My good friend and colleague, Yvonne Montgomery graciously invited me to write a little something about my work and my writing process.
Why do I write what I do?
Often I’m asked what I write and when I answer that my genre of choice is horror I usually hear:
“Horror? Really?” A dark, worried look passes over the questioner’s face and they eye me with a measure of contempt and disapproval. “I just don’t understand how you could write such terrible things when the world is such an awful place. I can’t even watch the evening news. There’s so much bad in the world…”
How can you…?
Why would you…?
What’s wrong with you…?
Their insecurities and condescension aside, I find their objections to my work tedious and uninteresting. I offer no apologies for what I write and frankly none are due. As with any writer, I write what I write to be true to myself. I have friends who write mysteries, romances, thrillers, adventure yarns and so on. Writing is our addiction; horror is my drug of choice.
On the other hand, I know I’m not churning out sterling prose that will survive the ages. I am the author of escapist fiction, cheap thrills that hopefully provide a little fun and fright for my readers. As an aside, I should add that if, while writing, I can scare myself, I’m fairly certain I’ll scare my readers.
What am I working on?
Currently, I’m finishing a novel about young witches that will be published under a pseudonym and then I’ll rewrite ALIEN PLAGUE, my zombie novel that I wrote in the winter of 2011-12. I’ve been letting it “cool down” for a time.
Rather than the typical tale of a zombie apocalypse, ALIEN PLAGUE features zombies infected with a virus from space, brought to earth after NASA blasts a killer asteroid into small meteors that rain down on earth. I deal with a tight group of characters including a sketchy ex-soldier, a stalwart nurse, a scientist and his mistress and a cheerleader and her boyfriend, all fighting to survive in a decidedly hostile, dangerous environment.
How does my work differ from others in the horror genre?
The horror genre has many facets, just as do the other prominent genres. Werewolves and vampires have given way to zombies and witches. It’s ever changing and readers’ tastes can turn on the success of a popular movie, television program or book. Coming up with an idea that hasn’t been done before is not impossible, I suppose, but certainly improbable. My protagonists are generally real people, not street punks or sociopaths, serial killers or hitmen. I want characters with whom my readers can identify. Much like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, I like to write stories about ordinary people caught in extraordinary, frightening situations.
How does my writing process work?
Once I have the germ of an idea, I typically come up with a title before doing anything else. The title is important for resonance. As an example, my first published novel was MOONSLASHER (Critic’s Choice, 1987). I created the title one afternoon and within a week or two, I had the bulk of the story germinating. The same held true for its sequel, MOONS OF THE BLOOD HUNT. My quasi-vampire novel ON WINGS OF LEATHER (originally published in 1994 by Leisure as THE DEVOURING) began with the image of a winged “vampire” circling a high mountain peak; the title came later. THE OCCULT MADONNA (Critic’s Choice, 1988) came about when I stumbled on a poem written by J.C. Powls in 1909 with that title. It was simply too good to pass up.
Once I have a title and concept, I start creating characters. I have two prerequisites for character names: they must have resonance, which is different for every writer, and each name must be dissimilar from others in the story. I know that sounds obvious, but I have often encountered books in which the protagonists are John and Jim or Gary and Larry. In ALIEN PLAGUE the principle characters include Nick, Lydia, Joe, Angela, Vaughn and Monica. I don’t get confused and, more importantly neither will the reader, at least not by the characters.
With the title, concept and characters on paper, I can start writing. I subscribe to the advice from such writers as John Steinbeck and my friend Margaret Coel: “Write fast!” Buzz through the first draft; get the story written. Clean it up in rewrite. Toward the end of his life, the late Gore Vidal said that all his contemporaries were dead and therefore he had no one for whom to write. I found that quite sad. I believe writers should write for themselves, not for friends or enemies or frenemies, but always for themselves.
Beyond my writing, I’m learning to use Scrivener software for writers. While inexpensive, it’s relatively complex and has so many beneficial features I’m anxious to master.
Although I have been retired for nearly seven years, I am always busy, in my office by nine every morning writing, editing or researching. For better or worse, I’m a writer. I go to sleep at night thinking about whatever I’m working on and I wake up every morning anxious to get back to it.
As I said, writing is my addiction.
I’m a retired flak catcher (public relations) for Colorado public higher education with a BA from Adams State College (now University) and a master’s in mass communications from the University of Denver. Raised in the San Luis Valley, my wife and I have lived in Denver since 1972 after I was discharged from the army. We have to sons in their 40s and a granddaughter in college.
MY BLOG Dweller by a Dark Stream