Friday, May 4, 2018

Interview With Mark Allan Gunnels

CHHR: Please give a brief introduction here.

My name is Mark Allan Gunnells. I’m a horror and fantasy writer who has been publishing in the small press since 2009. I’m a southern boy, married to a supportive husband who encourages me as a writer, and writing is my great passion.

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

I was writing short stories at around the age of 10, but it wasn’t until Junior High School that I realized that it was my passion, that there was nothing else I wanted to do so much as write.

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like? 

I’m lucky in that I have a day job that affords me time to write while there. I’m a security guard, and the day can be quite busy, but there are always pockets of downtime throughout the day. You can’t predict when these pockets will arise and how long they will last, but I’ve trained myself to take advantage of them. So I don’t have long stretches of uninterrupted time to write, but I still manage to make it work.

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

I don’t know if I’d call this a writing ritual, but I like to think over my stories in the shower. I don’t know why, but I get a lot of inspiration in the shower. I joke it is the water beating on my head, stimulating my brain cells. But often I spend my time in the shower thinking over plot developments, character motivations, etc., and often I make connections and have breakthroughs in there.

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?

Both. I have been focusing more on novels and novellas lately, but honestly short stories are my first and truest love. I feel I have a more innate understanding of the structure and pacing of short stories, and I find them incredibly satisfying. Which explains why I have so many collections on the market.

CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?

There’s not much of a horror scene, honestly. I’m in a small town in the south. Some folks did try to get a horror convention going here a few years ago, but it lasted about three years then fizzled out. That’s why I love the internet age, when I can connect with other horror fans all over the world.

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

I’m not an outliner. I sometimes do a very tentative sketch of an outline for a novel, but even that is rare. I like to just get the idea then tunnel into it, letting the story reveal itself to me as I go. I like to say that for me writing isn’t so much an act of creation as one of discovery.

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

I’m not sure it did. My writing process is pretty much the same. I approach writing from a sense of wanting to enjoy myself, wanting to get caught up in the story I’m crafting and just have fun. That hasn’t changed.

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

Suspense. I think people get caught up in shock value, gross out, and going to extremes. Nothing wrong with any of that, but none of it matters at all if you don’t have that suspense keeping people hooked in and turning the pages. I like a gradual build of tension and a lingering sense of dread that stays with you even after the story is over.

CHHR: What are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing a novel called BEFORE HE WAKES. A suspense thriller about two young people being held captive and left locked away after an accident keeps their abductor away. The story is about their attempts to escape.

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?

Too much. TOO DAMN MUCH! I am addicted to books, and like to read diversely. I want to read more Ron Rash soon, and more Tabitha King, as well as get back to some Jack Ketchum and Douglas Clegg.

CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?

I think I have a different definition of scary than a lot of people. I like ambiguity and subtlety in horror, because that uncertainty can be more disturbing than any monster put under a spotlight. So the last book that really gave me that sense was Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier. I only read it for the first time earlier this year, and while it isn’t horror per se, it is an unsettling book where you feel haunted by the ghosts of the past.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror book?

Hmm, so hard to pick just one. I think I’m going to go with King’s Misery. It is a perfect psychological horror story, tightly paced, but also a fascinating character study. To top it all off, it has a lot of very intelligent things to say about writing and why creators create.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?

John Carpenter’s Halloween. It is a beautiful film and a pitch-perfect exercise in suspense building.

CHHR: What type of music do you listen to? What’s your favorite album?

Of all forms of art and entertainment, I will admit music is the one I’m least into. Music has become something I only listen to in the car. My music tastes are pretty tame. I’m a huge Adele fan, but I’ve also reignited my love of Melissa Etheridge recently. My favorite album is probably a tie between 21 by Adele and Yes I Am by Etheridge.

CHHR: What is your spirit animal?

I’m a dog person, so I’m going to have to go with a dog. Something small, fuzzy, full of energy, always with the tongue lolling and the tail wagging.

CHHR: What is your favorite beer?

Here’s an oddity…I don’t drink, never have. I’m one of the rare people on this planet who have made it to 43 without ever consuming a drop of alcohol.

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

There are so many authors I admire and would love to spend an evening chatting with, but if I had to pick only one…Stephen King. I think the man is a master storyteller, and I’ve been a fan since my youth so that there is a lot of nostalgia mixed in with the respect and admiration. Of course, I don’t drink but I’ll gladly have a water while we chat.

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