Scott, I met you from Nana's Apocalypse radio show on the Prepper Broadcast Channel. We were part of her guest panel on prepping for the End of Days. What are your feelings about being prepared?
I’m not a prepper or a doomsdayer. I do think it’s important to be prepared for a natural disaster and/or civil unrest. Living in Florida, where we’re prone to hurricanes, I’d be stupid not to. However, unless you live out in the country where you can get away with being self-sufficient, I can’t see preparing beyond any event that would last more than four weeks in duration (the stockpiling of water, canned goods, and ammunition being the exception). I know people who are preparing for civil unrest and possible military intervention by the government. Yet if the super volcano under Yellowstone erupts and covers half the country in ash, or if a super virus infects its way from coast to coast, most of those plans will be useless. Myself, I think the best plan is to prepare to be on your own for one month, to have adequate means to defend yourself from looters and criminals, and, most importantly, to be adaptable and deal with the situation as it develops if the crisis extends beyond a month.
Do you guest on a lot of radio shows? Not as frequently as I’d like to. I enjoy doing them, and hope to do some more in the coming months.
Have you always wanted to be an author? As far back as I can remember. Even as a little kid I was writing short stories in a pocket notebook or using construction paper to make my own monster magazines. In college, whenever I was assigned a term paper my professors had to remind me to keep my project within the specified page range (though a few did let me write as much as I wanted to because they enjoyed the way I made history come alive). Being a published author is literally a dream come true for me.
How has your former position at the CIA influenced your writing? Not in the ways that you would think. I spent much of my career with the Agency proof reading intelligence reports prior to dissemination, which provided me with strong editing skills and experience in using clear, precise language. I’ve also traveled a lot for the government, and many of the locations I’ve visited have made their way into my books. Other than that, my careers in the Agency and as a published writer are two separate aspects of my life.
Why horror? With your background, I would have guessed techno/politico/historical thriller type of book like Brad Thor. Do you like CIA thrillers? Back in the late 1990s I had written a techno-thriller about North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons and using them to threaten the United States (in the days when that concept was fictional) and had been shopping the manuscript around when 9/11 occurred. Several big name publishers loved the book, but after the attack on the World Trade Center the market for those types of novels had dried up. I didn’t want to give up on my dream, so I switched genres and began writing horror, which I had been a fan of all my life (I’m a proud Monster Kid). That’s where I found my niche.
I used to love CIA thrillers. In college I read Clancy, Ludlum, Le Carre, and anyone else I could get my hands on. That changed after I was hired by the Agency. While most of the books were entertaining, very few of them passed the guffaw factor (like a CIA analyst single-handedly helping a Soviet submarine to defect, then flying into Colombia to defeat a drug cartel, and then becoming President). After a while I stopped reading thrillers because I lost interest in them and concentrated on history and horror. (When we were first dating, Alison asked me why I didn’t read spy novels. I looked at her and, in my best Pee Wee Herman imitation, said “I don’t have to read about it, Alison. I lived it.”)
Do you use a lot of research for your books? I do major research, even for my short stories. Nothing turns off readers quicker than if you get the facts incorrect, whether it’s how many rounds of ammunition a particular weapon can hold, the lingo used by police or the military, or something as simple as placing a monument on the wrong side of the street in a certain city. I’ve been very fortunate in that I know scores of people who have volunteered their expertise, read certain sections of my novels, and corrected my mistakes. The plus side is that you get to see some really cool stuff. Several scenes in The Vampire Hunters: Vampyrnomicon take place in the sewers beneath Washington D.C.; I actually got to accompany one of the sanitation crews on their morning inspection so those scenes would be realistic.
Who do you read? Name some of your favorite books. What made them great? My reading is rather eclectic. It jumps from certain graphic novel series and genre magazines that I follow regularly to histories of World War II to horror novels. I’ll read anything about the Nazi occult and the senior Nazi leadership; I’m pulling a lot of this information together for a future series of books I want to write that pits Nazi occultism against the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
As for my favorite books, those would be the ones that excited my imagination so thoroughly I stayed up way past my bedtime two or three nights in a row to finish them, and can still remember them like I read them yesterday. They include:
-- Ed Lee’s Infernal trilogy: This series developed the concept of Hell as a small town Satan had established when banished from Heaven that over the millennium had grown into a thriving metropolis with a mayor, districts, police, etc. but with all the torments one would expect from the underworld.
-- Max Brooks’ World War Z: Max revitalized the zombie genre. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good zompoc novel where a small group of people in a defined location battle thousands of the living dead. By making his novel an “oral history” of the war from outbreak to final victory, Max put the zombie apocalypse on a level I had never seen before. World War Z was a major influence on my own zombie novels.
-- Ryan C. Thomas’ Hissers: All I’ll say about this book is if you like zombies and you like monsters, and you want to have no idea what’s going to happen next, then this is the book for you.
Your wife is also a writer. Are you both competitive in terms of sales/reviews/promotion/etc.?Actually we complement each other quite well, so there is no competition in our professional relayionship. My wife, Alison Beightol, has written Blood Betrayal and Blood Beginnings which chronicles the political dealings of a secret vampire society. Alison’s vampires want to live among humans; mine see humans as blood-filled Happy Meals. Usually readers who like one subgenre are not fans of the other. When people stop by our table at conventions, if they’re interested in True Blood-like vampires I direct them to Alison; if they’re looking for bad-ass vampires or zombies, she directs them to me.
Any advice for new writers? Write every day, even if it’s only for half an hour, and even if you think what you wrote sucks; the only way you’re going to hone your writing skills is by practicing it constantly. Learn to accept well-founded constructive criticism; nothing you write is so perfect that it can’t afford to be revised or cut out entirely. Develop a thick skin. The more you write, the more rejection letters you will get, and the more you publish, the more bad reviews you will receive. It is part of the job, so learn to ignore it and don’t take it personally. Most importantly, do not give up. Writing is the most frustrating, ego-mangling career you can choose, but if you’re good at what you do and are persistent, you will get published.
What is your typical writing schedule? Usually I get up around and check my email and Facebook while having breakfast (on days when I don’t have to take my daughter to school I get to sleep in until ). After that, I write from . When everyone goes to bed around , I write for another two hours while watching horror movies, and then check out the Internet and Facebook before crashing around . Thank God for afternoon naps.
What makes your vampires in The Vampire Hunters trilogy different than other vampire books? My vampires are pure evil, like in Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night or John Steakly’s Vampire$. Mine have their roots in the old classic Universal and Hammer films in which they were monsters with no redeeming values. However, unlike many books that portray the undead as two-dimensional monsters, I breathe life into my vampires (pun intended). My vampires are well developed characters who are integral to the plot. They have their own characteristics, their own motivations, and their own back stories that I tell through flashbacks. I don’t expect my readers to adore my vampires like Lestat or Edward. But I owe it to my readers to give them villains who are interesting.
Imagine HBO picking The Vampire Hunters for a new series. Who would play your main characters? Nathan Fillion (Serenity, Slither) would play Drake Matthews and Joanne Kelly (Warehouse 13) would play Alison Monroe.
|Nathan Fillion would make a great Drake Matthews!|
Where would the show be filmed? In Washington D.C. and northern Virginia.
What are you working on now? I have the second book in The Vampire Hunters trilogy coming out this September as well asYeitso, which is my homage to the big monster movies of the 1950s that I loved as a kid. I’m finishing the first draft of Rotter Apocalypse, the third book in my zombie trilogy (the second is with the publisher). I’m also working on a series of young adult, post-apocalyptic books tentatively titled Hell Gate that centers around a sixteen year old boy, the guilt he feels over his mother’s scientific experiment having created portals between earth and Hell, and his efforts to close those portals.
Please share an excerpt and your links.
The except is from Yeitso, which will be released in September by Blood Bound Books
“Someone’s out there.”
Jackie wiped her hand against her pants. “Can you see him?”
“Is it Red Cloud?” She slid back against the car door and cowered.
“If it is, I’ll teach that Injun a lesson he’ll never forget.” Ben reached into the back seat, grabbed a baseball bat, and opened the driver’s door. He stepped out onto the sand and pushed the door shut. Holding the bat in his right hand, he tapped it against the palm of his left. “Who’s there?”
A rustling came from the bushes.
The noise stopped.
“Red Cloud, come out now while you have a chance!”
The rustling resumed.
“That’s it, you son of a bitch! Your ass is mine!”
Ben gripped the bat with both hands and, holding it ready to swing, headed into the brush.
Jackie listened, but with the car windows rolled up she couldn’t hear a thing. Inching across the front seat, she turned the ignition to the auxiliary position, leaned across the driver’s side, and lowered the window. She could only hear the wind blowing across the desert. She strained to see through the dark, hoping to catch sight of Ben. Maybe she should call out to him and make sure—
A shrill noise shattered the silence. It resembled a clicking sound, only high-pitched and rapid, constantly changing in tone. Then she heard Ben scream but not in anger. His cry had that piercing quality that only comes from fear. A moment later, a loud whoosh cut through the night, almost like a fire extinguisher going off, followed by a howl of pain.
Jackie panicked. She jammed down the window control, but the damn thing wouldn’t close fast enough. Something barreled through the brush, heading straight for the car. She pushed the control harder in a futile attempt to make the window rise faster. It slid shut just as the figure slammed against the outer surface. Jackie yelped and jumped back, cracking her spine against the passenger door. She expected to see Red Cloud glaring at her. Instead, something wet pushed against the glass. For a second, she couldn’t figure out what. Then a hand clawed at the window and a face pressed against it. Despite the melted and distorted features, she recognized Ben.
“Help me,” he rasped before collapsing. As he slid down the side of the car, he left a streak of gore along the glass.
Jackie screamed. Turning around, she yanked on the handle, but it wouldn’t move. She banged on the glass and continued jerking the handle. The door popped open on the fourth attempt. Jackie jumped out and took off across the desert. She had no idea where she was heading. All she knew was that she had to get away from there, to put as much distance as possible between herself and….
The high-pitched clicking started up again, only this time much closer. Glancing to her left, Jackie saw something lumbering toward her. She couldn’t make out any details in the dark other than a large shadow bearing down on her, too close to avoid. Something wrapped itself around her abdomen and crushed. The pain was excruciating, and she was sure her hip bones shattered under the pressure. Sensory overload drove her into shock. Her screams choked off into a whimper. Her bladder and bowels emptied. Her vision went black. Thankfully, for Jackie, she quickly slipped into unconsciousness.
The last sensation she experienced before passing out completely was of being dragged across the sand, further into the desert.
Scott, great excerpt!!!! Thanks so much for being my guest!!!