Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ten Questions With....... Horror Author James Newman

Over at The Crypt, I run a feature called "Ten Questions with....", which gives me the opportunity to interview some of the rising stars of horror - in particular indie directors, writers, producers, actors, and sometimes even the already famous and well-respected (such as Larry Fessenden). It's a great gig, and the best part is getting to know heaps of great people in the horror community.  

Before The Crypt was even in existence, it was my great pleasure to get to know author James Newman.  I first discovered his work when I happened across his 2012 homage to 80's pulp horror, THE WICKED.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and struck up a friendship after I posted a review here on the blog

James is also the author of such books as UGLY AS SIN, MIDNIGHT RAIN, ANIMOSITY, and the recently released 666 HAIR-RAISING HORROR MOVIE TRIVIA QUESTIONS. He is currently working on his next hair-raising novel, but since he's such a helluva nice guy, he took the time to answer some questions for us horror nerds.  Enjoy.

1) First, tell us a little bit about yourself.  How did you get into horror?
     I've loved this stuff for as long as I can remember.  My dad has always been a fan of sci-fi and horror, so I can remember him renting monster movies all the time -- the cornier the better!  Sometimes, though, he would accidentally pick up something with quality, something that left an impression on me.  I can remember seeing John Carpenter's original HALLOWEEN at the drive-in when I was just five or six years old, and not long after that THE EVIL DEAD scarred me for life.  That's a good thing, BTW.
     My mom says that since I was old enough to write, she remembers me drawing monsters and making up little stories to go along with my illustrations.  Not long after I learned to read I discovered those SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK books, and it was all downhill from there!

2) What makes someone want to write about the darker side of life?
     I wish I knew the answer to that. More intelligent folks than yours truly have written entire books about it.  You've heard it all before:  how we invent vampires, zombies, and werewolves to help us deal with the "real" monsters like terrorism, poverty, and disease.
     I do find the psychology behind it all rather fascinating.  But I don't know. 

3) Your book from 2012, THE WICKED, knocked my socks off.  What was your inspiration for such a dementedly wonderful novel?
     THE WICKED was my ode to those "evil in a small town" novels that were all the rage in the 80s.  You know the ones -- more often than not they had an evil kid on the cover, and the plot was usually about sinister goings-on thanks to an old Indian burial ground.  With THE WICKED, I wanted to pay tribute to those old books I grew up with -- the good and the bad -- but hopefully do a little better than those titles that have been forgotten over time simply because they weren't that good.  I wanted to create in (THE WICKED's protagonists) the Little family a group of real, three-dimensional characters with real relationships, real modern-life problems that the reader could relate to.  Once a writer is able to pull that off, the reader is willing to suspend disbelief when the demon comes along.

4)  I was raised in a small town and could always relate to novels such as THE WICKED, which always seemed to give small towns a bad name. The town of Morganville was so well fleshed-out that it felt like home to me, which is rather scary. Do you hail from a similar town?

     Yeah, for the most part.  I live in Hendersonville, North Carolina, which is a lot like Morganville in many ways.  I'd classify my hometown as a "minor city" more than a "small town", though.  It's a good place to live, a beautiful area, and nothing at all like the hotbed of demonic activity that is Morganville.  Thank God!  (laughs)

5)  I could really feel the vibe of 80's pulpy horror fiction in THE WICKED, which I loved.  Brought me back to my teen years staying up late reading into the night.  Who were some of your writing influences?
     Stephen King was the first, definitely.  From that era I also loved Graham Masterton's stuff (still do).
     Believe it or not, though, the more I've thought about it I've realized that the BAD novels of that time, with their gaudy foil-stamped-and-embossed covers, might have influenced THE WICKED more than the good ones (I'm sure the folks who don't care for my work are emphatically nodding right now!).  Those garish paperbacks from the 80s -- how could you not love that stuff?  It's like watching a Troma film.  You know it's not a "good" movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's so much FUN! 

  6) Your 2013 offering, UGLY AS SIN, boasts nothing but 5 star reviews on Amazon and has gotten a boat-load of good press. As much a story about redemption as it is horror, it's a book that can step into other genres. Was this your intention?
      Absolutely.  Like MIDNIGHT RAIN (my first novel), UGLY AS SIN really isn't a horror story at all, per se.  And I didn't mean for it to be.  I've been calling UGLY "white trash noir", or a Southern thriller with a streak of pitch-black humor.  I liked to read stories in that genre, so naturally I enjoy writing them too.  That said, everything I write will always be very dark.  I don't think I could turn that off if I tried!   

7) Tell me a little about your other titles: ANIMOSITY, MIDNIGHT RAIN, and PEOPLE ARE STRANGE.
     ANIMOSITY is my "love letter to the horror genre", my most "personal" novel to date.  I'm really excited to see its release in trade paperback and audiobook next month.  ANIMOSITY is about a horror writer who finds the body of a murdered child while he's out walking his dog one morning.  Because of what he writes for a living, his neighbors start to turn on him, until eventually his life is in danger.  I think ANIMOSITY says a lot about how the "normal people" view those of us who dig this stuff, and asks the question, "What if your love of 'things that go bump in the night' put your life in danger?"
     MIDNIGHT RAIN is a coming-of-age thriller in the vein of STAND BY ME and Robert R. McCammon's BOY'S LIFE (my all-time favorite novel).  It was my first, and still holds a very special place in my heart.
     PEOPLE ARE STRANGE is my first -- and only, to date -- short story collection.  All of the stories in this one are about the crazy things people are capable of, no supernatural element at all.  I tend to write about that more and more these days -- how WE are the monsters -- because I think people can be the most terrifying fiends of all, sometimes.

8) Your latest, 666 HAIR-RAISING HORROR MOVIE TRIVIA QUESTIONS is an awesome compendium of horror trivia which will delight and stump even the most knowledgeable genre fans. What made you want to write this book?
     I've loved horror movies as far back as I can remember.  And I love trivia.  I also love being a huge show-off film nerd.
     I've been working on this project off and on for several years.  Finally, it came to be!

9) I've seen so many reviews and comments in which readers simply can't wait for your next novel. I happen to be in that crowd as well, so fess up: what are you working on now?
     At the moment, I'm about 3/4 of the way through a collaborative novella -- which actually might be a short novel by the time we're done with it -- with my good friend Mark Gunnells.  It's a coming-of-age horror novel called DOG DAYS O' SUMMER.  We're having so much fun with it, and can't wait for folks to read it.
     I've also been slowly but surely getting started on a follow-up to UGLY AS SIN, a new book featuring disfigured ex-wrestler Nick "The Widowmaker" Bullman. 

10) Ordinarily I would ask what some of your favorite horror films are, but in this case I will ask you about favorite horror books and/or authors.  Any lesser-known favorites to recommend?
     My favorite books:  the aforementioned BOY'S LIFE by Robert R. McCammon, LIGHTNING by Dean Koontz, CAGE OF NIGHT by Ed Gorman, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jack Ketchum, and CHRISTINE and THE SHINING by Stephen King.
     My favorite writers:  King, Joe Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Richard Matheson, Ray Garton, Bentley Little, Thomas F. Monteleone, Robert R. McCammon, and the short work of Nancy Collins.
     EVERYONE should be reading Gillian Flynn.  She makes me murderously jealous, she's so damn good.

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