Ben Monroe has spent most of his life in Northern California, where he lives in the East Bay Area with his wife and two children. He is the author of In the Belly of the Beast and Other Tales of Cthulhu Wars, the Seething, the graphic novel Planet Apocalypse, and short stories in several anthologies.
You can find more information about him and his work at www.benmonroe.com
What drew you to horror and paranormal themes in your stories?
The main reason is that horror is so fun to write! Remember telling ghost stories at slumber parties to spook your friends, until you’re all squealing with fear and laughter and don’t want to go to the bathroom alone? It’s an adventure! Horror gets the adrenaline pumping and the nerves tingling, and I love trying to craft a story that does that for others.
Secondly, I’m a catastrophic thinker. Probably because I’m a mom, but we can’t go anywhere without me thinking, “Okay, what’s the worst thing that could happen here? How could we all die?” I’ve tried to write other genres but that type of thinking turns a sweet romantic scene into an axe-murderer horror.
Thirdly, I find that Horror provides us with the ability to explore and process real-life trauma whether in a monster-as-metaphor sense or just through actual real-life scenarios. I think that’s the beauty of the genre for me.
2. Are there elements you feel are required in this genre?
Anticipation. Survival. Mystery.
No matter what the threat is—supernatural, alien, slasher—the reader needs to feel a sense of anticipation. Suspense needs to build scene after scene.
There also needs to be real stakes. People could die, vanish into the void, etc. Horror isn’t scary if nothing bad actually happens to people.
We also fear what we don’t know, so there needs to be a sense of mystery about the threat and the events taking place. That’s actually one of the hardest parts of reading or writing horror. In the ending, when the monster becomes known, it can feel like a bit of a letdown. Once we know what we face, it’s not quite as scary. Michael wears a mask for a reason.
3. Where do you find your ideas?
I spent my teen years in a small town that, like most small towns, was full of urban legends and ghosts. Probably because there wasn’t much to do there but go out into the boonies and scare ourselves. A lot of my writing is based on those stories and experiences, just in a very exaggerated way.
I’m also a total fraidy-cat. Driving down the road at night, I can get freaked out by something on the side of the road only for it be an electrical box. Moments like that will wind up in a story, though it won’t be an electrical box in the end!
4. Why is Halloween so special to you?
My daughter and I were talking about this just the other day and she said it’s her favorite holiday because you never outgrow the magic of Halloween. Which is very true! We all outgrow Santa, Easter is a drag after a few years, but no matter what age you are, spooks and haunts and killers can still scare you. And there’s just something in the air at fall! A spooky, creepy feeling in the change of weather and the crackling of leaves and the days getting shorter. The world feels different, like anything could happen. It’s a good time to light some candles, watch a scary movie, and cuddle up at home.
5. Can you tell us a little about The Prisoner of Stewartville – its inception and creation.
My mom started a job in HR for the Federal prisons here in Arizona when I was twelve. Soon after, we attended a Company Day picnic at the actual prison, and I’ll never forget how weird it was to be barbecuing hot dogs and playing tag while prisoners walked along the perimeter of the fence twenty yards away. Little pitchers also have big ears and over time I picked up on bits and pieces of work conversations that were horrifying. Later we moved to a much smaller town where prison did feel like a larger part of our everyday life and when I visited there again a few years ago, I just knew I had to write about it. Of course, the actual town was nowhere near as bad as Stewartville, but that’s the fun of horror!
6. Where is your special writing space?
I write on my phone, so anywhere and everywhere. On the couch while we watch TV, in bed, out on the patio, while I’m waiting in the school pick up line. In the middle of cooking, if a great idea for a scene comes to me.
7. Which authors have influenced you the most?
Oh wow, so many. The other day my husband and I actually stumbled on the movie Communion with Christopher Walken and almost simultaneously we both freaked out, like, “Omigod! I remember reading that book as a kid! It was terrifying!” And then we had a long conversation about the books we had to hide when we went to bed like Amityville Horror, It.
Having read all my life, the list went back a long way. I mean, my writing is still influenced by the Sweet Valley Twins Halloween specials I read as a kid. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, R.L Stine’s Fear Street. Stephen King. One of my absolute favorite literary ghost stories is Toni Morrison’s Beloved and I do hope my stories have some of that literary element to where reality can feel just as impactful as the supernatural.
That’s the great thing about good horror, though. It all influences you.
8. Are you working on a new project? Can you reveal anything about it?
I’m currently working on a companion novel to Prisoners of Stewartville. I can reveal that the POV is that of a minor character in the last book, and that we’ll see what happened to a fan favorite whose fate wasn’t shown at the end of the original.
9. Do you prefer to write a stand-a-lone novel or a series? Why?
I realized recently that I like to tell stories that happen within the Stewartville universe. Devil’s Dip, a short story of mine that appeared in Midnight in the Graveyard anthology, was about a character who had grown up in Stewartville, though the story itself didn’t take place there.
10. How can readers find you?
I’m not as good about social media as I should be, but I do post occasionally on Twitter at @ShannonNova3 !
Shannon Felton lives in Buckeye, Arizona with her husband, their four children, and three dogs. The Prisoners of Stewartville is her debut novella. Follow her on Twitter @ShannonNova3
P.S. You can find Shannon’s stories in several anthologies as well.
As most of you know, I love writing prompt’s and some of my novels have started as, or incorporated prompts in one way or another. As host of the writing group’s monthly sharing meeting, I assign ‘homework’ for attendees. This month’s prompt was to incorporate a potion of some sort, after all it is Halloween month. This was my response, I hope you like it.
Thin clouds drifted across the twilight sky, obscuring, then revealing the full moon’s light on the small hut and earthen track leading up to it. A lone wolf’s howl echoed in the forest, startling large black crows into flight from their roost, their noisy cawing disturbing the earlier still night air. A rickety cart crunched the dry earth as its inhabitant and the old horse pulling it, neared the hut. Wrapped in threadbare cloth and barefooted, the rider pulled at the reins and let out a sigh. To any observer the rider was an old crone, bent almost double, a large hump on her back, only her face, feet and hands uncovered, which were veined and wrinkled. She picked up a wicker basket covered by a velvet cloth and descended from the cart. Patting the horse as she passed, it changed shape, diminished in size and became a fox before scurrying away.
With shuffling steps, the crone opened the wooden door and entered the ramshackled hut. Candles flickered into life at the passing of her hand, and a fire blazed into being. After placing the basket on a wooden table worn to a shine and scarred with use, she discarded the old cloth to reveal an ebony velvet cloak. Slippers of the same colour appeared on her feet and her hair tumbled down her back in dark locks. Anyone seeing her now, as a young woman, would never think she was the old crone peddling in the walled city streets. She guarded her secret well.
One again, she had accumulated the ingredients for her secret potion. The first step was to soak the gathered fungi, and night lily root in lamb’s blood overnight. This was the basis of the elixir; one she had perfected over the last century or more. Her age was a mystery even to her now. So many renewals, so many moves to walled cities across the land, once again she would move to avoid any inquisitive questioning. She pulled a brass covered wooden box from a shelf and unlocked it. The vial inside shone with iridescence, there was just enough for the next potion. Her renewal would give her time to travel to the cavern deep within a cliff beside the ocean on the western most edge of the kingdom of Udizan. There she would refill the vial from the source, her most guarded secret. A pool of shining liquid, it’s origin unknown, but it’s effects powerful, when combined with the other ingredients. She placed the vial back in the box, turned the key and returned the treasured possession back on its shelf. As she turned, she cast a spell to protect the hut from any intruder and went to bed. In the morning, she would begin the ritual, adding all the items of the recipe, then drinking the elixir before leaving this hovel to find another place, another city, another ‘life’ among mortal beings.
She lay down as images of her multiple past existences came to mind – cities blended into one, faces merged and became indistinct, memories too many to define. She let out a sigh of despair – did she really want to live yet another life? The secret would die with her unless she could find someone worthy. Was that so impossible? How would she begin? Her troubled thoughts plagued her once again. Was it really such a great thing to live forever?
Do you have a favorite Halloween story? Care to share?
What drew you to thrillers and suspense as genres?
I have always loved thrillers, suspense, and mysteries. I remember watching shows like Cadfael with my mom when it came on Masterpiece Theater when I was growing up. I suppose I got it from her. She always had a love of mysteries. I’ve tried my hand by this point in multiple genres, and thriller is hands down my favorite. I can make it as light or as dark as I like, there is no formula, and I make my own rules when it comes to my story. I found that I thrive here and plan to stay!
Why did you switch from romance?
I wrote romance first because quite frankly, I was afraid to try writing a thriller. They seem so much harder, more daunting, and difficult to line out when you compare them to something formulated like romance. After my first few books, I got brave and tried my hand at it, writing Crazy Love, my romantic thriller crossover novel that launched me into the darkness where I reside happily now deep in the depths of thrillerdom. I was never comfortable writing romance, it just wasn’t me.
Would you write a standalone novel? What would your chosen genre be?
I have written a few of them, actually. Lucifer’s Game, Crazy Love, and my current work in progress is a stand-alone thriller that’s only weeks away from being put lovingly into my agent’s capable hands. My new book is a dark psychological thriller, but it is not a Deadly Sins novel.
Do you have a favorite character in your series and, if so, who and why?
Men are my favorite characters to dig into and write. I wish I could tell you why, but I don’t know. I think to date, my favorite one to write was Cain, in the Deadly Sins novel, Break My Bones. He was so layered and complex, and his motivations were fun for me to explore. His twisted history and relationships and how things ended up for him when his real heart was revealed. He’s a bad guy, but in the end, you almost understand him. I loved writing his story.
Did any 911 calls you received while working, give you ideas for your stories?
Absolutely! The reactions and actions of callers that I spoke to, the effects it must have had on their lives and loved ones- whatever they might have been going through that day, it all makes the gears in my mind turn. Not to mention the mental illness we dealt with on a daily basis in callers. I’ve had some chilling and strange phone calls that I use as seed when I create the mental illnesses that I write into some of my characters.
Is there a central message within your stories?
No one is all good- or bad. As you get deeper into the stories you see the layers of the characters and realize that the “good guy” or victim in the tale might not be so good. Did they deserve it? Are they the cause of what’s happening to them? And the bad guy, just what was it that made them bad? It’s one of my favorite things to do when I create new characters.
Tell us a little about the relaunch of Crazy Love. What was the impetus?
Honestly, it was my publicist’s idea when I told him that we got the book a new cover for the five-year anniversary. I thought it was a great idea, the new cover is gorgeous, and the book was the one that launched me to where I am today. Crazy Love was fun to write, and it’s one of my favorite stories to date.
What is your writing process? A daily routine or a looser schedule?
I’m all over the place. This book I’m wrapping up now took me about a year, longer than anything I’ve ever done because I can’t force myself to write when I’m not in the right frame of mind. God bless those authors that can do that, I, however, cannot. I do my best work by waiting it out, as frustrating as it is. But I don’t have a method or writing area, I can write whenever, wherever I feel the need.
CRAZY LOVE The relaunch of the critically acclaimed novel by award-winning novel, Rachael Tamayo
A rich and well-respected man teetering on the brink of sanity. A beautiful young woman that thinks it’s a harmless crush. An obsession for a stranger will push a man to the brink of madness and force a woman to rethink everything she took for granted as safe. By the time she realizes what has really happened, it just might be too late. Top 10 finisher in the 2018 Greenlight Screenplay Adaptation Contest.
Other Books by Rachael Tamayo:
Rachael Tamayo is a former 911 emergency operator and police dispatcher. After twelve years in those dark depths, she’s gained a unique insight into mental illness, human behavior, and the general darkness of humanity that she likes to weave into her books. A formerly exclusive romance author tried her hand at thrillers in her award-winning novel, Crazy Love, and loved it so much that she decided not to turn back. Born and raised in Texas, Rachael lives in the Houston area with her husband of sixteen years, and their two small children.
Quite often we snack while we read, our choice of snack varies with our personal taste, but it may also reflect the genre we are reading. Here is a list of suggested comparable foods for several genres.
Romance – Red wine & dark chocolate covered strawberries or cherries. Chocolate or vanilla flavored foods are also popular. Hot chocolate for an alternative to alcohol. Smooth, rich or decandent foods are best.
Thriller – This snack is right up there and is a real mixture – popcorn with cinnamon, olive oil and pesto or mixed with M&M. You can imagine popping each morsel into your mouth in quick succession as the tension grows within the narrative.
Fantasy – Linking back to a childhood fantasy – Snow White, this pick is the ‘bad’ apple choice. Apples covered in cinnamon, honey, or caramel. Red velvet cookies. Hummus and pita chips or french fries with ketchup.
Comedy – Animal Crackers. Tea and biscuits/cookies.
Historical Fiction – Tea and crumpets (or scones or crackers). Charcuterie. Coffee