Conversations With Dead Serial Killers
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, HORROR FAMILY!
I just finished Ashley R. Lister’s novel, Conversations With Dead Serial Killers, and I don’t believe I could have read this book at a more relevant time. The internet is rife with controversy over the recent Dahmer series. In the newly released horror movie, Terrifier 2, there’s a dinner table conversation in which the sister scolds her brother for dressing as a real-life murderer for Halloween. Every year at this time, as we embrace the “spooky season” vibe, we also ponder that fine line between tragedy and entertainment. Our Halloween traditions are a balancing act between honoring the dead and celebrating the monsters who hunt and kill them.
In Ashley Lister’s horror novel, Conversations With Dead Serial Killers, this same moral struggle is presented as we follow two con-artist brothers who exploit the deceased for profit. Derek and Clive Turner are not the most likeable guys, but a dastardly duo who’ll keep those pages turning! While Derek feigns psychic abilities and pretends to communicate with the dead, pocketing undeserved money from their surviving loved ones, Clive’s obsession with serial killers escalates to fatal proportions. This book is unique in that we’re not rooting for the main characters to overcome adversity or rise above. We are rooting for their demise. Even as antiheroes go, these siblings are a couple of bad apples who don’t inspire much empathy on the part of the reader. That’s not to say this book isn’t inspiring. It is a thought-provoking concept; the pace was 100% perfect for me, personally, and Lister understands how to use blood and gore without losing the plot to it.
There are a handful of interesting characters who play a lesser role in this depraved downward spiral of a plot, and honestly, they felt pretty real. That tells me they were written well, no matter how small their individual parts. My favorite was Sam (and I imagine a fan favorite as well), a ghost who’s come back from the dead to haunt these assholes and set them straight!
Conversations with Dead Serial Killers is sprinkled with so many fun facts about serial killers that even if you think you know it all, you’ll find a brand new nugget of trivia somewhere in these pages. Most importantly, though, it tries hard to remind us that these murderers and their victims were fact, not fiction. It makes the reader question why we put these scuzzbuckets in the limelight… while simultaneously putting them in the limelight. Seriously… horror fam, true crime fam, what is wrong with us? Lol.
I really enjoyed reading Conversations With Dead Serial Killers. I don’t have a rating system, but since it’s Halloween, I’ll give it 5 out of 5 pumpkins. Please, do check this book out for yourself! And before you go, get to know the author below!
Until next time, stay safe out there, boils and ghouls!
Ashley Lister is a prolific writer of fiction across a broad range of genres. He’s written more than one hundred short stories, articles and academic papers, and is currently working on his 63rd full length novel. Aside from regularly blogging about writing and reading, Ashley also teaches creative writing in the North West of England. He has completed a PhD in creative writing where he looked at the relationship between plot and genre in short fiction. Ashley’s current writing is an exploration of the horror genre which includes his series of novellas exploring his own interpretation of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth, the highly acclaimed Raven & Skull, a study in the horror of working in an office, and Conversations with Dead Serial Killers, a story about society’s obsession with the darkest souls.
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Posted in book review, dark, dark fiction, death, extreme horror, horror, horror books, novels, october, scary, scary stories, writing
Tags: dark literature, halloween, horror, horror author, horror fiction, horror novel, murder, murderers, novel, serial killers, true crime, writing
Interview with Kenneth W. Cain
Hello again, my wicked readers. The kiddos have gone back to school, so I’m going Back To Scares.
I was a ghost
who never did post.
I’ll soon be the host
who thrills you most.
Haha. Okay, that was an awful poem. Suffice it to say, I am breathing some much-needed life (and DEATH) back into this blog.
On today’s agenda, an amazing interview with author Kenneth W. Cain:
What draws you to dark fiction?
I was raised to be a fearful man, which has hindered my enjoyment of life. Somewhere in my teens I started rebelling against that fear, embracing my fears, rationalizing them. It was and still is very much a process. But, I suppose that confrontation sparked my interest in the unknown, as I’ve always had this need to expose the darkness. To shine a light on it in hopes of uncovering the unknown. There’s so much we don’t understand about ourselves, about this world, the deep ocean and darkest forest, space and beyond. It can make one feel very small and insignificant. That’s my draw.
Embers, your latest book of short stories, has received some awesome reviews. How many stories are included in the pages of Embers, and what inspired you to put this collection together?
There are 25 stories in Embers. That means it’s chock full of fun, and that’s always what I aim for, to make sure there’s something for everyone. And that’s part of the joy, seeing what stories jive with this person and that, what the takeaway is. For me, it’s a journey, all of this writing business. It’s the same with a collection. It’s all about laying bricks to a path that leads through a horrific garden. Each step has a precise space, that hopefully allows the reader to journey along with me. And if I’m successful in creating this walkway, maybe they see through my eyes, if only for a brief moment. That’s the fun of it.
You have written both short and long fiction. Does your process differ for each?
Well, I stumbled into this business in 2010 with These Trespasses, which actually began as a blog series believe it or not. At that point, I was far from finding any sort of stride, and I think the story suffered because of it. Same with some of my other earlier work, as I’d been away from this all too long, and had not progressed at all, and needed to rediscover myself. So I suppose it was originally more of a hobby for me then, sorry to say.
At some point more recently, I started falling in love with the written word again. Those who have spoken with me in person or on the phone know of my desire to learn more of the craft. It’s something that excites me, and I think that’s starting to bleed into my writing the correct way (pun intended). So there’s a process to my writing now, that more or less is me getting the story out, no matter how big or small, and refining it over edits for layering and tension and emotion, characterization and all.
To answer your question more specifically, it’s more about the story and less about the process. My characters lead me through, and only they know when their story has been fully told. I give them that control, give into the fiction. That’s actually helped me to a large degree I think, as I’m seeing through their eyes with more clarity these days.
Which part of writing is your favorite: outlining a plot, developing characters, crafting a setting, or writing dialogue?
Well, I’m a panser, so it wouldn’t be outlining. I’ve tried time and time again with no success. As for the rest, I suppose it’s more of a combination of those three. Dialogue is part of the characterization. Also, setting is a bit like a character in that we need to breathe life into it. There’s a look and feel to everything, a sound or sounds, and smells. It’s about hitting the senses to best create a painting of a real life scene with moving parts and feeling. When you hit it, with all the right beats, you know it, and that creation is a beautiful thing.
Which part/s do you struggle with?
Well that’s a tough question. I’d say I struggle with it all because I’m never really satisfied. At times, I’ll revisit something I’ve written in the past and rue over my mistakes. And yes, there’s always mistakes. Not necessarily in the sense of grammar or misspelling, but in layering and character flaws and dialogue, voice. Such has been the case as I dive back into my trilogy and revisit my earliest efforts. But that’s also been a rewarding process. This business is all about growth for me, and that in itself is an endless study.
Are you involved with any creative projects, aside from writing?
Creative is such a broad word, but yes. Many in fact. I perform much of the formatting and graphic design tasks for The Lovecraft eZine and others upon request. I’ve also been editing quite a bit lately, too. Occasionally, I’ll paint and/or draw. Art was one of my first passions. My reef tanks are also creative in a way, I suppose.
If you could sit and talk with any three authors, living or deceased, who would they be?
That’s a tough question, as there are so many whose minds I’d like to pick. Currently, though, I guess that would be Joe Hill, Shirley Jackson, and Richard Matheson.
What are your hobbies and interests when you’re not writing?
Well, my family is my biggest interest. I enjoy spending time with them, whatever we’re doing. But there’s also my reef tank and growing corals. Painting, riding my bike, going to the gym, baseball (I coach my son’s teams), the beach. Actually, a good friend enlightened me to see the beauty in anything long ago, and ever since, I tend to take interest in most anything, which isn’t always easy as you could imagine.
Are there any genres you’d like to attempt but haven’t tried yet?
I don’t read a lot of science fiction. I used to, so I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not always one who gravitates to what some classify as “hard” science fiction. Again, it’s not that I don’t like it, just that I don’t always prefer it. Maybe (occasionally) something gets lost in all that overly technical jargon and pulls me out of the story, I’m not certain. Whatever the case, I’d like to revisit that shelf (so to say).
What can we expect to see from Kenneth W. Cain in the near future?
Right now, I’m rewriting my trilogy. I’m not certain what I’ll do with it afterword, whether I’ll try to find another publisher or self publish the series, but I do need to put in the work. I’m also working on a young adult horror novella and two new novels among other shorter projects, and possibly a new collection. Editing wise, I’m doing some work for a small press right now, but soon (October 1st) I’ll be editing volume 5 of Crystal Lake Publishing’s Tales From The Lake series. That’s a project I’m really looking forward to.
Where can we find you on the web?
Most of my links to connect can be found here: https://kennethwcain.com/contact
Wow, what a fantastic interview. Thank you so much, Kenneth W. Cain!!!
Posted in author interview, dark fiction, horror books, horror fiction, literature, novella, novels, scary stories, short stories
Tags: author interview, dark fiction, horror author, horror presses, horror publications, novel, novella, scary stories, short stories, writer, writer interview
Interview with horror author Shaun Meeks
I’m participating in Blood Moon Rising – a month long tour of horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy authors hopping from blog to blog. 🙂 Today we’ll get to know writer Shaun Meeks and learn about the horrors he’s created. Shaun was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. He owns his own company and is a former semi-pro skateboarder, but penning tales of terror is his true passion. Let’s pick his brain, shall we?
Hi, Shaun. Thank you for joining us. I guess I’d like to start by asking: Why do you love the horror genre?
One of the main things I’ve always loved about horror, whether it’s watching it or reading it, is how good horror gets you right at the core and has a tendency to linger. We’re all afraid of something, and being able to tap into that primal fear is what I love to do. It’s also something I love to experience. Sitting in bed and reading a great story and feeling the need to put it down because it struck a nerve is something that most books just don’t do for me. A great example of that was when I read The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. I actually needed to stop and take breathers during it because I felt overwhelmed by what I’d just read. Not an easy thing to do.
Your novel, Shutdown, concerns one of my favorite topics: genetic experimentation! Can you explain a little about it?
Without giving too much away, the story starts with a dig in Egypt where a forgotten tomb is found. In it, there is something that is not fully human, but there are traces of what could be a man or woman there. A genetics company, GenCross takes the body and tries to replicate the DNA and give birth to a living specimen of the mummified corpse. In a way, using genetic experiments in a story is a way to play with the themes found in books like Frankenstein and many by H.P. Lovecraft, not to mention Stan Lee. The idea of how we “play God” and try to bring a new lifeform, find some missing key to evolution can be done in so many different ways, I think there are always fresh ways to build on the theme.
Your short stories are everywhere! Congrats. If you had to pick a short story to be read by someone who’s never read your work, which one would you choose?
My first thought is always to suggest Taut. It first appeared in Zippered Flesh 2 and is one of those stories that people really gravitated towards. Even Ellen Datlow added it to her list of honorable mentions in Best Horror of the Year 6. It’s pretty good at showing what I tend to do in stories, which is go inside the character’s head and draw out emotional as well as physical pain.
In the end though, it depends on what it is you like. For YA stories, there’s Angel in the High Tower, if you like ghosts, Despair. For people who like Victorian Steampunk I’d say Miriam and for war story lovers, The Soldier.
What is the hardest part about writing a novel?
Editing. I take as much time as I can with the editing process, but I tend to be the type of person who can go over and over a story and change it each time. Even if I read it ten times over, I will want to add and cut things.
What scares you?
That’s a tough one. I’ve spent my life trying to face many of my fears as best I can so they aren’t there, but if I’m sitting around and look over and see a bug crawling on my arm, you’d see a less than cool and calm Shaun freaking out to get the damn thing off. I think that is part of why the scene in Taut is so accurate. I know how parts of it feel.
As far as any other fears, I guess the idea of isolation to a point (as an introvert, a big part of me always seeks isolation, but not too far), failure and drowning. When I was a kid, I nearly died in Lake Ontario. I was three or four, and can still see it now. I managed to get my stubby legs tangled in seaweed, tripped and couldn’t get back up. I fought and fought and after swallowing four disgusting mouthfuls of water, I stood up. My parents didn’t even notice it, but I never forgot it.
Some of the “future works” listed on your website include screenplays. As an author, I’d love to discuss this with you because I, too, have an interest in writing screenplays. What drew you to the idea? Do you have any specific plans for the production of your scripts once they’re complete?
Sometimes, when I come up with an idea and start to play with it and see what is the best medium to use to make it come out right. Sometimes it’s a short story, a novella or a novel. Other times it might be a graphic novel. A few times, it’s been screenplays. I wrote my first screenplay back in 1992. It wasn’t a horror piece, but more of an ode to Hong Kong action flicks. A big shoot ‘em piece. Not sure what happened to it, but it was fun to write and I always promised myself I would write another one day. The one that I currently have partial done, is a horror-comedy. The idea is something more akin to Troma or old school 80’s horror and the only way it would work, in my eyes, was as a movie. I’ve been writing it to keep a low budget in mind so I could produce it myself, or with some friends. There are some truly insane scenes in this that I would love to see come to life and I think it would be one of the first times people would see the sense of humor I have, so fingers crossed.
What are your favorite horror movies?
That’s one of the harder questions. I grew up watching horror movies in the 80’s, so I’m always drawn to them. I loved the serious toned ones, the funnier ones and just bizarre movies. For that era, I’d have to say some of my favorites are Brain Damage, From Beyond, Night of the Creeps, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Fright Night, Nightbreed and Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead).
A lot of people hate on the new horror out, but I can think of some real gems over the last few years. I’ve tended to look at more foreign horror as well, since there seems to be some real gold coming from all over the world. I think some other favorites would be Clive Barker’s Dread, Martyrs, Ichi the Killer, The Babadook, Oculus, May, Three Extremes, The Descent, and if I keep going, this would go on forever.
This is another list that could go on and on, but over the years I’ve always tried to keep it to a list of ten. One of the best things about this list though, is how it’s always changing. Depending on what I’ve been reading as of late and the mood I’m in, the list can vary. For right now I think it would be as follows: Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Elmore Leonard, Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Lebbon, Edward Lee, Jack Ketchum, Ray Bradbury and Caitlin R. Kiernan. I’ve had it pointed out that Elmore Leonard seems to be an odd choice in the group, but I’ve learned a lot from him as a writer and he has played a role in how I’ve developed my own style.
I have to mention the anthology Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror because you and I both have stories in it! I really enjoyed yours, entitled “Perfection Through Silence”, and one part in particular made my toes curl because I could almost feel the character’s pain from his injuries. The story had a nice balance between gore and suspense. My question is: Do you decide beforehand how much gore a story will have (a lot, a little), or do you just let the bloody details work themselves out?
Thanks for the mention of Perfection Through Silence. That was a fun one to write and is a great example of the process I go through. When I’m writing a story, much of the details like gore, violence, suspense and even how it ends, never come into play until I’m writing. I tend to be one of those people that will start off with an idea or just an opening sentence and I go from there. I explained that to a friend once and he thought it was strange, told me it sounded too much like the story writes itself, and in a way, he was right. I think if you go into something, meaning to make it over the top and super gory, it could backfire. At least that’s how it is with my process. Everyone is different. I tried to write a bizarro piece for a magazine, the only idea was to make it really over the top and it just didn’t come out that way at all. I learned a long time ago to just let things go the way they want, to let the blood run free.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever written?
That is actually an easy one. Whenever someone mentions my story Treats from At the Gates of Madness, they usually add in “what the hell were you thinking/smoking/drinking?”. To be honest, it was a story that got away from me. Originally, it was only supposed to be about a lonely man on Halloween night, watching humans disguised as monsters running the street when in the end he was a monster disguised as a human, hiding in his house and memories. Somewhere along the way, I decided to go down another road and there was Treats. If you’ve never read it, it’s not an easy one to get through as there is some very strange, disturbing and disgusting subject matter in it. That’s all I can say on it, hate to be one to spoil it for anyone curious.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on the edits of a new novel called Maymon. It’s a crime/occult/end of days horror novel full of monsters, demons, zombies, killers of the human kind and mayhem. Should be fun.
I also just started the second novel in the Dillon the Monster Dick series. This one, Earthbound and Down is a follow up to the soon to be released The Gate at Lake Drive and continues the story-line of Dillon, a monster/demon hunter.
On top of all that, I’m putting the finishing touches on Dark Reaches, my third short story collection due out in August, and seven different short stories. I tend to write 3000-5000 words a day and go back and forth between projects to keep it all as fresh as I can.
Where can we find you on the web?
My website is www.shaunmeeks.com
I can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Shaun-Meeks/106128562748355
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShaunMeeks
On Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100357493474555506507/posts
On Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5818641.Shaun_Meeks
On Amazon: www.amazon.com/Shaun-Meeks/e/B007X5KZLO/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1430468112&sr=8-2-ent
On Tumblr: http://shaunmeeks.tumblr.com
Thanks so much for the great questions. This was a blast!
My pleasure, Shaun. I look forward to reading more of your work.
Posted in author interview, dark, gore, horror fiction, scary stories, science fiction, short stories, supernatural, thriller, writers, writing
Tags: author, dark literature, fiction, horror, horror author, horror fiction, interview, monsters, novel, prose, scary, short story, writer