Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Dark Servant - the Other Side of Christmas (And Prizes For You!)

While fathers, pretty much across the globe, are dusting off their Santa suits in preparation for the fast-approaching festivities, another - much darker - figure makes his annual, scary, appearance to act as a warning to badly behaved children in Germany Austria and other parts of eastern Europe.

Now, my fellow Samhain horror author, Matt Manochio, has written a scary story all about this demonic creature, whose festival is celebrated on December 5th - Krampus Nacht.

So who was this beast who had the power to frighten children? Krampus is a horned, cloven-hoofed monster who in pre-Christian European cultured serves as the dark companion to Saint Nicholas, America’s Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas rewards good children and leaves bad ones to Krampus, who kidnaps and tortures kids unless they repent. 

 So dark and scary was he that the government of Austria banned him in the 1930s and even today there remains a debate as to whether Krampus really is suitable for children.

Matt joins me here for a chat about demons, writing and his career in journalism:

Cat: The Dark Servant centres on a legendary character called Krampus. I know of him through my interest in Austrian folklore, but how did you come across him and why did you decide to feature him?

Matt: My boss in December 2012 asked me if I’d ever heard of Krampus. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about and he directed me to www.Krampus.com. I was blown away. I loved the idea of Santa’s darker side being a merciless chain-wielding devil who kidnaps bad kids—and what amazed me the most was I had never heard of him until that day. I instantly thought “How many other Americans have no inkling that this legends exists?” I found little commercially published Krampus fiction—one book, actually—available in the United States. There were some self-published offerings, too. (Compare that to the literally thousands of vampire, werewolf and zombie novels for sale at any given moment.) I contacted my editor, Don D’Auria, and pitched a story setting Krampus in present-day New Jersey. He liked the idea and told me to go for it. And I did.

Cat: How would you describe your brand of horror and who have been your major influences?

Matt: The interesting thing is I’m not a horror devotee. I’ve read Stephen King, but don’t have bookshelves devoted to him. (But Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite books, ever.) I’ve probably read more of the late Michael Crichton’s books than any other thriller writer. I enjoy almost any kind of thriller—be they horror, straight crime, or techno, among others. If anything, the American humorist, Dave Barry, qualifies as one of my favorite writers. So, with that being said, I try blending humor into my writing (when appropriate).  

 Cat:You were an award-winning newspaper reporter. Tell us a little about that. What were the highlights/challenges and why did you decide to move away from that career?

Matt: I wrote for the Daily Record, a New Jersey-based newspaper, for 12 years before exiting the industry for securer employment. The print newspaper business, like many other forms of print media, is struggling to exist in a digital world. I was recently married and my wife and I just had our first child, so it was time to find a new job in 2011, and I’m glad I did, otherwise I might not have heard about Krampus from my new boss when I did. (Digression over.) As for my career, the highlights were meeting and writing about rock ‘n’ roll giants AC/DC for my newspaper and for USA Today. The challenges were covering truly horrible stories—children, teenagers and adults dying in horrible accidents, being killed in war, or being murdered. Seeing it on the news is one thing. Covering the cases, meeting and interviewing the grieving friends and family, is quite another. I’ll never forget those people. One of the duties I enjoyed the most about my journalism career was covering the trial courts. It’s much more procedural and lengthy than what is usually depicted on one hour of television, but to me it’s much more fascinating because it’s real.

Cat: Where do you find inspiration for your work and what is your writing process?

Matt: I can’t really say any one thing inspires me. Sometimes the ideas find you, or you get an idea and mull it over to the point where you want to put something on paper and play around. I’ve experienced both. As for my writing process: I get a story in my head, formulate a rough idea for an ending, and then I sit in front of my laptop computer and just let it fly. I don’t outline. I equate it to getting into a car, knowing where I want to go, but not having any idea how to get there, and then off I go. The adventure is in the driving.

Cat: What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned related to your writing?

Matt: The waiting is tedious. There’s waiting to hear from agents who you want to represent you. Once you get an agent—or even if you’d submitting to publishers on your own—there’s waiting to hear from editors who you think might enjoy your stories. In publishing, you’re going to hear more 'nos' than 'yeses'. And more times than not, the wait to hear those answers can be excruciating. And then when you finally get a deal, there’s the long wait to actual publication. I received a contract offer for my book in May 2013, and learned soon after that the planned publication date was November 2014—roughly 17 months away! Part of that was because of my book’s Christmas theme, so it made sense to wait for the holiday season. Had it not been a season-specific book, it perhaps would’ve published earlier. Still, even then you’re looking at a year-long wait. Sometimes during those waits, disaster can happen—like your publisher goes bankrupt and your first-ever book deal falls apart and you have to look for a new house. This happened to me. And I know it’s happened to others. Waiting truly sucks.

Cat: Which book do you wish you’d written?

Matt: Not a single one. I’m pleased to have written my own book, my own characters, and to have found a publisher willing to take a chance on me.

Cat: What are you working on now?

Matt: By the time this goes live on your blog, I will have re-submitted a full-length manuscript to my editor with changes/additions he requested. Hopefully that will lead to my followup to The Dark Servant. It’s a supernatural thriller set in the southern United States during Reconstruction, seven years after the Civil War. 

Cat: Thank you so much for being my guest, Matt, I wish you all the best with The Dark Servant and look forward to reading your new book.

Now, find out more about Matt's latest:

The Dark Servant, Synopsis

Santa's not the only one coming to town ...
It's older than Christ and has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in snow. Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy's devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, imperiling his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why his supposedly innocent high school peers have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint's ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.
The Dark Servant is everything a thriller should be—eerie, original and utterly engrossing!” — Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times bestselling author 

“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted, Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant has taken an esoteric fairy tale from before Christ and sets it in the modern world of media-saturated teenagers—creating a clockwork mechanism of terror that blends Freddy Krueger with the Brothers Grimm! Highly recommended!” — Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor

“Matt Manochio is a writer who’ll be thrilling us for many books to come.” — Jim DeFelice, New York Times bestselling co-author of American Sniper

“Matt Manochio has taken a very rare fairytale and turned it into a real page-turner. Matt has constructed a very real and believable force in Krampus and has given it a real journalistic twist, and he has gained a fan in me!” — David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author of the Event Group Series

"I scarcely know where to begin. Is this a twisted parental fantasy of reforming recalcitrant children? Is it Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets Nightmare on Elm Street? Is it a complex revision of the Medieval morality play? In The Dark Servant, Matt Manochio has taken the tantalizing roots of Middle Europe’s folklore and crafted a completely genuine modern American horror story. This is a winter’s tale, yes, but it is also a genuinely new one for our modern times. I fell for this story right away. Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.”— Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead and Dog Days
“Just in time for the season of Good Will Toward Men, Matt Manochio’s debut delivers a fresh dose of Holiday Horror, breathing literary life into an overlooked figure of legend ready to step out of Santa’s shadow. Prepared to be thrilled in a new, old-fashioned way.” — Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Damnable, Diabolical and The Angel of the Abyss

“In The Dark Servant, Manochio spins a riveting tale of a community under siege by a grotesque, chain-clanking monster with cloven-hooves, a dry sense of wit, and a sadistic predilection for torture. As Christmas nears and a snowstorm paralyzes the town, the terrifying Krampus doesn’t just leave switches for the local bullies, bitches, and badasses, he beats the living (editor’s note: rhymes with skit) out of them! Manochio balances a very dark theme with crackling dialogue, fast-paced action, and an engaging, small-town setting.” — Lucy Taylor, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Safety of Unknown Cities

“A fast-paced thrill-ride into an obscure but frightful Christmas legend. Could there be a dark side to Santa? And if so, what would he do to those kids who were naughty? Matt Manochio provides the nail-biting answer with The Dark Servant.”— John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Violet Eyes

“A high-octane blast of horror. A surefire hit for fans of monsters and gore.”— Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown 

“Have yourself a scary, nightmare-y little Christmas with The Dark Servant. Matt Manochio’s holiday horror brings old world charm to rural New Jersey, Krampus-style.” — Jon McGoran, author of Drift

You can buy The Dark Servant here:

 Tour Giveaway!
Two ways to Win!
For everyone:

Step one - CREATE a PINTEREST board by choosing one of the following themes: 

Krampus, Old World Legends, Vintage Holiday, Old World Christmas, Christmas Around the World, Traditions and Legends,  Myths, Monsters, and Horror, or something very similar.

And a board about Matt:
Step Two: You must pin Matt's book cover and Amazon purchase link or Samhain Horror Purchase link. 

Step Three: Follow Matt Manochio and Erin Al-Mehairi.

Recommendation: Extra points for pinning extra things about Matt, such as tour page, articles, etc.

Your board will be judged on the above PLUS your creativity and effort in the project! Send Erin at hookofabook@hotmail.com your Pinterest page to enter by Dec. 8. Of course you can continue to use it through the Holiday if you wish!


 A "Santa Checked His List and I'm on the Naughty Side" package. This will include your choice of Krampus themed apparel (t-shirt or sweatshirt, men or women, visuals to come) and a signed paperback of the book*.

  Giveaway for Reviewers:

Anyone on the tour, or outside the tour, who reviews The Dark Servant on Amazon and GoodReads and sends their review link into Erin (Publicist for Matt Manochio) at hookofabook@hotmail.com, now through Dec. 31, 2014, will be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Photo Credit: Eric Schnare
 Matt Manochio, Biography

Matt Manochio is the author of The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing, November 4, 2014). He is a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association, and he hates writing about himself in the third person but he’ll do it anyway.

He spent 12 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter at the Morris County, N.J., Daily Record, and worked for one year as an award-winning page designer at the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail. He currently works as a full-time editor and a freelance writer.

The highlights of his journalism career involved chronicling AC/DC for USA Today: in 2008, when the band kicked off its Black Ice world tour, and in 2011 when lead singer Brian Johnson swung by New Jersey to promote his autobiography. For you hardcore AC/DC fans, check out the video on my YouTube channel.
To get a better idea about my path toward publication, please read my Writer's Digest guest post: How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller.

Matt’s a dedicated fan of
bullmastiffs, too. (He currently doesn't own one because his house is too small. Bullmastiff owners understand this all too well.)
Matt doesn’t have a favorite author, per se, but owns almost every Dave Barry book ever published, and he loves blending humor into his thrillers when warranted. Some of his favorite books include Salem’s Lot, Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

When it comes to writing, the only advice he can give is to keep doing it, learn from mistakes, and regardless of the genre, read Chris Roerden’s Don’t Sabotage Your Submission (2008, Bella Rosa Books).

Matt grew up in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and son. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in history/journalism.

See more about Matt and his book on his website: Matt Manochio 
and follow him on:
(*There might be shipping limitations. Check back to tour page before entering if you live outside the U.S. for updated information.)


  1. Now this sounds like a great alternative to all that Christmas cheer.

    1. Oh, I don't know, Shey. I think it goes down really well with a nice bottle of Chianti..

  2. Or a good way to teach those naughty kids a lesson!! :D Thanks for hosting this Cat!

  3. Interesting Dark Servant pictures! Much obliged to you Matt Manochio for making Christmas cool! I don't know how a beast as marvelous as Krampus flew under my radar all these years. What a great beast, and a beast of a novel to boot. The Dark Servant is scrumptiously dreadful fun, stuck with riddle and commotion. An incredible presentation novel.
    Happy X-Mass!
    Living Happy Online