S.M. Douglas

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Exclusive Interview with Author Stone Wallace

I have a treat for horror fans and aspiring authors alike. I ran into Stone Wallace on social media and asked him about doing an interview. Needless to say, he agreed and here we are!

Wallace 2008 - Elchesen

For those of you who don’t know – Stone Wallace (pen name Mason Burgess in the horror field) has worked as a professional writer/editor for over 30 years. He has published 18 books (novels and non-fiction), written numerous articles for North American publications and websites, and has conducted many celebrity interviews. He attended Red River College, The National Institute of Broadcasting and Robertson Broadcast Academy. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada with his wife Cindy, who is also an author and children’s entertainer.

In terms of his horror writing Burgess/Wallace is best known for Child of Demons (published in 1984) which sold a staggering 50,000 copies in North America (wouldn’t we all be so lucky and good). He has authored a number of other horror works so please get ready for an exclusive conversation with the helpful and informative Mr. Stone Wallace:

(Please note that Random Pop Culture was the old name of my blog before it was folded into my author page. I like to still use the name out of a sense of nostalgia. So bear with me dear readers and know that RPC means S.M. Douglas!)

Random Pop Culture: Hello. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.

Stone Wallace: My name is Stone Wallace and I was born and live in Winnipeg, Canada, where the winters can be snowy and frigid and the summers hot and humid. I’ve been a storyteller all my life with an emphasis on the macabre since my first literary influence (and at a comparatively young age) was Edgar Allen Poe. Later I began reading other authors who specialized in the supernatural and soon began trying to emulate them by writing similar stories, admittedly crudely but it was a start. I was very fortunate in that neither of my parents ever discouraged my interest in horror. In fact, both supported me. My interest in possibly pursuing writing as a career was stimulated by Stephen King’s novel Carrie. That book hit a nerve in me, and with that as my creative thunderbolt I set about writing a book. I actually completed it; it didn’t sell. But I’d proven to myself that I could write a novel.

 Random Pop Culture: Why horror?

Stone Wallace: Well, I grew up a Monster kid. Lived for our Saturday night Chiller movie and barely a Saturday afternoon went by when you wouldn’t find me downtown sitting through reissues of Hammer or AIP horror movies – or even triple features showcasing 50s horror or sci-fi flicks. You know, those memorable gems like FROM HELL IT CAME and THE GIANT CLAW. Those Saturdays helped get me through a long school week. Plus, of course, I collected every monster magazine I could find: Famous Monsters of Filmland, Castle of Frankenstein, Monster Mania, along with genre comic books, like Creepy and Eerie. I embraced the genre. Still do, though with a preference for those older classics. I’m really not a fan of excessive graphic violence or torture porn. Plus I enjoy a little humor blended in with the horror, as in THE HOWLING and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

 Random Pop Culture: What are your favorite works to-date? Have you ever written under a pseudonym?

Stone Wallace: Yes, my first novels were written under the pseudonym of Mason Burgess. That was the publisher’s suggestion, which was wise since my last name starts with a “Z” (bad location in a bookstore, bottom shelf) plus is very ethnic and difficult to pronounce. Mason Burgess put me at eye level on brick and mortar shelves).

Random Pop Culture: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?

Stone Wallace: Of course. My first attempt at a horror novel was rejected (as well it should have been given that it was a crude first effort). But the good news was that in one of the rejection letters I received the editor commented that while that particular book didn’t make the grade, he saw that my work showed promise and that I should try something else and re-submit, which I did. Well, that second book also got rejected but I didn’t give up because I remained encouraged thanks to that editor and the book was eventually published by Leisure Books as a mass market paperback. I’ll always remain grateful to that editor for his supportive words to a novice writer.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?

Stone Wallace: Had an agent for two of my Western novels. Unfortunately, when the publisher who purchased those books decided to stop publishing Westerns my agent and I parted ways. Definitely an agent can be helpful to an author’s success. Granted, back in the day someone like Stephen King made the breakthrough on his own (with the help of a very supportive editor), but times are much different today. Even some smaller houses insist on agented submissions. An agent can also be valuable in negotiating subsidiary and ancillary rights – and those are certainly nice to have.

Random Pop Culture: Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?

Stone Wallace: Definitely paper. I much prefer holding a print copy in my hands, be it a book or magazine.

Random Pop Culture: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?

Stone Wallace: Marketing is essential. If you just sit back and do nothing to promote your book on your own initiative . . . well, one day you’ll open a copy of your book and watch moths fly out. What’s interesting is that I’ve discovered that many writers find it difficult to go out and promote their books. They’re uncomfortable to be interviewed or appear in the media because their comfort zone is solely in their writing. Man, you’ve got to get your ass out there unless you’re content to write in a vacuum.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters?

Stone Wallace: My horror novels were early efforts and I’d love another crack at them (as I think would most writers). I suppose my favorite of the three would be Blood Moon. It became a best seller so naturally that plays a part. Also, the lead character was sort of based on myself. I’d have to say, though, that the favorite of all my books would probably be my Western Montana Dawn. I’m very proud that the book was listed as “One of the Ten Best Westerns of the Decade” by Booklist. Especially flattering and gratifying since it was only my second Western, a genre I’d never really explored before.

Random Pop Culture: Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?

Stone Wallace: The titles of my first two horror novels, published back in the mid-80s were changed. My first book was changed from Child of Adamm to Child of Demons. I can understand why the publisher wanted to go with a more explicit title, but I actually wasn’t happy with it since the book had nothing to do with demons. As for a book’s cover, I feel it is important the design is a collaborative effort between the artist and the author. They definitely should be in sync as the cover should give some idea of what the book is about, even if only a teaser.

Random Pop Culture: What are you working on at the moment / next? Any future horror books in the works?

Stone Wallace: Yes. Finishing up a Western that may be my final work in the genre. Sadly, Westerns have been an ebb and flow genre, and as much as I enjoy writing them, the sales have been disappointing. Horror, on the other hand, always seems to be popular (though some publishers have become myopic about their potential in the marketplace, or perhaps have just become too highbrow – or maybe the quality just ain’t there; I think that’s why the big boom of horror literature started to dry up in the late 80s). Hoping to keep original, I’m working on a new horror story that explores another fascination I have with the supernatural. Of course, I can’t reveal much more at this point.

Random Pop Culture: Who are your favorite horror authors? What are your favorite horror movies?

Stone Wallace: My new horror novel is dedicated to the masters: Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and Richard Matheson. But I could also include earlier influences such as, of course, Poe, Bram Stoker and M.R. James, among others. The British authors Ramsey Campbell and the late James Herbert are also genre writers I highly admire.

Random Pop Culture: What do you see as the essential elements of a good horror book?

Stone Wallace: Believable characters. I feel for a horror novel to work most effectively you have to believe the people in the story. If you can accept them as real with recognizable human traits, you can more readily believe the situation no matter how far beyond the realm of reality it becomes. Plus, you care more for people you can identify with. You are genuinely concerned for their welfare and if they will survive whatever horrifying or unpleasant scenario they may be facing.

Random Pop Culture: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

Stone Wallace: I think one of the most difficult hurdles for a writer to overcome is discipline. Trying to balance your creative time with other duties, be they a job, taking care of housework or the needs of children. And if you are fortunate enough to be a full-time writer . . . it can become easy at times to get a little lazy. You might look for any reason to take a day away from the computer. Or at least to procrastinate. This can be especially true when just starting out to write a new book. Staring at a blank piece of paper or an empty computer screen and realizing with sudden horror that you’re going to have to create a story composed of about 300 pages. It’s a daunting proposition. The secret is just write. Something. Anything. Stephen King, for instance, began his mammoth epic The Stand with just a straight simple sentence, and the book grew from there. I doubt he knew where he was going from that starting point. As for writer’s block . . . I doubt there’s a writer who hasn’t at times suffered from some form of it. Again, the solution is just to write something. Keep the momentum going. Often it helps to provide a running start to where you’re next going with your story. Another trick is to end your day’s writing on a cliffhanger, as it were. A point of suspense and excitement where you’re eager to get back to work to see how things are going to develop. A nice clean tidy wrap-up to your day’s writing is not necessarily the best answer. Because no matter how far along in the narrative you are, if your next day’s writing doesn’t excite or stimulate you, it’s almost like you’re starting over, staring into that blank piece of paper or empty computer screen. And the procrastination may begin anew.

Random Pop Culture: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?

Stone Wallace: There’s always a basic plot or at least a kernel of an idea germinating in my brain. But once I have that established I let my characters and the existing circumstances guide me onward. Doesn’t always work; you can occasionally run into a brick wall because the plotting suddenly goes astray.  Personally, though, I think it’s more fun to let your characters take you along on their journey rather than the other way around. I’ve had characters who initially I planned to survive suddenly killed off halfway into the story. Even surprised me since that wasn’t my intention, but the circumstances dictated that they had to suffer that fate. That’s really the fun and excitement of writing. And I want to have fun when I write, otherwise I might as well go work at a gas bar.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?

Stone Wallace: As to having a method – not really. I usually have some basic idea as to their personalities, relationships, whatever. But I find that once these are established the characters flesh out on their own as the story progresses. Sometimes I base certain characteristics on people I know – even myself. I try to ensure that all of my characters, be they virtuous or evil, have identifiable human qualities. As I said earlier, this can really assist in the suspension of disbelief.

Random Pop Culture: Do you write any non-fiction or short stories?

Stone Wallace: Yes, I’ve written a number of non-fiction books: both histories and biographies. I’ve also written non-fiction pieces and critiques for websites and conducted celebrity interviews for various entertainment publications. I used to write short stories, but I find greater satisfaction working on novels. I prefer the larger landscape of writing a book.

Random Pop Culture: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?

Stone Wallace: Yes, I do a fair amount of editing (both during the writing and post-completion of the book) – and for that I thank God for the computer. Can’t believe I wrote my first three books on a portable manual typewriter, tearing out whole pages and rewriting them because maybe a sentence was off or I’d discovered a story contradiction. I could never imagine myself doing that again.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have to do much research?

Stone Wallace: Depends of the book. With my Westerns and especially my biographies I do quite a lot of research. The fun thing about writing horror is that you can let your imagination go wild. Certainly there are times when you must do some research to maintain a level of believability if the situation warrants it (again, hooray for the computer and the internet, saving sometimes hours on searching for information at the library), but overall I think the writer has more leeway when writing a story of the bizarre.

Random Pop Culture: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?

Stone Wallace: Most of my books have been written in the third person, though my Western Witness Seeker and its sequel Johnny Scarface were both written in the first-person narrative, and I do have to say I had a lot of fun writing in that fashion – really puts you as the author more directly into the story. Have yet to try second person. But that could be interesting.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?

Stone Wallace: I think most authors have those books that we’ve put away in the trunk for whatever reason: not publication-ready, too many rejections. Likely they will continue to wallow in the darkness.

Random Pop Culture: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?

Stone Wallace: Well, my favorite obviously is the whole creative process. The least are those days when you either just can’t motivate yourself to write, or when you do you think what you’ve written is the worst tripe ever composed and you question your abilities as a writer. Fortunately, those are just spells that come and go.

Random Pop Culture: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Stone Wallace: If writing is really what you want to do – if you truly have the fire in the belly, persevere and develop a very thick skin. It’s a business heavy with rejection. The stats against getting you book published are staggering. And even if you break through, odds are you’ll have a difficult time earning a living at it. The competition is too great – just take a walk through any bookstore – and that’s only a fraction of the number of books that are out there. So write because it’s your passion; not because you expect to be living the Stephen King dream. Lightning does indeed strike: J.K. Rowling. Stephanie Meyer, Nicholas Sparks are examples . . . but never lose sight that those are the exceptions. Another thing I should mention is that it helps to have patience. Even with many publishers (and agents) accepting manuscripts electronically, it can still take a while for an author to receive feedback with them receiving literally thousands of manuscripts and book proposals annually. Still, it beats having to send the material by post, which is a much longer process – and can be costly, too.

Random Pop Culture: Where did your ideas for your horror books come from? What prompted you to write horror book?

Stone Wallace: I decided to write horror because when I graduated college I realized I did not want to use my degree to report on government or local politics which I spent a great deal of time doing during my journalism studies. Always wanted to write a book, had a passion for horror, and with Stephen King being the big name in horror at the time, opening the door for so many other genre writers, I realized the timing was perfect for me to take the plunge.

Random Pop Culture: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful? (please include links where you can)

Stone Wallace: One of the best books I’ve read on the subject is Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul. I recommend that book to anyone who either is a writer or wants to write. First-hand accounts and some really surprising facts about the highs and lows of being an author, including rejections of books that became blockbuster bestsellers.

Random Pop Culture: What do you think the future holds for a writer?

Stone Wallace: Boy, that’s a tough one. The publishing industry changes so drastically so frequently. Tastes change (as I discovered with my Westerns) as do submission requirements. It was much easier to break into the field when I started. It’s tougher now since there seems to be much more competition. An author really has to take an active hand in promoting his or her book to even get someone to know it’s out there among the many thousands of others. Of course, ideally the publisher should do his part, too. It should be a cooperative effort since both parties ultimately benefit.

Random Pop Culture: Where can we find out about you and your work?

Stone Wallace: I have a Facebook page. Also, information is available on the Fear Front website. And my books are available on Amazon and discussed on Goodreads.

Random Pop Culture: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Stone Wallace: Well, I know that some of what I wrote might seem discouraging to the potential author. But I’ve been at this racket for a long while and still don’t make a living at it. I suppose what that means is either I’m a masochist or I’m obsessed with the craft. And if one is really sincere about writing, put aside the dreams of fame and fortune and just tell the best damn story you can. And don’t worry too much about the mechanics of writing – that can be learned. Focus on creating a compelling plot and bringing to life characters who are real and ones who the reader will care about that. And I wish you only the best of luck!

Now, here is an excerpt of Mr. Wallace’s writing:

A small corner of the northwestern quarter of the cemetery had its own grim significance. It was there that two open graves could be found next to one another, side by side, but situated several yards from the other burial plots, the result of a vague yet superstitious fear that the other children who shared the soil could be corrupted, as if a contagion permeated the very ground where the bodies were soon to rest.

These two graves were to hold the victims of a brutal tragedy.

It was autumn, the season of Halloween. And the celebration was just a week away. But there would be no trick-or-treating that year. No happy costumed children running door to door with their sacks and pails seeking candy. No little witches and princesses parading the streets. No goblins or ghouls haunting doorsteps…

For that was the year a very real “ghoul” appeared in Clear Vista. A boogeyman, whose stay in town was brief, but who left behind death and despair. A stranger who carried with him an unspeakable evil.

The devil had come to Clear Vista and life in the seaside community would never be the same.

Finally, we have a synopsis of Mr. Wallace’s latest book:

Mysterious death plague the peaceful coastal town of Clear Vista. These include prominent citizens whose own children have died under curious and suspicious circumstances. These recent deaths are not viewed at as murders, some appear accidental or the result of natural causes. Yet to Police Chief Braden Powell, a man who suffered his own tragic personal loss, suspicions grow. As the one person in Clear Vista with a deeper knowledge as to what may be concealed truths, he questions the “official” findings. And as he digs deeper into discovering the truth, little does he realize the horror he is about to uncover. A horror that ultimately will affect him personally as it threatens to overwhelm the community.

With that said I’d like to once again thank author Stone Wallace for offering this exclusive and much appreciated interview!

Check Out My Latest Author Interview

Last week Serious Reading published their author interview with me. It’s a bit longer than past interviews I’ve done, but it’s fun and goes deep into numerous topics. These include: my take on why horror is a special genre, the role of research in horror writing, tips on getting started, early writing projects, what’s hard versus easy about being a writer, and some fun stuff on public perceptions of writers – as well as much more!

Please look over the interview. In particular, aspiring authors will find it interesting. For everyone else Serious Reading does a good job of asking thoughtful questions. I hope you enjoy it.

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Here’s my recent interview with werewolfbook.com

Yesterday I did a short interview with fellow horror author Brian Ferenz over at werewolfbook.com. We touched on several topics. These include: where my initial interest in werewolves arose from, the role both World War II and the city of Detroit play in my book, some modest tips for aspiring authors, my take on the importance of cover design, and more! What other authors might also find notable is that I did the entire interview via Twitter (where Brian found and contacted me) – a lesson in and  of itself regarding the importance of social media in terms of getting the word out there about your work.

Please check out the interview. It’s a short read and Brian also has interviewed several other author I think werewolf fans will find interesting. These include one from yet another Michigan based werewolf author – Joshua Werner. There seems to be a bit of a werewolf renaissance in the mitten state, so don’t forget to keep your silver handy if you come to visit!

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Exclusive Interview With Hyde Effect Author Steve Vance!

Hello horror fans and aspiring authors – do I have an unexpected treat for you! In honor of last year’s Halloween I posted what I regard as the two greatest werewolf transformation scenes of all time. That got me thinking about the film backing one of those scenes: The Howling. That led me to pick up the book of the same name for a pre-Halloween revisit of an old favorite. From there I ended up reviewing and ranking my three all-time favorite werewolf books: The Howling, The Wolfen, and The Hyde Effect. For those of you not interested in reading the reviews I ended up picking The Hyde Effect as my champion. It narrowly edged out The Wolfen, with The Howling coming in third. I thought that would be the end of it. But then I got an email from the author of The Hyde Effect, the one and only Steve Vance.

Mr. Vance will be the first to admit he isn’t into blogging or social media, but somebody read my review and sent it on to him. From there he reached out to offer his modest thanks. I was thrilled to hear from one of my favorite horror writers. In turn I inquired as to whether he would like to do an interview, and here we are folks! So for all of you horror junkies, aspiring authors/bloggers/creative types please strap yourself in for an exclusive conversation with the down to earth but informative Mr. Steve Vance:

Random Pop Culture: Hello Steve. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.

Steve Vance: I was born and raised in the state of Georgia (7/13/52). I now live outside of Dalton, in the northwestern corner, some thirty miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn. I suppose I’ve actually been a “writer” since before I could write. I was always a teller of tall tales and can even remember sitting in my Granddaddy’s lap and reciting to him my adventures as a cowboy who had once had his head chopped off by “bad guys” before it was sewn back on again. One of the most magical moments of my early life was when I was introduced to the public library and informed that plenty of other people were just as interested in making up stories as I had always been.

Random Pop Culture: Why horror, and have you considered other genres?

Steve Vance: Actually, my initial forays into writing were in the science fiction genre. My first published novel (PLANET OF THE GAWFS, Leisure, 1978) was a trans-planetary space opera, as were the following pair of THE REALITY WEAVERS (Laura Books, 1979) and ALL THE SHATTERED WORLDS (Manor Books, 1979), though these latter two strayed significantly into the realm of science fantasy. The horror field called to me more and more in my personal interests, and I began to lean in that direction in short fiction. THE HYBRID (Leisure, 1981) was my first “all-out” horror novel. THE HYDE EFFECT (Leisure, 1986) sort of completed the transition. Not being particularly bright in the field of science (among others), I find horror much more freeing.

Random Pop Culture: What are your favorite works to-date? Have you ever written under a pseudonym?

Steve Vance: I’ve never actually thought about a favorite work. THE HYDE EFFECT seems to have connected with the readers the best (though SPOOK, Soho Press, 1990, remains my most widely embraced work in the mainstream world) and stands up well after repeated readings according to online reviewers. I have a fondness for WALPURGIS NIGHT (Silk Label Books, 2002), as well, though it passed rather unnoticed. I’ve published one novel under a company pseudonym — and I’m not at liberty to identify it — and a number of short stories. Several of the stories are available online in narrated form.

Random Pop Culture: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?

Steve Vance: Any rejections? Enough that I gave up counting a long time ago. I won’t lie: they hurt. But you just have to let them go. A mean-spirited part of me enjoys recalling that my “home publisher” Leisure passed on SPOOK rather blithely and then aggressively begged to handle the soft cover publishing of the book once it had appeared in hardcover at Soho Press.

Random Pop Culture: Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions?

Steve Vance: Nope. I’ve never entered any competitions. I know that the cover art for THE ABYSS (Leisure, 1989) won a second place award in some competition just after publication, though I don’t have any details.

Random Pop Culture: Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?

Steve Vance: I’m a paper fan (I really love owning something that entertains me), but I’m not actually biased against eBooks. I’m looking into the field now, in fact.

Random Pop Culture: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?

Steve Vance: Almost none. I’ve never actually been introduced to the marketing part of the business, though I have done a (very) few television and radio interviews and a few book signings. I believe that Silver Leaf Books, who will be publishing THE TIME FOUNT PROJECT this year (sci fi/adventure/horror), will expect some self-marketing efforts from me. However, with the physical appearance of a fat little hillbilly and the voice of a twelve year old pot smoker, I’m not exactly in demand personally.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have a favorite of your books or characters? If The Hyde Effect were made into a film, who would you have as the leading actor/s?

Steve Vance: As stated above, I don’t have any real favorites. Well . . . maybe HYDE. I’ve never given any thought to who might take the parts of the novel in a film. Blake Corbett — who didn’t even appear in the short story version of HYDE, which was published in Tesseract Science Fiction, 1979 — was pretty much based on yours truly, though I harbor no illusions about acting, believe me. Nick Grundel was somewhat modeled on the young Richard Dreyfuss of JAWS. Nick wasn’t in the original short story, either.

Random Pop Culture: Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?

Steve Vance: One novel had a slight title change made by the editors — REVOLT OF THE GAWFS became PLANET OF THE GAWFS –, while two others underwent complete retitling when I KNOW THE WORDS became THE ABYSS (Leisure, 1989) and THE HIDDEN LIFE morphed into SPOOK.   The only input I’ve had into cover art was with WALPURGIS NIGHT, when (after being asked) I suggested the scene of the unfortunate skeptic being blasted through the roof of the exploding building. Silver Leaf wants me to arrange the cover art for THE TIME FOUNT PROJECT, but I have absolutely no idea how to go about it. I really should get to work on that.

Random Pop Culture: What are you working on at the moment / next? Any future werewolf books in the works?

Steve Vance: I’ve been churning out a few short stories for the last couple of months and don’t have a novel in mind at the moment. SHAPES (Leisure, 1990) was a direct sequel to HYDE, and a number of online reviews have mentioned that the reviewers would enjoy another entry into the “series,” but as I said, I haven’t given it much consideration, yet. I’d certainly like to work on more novels.

Random Pop Culture: Who are your favorite horror authors? What are your favorite horror movies?

Steve Vance: I’ve always enjoyed Richard Matheson’s work, and Charles Beaumont and Fredric Brown produced some delightfully twisted material. My horror movie favorites tend to drift into science fiction territory. I believe that THE THING (FROM ANOTHER WORLD) and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS are two of America’s best films of any genre, and each produced screaming nightmares in me during my younger movie-watching days. Unlike many in my age bracket, I tend to enjoy “found footage” movies, and CLOVERFIELD and CHRONICLE are wonderful recent examples of that form of narrative. VAMPYR and the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD have retained their impact for me over the years. In the anthology area, it’s difficult to top DEAD OF NIGHT. CIEN GRITOS DE TERROR is a terrific Spanish-language film that seems to get very little affection in the English-speaking world these days.

Random Pop Culture: What do you see as the essential elements of a good horror book?

Steve Vance: I feel that no matter what the surrounding actions are, there should be some discernable humanity in the characters who are experiencing that action, something that the reader can connect with whether the character is ostensibly “good” or “bad.” If the people who are acting or being acted upon are just ciphers who are set up simply so they can be knocked down, who cares? It’s certainly not an original idea with me, but it remains a good one, I think. Plus, as King has said many times, there comes a point when you have to show the monster. Some of the most memorable moments in horror literature have come from intimation, but over the course of a novel that intimation must prove itself in a more concrete fashion. That’s just my opinion, of course.

Random Pop Culture: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

Steve Vance: If I have an idea that’s working out, evolving, I can hardly wait to start hitting the keys every day. If the theme isn’t managing to separate itself from a thousand other stories that folks have done before and better, just opening the file can be a monumental task. I should write much more than I do, and that unprofessional attitude has proven quite detrimental over the years.

Random Pop Culture: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?

Steve Vance: It varies. Usually, maybe seventy per cent of the time, a good idea really does drive the process; I may not even know how the work will end until it gets there. Less frequently, the ending has written itself in ones mind before the first word is typed, and the challenge is to get to that ending in some entertaining way. HYDE represents both points of view: as a short story, it practically wrote itself because I had the foundation that I wanted to explore, an ancient, very violent force of nature trapped in a sterile, very modern location. A werewolf in a closed hospital environment. When it came to expanding the story into a novel, I realized that simply doubling or tripling the time spend in the hospital would get repetitive and boring, so I introduced three more central characters in Blake, Nick, and Meg (only Douglas appeared in the short story). Then I set about detailing how these people came to accept that, first, there was an actual werewolf on a killing rampage in their modern world, and, second, that they would have to find him and stop him with little or no help from a disbelieving society. For some readers, this worked. Others complained that it took too much time to get to the “meat” of the material, in the hospital.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?

Steve Vance: No method as such. A lot of the characters, good and bad, are just extensions of myself. Sometimes they seem to create themselves in response to the fictional environment. Occasionally, an effective character from some other novel or film or real life experience can bull his or her way into the story. I don’t spend a lot of time on name selection. A name can just sound right to me (as a boxing fanatic, I wanted to use the name “Corbett,” after oldtime heavyweight champ James J. Corbett, for the lead character in HYDE, for example), or I might pick up a copy of Leonard Maltin’s film reviews and scan through until a “correct”-sounding first and last name wave at me.

Random Pop Culture: Do you write any non-fiction or short stories?

Steve Vance: I’ve published, I suppose, fifty or so short stories since 1977 (when my first, “The Two-Edged Sword,” debuted in Amateur Boxing without any previous notification from the editor — literally, I simply picked up an issue in the bookstore and saw my name in the table of contents). They’ve appeared in periodicals such as Asimovs Science Fiction, Unearth, Dark Fantasy, Cemetery Dance Magazine, Brutarian, Cicada and its companion Cricket (best paying markets by far), FarThing, Paradox, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The only non-fiction I’ve published were a couple of articles in boxing monthlies and a short series of film reviews in FilmFax back in the late Nineties. That was a lot of fun.

Random Pop Culture: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?

Steve Vance: I try to edit at least once. With modern technology (I.e., computers) editing is practically enjoyable, but even when I was scribbling words in pencil on lined paper, I would force myself to re-read at least once and correct all of the mistakes a careless writer will make without thinking. Even today, I am startled by how many of these mistakes made the “final cut” in HYDE and THE REALITY WEAVERS and many of those other early efforts.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have to do much research?

Steve Vance: Not too much. With horror, unlike science fiction, the writer can pretty much manipulate “reality” to suit the story, anyway. Generally, I enjoy what research I do engage in, in any case.

Random Pop Culture: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?

Steve Vance: Third person seems to work best for me. PLANET OF THE GAWFS was in first person, and it worked well for the casually conceited main character, but I try to give some portion of the overall story to each primary character, and that’s tough to do in first person. H.G. Wells was able to portion out perspective to other characters while remaining in first person in works such as WAR OF THE WORLDS, but I’m no H.G. Wells. A number of my short stories do take place in first person, but that’s a lot easier to pull off in such confined spaces. Second person can give a definitely creepy vibe to a story (never read a novel in second), but I haven’t tried it.

Random Pop Culture: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?

Steve Vance: Oh yeah. A number of them from years back, including complete novels. Times change, other writers come out with the same idea before you. I had a short story called “The Deadly Defenseless” that I marketed unsuccessfully in 1975 which basically was DIE HARD before DIE HARD (Christmas shopper is trapped within a huge building during a takeover by a “terrorist group” who turn out to be there for the money, and said shopper takes them down one at a time), so I’m pretty sure that one will rest only in my forgotten files. Just because they weren’t published doesn’t mean you fail remember them, however.

Random Pop Culture: What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?

Steve Vance: It’s a silly answer, of course, but my favorite part is the moment when everything “clicks,” all of the ideas that have been swimming aimlessly around the central structure find their various points of connection and you realize, “Hey, this is going to work!” Least favorite is probably the rejection that contains absolutely no reason for being a rejection, nothing beyond a “Doesn’t work for us; good luck elsewhere.” Was it badly written? Too much like too many other stories/novels?   Plain boring? I know that being an editor can be difficult, but it’s your job, right? Give us a little indication as to what we’ve done wrong, won’t you? What continually surprises me is how anything that’s published never really vanishes completely. I’ve seen short stories of mine that appeared in semi-pro magazines in the Seventies listed for sale on sites such as ABE (Advanced Book Exchange).   I was quite shocked when HYDE turned up on your list of (ahem) great werewolf novels, believe me. Surprising and gratifying.

Random Pop Culture: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Steve Vance: Don’t be afraid to see where your ideas will take you. They may be inspired by the works of others, but they won’t be mere echoes if you allow your imagination to run with them. Rejections hurt — every writer knows this –, and quite often there will be something to learn from each rejection. Especially if the rejection slip contains actual comments rather than simple rote dismissals (which is becoming increasingly rare these days — see above). But you also should remember that in most cases the rejection comes from a single editor. He or she didn’t care for your work; that doesn’t mean the next one won’t “get” what you’re endeavoring to say.

Random Pop Culture: Where did your ideas for The Hyde Effect come from? What prompted you to write a werewolf book?

Steve Vance: To be honest, the idea for HYDE originated in a late night television viewing of the film version of Michael Crichton’s THE TERMINAL MAN. I’m not comparing the novels, but watching actor George Segal mutate from an ordinary, modern human being into an uncontrollable killing machine in the (relatively) sterile and scientific surroundings of a hospital struck me as inspired. I wondered how matters would play out if a real “old school” monster from olden days were to be locked within a high tech facility along with a hundred or so unfortunate men and women unable to escape his bloodlust. Which old-fashioned monster best fits the bill as a mindless, ravaging nightmare? The werewolf, of course. I wrote a short story version quickly (I’m not certain where the title came from now — it simply was a perfect fit) and sold it in 1979 to the first market I tried, the now defunct but not forgotten Tesseract Science Fiction. There was some good response from it, and when I was casting about for an idea for a longer work some five years later, I decided to try expanding the short story to novel length. This involved the new first half detailing the creature’s months-long rampage and capture, which, in turn, necessitated adding three more main characters in Blake, Meg, and Nick.

Random Pop Culture: What do you think of the recent explosion in supernatural themed movies/shows like True Blood, Walking Dead, American Horror Story, and so on…Why now and not thirty years ago?

Steve Vance: I feel that the introduction of cable television and its freedom from standard network censoring has contributed immensely to the current popularity of horror and the supernatural. Can you imagine any of those television programs appearing on NBC/CBS/ABC in the Sixties or Seventies? This era is sort of the “revenge” of the old EC horror magazines from the early Fifties, which were driven out of publication by government interference, you’ll recall. American Horror Story especially reflects that EC psyche. Also powerfully influential is social messaging, in which fans of what once was a denigrated and marginalized arm of the entertainment world (horror — and to some extent sci-fi) can interact with one another with no concessions to the smug “guardians” of modern entertainment. “Monster magazines” of my youth, such as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Castle of Frankenstein, and Monster World were wonderful, but they also were poorly-funded, produced by very small publishing houses, and often difficult to find in “respectable” bookstores and news stands. Nowadays, go on Google and type in “horror sites,” and watch as several dozen responses pop up in seconds. Horror fans are now a much less isolated community than before. With this exploding fan base came larger budgets for more widely-targeted films.  Money talks. The teen/young adult film adaptations seem to be coming more to the front in films recently, but horror is now far too established as a money-making genre to ever fade back into the “grind house” times, I think.

Random Pop Culture: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?

Steve Vance: Nope. I once hoped to someday start up a magazine dealing exclusively with first efforts from beginning writers, but since I lack the expertise on both the artistic and financial sides of that issue to make such an undertaking viable, it never went beyond the wishing stage.

Random Pop Culture: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

Steve Vance: I’m quite boring as a person, I’m afraid. I have a great extended family who mean the world to me and with whom I interact regularly. I love movies and have been the biggest boxing nut you could imagine for the past forty-five years or so, and those things take up most of my spare time. I’ve lived a very lucky life.

Random Pop Culture: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?

Steve Vance: The Locus Magazine site remains an excellent source for freelancers. I used to await its arrival in the pre-Internet snail mail days with something like a deep hunger. The site I most regularly visit nowadays is Ralan Conley’s writers’ resource, which is an absolutely first class location that’s updated practically everyday. Those two are invaluable.

Random Pop Culture: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?

Steve Vance: Not really. I’m something of an aged cliché, I suppose, stuck (by choice) out here in the North Georgia woods. I have been on Facebook for about a year now (I joined because a boxing discussion group I belong to made the move from Yahoo), but I don’t have a personal page or anything. I guess I should. I shared your unexpectedly complimentary article about HYDE on that site, and it garnered a good deal of attention. (Thanks again!)

Random Pop Culture: What do you think the future holds for a writer?

Steve Vance: The same as it ever has, I suppose: lots of solitary work, lots of expectations, lots of rejection, and a few blazingly wonderful moments of success. Oh, and plenty of pleasant inquiries of, “What are you working on now?”

Random Pop Culture: Where can we find out about you and your work?

Steve Vance: I’m told that I should institute a Facebook page, but I haven’t decided whether to undertake such a step, yet. My next novel, THE TIME FOUNT PROJECT, will be appearing sometime in ‘15 from Silver Leaf Books.

And I’ve just sold a short story called “The Long Night” to the children’s fiction magazine Cricket, which will probably show up a bit later in the year.

Random Pop Culture: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Steve Vance: Just a reminder to those considering this line of work that seeing your name on a cover makes it worth all of the work and uncertainty.

Random Pop Culture: Steve was also gracious enough to provide a short excerpt from from The Hyde Effect’s Chapter 12: A Wildfire of the Soul:

An exceptionally loud report exploded above the screams, causing Morgan to wince. Cummings was suddenly falling backwards while emitting a mad howl of pain and surprise. Instinctively, Doug, who had seen the effects of bullets on bodies before, thought, He’s dead, it’s over. But this mixed relief and loss was premature.

Rolling on the floor and jabbing his feet into the air in agony, the metamorphosed man jerked to his right shoulder, flipped sharply, and was abruptly standing again. He crouched and roared defiantly and displayed no sign of injury other than a splash of red in the fur of his back where the bullet had exited.

“For the love of god, he’s healed!” a doctor in the gallery stated in awed recognition.

The policeman fired again and was joined by his three fellow officers in the assault, so that the air was quickly filled with the flare and thunder of their guns . . . .

Even as the police emptied their guns into him, his body was accepting the bullets, in a fashion absorbing them, and expelling the metal through its own momentum while repairing whatever damage had been caused by the passage faster than the officers could pull their triggers. Even the most vicious wounds were knitting in seconds, and the incredible symbiotic activities of a human mind and the world’s most extraordinary disease gave irrefutable proof that invincibility in man had been approached.

Now let’s take a brief look at Steve’s upcoming and newest publication:

Set in 1990, just following the fall of the Soviet Union, THE TIME FOUNT PROJECT is an old-fashioned science fantasy/horror novel about a group of disparate young men and women who are called together by a university professor and informed that they share a common heritage with an ancient, almost mythic French hero . . . and that they have been blessed with the same nearly superhuman abilities as he. While they are cultivating these inherited properties, their paths also cross that of another group of people, these former Soviet agents who have discovered the strangest natural phenomenon on the planet in the Colorado mountains. There’s plenty of action, some mystery, and even a looming King Kong-like creature snatched from hundreds of thousands of years ago (and none to happy about it).

With that said I’d like to once again thank author Steve Vance for offering Random Pop Culture this exclusive and much appreciated interview.

 

 

 

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