Wednesday, February 28, 2018


I have read a few of Tim Meyer's books over the last year. I have to say, his writing has greatly improved. His voice is getting stronger. I had the pleasure of reading Sharkwater Beach, so I know what Tim Meyer is capable of. With that being said, let's get to this review.

The gullible protagonist, Ritchie Naughton, pulls you in and doesn't let go until the last page. Ritchie was a newspaper writer living in Atlanta. He comes home one day to find his significant other doing the horizontal hump with her lover and he passes out. To make matters worse, his girl's lover saves his life by punching him in the chest numerous times. I felt empathy for Ritchie because that is a terrible thing to go through. Anyways, Ritchie moves in with his sister's family in New Jersey. That's when all the strange things start to happen. 

Ritchie gets a job as a photographer and website designer at a small newspaper. He finds a camera labeled Denlax in the basement of the newspaper building. His uncle hires him to spy on his aunt because he believes she is cheating. Ritchie follows them into the woods where he discovers a satanic church. Ritchie's aunt is in the Order of the Black Book. Ritchie takes the pictures for his uncle. Ritchie finds out that the camera has supernatural effects. 

This book moves quickly and the storyline is smooth. I enjoyed the main character. He is believable and very likable. I kind of felt sorry for him, too. This story has everything a fan of horror needs. It has demonic forces, a satanic cult, and dark magic, and murder. I like how Tim fills the reader in with backstory as you read along–this allows the pacing to stay tight. I will never look at mirrors the same way. I liked the sporadic humor throughout, which enhances the story. I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending. The cover looks cool, too. 

I devoured this book in three sittings. I would have finished sooner, but work got in the way. IN THE HOUSE OF MIRRORS is a great book! The sky is the limit for Tim Meyer. I hope he keeps writing because I want to keep reading. 

Highly Recommend!

5/5 stars! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


When Ritchie Naughton, amateur photographer, stumbles upon a house in the woods, strange things start happening. His camera captures images that should not exist, things that cannot be explained. Soon, he'll realize that the people of Red River, New Jersey are in terrible danger. There's a darkness growing within the house which threatens them all. The House of Mirrors is open, and once you see yourself in, there's no way out...

In the House of Mirrors is a 90,000-word supernatural thriller recommended for fans of Peter Straub and Robert McCammon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Interview With Matt Betts

CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

MB: I don’t know if there was ever an “Aha” moment about being a writer. I loved reading when I was a kid, and would devour whatever books I could get my hands on. That love of literature just translated naturally into writing and drawing stories. I did a few things here and there in high school, and then started to learn more about writing and structure in college. Unfortunately, the college professors I had at the time were not terribly receptive to horror and science fiction. So, while I learned a lot about writing, I left college with little desire to try to get published.

I took a while off from writing, but when I look back at that period, I was still composing stories in my head, even if I wasn’t writing them down.

Once I moved to Columbus, I was looking for a way to meet new people and decided to join a writing group. I realized how much I loved telling stories again, and I’ve stuck with it. I guess it just took that 5 year break to help me figure out what I wanted to do as far as my stories.

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?

MB: Right now, I have no actual schedule. I’ve started a new job, my family adopted a puppy, and I have two crazy kids that need help with homework and all that other fun stuff. I’m hoping to get back into a regular writing routine soon. When I used to work 9-5, I would write during my lunch hour, and late at night. I recently finished writing a couple of books, and I’d been on a goal of writing a minimum of 2,000 words a day. I got those in whenever I could-some in the morning, some at night, some while I was waiting in line for a food order, whatever it took. In general, I’m terrible at writing in the morning. I just can’t get the engine moving until 10am or so. Keep in mind that my kids generally are up around 5:30 to get ready for school. I love writing at night. I can start at 9 and go as late as the material takes me, but then I need to be up early for the kids the next day. So, it’s sort of a balancing act of work, writing, editing, promoting, hanging with the kids, and the occasional round of sleep.

CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?

MB: I don’t think I do, really. I have a couple of baseball caps that I call my ‘writing hats’, but I can write without them. I only wear the hats in the case of emergency.

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?

MB: At least three of my novels started as short stories, but I’ve been focused on novels. I like writing novels. You can expand or constrict your universe as much as you want. The scale of books is always so personal to the author. Does everything take place in just one day in someone’s garage? Or is it over years on a distinct moon? I suppose I don’t like short stories as much, just because I never feel I’m done. There’s always a tangent to explore, a minor character to follow.

CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?

MB: I’m not sure we have a real horror scene here in Columbus, which is odd because we have a lot of great horror writers in the area. The writing community in general is awesome here. There’s a number of critique groups, discussion series, author visits, etc. I don’t think I would be a writer now if it wasn’t for the extensive number of literary venues. There are comic cons, media events, writer’s conferences and more here, and all are very welcome of new authors of all genres.

CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?

MB: A little of both. I really just went for it, or ‘pantsed’ it, early on. I only started outlining, very briefly, with my most recent book, The Shadow beneath the Waves. And that was only because I needed to have an outline when I proposed the book to the publisher. But, that minimal outline really helped me as I wrote. Once I’d told the publisher what I was doing, it really forced me to try to stick within those parameters as I went. The book was done quicker than my others by a wide margin. In the future I’ll probably still do the small outline and then just run with it from there.

CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?

MB: It gave me courage, I guess? Once I knew someone would publish my work, and then someone else actually wanted to read it, I was energized, you know? It made me want to write the next one and the one after that. It let me know that the crazy stuff in my head could be transferred to paper and translated for other people. So it helped my process by not questioning my ideas, not stopping to ask if an idea works or not, or if it’s too ‘out there’ for readers. It was like getting my driver’s license, only for storytelling. I suddenly had a license to write whatever the hell I wanted and it felt great. Don’t get me wrong, I still question myself, but that first book was a huge hurdle both professionally and mentally.

CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story?

MB: Good horror stories, for me at least, rely on the characters. If I don’t believe the protagonist, or the antagonist for that matter, I have a hard time going along with whatever comes next. Realistic characters and dialogue are what put me into a story, and then it’s up to the author to scare the crap out of me. My preference is for monster stories. I like Kaiju, zombies, murderous aliens, and stuff like that. If you have a relatable character and throw a giant creature from space at them, I’ll be a huge fan of your work.

CHHR: What are you currently working on?

MB: I’m writing a sequel to my first book, Odd Men Out. I’ve had a blast revisiting that world and those characters for the follow-up. It’s the first time I’ve written a sequel, so I’m being a little cautious, maybe overly so, as I build up this new story. I don’t want to stray too far from the first one, but I also don’t want to re-hash it. I think I’ve done a good job of balancing that. It’s almost done, so we’ll see how it turns out.

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?

MB: I always have a huge TBR pile. Right now I’m trying to get to get to a set of Elmore Leonard’s westerns. I haven’t read a good western in a while, and I’m considering writing an upcoming weird/horror book in the genre. I’m also looking forward to reading Bruce Campbell’s new book Hail to the Chin. I got to meet him at a signing for it and just haven’t been able to pick it up. Lastly, my friend Jason Jack Miller has a new one out called All Saints. Those are all at the top of an ever-growing pile.

CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?

MB: I recently re-read Stephen King’s Firestarter. I’d forgotten how intense Charlie’s story is. This is a real gem from early in King’s career. I guess I tend to think more of the movie than the book,-though the film had good scares of its own.

CHHR: What is your spirit animal?

MB: I’ve really had crows on my mind lately, because they figure heavily into the book I’m working on. Since they’re both intelligent and mischievous, they make an interesting spirit animal. Beyond those surface traits, they’re considered by many to be harbingers of change, deception, or even death. I think I like to keep to the Native American thoughts that the crow is one of the things that keep the balance between right and wrong, or positive and negative. Sounds better than saying I would like to be a warning of death, right?

What is your favorite beer?

I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I’ve always enjoyed Guinness. There are also a couple of great breweries here in Columbus that make great beer. I like a couple of things from Four String Brewery – Skeleton Red Rye and Brass Knuckle Pale Ale.

CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

MB: That’s tough. So many great authors out there that I would love to have a long chat with. I would probably go with Neil Gaiman. His work is just so rich with language and imagery, and his stories are always unexpected joys to read. Plus, from everything I’ve heard, he’s a lot of fun to talk to.

Author Bio:

Ohio native Matt Betts grew up on a steady diet of giant monsters, robots and horror novels. He is the author of the scifi/horror poetry collections Underwater Fistfight and See No Evil, Say No Evil, as well as the novels Odd Men Out and Indelible Ink. His latest novel, the giant robot vs. giant monster novel, The Shadow beneath the Waves, was released in February of 2018. Matt’s work was mentioned in a New York Times article on zombie poetry. Seriously. Even he can’t believe it.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Guest Post by Steve Van Samson

Top Ten Vampire Films That Don’t Sparkle
By: Steve Van Samson

When INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE came out in 1994, I was a teenager. And though it did not inspire me to seek out the books, I can still remember driving home from the theater really pleased. In fact, I liked the film a lot. Now though, I can think of no other author who did more to neuter the VAMPIRE than Anne Rice. In the years that followed, these classic were presented as tragic (sometimes clinically depressed) heartthrobs, intended to inspire loin stirrings rather than fear. For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that Bram Stoker’s famous novel contains its share of romanticism—but if Dracula became an accidental sex symbol, he was also a cold-hearted predator that killed without mercy or remorse. It’s how I take my vampires—terror-inducing—monstrous. 

This list contains ten examples of what I consider to be the ten best, non romantic vampire films. In some cases, there is humor to be found, but you can rest assured that none of the beasts on this list are even remotely datable. 


10.) Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)

I start the list with a bit of a head-scratcher. I think when VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN came out, most people thought the same thing I did—time for an eye roll. Seemingly, the poster told you all you needed to know. Eddie Murphy (still in his prime) had slapped on a Jheri curl wig and made a dumb comedy about vampires. It was a fair assumption considering the poster (and that title certainly didn’t help matters). Having said all that, I did eventually see the movie on video… and then many more times. Though not perfect, Wes Craven’s VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN is a very capable dark comedy (very different from the more family-friendly stuff Murphy was known for) with a stellar cast of black actors (including Angela Bassett, for crying out loud). Yes, there is some comedy and romantic elements, but Murphy’s Maximilian is no mopey heartthrob. And though the character is pretty likable throughout, he goes out in true villain fashion. If you can bring an open mind, VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN is a hell of a good time and one of the few takes on a classic monster with a cast that isn’t chock full of white people.

9.) From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

A year after BROOKLYN, Robert Rodriguez directed a far better-remembered film that was actually of a pretty similar tone. Here was another dark comedy with vampires but crossed again with a Tarantino style gangster flick. Starring the unlikely pairing of George (still in E.R.) Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as the bank robbing, hostage taking Gecko brothers. On the lamb and on their way to Mexico, the Geckos run afoul of a debaucherous strip club which is run (oops) entirely by vampires. The violence in this one starts early, showing us very human monsters before we ever get to the sort with fangs. In the world of vampire shoot em ups, if UNDERWORLD (2003) is the popular kid, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is the drunk high school dropout who used to steal UNDERWORLD’s lunch money. Other cast members include the excellent Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and Salma Hayek in a tragically too-small role as the vampire queen, Satanico Pandemonium.

8.) Blade II (2002)

I struggled whether or not to include one of the “Blades” on this list. Afterall, like the UNDERWORLD films, they were unflinching action flicks and light on the horror. What earned BLADE II its rank was what it did for evolving the concept of a frightening vampire. Helmed by the monster-loving master Guillermo del Toro, this sequel presents a truly unique spin. What if vampires knew that to survive, they had to weed out some of their more crippling weaknesses? And since they existed outside of nature, any evolution was going to first happen in a test tube. Of course, as with all scientific breakthroughs, the failures outnumber the successes. Hence the villain of the piece—a failed experiment by all accounts, Nomak (played with brilliant subtlety by Luke Goss) had an anatomy that was built for feeding—with a bisected lower jaw that could unhinge and flare open like the Predator’s. He was a tragic character but far from romantic and he and his bestial progeny injected something truly new into the genre. Plus… Wesley Snipes was still ridiculously awesome as Blade, so whatever.

7.) Fright Night (1985)

I don’t know exactly how old I was when I first saw FRIGHT NIGHT, but I’m sure it wasn’t old enough. It was that poster that did it. Entering my brain like a living worm, it squirmed and bore in deep. I stared at the thing every time we went to the video store. No fighting it, that horrific cloud of teeth and gums had my number and I wanted to know more. At its core, the plot of this one can be boiled down to a reimagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW... with vampires. To this day, Chris Sarandon’s Jerry Dandridge remains one of my all-time favorite cinematic vampires. There were so many interesting quirks they worked into the character that made him unique. His penchant for snacking on apples, for example. But despite his likable exterior and silly name, Jerry was a scary bastard when all was said and done. Also worth mentioning are Roddy McDowall who plays fictional horror host Peter Vincent (named for Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) and Stephen Geoffreys’ unforgettable performance as the only quasi-tragic Evil Ed.

6.) Vampires (1998)

Based on the book “Vampire$” by John Steakley, this film holds a special place in my cold, black heart. It’s one of those cases where performance wins out over plot. James Woods is such an unlikely actor to ever be cast in the role of a vampire slayer that from his first seconds on screen, it’s hard not to be hooked. Woods plays Jack Crow with a well-honed and thoroughly venomous wit. He’s the leader of a special team of American based vamp hunters who work for the Vatican. The plot is simple. Crow and his team have been sent to stop the monstrous Valek from finding an ancient Catholic relic which will allow all vampires to finally walk in daylight. Directed by the legendary John Carpenter, Vampires is technically a little movie with an unforgettable lead performance. Woods may be a scumbag in real life, but he owns this movie.

5.) 30 Days of Night (2007)

There’s a big difference between violence and true terror and thus far, this list has been populated by the former. By 2007, vampires hadn’t been scary in quite a while, but 30 DAYS OF NIGHT aimed to change all that. Adapted from the limited comic series by Steve Niles, the film’s greatest strength lies in a simple yet novel concept. What if a pack of vampires descended upon a small Alaskan town during its annual month of total darkness? Lead by Josh Hartnett, the cast is forced to endure a gauntlet unlike any other. A slow burn for survival amidst a frozen world of endless night. The digital effects in this one are subtle. Looking at the faces of the monsters (lead by a nigh-unrecognizable Danny Huston), it’s hard to put your finger on what exactly makes them so frightening. As best as I can tell, the actor's eyes were altered in post-production. In some cases, they look to have been spread further apart—even rotated slightly to achieve a unique, inhuman look. It’s all very effective. My main gripe with this movie is a bit petty, I grant you—but it drives me crazy how wasteful the vamps are with their food! Spraying whole gallons of precious blood over snowy set pieces as well as themselves. I can’t help but be reminded of the first time my daughter tried chocolate cake. Did you manage to get any in your mouth?

4.) Horror of Dracula (1958)

In truth, I probably could have made a top ten Dracula list, but in an act of restraint, I have chosen to include only my two favorites. Though probably not the first face to pop into your head at the mention of the name Dracula, Christopher Lee made quite a run at the role. For Hammer Studios, he donned the cape and fangs no less than ten times! HORROR OF DRACULA was not only the one that started it all, it was the one film of the lot to actually look to the book. And all things considered, it was a pretty solid adaptation. Lee had the voice, the presence and the powerful stature the character needed. And while he lacked that trademark Lugosi stare, the film made more of a run at the horror aspects of the story. With bloodshot eyes and actual fangs (believe it or not, Lugosi’s count had normal teeth) the character felt far more of a physical threat. 

3.) Dracula (1931)

While I am a serious Bela Lugosi fan, his performance is not the only thing to write home about here. For me, what makes Tod Browning’s seminal film so successful, is how well it is able to adapt and streamline Stoker’s novel—combining and rethinking certain characters in ways that ends up benefiting the overall narrative. My favorite example is the bug eating madman, Renfield (played hauntingly by the inimitable Dwight Frye). In this version, it is Renfield (not Jonathan Harker) who kicks the film off. Traveling deep into the Carpathian mountains, only to be warned by local peasants that the eccentric Transylvanian Count he intends to meet, is actually a monster. We all know the story. But after the creepiest dinner of all time, instead being left behind as a snack for a trio of vampire brides (as in the book and most film versions) Renfield is immediately enslaved and put to work. Dracula uses the man as a guard, to watch over his coffin on the long journey to England. And then, when the ship finally arrives in port, we are shown that everyone on board has been killed—all that is, but for poor Renfield who, having watched it all, is now quite insane. Renfield’s insanity is heartbreaking because we glimpsed the man he was before, and were privy to his very justified descent into madness. No doubt about it, this one is a timeless classic. Perhaps not the most accurate adaptation of Stoker’s novel, but in some ways, superior.

2.) Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

I hope this entry comes as a surprise to those reading this, but rest assured, I have not placed this film so high on the list for simple shock value. The unfortunate fact is, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE is a fantastic film that gets criminally little recognition. High in concept, the film tells the highly fictionalized account of the filming of the very first vampire film: NOSFERATU (1922)—purporting that the actor who portrayed the titular creature was in fact, a real freaking vampire. The primary characters in the films are based off real-life director F. W. Murnau and the mysterious actor Max Schreck (played by John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, respectively). The acting in this one is nothing short of superb. Malkovich (despite being a full eleven inches shorter than the real Murnau) delivers one of his absolute finest performances, as a tortured filmmaker who has made a literal deal with a devil in order to ensure the utmost accuracy in his picture. Likewise, Dafoe disappears into the role of Schreck—a real vampire who tries for a time to deny his true nature in order to deliver what has been promised—the performance of a lifetime. As vampire films go, this one is not just well made, it is damn unique and memorable… not to mention incredibly fun to watch when paired with the final film on this list.

1.) Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

You’ve seen the shadow moving up the staircase—the ghoul looking up from feeding whilst hunched over its helpless victim. Released in 1922, this seminal silent film actually started as an adaptation of the 1897 Stoker novel "Dracula", but when the studio could not obtain rights to the story, they sort of... made the movie anyway. Sure some details had to be changed (Count Dracula became Count Orlok) but many of the essential plot points remained intact. Too many it turned out. Because after the film's release, the studio was sued by the Stoker estate, lost, and all copies of the film were supposedly destroyed. Let that sink in for a second. By all rights, this should be a lost film. Fortunately, someone hung onto their copy because F. W. Murnau’s masterpiece contains some of the most memorable and terror-inducing shots of any movie ever filmed. Schreck’s Count Orlok is a creepy, gaunt, hunched over, rat-faced ghoul, with an overbite that could open cans. In other words... totally undateable. Perhaps most unsettling of all is that you can’t tell where the makeup ended and the actor began. Makes you wonder if SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE had it right afterall.


Honorable Mention: 

Salem’s Lot (1979) 

I had to mention this one for having the number one most horrifying vampire make up. Reggie Nalder’s Mr. Barlow only shows up for a few quick scenes but rest assured, his horrific Nosferatu’esque visage will be burned into your retinas for all time. 

Interview With Steve Van Samson

Steve Van Samson
Author of “The Bone Eater King” and “Marrow Dust”

CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

SVS:When I was a kid, my friends and I had our own super hero characters. Think Ninja Turtles crossed with X-Men—you know, stellar stuff. Sometimes we had to save the world, other times we had been sent from the future to retrieve photographic evidence of the last living earth dog! And then other days, our heroes abused their power and influence to procure advanced copies of some new Nintendo game we were all slathering over. 

This hero game lasted for a few years and the world around it, while silly, eventually became kind of deep. First we dreamed up the fantastic powers, then the names and inevitably, super powered villains for us to save the world from. I can still remember wondering things like, how we were supposed to find out about new missions? Were we self employed heroes like Batman or did we answer to a someone? Who else lived in this world besides us and the villains? Did we have non powered friends? Sidekicks? Secretaries? And wait a darned second… just how did we get these fantastic powers in the first place?

Looking back on that stuff now, in some ways, I’ve been a writer for a very long time.

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like? 

SVS: I’m not overly prolific in the word-put-downing department, but I try to squeeze in as much as I can. Since I am not a full time writer, I try to write a few hundred words at lunch, then as many more as I can, after my daughter goes to bed. If I break 1,000, I tend to feel pretty good.

CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?

SVS: Not so much. Although I do love a good nighttime Bloody Mary at my side while writing. Side note: I honestly don’t understand why Bloody Mary’s are considered a breakfast drink in the first place. It’s VEGETABLES! I mean, who hears breakfast and immediately think of broccoli? PSSHHH!!!

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?

SVS: I honestly love both. If story ideas are like seeds, then a novel is a garden. If tended properly, it can flourish and grow into something really special. But if that’s true, then a short story must be a single rose set in a vase. No less beautiful, no less capable of moving the soul… but definitely smaller than a garden. A good writer can usually sort his seeds into one category or the other but sometimes, small things can start to grow out of hand…

CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?

SVS: Pretty great actually! I have been lucky enough to be welcomed into the fantastic New England Horror Writers group where I’ve met and befriended numerous talented individuals with a flare for the spooky stuff. Check them out on Facebook, you might recognize a name or ten!

CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?

SVS: I am very go with the flow. Thus far, my experience with outlines has been hit or miss. Generally, no matter how hard I try to stick to them, my characters end up pulling me in totally different directions. But really, that’s kind of what you want. Surprises along the way aren’t just fun for the writer, they usually mean the reader is having a pretty hard time guessing what’s coming next. Nothing bad about that.

CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?

SVS: It lit a fire under my ass. I knew I had to get better and I had to get faster. And yes, I’m still working on both.

CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story? 

SVS: A few major things. First comes character. Throwaway, cliched high schoolers means I am not giving one shred of a damn when they bite the dust. To be invested, I need interesting, well thought out characters who make rational decisions. No running upstairs when the killer is in the house, please.

Second—the horrific situation or villain has to not only have rules, but stick to them! The whole Jason Voorhees showing up behind every door and constantly returning from the dead every time, for no reason beyond sequel dollars really stirs my yawning muscle. I much prefer the first couple of Hellraisers. Pinhead rules because he had rules. You solve the box, he comes to pick you up. It’s what makes the big conundrum with Tiffany unwittingly solving the box in Hellraiser 2 work so well. Good thing for Tiff, it’s not hands that call them…

CHHR: What are you currently working on?

SVS: A sword and sorcery type novel. Like everything I’ve written so far, it is very much laced with horror and at least partially inspired by the works of Robert E. Howard. No elves or dwarves here, but there are monsters, ancient cities, highwaymen, alchemists, gas powered lights and plague doctors. I’m still near the beginning, so we’ll see what happens.

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?

SVS: Just a few off the top: “Eaters of the Dead” by Michael Crichton, “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill, “Off Season” by Jack Ketchum, Our Lady of Darkness” by Fritz Leiber and “Edge of Dark Water” by Joe R. Lansdale.

CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?

SVS: After Jack Ketchum passed away, I finally got off my rear and read “The Girl Next Door”. Holy hell. I have no idea how he wrote that book—how anyone could write that book. Amazing, and devastating in ways that make it really hard to like humans. And the worst part, it was very much based on a real life 1965 murder of Sylvia Likens.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?

SVS: I adore old movies. So I will say BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), directed by James Whale. There is scarcely a single frame of the thing that isn’t utter perfection.

CHHR: What is your spirit animal?

SVS: A Ninja Turtle riding a triceratops.

CHHR: What is your favorite beer?

SVS: I love dark stuff—mainly porters and stouts. Russian Imperials are the best. I’ll say Narwhale Imperial Stout by Sierra Nevada. It’s a seasonal, winter brew and probably my favorite commercial beer. Though I admit, the label doesn’t hurt.

CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

SVS: Joe Lansdale, hands down. His talent is so vast and so plainly natural, it never ceases to amaze me. His prose is always straight and to the point but with plenty of grit and there is no other author who has affected my own writing voice as much as he has. Plus I have a serious love of Weird Westerns and Joe’s run on Jonah Hex in the 90s was phenomenal!

Author Bio:

Steve Van Samson is the author of the vampires in Africa series “Predator World”. His writing tends to be on the pulpy side—intermingling genres like horror, dystopian with dark fantasy and adventure. He believes that character is king and there should always be little seeds planted between the lines, that the reader will only discover in subsequent readings.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Interview With Brian J. Smith

CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

BJS: About the time I was five and I had a nightmare that I was walking through a tall grassy meadow and I stopped to find a butterfly on my hand and I lowered my face down to get a good look at it and it opened its mouth to show me a neat little row of tiny sharp teeth. Well that, and the fact that I intravenously fed myself every horror movie I set my sights on mostly Freddy and Jason, “Mother-Nature gone bad” movies like Kingdom Of The Spiders, It’s Alive, Island Claws, and the like. I didn’t have many friends but the friends that I did have were in the books I read which were mostly comic books and those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, as well.

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like? 

BJS: If I workout before I write, I get up at 5 am to let my dogs outside and then have breakfast but I don’t start writing until 7:15 and I go until 2 p.m. If I’m not working out, then I start right after breakfast.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?

BJS: Yes. I think it’s all about the music. I listen to rock music, mostly Metallica, CCR, Godsmack, Disturbed, Shinedown but if there’s a new episode of King Falls AM then I’ll listen to it while I’m writing. I’m also writing everything out in pencil before I bleed on the word processor. I don’t know many authors who write everything out in short hand but I always use pencil because my scribbling looks like a doctor’s.

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?

BJS: A little bit of both. I like short stories because I’ve always considered short stories to be like a short visit with a good friend. You want to stay there for a while but you know you can’t. Novels are like a long visit with a dying family member that won’t end no matter how much you beg and plead. I’ve done more short stories than novels but I hope to change that sometime soon.

CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?

BJS: It’s the only flu bug my brother (the author J.R. Smith) and I enjoy having. We like different things when it comes to horror. I like my horror movies like I like my coffee: strong and dark; zombies, ghosts, creatures and as much blood and gore as insanely possible. He likes his gore but up to a certain degree before he feels uncomfortable about it.

CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?

BJS: I’ve tried using outlines but every time I do one I go off it so I just gave up on them. I let the characters take me where they want to go. If I were to have something happen in a chapter, my character ends up telling me, “We’re gonna do this instead so just shut up and write all of this down” and I do what they say. I’m whipped when it comes to my characters but it irks the hell out of me when they don’t talk to me.

CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?

BJS: I didn’t start writing stories until I was 13 and the only reason I did it was because I was too shy to talk to people so I poured my thoughts and feelings on paper to cure my boredom in between classes. It wasn’t until I published my first short story at the age of 26 and although it was good enough to be an audio file (thanks to the kind folks at Drabblecast for doing so) I thought it could’ve been written better. I began to take it even more seriously because I knew I had to continue my writing career.

CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story? 

BJS: I think there are two things that make a good horror story. 1: if you have a character that resonates with the reader (single mother making ends meet, teenager dealing with personal issues or a person dealing with the death of a loved one) then you’ll have their attention because there’s something about that character that connects with them. When I wrote my novella Dark Avenues, the fact that Kevin Perkins was still doing the headstone rubbings because of his wife was based on the things I’ve continued after my mother’s death. I still cook certain foods we enjoyed, I still watch certain movies and shows that we enjoyed watching together and I still go to certain restaurants we used to enjoy going to and there are probably a lot of people who do the same thing. 2: taking an everyday situation and turning it upside down. Whether it be between breaking down on a lonely stretch of highway, recovering from a breakup, recovering from an unexpected loss, something is always happening to magnify that into a life-or-death situation. When you think about it, all horror stories start out with everyday situations.

CHHR: What are you currently working on?

BJS: I’m writing some new short stories for a collection I hope to get off the ground soon and I’m also polishing a zombie novel in between. This spring I’ll be starting on a dark noir novel I’ve already written the outline for about a year ago. I just recently finished a short-story collaboration with the wonderful and talented author Lenore Sagaskie; it’s my first ever with another author but I’m really starting to enjoy it.

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?

BJS: I’m currently reading The Four Sworn series by Lenore Sagaskie. After that I’ll read A Hell Of A Woman by Jim Thompson, Stinger by Robert McCammon, A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay.

CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?

BJS: A toss between Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and The Complex by Brian Keene.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?

BJS: I have many favorites but I’ll give you my top four:
Night Of The Living Dead (’68 not 90’)
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho
Kingdom Of The Spiders

CHHR: What is your spirit animal?

BJS: I never really put much thought into that. Sorry.  

CHHR: What is your favorite beer?

BJS: I am, and always will be, a Bud Light man.

CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

BJS: Hemingway because he always wrote with passion and he always had a way with his characters. If I had a roundtable of authors I’d like to have a beer with, I’d have to say Hemingway, Poe and Ketchum so that I can pick their brains.

Author Bio: 

Brian J. Smith is the author of numerous short stories featured in numerous e-zines, magazines and anthologies in both the horror and mystery genres. He currently resides in Chauncey, Ohio with his brother and four dogs where he cooks the hottest food known to man, doesn't own enough books, watches Ohio State football. He can be found on Instagram under buckeyefan37 and on Twitter under BrianJSmith913.