much at this point, but it involves a savior vs. an antichrist figure, some deeply impactful experiences from my personal life, and some absolutely diabolical horror that’s going to require a lot of fearlessness to write.
What genre do you write?
Most of my work is suspense, horror, and dark fantasy. If you read any of my stories, the chances are I’m going to introduce you to some characters, and then subject them to horrifying, inexplicable circumstances. Still, I like to surprise my readers, and I often surprise myself, so I try to pull on people’s heartstrings when I can, and share perspectives I wish I’d learned sooner myself.
Have you been published/are you working towards being published?
I had a drabble titled “The Collector” (http://www.fairfieldscribes.com/issue-2.html) published with ScribesMicroFiction.
My story, “Trembling Aspen” recently took second in a flash fiction contest with SmashBear Publishing (https://www.smashbearpublishing.com) and will be featured in an anthology that should be releasing soon.
Another early story of mine, “The Dollhouse”, will be featured in Fedowar Holiday Horrors (https://geni.us/holidayhorrors) which is scheduled to release November 15th.
I usually have 5-10 pieces on submission for publications/anthologies/contests at any given time, and I’m currently seeking a home for my debut novel. I’ve had some offers on my novel from small presses thus far, but I’m still exploring my options.
What author inspires you the most?
I read ~70-80 books per year, and try to cover wide ground as far as genre and style, but Stephen King is my favorite. Yes, his name would likely come up more than any when this question is asked amongst horror writers, but what can I say? He’s written some of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.
A middle school friend’s dad was really into King, and that friend turned me on to him. I probably shouldn’t have read “IT” as a seventh-grader, but I did, and “Needful Things”. “Needful Things” was the book I reread when I got back into fiction after my decade and a half span where I only read non-fiction and business-related books. I love that story, and it really inspired me to pursue a career in writing fiction. I’ve since made my way through over half of King’s books.
I love King’s stories because anything can happen. Yeah, I enjoy the twisted and gruesome, but his characters are brilliant and unique, and I especially love when you get all his insider knowledge of the writing business woven into books like “Misery” and “Bag of Bones”.
What books are your favorite and what would you recommend for others?
Building on my King convo, “The Dark Tower” series is either at the very top of my list or way up there. I also particularly loved “Different Seasons”, “Firestarter”, “The Green Mile”, and “The Talisman” and “Black House”, which King wrote with Peter Straub.
Greg Iles is another author whose entire bibliography I’m working through, and his “Natchez Burning” trilogy is beyond exceptional.
Some other favorites are “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey, “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, “NOS4A2” by Joe Hill, and my favorite book from childhood, “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Honestly, the “read a lot, write a lot” bit is some of the most solid advice out there. Read the easy stuff that you love—the books you’d take to the beach, but read the hard stuff too, the classics, the books that are dense and intimidating. And learn your craft. Read books on writing, books that help you in areas you struggle. Yeah, reading a book on grammar is boring as fuck, but you know what’s worse? Reading someone’s fiction who couldn’t pass high school English and composition.
Something I like to share with people is no matter what you are writing, you WILL NEVER PLEASE EVERYONE. It’s impossible. Above I talked about my love for King, and yet I’ve seen people ranting on Twitter about how he’s shit and everyone who likes him is a moron. I remember finishing “The Goldfinch” with tears in my eyes and then seeing all these one-star reviews on Goodreads. The book won the god-damn Pulitzer, and there are people who hate it. It’s the same for every NY-Time Bestseller, and every winner of any prestigious writing award you can imagine. If these authors can’t please everyone, neither can you.
Write what you want to write, and just know that if you want to turn the right people on, that will usually involve turning the wrong people off. Try to write something that panders to the critics and the trends and you are just wasting your time.
What is your perfect setting for writing?
I’ve consumed at least three cups of coffee, and have a comfy place to sit with my computer. Hopefully, my kids are not trampling around like a crash of rhinos and screaming like rabid monkeys. But if they are, in goes the headphones with some instrumental-type music to drown out the noise.
Yeah, I wish I had an office with a breathtaking view beyond a window, a perfectly temperature-controlled room with some stimulating yet relaxing blend of essential oils wafting through the air, but I don’t have that. I’ve had a tiny desk in my bedroom, and the past year or so I’ve had a small basement office.
As long as I can shut the door, and block out the noise if needed, I’m good to go. Writing takes me wherever I need to be.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m a panster through and through.
That said, the scale and scope of my new book may change my ways. But it may not. I bought a huge bulletin board for my office, with plans to plot out some of it, but we’ll see if I use it. The last time I plotted out a book it kind of took the wind out of my sails. Seeing all the key points written out stole the fun and my desire to write it. I had a basic idea for the beginning, middle, and end of my first book, but I wasn’t a stickler about writing every single day and gave myself space to work things out in my subconscious.
I’m often amazed how I pick up the right book at the right time or find some little snippet of inspiration just when I need it in a show, a film, a song, a comic.
I’ve spent a lot of time the past year writing short fiction to build my social media presence. I begin by saving a bunch of stock photos to a folder with a certain dark aesthetic, then I scroll through the pics until one of them “speaks” to me. I’ll get a basic scene in my mind or “hear” a few lines, then I just start writing and see what happens. It’s my favorite way to write, and I think it has served me well thus far. But as with any art, change and growth are inevitable, so we will see if my approach shifts in the future.
What is your favorite written piece and if it’s published, where can one find it?
Some of my favorites are yet to be published, including my novel.
Of the stories I have online, the one I think I like the best actually are not a horror story, but one my wife described as kind of Mitch Albom-ey.
Since getting married, and now having toddlers at home, I find myself thinking often of how quickly time passes, how fast children grow, and what the future holds. “The Ferris Wheel” is a story about just that and can be found on my website.
As an author of horror, I need to know, why do you write horror?
The horror genre just happens to include everything I like: the gritty, dark, and twisted, the unexplained, supernatural, and unexpected. I suppose every story begins with a “What would happen if____?” but the way that question gets filled in for horror stories can become quite bizarre and far-reaching, and I love that.
I will say that I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional “horror” movies, and the like. I just saw “Friday the 13th” for the first time last year, I laughed my ass off. I prefer psychological horror in unique settings, with twists over shock-value and gore. Give me stuff like “Event Horizon”, “Alien”, or “The Silence of the Lambs”, and I’m all about it.
In horror, anything goes.
Strangely, I’m not someone who scares easily, I’ve never been prone to nightmares, or one to get particularly bothered by much in fiction or film, so perhaps a part of me is trying to see what it’s gonna take to really freak myself out. Yeah, that’s probably a bit sadistic, what can I say? That said, I’ve been very pleased to find that while my stories don’t keep me up at night, for my readers it is often a different story. (Insert evil laugh here.)
What was your first experience with horror growing up? Something had to spark your interest.
I can think of only one time I tried to watch something as a kid that freaked me out too much to finish, and it was “Poltergeist”. When the guy started peeling his face away in the mirror, I was outta there.
Back to Stephen King again, I really got into the film adaptations as a kid. Some of the Bachman stories, like “Thinner” and “The Running Man”, and the miniseries for “The Stand” and “IT”.
I’ve never really considered myself a horror buff, and still don’t, it just happens that when my imagination starts churning, it goes to dark places.
What is the scariest thing you’ve read or seen?
The last question primed the pump here. I was really into aliens and UFO stuff as a kid, but there was a passage in Whitley Shreiber’s “Communion”, that freaked me the fuck out. The real footage in “The Fourth Kind”, which I watched as an adult, also got to me. As far as books, I think Thomas Harris’s book “Hannibal” contained some of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read.
In real life, I had some experiences with sleep paralysis that I’ll never forget. Out of curiosity and a friend’s nudging, I agreed for some lady to do some shamanic work on me once. Soon I had two experiences where I awoke unable to move and felt a dark presence in my room. The third time it happened, I was in NC at my Aunt’s house. I awoke on my stomach, frozen, and was rolled on my back as if I was in some kind of tractor beam. There was something looming over me at the foot of the bed shrouded in dark, tattered cloth with a face that appeared to be made of nothing but writhing worms. I screamed at it “What are you? What are you?” for what felt like a minute, then suddenly I was “released” and it disappeared. I called the lady who did the shamanic work the next day to tell her what happened, and she said “Oh, that’s normal, don’t worry, they can’t hurt you.” I wasn’t happy, and needless to say, never did anything like that again.
Not sure if I should include this, but last year I received a spam/scam text containing real pictures of dismembered, mutilated bodies, and it was brutal. I found some info online of it happening to others where they threaten similar fates for you and your loved ones if you don’t pay up. It bothered me for days. Fiction is one thing, but reality can be much scarier.
Have you written about a personal experience and turned it into a horror story?
I often weave personal experiences and anecdotes into my stories, but one story that comes to mind is an unpublished piece I have called “When the Sun Goes Down”. The story is named after a song my wife wrote and contains a handful of the lyrics woven into the narrative. It also has some real experiences we shared from an anniversary trip and grapples with some tough subject matter involving mental health.
“When the sun goes down, my mind is a scary place…” That’s probably true for a lot of horror writers, and those of us with overactive imaginations.
Favorite horror movies (books too if you haven’t stated those yet or have more horror specific)
I definitely mentioned many books and films so far, but I’ll drop a few more favorites.
No list of horror books would be complete without “Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin & “The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty.
King’s “The Shining” is excellent, as is “Pet Sematary”, and both will really twist into you if you’re a parent.
“The Ceremonies” by T.E.D. Klein is amazing, as is “The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones. As far as movies, I thought “Doctor Sleep” was possibly the best King adaptation yet, and I definitely enjoyed the new “IT” films.
Give me the original “Alien” and “Predator” any day and I’ll be happy. I also will definitely watch any new stuff Ari Aster puts out, as “Hereditary” and “Midsommer” were both crazy as hell.