Welcome to the eighth installment of my “Author of the Week”! Every Sunday, I post about a Weird Fiction and/or Lovecraftian author that I think more readers should know about. If you have suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
I asked him five questions:
Please tell us about yourself — as much or as little as you’d like to say.
I’m an old-fart-in-training, rapidly closing in on the real deal. I’m 55-ish; divorced but now in the best relationship of my life; an avid geocacher (see www.geocaching.com if you have any questions about what that is); and proprietor of Chateau Le Chat in Greensboro, NC. By day, I work for The Mailbox Magazine, producer of educational resources for teachers; by night, I create recipes for flambéing friends, neighbors, enemies, strangers, transients, adults, and children of all ages.
How and why did you begin writing?
From the time I was a wee lad, I was interested in telling stories. In elementary school, I always had some yarn to spin, usually embellished a bit. Okay, more than a bit. I grew up on The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Dark Shadows, Night Gallery, and countless horror/science-fiction movies from the 50s and 60s. I began reading and enjoying scary stories at an early age, starting with juvenile tales and moving up to adult stories before a lot of kids could comprehend a few consecutive sentences. This stuff often scared the crap out of me, and I felt it incumbent upon me to spread that fear around in whatever way I could. Sometimes that was via artwork — I went to college anticipating working in the art field, as a matter of fact — and sometimes it was a short story I made up. Sometimes I combined the art and writing, in early (if quite awful) attempts at graphic novels, long before I ever heard that term. Over time, my devotion to writing began to overshadow my interest in art; only so many hours in the day, don’t you know.
In college, I discovered the work of H. P. Lovecraft, and that sewed it up right there. Within a few years, I was writing and publishing horror stories on a regular basis, not to mention editing Deathrealm magazine. Writing horror has been of the great loves of my adult life, and though I know some writers despise labels, I will happily and unabashedly proclaim myself a “horror writer.” Yes, I occasionally write something “other,” but nothing I write is absent a certain fear factor. That’s just the way I dance.
What is it about Lovecraftian horror and Weird Fiction that appeals to you?
I’ve told this story a thousand times, but for me, it’s a pivotal thing that must be credited. As a kid, living in a relatively rural, wooded area, I was scared to death by the whippoorwills that hollered outside my house at night. Their songs were eerie and wistful, and something about them touched my deepest, most fearful nerves. I couldn’t imagine this noise came from innocuous little birds; they must be ghostly, other-worldly things. These sounds, combined with images from the scary movies and TV shows that lingered in my mind, produced a profound fear of unknown things in the darkness. Years later, for a period when I was in college at the University of Georgia in Athens, I lived in a house out in the sticks that I shared with five other people. A friend of mine had given me a bunch of paperbacks of HPL’s stories, and on the night I started reading them, I was alone in the house — a very rare thing, that. HPL’s vivid descriptions of old, eerie settings — especially in “The Dunwich Horror” and “Dreams in the Witch House” — brought home a sense of familiarity, of dark beauty, that I remembered so well from my childhood home (where my mom still lives and which I still call home). On that lonely night in Athens, GA, for the first time since I was a kid, I began to feel that same fear of the unknown in the dark. It was the Whippoorwill Effect all over again, and I was permanently smitten. It’s had a hold on me ever since.
Which of your books do you recommend that readers begin with?
Other Gods is likely the best sampler of my short tales, particularly if you’re looking for Lovecraft- or Cthulhu Mythos–inspired fiction. For readers who prefer to jump straight into a novel, I’d recommend Blue Devil Island, which begins as a straightforward historical novel but becomes a chronicle of the influence of eldritch forces in the remote Pacific during WWII. As much personal bias as possible aside, I’d call it my most successful novel to date, combining my deep interest in WWII history with Lovecraftian horror. Reviewers have been very kind to it, and a couple of WWII vets have complimented its authenticity. For me, it was a real labor of love; I think it all came together in just the right proportion.
Would you list your Lovecraftian books?
Short story collections:
- The Last Trumpet (all Lovecraftian tales; Wildside Books, 2000)
- Other Gods (primarily Lovecraftian tales; Dark Regions Press, 2008)
- Legends of the Night (several Lovecraftian tales; Wildside Books, 2010)
- The Gaki (several Lovecraftian tales; Dark Regions Press, 2012)
- Balak (Wildside Books, 2000)
- The Nightmare Frontier (Crossroad Press, 2010)
- Blue Devil Island (Marietta Press, 2011)
- The Monarchs (Crossroad Press, 2013)
The Gods of Moab (Kindle edition only; 2013)
Thanks to Mark for answering my questions! By the way, he’ll be on today’s LIVE Lovecraft eZine Talk Show, at 6:00pm Eastern time (5pm Central, 3pm Pacific). You can watch the show LIVE at that time, here.