Tuesday 27 January 2015

Funny Fear - with Chantal Noordeloos

When I read the fabulously scary Angel Manor recently, I was hooked. I knew I had to invite the author - Chantal Noordeloos - to be a guest on my blog. I gave her free rein to write about anything that took her fancy. Here's what she chose and I'm so glad she did. I'll never look at a bowl of chili in quite the same way ever again...

Horror and comedy have a lot in common. 

Stop looking at me like that, I see you raise your eyebrows at me. Let me explain. 

Both genres are a lot more sensitive to personal preference than most other genres. With every horror or comedy I’ve discussed, someone has always said “it didn’t scare me” or “Not my kind of humor.” 

I’ve never heard anyone say whilst discussing romance or science fiction, for example, ‘why, that’s just not romantic’, or ‘that’s just wasn’t science fiction enough’. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe people say that every day, just not to me.

Anyway… I’m digressing. (Bear with me, I do that a lot).

So… ehm, where was I? Oh right, comedy… 

Making someone laugh isn’t easy, any comedian will tell you. Humor is so specific; what you find funny can bore the living daylights out of me, and vice versa. 

Fear is the same way. 

Let me use Angel Manor as an example (yes, I am shamelessly plugging my own book, and what you don’t know is that this text is riddled with subliminal messages that will get you to buy my books). 

*coughs* What was I saying? Oh right, Angel Manor. I’ve written a lot of short horror stories, some were just dark and creepy, whilst others were downright disgusting. I like to play around with a lot of different ideas. But writing short stories is different to writing a novel. Tension is easy to maintain if it’s only 4000 words, if the word count is 112,000, it’s a whole new kettle of fish.

 My personal preference in horror is to have a good mixture between action and character development.  I decided to be rather explicit on the ‘gore’. To me it suited the setting and the story, so I ran with it. I’ve had a really wide range of responses to my more explicit scenes, they got under the skin of some readers. Someone actually wondered what was ‘wrong’ with people for wanting to read something this nasty. I’ve had comments that readers were afraid to turn off the lights after reading the book. One person told me they had nightmares, and another person told me they didn’t dare reading it at night. At the same time there were readers who would shrug and scoff, making sure to tell me that they didn’t find what I wrote scary at all. 

 And there you have it… different strokes for different folks.
It’s not up to me to decide what is scary or not. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to scare the heebie-jeebies out of my readers (well, when I write horror anyway), but if I only focus on that, I would get a lot of disappointed readers, because I honestly wouldn’t know how to scare ‘everyone’.

That’s why I concentrate on the story, and leave it up to the reader what emotions they take away from the book. To me, writing horror isn’t any different than writing any other genre, I focus on the same elements. 

 I’m in the mood for a metaphor, so let’s compare a horror novel to a bowl of chili con carne. (I’m doing this because I’m hungry, just go with me on this, okay?) The plot is the protein, the mince, sausage, bacon… whatever you want to put in your particular chili. There will be layers, so different proteins. The main characters are the beans and the minor characters are the vegetables. Some like a lot of vegetables and different beans in their chili, some like to keep it simple. The horror elements the spices and chili to add a bit of a distinct flavor to the dish. It’s this flavor that makes all the difference. Let’s say graphic description is like a habanera chili. You can add as much or as little as you like. If you put a lot of habanera in your chili, it will be hot. Serving it to different people you’ll get different reactions. Some will like the spice, some’ll think it’s a little too spicy, or even far too hot, and others believe that you made the chili too mild. So all you can hope for is that the chili that’s underneath the spice is tasty enough for most to at least sort of like it. Those who prefer to eat really hot chili can still enjoy the flavor of a well constructed one, but they’ll always wish you added more habanera. The only people you will probably alienate are those who don’t like chili at all.

 Now, let’s stop talking in food metaphors. I’m sorry I let my stomach rule the metaphor in this one. The point is: write a good story. It still won’t please everyone. You can’t please everyone. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you want to, there will always be people who won’t like your work. The personal preference in horror and comedy just make it more likely that you stumble across people who don’t like your work.
There is no universal joke that everyone in the world will enjoy, and there is no universal fear. One of my friends called comedy the ‘ugly redheaded child of the writing world’, and I think horror is probably the creepy kid who eats his own boogers. They are often misunderstood. 

Luckily for snot eater and unattractive ginger, they are still loved by many.

Now, I shall leave you to ponder over your personal horror or comedy preference, while I go and cook some chili. I have a strange craving for it.

Thank you, Chantal!  I really enjoyed your visit, so please stop by again soon. In the meantime, here are some internet haunts where we can connect with you:

Chantal has some brilliant books out there - in addition to Angel Manor. Here are some 'buy' links:

Angel Manor:

Amazon US 
 Amazon UK

Even Hell Has Standards:

Amazon US 
Amazon UK 

Deeply Twisted

Amazon US 
Amazon UK 

Science Fiction:

Coyote - The Outlander

Amazon US 
Amazon UK 

Coyote - The Clockwork Dragonfly

Amazon US 

Wednesday 14 January 2015

In Scary Dreams...with Russell James

Russell James is one of my fellow writers at Samhain Horror and, over the past few years, I have grown to love his work. To celebrate the release of his brilliant new novel, Dreamwalker (of which, more later), I asked him to share his views on recurring dreams,  writing, horror and why a trip to ancient Rome might be a little hard to stomach...

 Read on for this - and how you can win PRIZES!
    How would you describe your brand of horror?
      I’m afraid my books are more mystery/thriller a lot of the time. I think suspense is scarier than someone being disemboweled. Dreamwalker is a big departure. This one is full on horror, filled with voodoo curses, zombie killers and some graphic torture. I might not tell my mother about it.
        Where do you find inspiration for your work and what is your writing process?
          I didn’t have to go far for the inspiration for Dreamwalker. Pete Holm, the protagonist, has dreams with recurring storylines. So do I. I’ll be in an imagined place, but I’ve been there before, I can remember previous dreams in that location. I wondered what would happen if one of those places wasn’t somewhere in my imagination, but somewhere real. And that got the ball rolling.
          My writing process is strictly seat-of-the-pants. I have a few ideas, and then I start writing and see where they go, and where the characters lead me. At over halfway in, I need to reverse engineer an outline so I can keep track of where I’m going.
            What is the hardest lesson you have learned in relation to your writing?
              That a piece will never be finished. I can always reread something I’ve written and make changes to it that I think make it better. Even short stories, where I only have two thousand words to work with, you’d think that could be perfected. Nope. So I’ve had to learn to let it go before the deadline overruns me, and not look back.
                When you are not reading horror, what do you read?
                  History, comic books and car magazines. But the comic books are Silver Age DC, and the car magazines discuss restoring classic muscle cars, so the whole lot might just qualify as history.
                    Which books do you wish you had written?
                      Anything by Stephen King, of course. I read Jonathan Janz’s Darkest Lullaby and kept stopping and saying “damn, that’s an excellent paragraph” so that one has to count as well.
                        I know you are keen on history – as I am – so if you could live in another age (and maybe different place) when would it be (and, if relevant, where)?
                          If I could get over the lack of actual medical care, and the minimal levels of sanitation and hygiene, a visit to ancient Rome at its height would be fascinating. The 1940’s would be cool as well. I’d be a lot less stressed about World War II knowing the good guys win, and it would be interesting to see if there really was a united sense of purpose in wartime, or it that was a myth created afterwards.
                            What are you working on now?
                              Q Island, a story about a plague that turns Long Island, NY into a quarantine zone, comes out later in 2015. I’m working on another novel called The Portal, about the Devil trying to get his hands on an artifact that opens the door between Hell and Earth. I’m also in two new science fiction anthologies that benefit Doctors Without Borders; Still Out of Time – Six Stories of Time Travel and Centauri Station, a collection of space-oriented stories.

                              Thank you, Russell. I loved Dreamwalker, but if you haven't grabbed your copy yet, here's some helpful information:
                              Dreamwalker is the sixth novel that Russell James has published with Samhain Horror under legendary horror editor Don D’Auria! 

                              Here's the synopsis:
                              Two realities. One hope.

                              What if you lived in two worlds, and could die in either?  Pete Holm can. He is a dreamwalker, able to travel to the realm of dreams, including the devastated world of Twin Moon City, where an evil voodoo spirit holds living souls in terror with his army of the walking dead.

                              In the waking world, drug lord Jean St. Croix knows only the power of the dreamwalker can stop him, so St. Croix vows Pete must die.

                              Pete is the only hope to rescue the lost souls in Twin Moon City…unless St. Croix kills him first. Can anyone survive when two realities collide? 

                              Purchase Links



                              1   Open reviewer giveaway: Anyone who reviews Dreamwalker on Amazon and one other site like GoodReads, etc. and sends Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, their links to hookofabook@hotmail.com will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. This contest ends on Feb. 28, 2015.

                                   Rafflecoper giveaway for two copies of Russell’s previous books: Two winners will each win one of two books, Black Magic and Dark Inspiration. US only, no international shipping. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

                              Praise for Russell R. James

                              Black Magic

                              “James has a talent for combining action-packed vignettes into a powerful, fast-paced whole.” - Library Journal 

                              Dark Inspiration

                              (Five Stars, A Night Owl Top Pick) “I loved the story so much that I’m eagerly waiting to read more from him. He carefully and very intricately wove his storyline to have elements of mystery and suspense throughout. I now have a new favorite book I’ll read over and over again.”—Night Owl Reviews

                              “The book had me at the edge of my seat. The writing is so vivid I even jumped a few times. If you're a fan of the genre, love ghosts and are drawn to the supernatural, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book!"—Long and Short Reviews 

                              Russell R. James, Biography

                               Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents' warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn't make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

                              After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Q Island, releases in 2015.

                              His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

                              Visit his website at www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.

                              He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

                              To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at rrj@russellrjames.com.