AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Joseph Sale

We have a second interview today, from those good folks at Blood Bound Books and their Burnt Fur anthology, author Joseph Sale. This interview is, in all honesty, in my top five favorite interviews of the year. He was so thorough and engaging, and I hope you enjoy his responses as much as I did.

Meghan: Hi, Joseph. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. It’s a pleasure to have you here today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Joseph Sale: I’m an author based in the UK, south of England. I grew up in a Lovecraftian seaside town that truly is the British Innsmouth! Full of existential dread, fish people, and drug trafficking. I’ve published probably over 30 books now, including books written under different names or ghost-written. I love fantasy, science fiction, and of course horror. I edit and write full time, but it has been an uphill battle to get to that stage! I’m also part of The Writing Collective, along with my partner in crime Ross Jeffery, so I also publish indie-fiction. Like yourself, I’m also really big on promoting writers. I feel there are so many real talents out there who’ve been neglected and I feel a duty to bring attention to them. I’m a gamer at heart, drunk on Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons, and Dark Souls.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Joseph Sale: This is a deliciously challenging question!

(1) I spent thirteen years in a tang shao tao temple learning a grueling form of Kung Fu that has left an indelible mark on me. This is 100% real. And of course I’ve written a book about it! I’d like to thank the neo-noir master and insanely good editor Richard Thomas for helping me get that book onto paper.

(2) I also spent sixteen or more years competing in fencing – or swordfighting. That was also a life-changing experience. I got to train with Hungarian masters and ex-army coaches; it was pretty wild, and, as someone who writes the odd sword and sorcery story, very useful for the combat scenes!

(3) To move away from physical stuff, not many people know I’m a hard anime and manga fan. I am obsessed with Attack on Titan, which I think I admit on my website, but it doesn’t stop there. Seven Deadly Sins, or Nanatsu no taizai, is another brilliant anime I watch religiously. The storytelling is just incredible. Most TV shows can barely do one character arc, and Seven Deadly Sins is out doing seven – more if you count the B-characters and villains. And each one hits with resonance and depth. DeathNote is another brilliant story, of course (I own the complete special edition black-manga collection). And anything by Junji Ito, Uzumaki probably being my favourite. A few years ago I took up learning Japanese and it’s been incredibly challenging, but I hope one day to read a Kobo Abe or Haruki Murakami novel in the original language.

(4) I write music and play piano and guitar. There are some truly terrible early tracks I did that are still lurking on YouTube somewhere. They are unbelievably bad. But, more recently, I’ve been scoring short films and musicals, and that has been an awesome and rewarding experience. I think it marks a transition from trying to be a rockstar as a teenager and not having even an ounce of the star quality needed, to, well, writing. Writing the music and being more in the background but still playing that key role (pardon the pun). My wife is a huge inspiration to me musically.

(5) I am a really big heavy metal fan. Avenged Sevenfold, Coheed and Cambria, Slipknot, and on a rainy day, Ankor, Breaking Benjamin, Starset. I do listen to other styles and genres. I’m a sucker for a really good ballad or a killer rap track. But I keep coming back to metal. Most people view it as “depressing” but I think the reverse: there’s something joyous and uplifting about that music. And metal artists never get enough credit for the complexity of their sound.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Joseph Sale: Wow, that’s a tough one. I’m a bit peculiar because I kind of largely skipped children’s books and went straight into heavy duty literature; the perks of having an awesome dad, who used to be an English teacher and who writes poetry. So, he got me reading Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Macbeth when I was about eight years old! We’d read them together, and I’d stop him every five seconds to ask what a word meant, but together we’d work through these epics and, of course, there was such a sense of achievement and understanding when we reached the end together. My mother contributed huge amounts to my reading as well, and is responsible for introducing me to 2000AD, David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, David Eddings, the kind of “fantasy OG” if I may be permitted such a phrase. And the book my mother and father overlapped on was, of course, The Lord of the Rings. That’s probably the first book I remember reading. I’ve read it three or four times now. Once as a very young kid, I mean five or six. I barely understood it, but was just awed by the majesty, the heroism, and remember my hair standing up on end so many times, not even sure why. I think it changed me forever. The book became a part of who I was. Then I read it again, a little older, more twelve or thirteen. And the third time, at university, eighteen or nineteen. I think I read it one time after that as well. But the third time was actually the charm, the best reading of it. I was finally ready for it, if that makes sense. And the metaphor for addiction was so powerful.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Joseph Sale: I used to be a “read one book at a time” kind of guy, but now I haven’t got time for the luxury of that, so I tend to have several books on the go at once. I’m currently reading and as yet unreleased book by Christa Wojciechowski. She is one of my favourite authors, and an absolute genius at creating psychologically rich and compelling characters. I’m in awe of her writing. If you haven’t heard of her, definitely check out her Sick trilogy.

I’m also reading another unreleased horror novel by Dan Soule (the perks of being an editor). He is another great indie-author, and his first book, Neolithica, I edited. It’s a really strong horror title that is more than it appears and kind of revives old-school King-style horror but also puts a new spin on it.

Lastly, I’ve just started re-reading Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism. I know with The Lord of the Rings example it sounds like I re-read books all the time, but it’s actually super rare. For me, only the very best books justify the time to read them twice or more. And my God, is My Best Friend’s Exorcism one of the best books I’ve ever read. Hendrix’s prose is unbelievable. The two principle characters, Abby and Gretchen, are so well fleshed out, and you care so much about them. Hendrix is at that level where you feel magic in the writing. So, I can’t wait to re-read it. I feel it’s an important benchmark for me as a horror writer.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Joseph Sale: Good question. I think because I kind of purport to be quite a stylist, and talk a lot about beauty in prose, most people don’t expect me to be a fan of, for example, bizarro novels. But I really am! I love Carlton Mellick III’s work, particularly Biomelt. That novel is batshit insane but totally full of heart. The way he shifts perspective in it is genius. And, it has one of the greatest names for a serial killer of all time: Porn Eyes. The character is called that because he’s watched so much holographic pornography that flickering lewd images have been scored onto his irises. I mean… what more do you need to hear? Buy the book now!

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Joseph Sale: This is always a tough question to answer, in some respects. Life doesn’t always throw you the epiphany moments that fiction deals with! The revelation can be more gradual. However, I used to want to be an actor. I did a lot of theatre and drama, and my Sixth Form studies (High School to my American friends) almost entirely consisted of drama-related studies. I did really enjoy being on stage, playing characters, the drama and life and vitality of it, but something felt like it was missing. I began to realise that I was more interested in the words being said than how I was saying them, if that makes sense. And this eventually led me to realise I wanted to tell stories, write the scripts, rather than necessarily be the mechanism by which the stories were interpreted or passed on. It was a subtle shift. Both are creative, but the acting in the end wasn’t for me long term. Although, having said that, a few things have come up, projects that have not yet seen the light of day, in which I may be “treading the boards” again (or in this case getting in front of a camera). You may have noticed I like to do lots of different things. I think the diversity is what’s kept me alive these last few years!

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Joseph Sale: I recently moved out of a tiny, one-room flat with my wife and we’re now finally enjoying a bit more space; I even have my own office! So, that office is now where I love to write. But I’m easy. Once I get into the flow, it’s hard to get me out; like I’m plugged into The Matrix.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Joseph Sale: Good question! Two things I often do. I start the session by re-reading and editing the last couple of paragraphs I wrote the session before. This eases me into the writing process so I’m not staring at a blank screen. Then, at the end of the session, I always write the first sentence of a new chapter. This means that when you come to sit down next time, you have the first line to kick you off! Apart from that, I have no unusual rituals. Lots of tea, sometimes music!

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Joseph Sale: Slowing it down. I have a tendency to write in a frenzy when I’m full of ideas, and sometimes this means I rattle through scenes and they don’t get the development they need, which I then have to laboriously fix in editing! But, if I’m able to “centre myself” a little bit, and slow down, it often produces better results. It’s hard, because riding the wave of excitement is good and means productivity, but I definitely have a tendency for economy rather than depth and whilst concision is important sometimes the reader needs that richness to fully feel a scene. I recently read China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station for the first time and it totally blew me away. I learned a lot about slowing down to take in the scenery and senses from that book. Of course, scenery is not just scenery, it can itself be a character or a way to reveal character!

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Joseph Sale: That is an interestingly worded question. I like it. This might sound a bit promotional, but it is genuinely my latest book, Return to the Black Gate. The reason being it’s the final entry in a trilogy, but not only that, it also draws together a kind of hidden (not-so-hidden anymore) inter-connected multiverse that spans throughout many of my books. I call it “The Sevenverse Saga”. This book ends that, as well, and says goodbye to some characters that have been with me for seven years or more and have cropped up in numerous books. It was immensely satisfying as well as sad. It’s the first time I’ve finished a novel and not immediately needed to start writing something else. I was actually at peace with myself for a long time afterward. It was eerie and strange, but kind of welcome.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Joseph Sale: Actually Christa Wojciechowski’s books inspired me a great deal. I bought the first Sick novel thinking it would be one type of story, a kind of sleazy body-horror, and it blew my away with its psychological depth, insight, and with how compelling the narrative was. I couldn’t stop reading. And I realised I had to up my game in terms of character development. She showed me the way with that really.

Eric Van Lustbader’s The Ninja and Black Heart are two really important books in terms of informing my writing stye. What I love about Lustbader’s work is he is so counter-cultural in terms of the trend towards “stark”, “stripped” prose. The kind of Cormac McCarthy / Lee Child effect of this hard-boiled narrative without any ornamentation. Lustbader is a poet, however. And he fearlessly writes about horror, sex, and taboos in a way I’ve never seen anyone else tackle. The Ninja and Black Heart will both haunt me forever, I think. There are some passages in there that are transcendental in their beauty but also terror. It’s a shame that people view him as pulp, or know him as the successor to Robert Ludlum (he continued the Bourne series), he’s so much more.

I won’t bore you with more gushing praise, as I mentioned them before, but The Lord of the Rings and My Best Friend’s Exorcism are both big influences too.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Joseph Sale: I think that’s an interesting question, because there is no definitive answer. For me, however, a good story is something that moves me emotionally. It has to land the final “catharsis” or emotional punch. If I don’t weep or feel my heart swell with joy, there was no purpose. For me, there’s nothing worse than a film that leaves me cold. Boring is worse than bad, in my view, because sometimes bad books or bad films have something underneath they’re trying to express that still gets you in some way.

And I think this draws out another point: the ending is so important. In a way, the ending is the story. Otherwise, why did we come all this way? There’s a shocking trend of botched endings right now (not to mention any particular TV series… cough cough) but I’m actually seeing it in a lot of books, too. People just don’t seem to know how to end their stories. It’s weird. There’s probably some sociopolitical or cultural psychological factor that is influencing this. Someone with more brains than me could do a study!

So, I would urge authors to really sweat the emotional resonance of their ending. Go for bittersweet, go for heartbreak, go for redemption, don’t be afraid of these big emotions. It’s better to try and fail, in my view. There’s nothing worse than the clever-dick “Character looks directly at the audience / camera and says, ‘Oh, you thought this story had meaning? Well, tough shit.’”

In the same way it’s harder to be emotionally real and sincere with people in real life without sounding corny (we Brits are terrible at sincerity, we’re too stuffy), it’s harder to be sincere in your writing, but the harder path is better in the long run.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Joseph Sale: I think the truthful answer to this is sin. I need them to be sinful in some way, or I don’t believe them. There’s also a trend at the moment for squeaky clean characters. We need characters with flaws! Only then can we be engaged in the journey to them perhaps overcoming their flaw, which is what character arcs are all about.

In terms of creating my own characters, a “tragic flaw” – or “hamartia” to use the ancient Greek term – is definitely up there as possibly the most important thing to consider. You might also want to consider the inverse: what are their strengths? And things get really interesting when you start to make the character’s weakness also the source of their strength.

So, for example, Craig Smiley is one of the key antagonists and sometimes protagonist of my Black Gate series. He is a killer and it’s his zealous belief that makes him so unstoppable. Truly, his belief creates the reality he wants and means he can overcome almost any obstacle. But it’s also his belief which blinds him to the true horror of who he is and what he’s done. And, at a plot level, blinds him to what the gods he’s serving are really doing. So, here we have an interesting conundrum. What happens when that weakness is “lanced” and he loses faith – therefore also losing his greatest strength? There is a lot more narrative room to play here.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Joseph Sale: This is a positively naughty question! I feel compelled to answer it honestly. Craig Smiley is almost certainly the character most like me. The serial killer… My dad has this brilliant phrase “monomaniac with a mission” and it’s so true. I am that monomaniac who never takes his eyes off the future. Often when people ask me what I’m doing, I quote the Blues Brothers “I’m on a mission from God”.

I’m very aware there’s a thin line that stops someone like me becoming someone like him. Smiley was an expression of my own madness and despair when I was trapped working at a call centre, answering 150 phone calls a day. I started to experience auditory hallucinations (waking up hearing a phone ringing where there was none, for example), and a general deterioration in my health and psyche. We start with Smiley in Gods of the Black Gate imprisoned in a high-security facility on Mars. Smiley then enacts an escape (this is on the back cover, so no spoilers). I think Smiley’s journey was a bit of a way for me to explore how angry and trapped and insane I was feeling. I wanted to escape that call centre, and eventually I did. The thing about Smiley is as evil as he certainly is, he genuinely believes what he’d doing is right, and as a result is strong and he is a survivor. And those qualities were what I needed. He taught me how to endure, in a way.

When I came to writing the final book about him, Return to the Black Gate, I had to end his story, and that was the hardest part, because in a way it felt like making a prophecy about myself.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Joseph Sale: I’ve created probably 90% of my own covers. That’s generally the way it goes in indie-publishing these days. Even in bigger publishing, actually. I know people with deals with the big five who have had a partner or friend create the cover for their book. Sounds insane, but publishers are cost-cutting wherever they can to survive.

I have created some really, really bad covers… But I’ve learned a lot from graphic designer friends and other professionals in this industry and now I’m quite proud of some of my efforts. I definitely get turned off by a bad cover. But worse, I get turned of by a bland cover. So many thrillers with bloody open windows on the front! I much prefer illustrative rather than photographic covers (I was in heaven reading Grady Hendrix’s non-fiction book Paperbacks From Hell, which showcased all the classic 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s horror covers!).

Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?

Joseph Sale: Wow, this question is almost too big to answer fully. I’ve learned so much. The learning is also far more universal than simply craft-related. It’s taught me how to be a better person. It’s taught me how to see things from other people’s point of view. You know, when you’re writing a character, and you’re really trying to inhabit their shoes (a little bit of the actor in me that hasn’t worn off I guess) you find yourself writing lines that then surprise you: Jesus, I never realised they would see it like this. I confess that when I was at university, that kind of age, I was not a very tolerant person. But writing has changed that. It’s helped me to see weakness and vulnerability and how it can be healed. Most of all, in myself.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Joseph Sale: The hardest scene I’ve ever had to write is in a book that I will probably never release called Against Such Reckless Hate. The whole thing is a metaphor for my journey out of depression in 2017. I am a character in the story who is kidnapped and taken to a warped world in which I’m being tortured by a Satanic doppelganger of myself. The fictional characters I’ve created and friends and family have to come to my rescue and daringly enter this world. Man, some of the scenes in that felt like neurolinguistic programming, like I was actually re-wiring my brain, but that’s what I intended, I guess. I had to shake myself out of these false narratives: that I was alone, that nothing I did meant anything, etc. There is a scene where a psychologist, who is a key “grey” character in the book, is finally the one to heal my broken mind by entering a labyrinth. That was unbelievably hard, every word like drawing blood, and still makes me tear up thinking about it, but it’s also probably some of the best writing I’ve ever done. Maybe one day I’ll share the book. But not this day!!

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Joseph Sale: Ahh, a challenging question. Writers are always the worst authority on their own work! I will give it a go, however.

I think ultimately what’s different about my work is what I’d call the “mythical dimension”. Lots of writers use fantasy, and blend genres really well. But that fantasy is purely conscious effort and not resonating from somewhere deeper. Lots of writers write stylish prose like I do. Lots of writers write dark pull-no-punches fiction, like I do. There are a few writers who use mythical tropes (Norse gods show up, or dragons, or demigods). But they don’t use mythic storytelling itself. They don’t pull from that deeper well of the unconscious, that kind of inchoate place where the raw stuff of creation resides. You have to go into that abyss to create myth. I can always tell when a writer hasn’t, when they’ve written the book from their head, with thinking, with conscious effort. Real stories don’t come from there (they can be refined from that place), they issue from a darker realm.

Myths are the archetypes imbedded in us. Narrative is at the core of who we are. Myths and theology define us and help us understand ourselves. The real myths tell us something about human nature. I try as hard as I can to tap into these myths. I don’t always get there, but when I do succeed, I think it’s what gives my work a slightly differently feeling. When you’re reading Gods of the Black Gate, you’re not just reading about a killer and a detective, you’re reading about something altogether more primeval and Jungian. I think the readers who so kindly reviewed it sensed that. Beneath one story is another older and more potent one that partly explains why we kill, why we hate, why we destroy. When you venture into the virtual reality escapism of Save Game, again, there’s a myth there beneath the surface. It’s not just about video-games. It’s about a journey into hell to save a loved one. It’s Orpheus, in some ways. So, I’m just not just trying to tell stories, I’m trying to create myths. Whether that is hubris doomed to fail remains to be seen!

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?

Joseph Sale: Book titles are like opening lines: they’re so, so important! However, I think for me an opening line is slightly more important. I can forgive a generic title, and I appreciate how hard it is to sum up a book from my own efforts. But a bad opening line is unforgiveable to me!

I think a book title is so difficult because it’s not only summing up your story for a reader, but also engaging with all those tricky and increasingly complex issues around what genre it is, how violent / graphic it might be, what audience it’s for. Stephen King famously said the original title for The Stand was The Second Coming, but his Tabitha King told him it sounded like a sex book so he changed it!

I must say, that unlike many writers, normally a title is one of the first things that comes to me, before or simultaneously with the story itself. Not always, but frequently. The title is then almost like a focal point for me, a kind of thematic lynchpin, that I can return to to stay grounded in what the story is really about.

I think the best way to come up with a title, and this is a big vague so I’m sorry, but is to consider what feels right. It can be super hard. But sometimes all the distractions of genre, audience, etc can make making a decision hell, and you can overanalyse it and end up with something that isn’t right at all. There’s something to be said for sticking to your gut.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Joseph Sale: Novels, all the way! I actually really struggle with short stories. They’re not as natural to me. I think I much prefer having the space to play with the characters and take them on these journeys. I’m obsessed by journeys in narrative, actually. People who have to go into some abyss to achieve something. It’s very difficult to do that in a short story.

The sense of achievement when finishing a novel is so much greater as well. It’s harder to do, of course, but there’s nothing like putting the final full-stop on a long novel and realising it’s done. It’s often an emotional experience for me. I’m a bit addicted to it if I’m honest.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Joseph Sale: I’ll try! So, my books are a mix of genres, what unites them is the feeling and mood and aesthetic, I guess. They’re very dark, but never without a ray of light, however small. I’ve experienced some disturbing and wonderful things, so there is always a supernatural dimension to my stories, because I have experienced the supernatural in a very real way, so I think ironically I am being truer to life’s weirdness. I write science fiction, fantasy, horror primarily. I am a sucker for a good redemption arc. My target audience are people who are open to exploring new genres, or genre crossovers, and perhaps fiction that is a little more on the literary and symbolic side of things. But having said that, I think story really is king, and I hope to deliver exciting tales regardless of whether you want to go deeper. You know, just because a book has symbolic metaphors and allegories, doesn’t mean it can’t also have massive robots destroying each other…

I think you’ll like my work if you’re into Philip K. Dick, China Mieville, Max Booth III, or Clive Barker. Barker I think is the most apt comparison in some ways because of the way he blends horror and fantasy (though I’m nowhere near as good as him, of course, not even on the same plane of existence!!!).

Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.

Joseph Sale: I’m glad you like anthologies! I think they’re awesome. They’re a bit of a niche in terms of readership, or it can feel like that sometimes, but I think they’re necessary and vital to the craft. For Burnt Fur, I saw the open call, and knew immediately I wanted to participate! I really like the books Blood Bound put out, particularly Alistair Rennie’s BleakWarrior, a surreal masterpiece that reinvents sword & sorcery in my view. I also loved The City by S.C. Mendes.

The theme of the anthology was furries and anthropomorphism, which is a subject that deeply fascinates me and tends to crop up quite frequently in my fiction without much prompting. I knew, however, that I wanted to pick a very unusual animal, not the standard furry-fare of bunnies, dogs, and the like.

At the same time that I was contemplating Blood Bound’s open call for submissions, I was playing a video-game called Nightripper by the one and only indie-developer Puppet Combo which featured a duck-masked serial killer. I found this game particularly disturbing, not just because of its excellent design and shock-factor, but also because, as a child, I used to own a duck teddybear. The rest, as they say, is history! The story wrote itself from there.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Joseph Sale: This is such a cool question, because I was actually a part of an anthology called Lost Voices, which also features Ross Jeffery, Christa Wojciechowski, and Emily Harrison. We basically banded together to create it because we all had these stories that’d been considered “too dark” or disturbing for wider release. So, we thought, let’s make a thing of these forbidden tales. It’s an anthology of deleted scenes material, in some sense, a director’s cut!

I don’t have many deleted scenes, but I do have lots of alternate endings. I’m sometimes smacked in the face with a memory of how a story originally ended. The most dramatic example is Save Game, for sure. Ross Jeffery, who is a fantastic writer everyone should definitely check out, read an earlier draft of the book and he loved it all, except the ending. And he was bang on. I changed it, and the ending is one of the most talked about aspects because it’s a little ambiguous. I shudder to think what would have happened had the original ending seen the light of day! I’m very grateful to him for that feedback.

There are also “deleted novels”, haha. I have a lot of unreleased material that I am probably never going to release. A lot of people think that when you self publish (I do a mix of indie-publishing and self-publishing), there’s “no quality control”. But on the contrary, I am very selective. I’ve published over 30 books, but I’ve probably written more like 50 or 60. Some books are save-able in editing. Some aren’t. You have to let them go. I’ll give you a roll call of some of my favourite titles from these deleted works: Emerald Night, Way of Black, Crowbag Bastards, Killer in Asphodel, The Last Great-Walker, and most auspiciously: Dr Cocktopus and the Mutilator Man. Yep. You did not mishear that.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Joseph Sale: There are a few things in the trunk. The main thing is two screenplays. One for a TV pilot, one for a feature film. I don’t work on them as much as the novels, because the film industry is such a different path and I barely understand it, hence why they’re in the trunk. But there is a sense that one day they might be useful. I have a friend, a director and collaborator on a few projects, who really wants to get the TV series off the ground. At least to produce episode one to show people the vision we had for it. I really hope one day it’ll happen! He’s a brilliant filmmaker and almost scarily spellbinding actor.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Joseph Sale: That is a kind question. Thank you! I have three big projects in the pipeline. Two are new novels yet to be announced, and one is an Omnibus of the Black Gate trilogy. The Omnibus is going to be a really special book, beautifully designed and of course full of 250,000 words plus of story! Stay tuned, as there’s a competition centered around the book that people can participate in.

You can expect other novels and collections that we’re publishing via The Writing Collective too. We have some awesome releases from new authors that we really think people are going to love. It’s a joy to bring new writers to readers. And some of these stories are so unique and different from what mainstream publishing is always churning out. Already, our releases like Lost Voices, Juniper (by Ross Jeffery), and most recently The Fabric of Tombstones (B. F. Jones) are really causing a splash because they’re not like everything else, so we want to continue that momentum and go deeper into that weirdness and uniqueness.

Finally, you can expect one or two left-field projects. I’ve been involved with a really cool board-game that I’m hoping can come to light soon (can’t say more than that right now I’m afraid). And, as I mentioned, perhaps a TV pilot, if we’re lucky!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Joseph Sale: You can find me on social media at Twitter.

You can also check out my website, and there is a mailing list on there you can sign up to in order to get a free eBook from me, plus you get goodies every month in my newsletter (which I promise is not an annoying one and contains some actual content).

I am also co-host of a podcast, Monaghan & The Mindflayer, which is a nerdy place where we discuss everything from Warhammer lore to conspiracy theories. Don’t be shy about messaging us. We love questions about our show.

If you want to connect with The Writing Collective, you can check out our website.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Joseph Sale: I’d just like to say thanks. We live in a world where gratitude seems to be at a premium. I am so grateful to all my readers, to all the people that take the time to type out long and thorough and beautiful reviews of my work that are pieces of art in their own right. Dan Stubbings, Steve Stred, Matt Brandenburg, Ross Jeffery, Dan Soule, Christa Wojciechowski, Iseult Murphy, the list goes on and on. I’m so grateful to all the epic writers I’m friends with, in person and online, who give me the time of day and help me develop as a writer. I’m grateful to people like yourself, who take the time to ask thoughtful questions and spread the word about indie writers. Sincerely, and genuinely, thank you so much. I made a promise to myself that however far I go in this crazy world of publishing, writing, storytelling, I would never lose touch with the people that have gotten me here, and the community that makes it happen. I hope to remain grateful and in awe and to recognise that without readers, we writers are just talking to ourselves! Cheers.

About the Author: Joseph Sale is an editor, novelist, writing coach and co-host of Monaghan & The Mindflayer. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. He currently writes and is published with The Writing Collective. He has authored more than ten novels, including his Black Gate trilogy, and his love-letter to fantasy: Save Game. He grew up in the Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth.

He edits non-fiction and fiction, helping fledgling authors to realise their potential. He has edited some of the best new voices in speculative fiction including Ross Jeffery, Emily Harrison, Christa Wojciechowski, and more. His short fiction has appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, edited by Dan Coxon, as well as in Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet, and Storgy Magazine. His stories have also appeared in anthologies such as Lost Voices (The Writing Collective), Technological Horror (Dark Hall Press), Burnt Fur (Blood Bound Books) and Exit Earth (Storgy). In 2017, he was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ prize.

He is obsessed with Attack on Titan and Community.

Gods of the Black Gate – Amazon UK / Amazon US
Save Game – Amazon UK / Amazon US
Lost Voices – Amazon UK / Amazon US

About the Book:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele


AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sarah Hans

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to read, and I hope you feel the same, especially with this week of Burnt Fur, the latest anthology from Blood Bound Books, authors. Today we have Sarah Hans.

Meghan: Hi, Sarah! Welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Sarah Hans: In my day job I’m a teacher (middle school, special education English). I write mostly horror. I have a novella and a short story collection out from Dragon’s Roost Press and in the Fall my first novel will be published by Omnium Gatherum. In my spare time I do a lot of crocheting, gardening, and playing horror video games.

Meghan: What are four things most people don’t know about you?

Sarah Hans: I got my septum pierced in Ireland while I was studying abroad (yes, it hurt). I love tattoos but don’t have any. I collect dolls with big heads and color-change eyes called Blythe dolls. I was diagnosed with ADHD at 34 years old!

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Sarah Hans: Maybe The Secret Garden? I have a soft spot in my heart for that book.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Sarah Hans: A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs is on my bedside table, I’m listening to The Institute by Stephen King with my partner, and my solo audiobook is A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Sarah Hans: The DaVinci Code. It’s got problems, but the writing is like a master course in maintaining tension.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Sarah Hans: I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was a kid, before I could write proficiently, I would line up my stuffed animals and tell them stories. I filled notebooks with handwritten stories as soon as I knew my letters, but I didn’t really take off until I got my own personal computer for college. Finally, my writing speed could almost keep up with the speed of my thoughts!

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Sarah Hans: My favorite spot is on my patio, but most of the time I’m in my recliner or on my sofa.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Sarah Hans: My routine is to have no routine! I don’t want to be limited in where/when/how I write. My only consistent quirk is probably listening to middle eastern music while I write. It’s beautiful and energetic and since I can’t understand the words, it doesn’t distract me from my writing.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Sarah Hans: Having the time/energy is pretty tough during the school year. Teaching is exhausting and it’s very hard to turn off “teacher brain” and turn on “writer brain.” Writing is very satisfying for me, but often it’s hard to start because I have an anxiety disorder, and it’s even harder to submit the finished piece!

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Sarah Hans: The stories that are based on my personal fears, traumas, and hopes are probably the most satisfying. I call that writing therapy.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Sarah Hans: I grew up loving L.M. Montgomery, Anne McCaffrey, and Tanith Lee. Now, I really admire the writing of Seanan McGuire, Sabaa Tahir, and Victor LaValle, among others. I love Jacqueline Carey’s baroque writing style. My favorite short story writer at the moment is Brian Hodge.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Sarah Hans: Three-dimensional characters in a unique and fascinating setting. A story that unfolds like a mystery, without telling me everything up front, so I have to figure it out as I read. I love cosmic horror, so any story with people finding themselves completely out of their depth is really satisfying for me.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Sarah Hans: I like characters that have strengths and weaknesses. Your protagonist can’t be flawless. I like to root for an underdog.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Sarah Hans: There’s a piece of me in every character I write! In “The Moon in Her Eyes,” the teenage girl in the story is probably based on my young self. The werewolf is based on my old, blind dog who passed away several years ago. This story was a therapy story I wrote to work through her death. I never expected to sell it anywhere! So this anthology has been a nice surprise.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Sarah Hans: I’m always putting out new short stories and the occasional poem on my Patreon, and I’m currently working on another novella about an evil knitting circle (they’re not really evil, just misunderstood!) and my first novel, Entomophobia, will be published in Fall 2020. The novel is about a woman going through a divorce who is terrified of bugs. She shoplifts from the wrong store and is cursed to turn into the thing she fears the most! (Don’t shoplift, kids!)

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Sarah Hans: Blog ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Instagram ** Patreon

About the Book:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele

About the Author: Sarah Hans is an award-winning writer, editor, and teacher whose stories have appeared in more than 30 publications, including The Arcanist and Pseudopod. You can read more of Sarah’s short stories in the collection Dead Girls Don’t Love, published by Dragon’s Roost Press, or on her Patreon. You can also find her on Twitter.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: James L. Steele

Today we have author James L. Steele, another talented author from the latest anthology, Burnt Fur, from Blood Bound Books on the blog for an author interview.

Meghan: Hi, James! Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

James L. Steele: I grew up as a military child. My father told me to stay out of the military, so that’s why I never joined, and it’s probably why I took up something more creative. Had I joined the Army, I might have had the creativity stamped out of me.

Meghan: What is something most people don’t know about you?

James L. Steele: You wouldn’t know it from my most recent social media posts, but I only just recently got into wine, and I had never been a drinker. It took deliberate effort to get into it. Why would I do that? Apart from finally finding a drink I enjoyed, I thought I was boring and needed a reason to leave the house.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

James L. Steele: I have some clear memories of Dr. Seuss books, namely I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

James L. Steele: I just finished reading The Tin Drum by Günter Grass. Someone in a writing group mentioned it, and I saw a copy in a local bookstore, so I bought it on a whim. Not casual reading, and probably the longest work of fiction I’ve tackled in years.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

James L. Steele: Probably Tool by Peter Sotos. (You can find his review here.) I enjoyed it in that it presented its points of view very well, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

James L. Steele: I’ve been writing in some form or another since grade school. I imagined I’d get into television and write my own series. I began writing synopses for various film and TV series I imagined, as well as video games. Usually the video game stories came first, and then I imagined the games would do so well they’d become a film series and finally a TV series. Sometime after High School, I decided to sit down and write more than the synopses. Then one day, shortly after my parents split up, I had to make a choice between pursuing writing or computer programming. I chose the one I enjoyed more.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

James L. Steele: My bedroom is hardly special. I don’t know how people can write in cafes, let alone coding.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

James L. Steele: When I was a kid, whenever we got a major assignment, I would ignore it for a day, and then I would begin researching and outlining. I still do that. When I get a new idea, I sit on it for a while, ignoring it, and then I begin. Creating that initial distance keeps me from panicking and starting off wrong.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

James L. Steele: Writing used to be hard. Having been doing it for so many years, now publishing is the hard part. Getting people interested in reading my published work is harder still, and convincing people to pay money to read my stuff is the hardest task in the world.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

James L. Steele: Recently I wrote an idea that had been germinating in my head since the mid-90s. The idea ended up becoming a 6-book series, collectively called the Archeons series. Taking any idea and translating it into something others can understand has been the most satisfying feeling I can chase, and I think I got the biggest rush from making my oldest idea real.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

James L. Steele: I am most inspired by the classic science fiction writers of yesteryear (namely Clarke). Apart from them, masterful worldbuilders are high on my list (Orwell, Lewis Carroll). I think that’s what I enjoyed most. Worldbuilding.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

James L. Steele: The best stories make us forget we are reading. I yearn to create something which does that.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

James L. Steele: I don’t like to place such strict boundaries on characters, this one you’re supposed to love, and this one you’re supposed to hate, and this one you’re supposed to identify with. I believe to love a character is to understand them. I prefer readers understand my characters, and that allows them to choose which ones they’ll love.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

James L. Steele: All of my characters have a little bit of me in them, so it’s hard to choose. I think I wrote about my deepest desires in my villains, but since I go out of my way to help the reader understand them, they don’t seem like villains at all.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

James L. Steele: The cover need not be amazing, but it shouldn’t be thoughtless either. There’s a difference. Usually I’m not involved in the process at all, but when I am, I want it to look like someone put thought into it. If if were up to me, I’d design every cover so the reader will pause to look back at it when they reach that particular moment in the story it depicts.

Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?

James L. Steele: My first book took 2 years to write, and it was still a jumbled mess after I was done. I thought if I kept going, I’d figure out what the story wanted to be about. I did, eventually, but had I figured it out in the first draft, or before, I wouldn’t have needed to spend all that time editing and rewriting. I learned to have a plan before committing to that much writing. Doesn’t have to be a concrete plan, but guardrails can keep the story from going off in random directions. No reason to let the story have its way if you’re just going to edit those parts out later.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

James L. Steele: No individual scenes come to mind. My biggest problem always comes from where backstory ends and now-story begins. My earliest novels often had me starting and restarting a story at different moments. I wasn’t sure what I needed to show and what I could get away with simply explaining. I still struggle with this, though I’m better at it now.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

James L. Steele: One of the underlying assumptions of sci-fi is that technology is the end result of civilization and it will make all our lives better. I wanted to approach from a different assumption. What if technology was not a sign of an advanced civilization? 4 years later, I had written six books about that.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?

James L. Steele: It’s hard to choose a title because no matter what you want to call your book, someone else has already called it that. I try to choose phrases that stand out.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

James L. Steele: I am certainly a novelist. Most of my ideas end up being too large to be short stories.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

James L. Steele: Currently I’m releasing the Archeons series, a sci-fi tale set mostly off Earth. It takes place from the aliens’ point of view and only involves humans toward the end. No spaceships. No technology. In this reality, the conscious mind is capable of taking control of spacetime and opening portals to other planets, and that’s how everyone gets around. Archeon is the term given to people who have this ability to break down the subconscious and perceive the universe as it really is. To understand it is to control it. Then something happens that sends this happy system into chaos, and that’s where the story opens. I want it to appeal to sci-fi readers who are interested in something without spaceships and laser battles that still feels sci-fi. I’m not trying to make a statement about technology, but I do often wonder if humankind truly is on a normal path.

Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.

James L. Steele: “The Victims” was originally written for a Halloween anthology. It was rejected due to it not fitting in with the other stories already selected, and I understand why, as it barely has anything to do with Halloween. I wrote it with the idea that there could be something going on in the animal world on that particular date, unseen by human eyes. Some secret pact with evil the animals made that ended up saving mankind, and humans are unaware of it. I hoped the story would be a better fit for Burnt Fur than the one it was written for. I don’t write horror very often, so for this to be published is special to me in more ways than one.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

James L. Steele: Most of the deleted elements from my work are deleted for good reason. Action scenes going on too long, incorrect reactions to certain events. That happened a lot in Dangerous Experiments (Archeons 2). My editor pointed these out and I improved them. Hopefully the original version will never be seen.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

James L. Steele: I have at least 3 books I want to go back to and fix up someday. Knowing what I know now, I believe I could do better with those earlier works. I also know it would be a lot of work, so I hesitate committing to them.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

James L. Steele: KTM Publishing is in the process of releasing the second half of the Archeons series, and I am always looking for homes for what few short stories I’ve written.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

James L. Steele: Blog ** Twitter ** Goodreads

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

James L. Steele: Horror is not my usual genre, so I hope The Victims intrigues horror readers. And if anyone checks out my other work because of this story, I hope they’re not too disappointed I mostly write sci-fi. Cheers!

Author the Author: James L. Steele has been published in various anthologies and magazines, including: Solarcide, Allasso, Different Worlds, Different Skins: V.2, Tall Tales with Short Cocks V.2, Bourbon Penn, Gods with Fur, Claw the Way to Victory, and The Reclamation Project, Year One. His sci-fi novel Huvek is published through Argyll Productions, and the Archeons series has been released through KTM Publishing, beginning with Dangerous Thoughts. He lives in Ohio, where he pursues his hobby of becoming a wine connoisseur while having at least two existential crises per day.

About the Books:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele


Humanity has gone to the stars, split and fused the atom, colonized hundreds of worlds, and rejoiced at first contact with alien life. Until the killing started.

Man has been at war with the Kesvek for over forty years. Nearly indestructible, relentless in battle, and unwilling to negotiate, the reptiles constantly push forward. Colony after colony has fallen, and the human race can do little but hold them back. Humanity knows very little about their enemy.

The Kesvek plan to change that.

There is much to learn, and the Kesvek are willing to teach. So long as humans can survive the process, mankind will discover what caused the conflict, and what is required for peace.

No matter the cost.


Their planet was ripped apart from under their feet. When Deka and Kylac wake up, they discover Archeons are dead, and the portals have closed without warning, leaving hundreds of planets without links to other worlds.

Rel’s destruction touched every planet in the contacted universe. Without the portals, entire civilizations hang in the balance, and Deka and Kylac are the only two who can make spacetime spheres. The raptor and the fox travel from world to world, repairing the damage the disaster caused, preventing civilization from collapsing.

Floating islands drifting through the toxic atmosphere of a gas giant—offworlders are stranded there, just barely clinging to life. A planet of raised platforms made of growing rock that elevate the people above the flammable algae on the surface—everything is falling apart, and where are the people? A world of giant insects—researchers have gone missing, and they have been injected with mind-altering venom. A planet of salamanders and birdlike reptiles who relied on portals for food—facing starvation, the reptiles revert to hunting the salamanders.

What could have destroyed an entire planet?

What could have reached across the light years to kill so many Archeons at the same time?

Did anyone else survive?

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Matt Scott

Today, I would like to welcome author Matt Scott to the blog. He is another one of the talented authors from Burnt Fur, an anthology released earlier this month by Blood Bound Books, edited by Ken MacGregor.

Meghan: Hi, Matt. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Matt Scott: I am 45 years old and live outside of a little town just northwest of Indianapolis. My wife and I live out in the country with our barnyard friends: chickens (too many), ducks (mean), pigs (potbellied), and our cats and dogs. As well as writing, my wife, Heather, and I run a small pet care business. Big animal lovers. We also recently just kicked off a new venture in publishing by starting our own company- Scover Publications LLC. We are really excited to get started. When I’m not writing or taking care of animals, my wife and I love to go Geocaching, hiking, and exploring. I watch just about anything and everything and my reading habits are similar with a slight preference for horror, bizarro, and crime.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Matt Scott: I’m deathly afraid of clowns (in person), there is no reason for a grown ass person to be dressed that way. I hate spiders. I collect knives and can throw them pretty well (getting them to stick is a whole other story). I get pretty emotional while watching movies- I get that from my dad. And last but not least, I am slowly giving up meat (my wife is a vegetarian).

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Matt Scott: Top of my head- maybe those D+D Choose your own adventure books?

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Matt Scott: I just finished Sour by Tony Evans, Day Care by Tim Miller, and Room 23 by Pete Nunweiler and just started reading Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Matt Scott: Foolish Expectations by Alison Bliss

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Matt Scott: I used to write stories in fourth grade and sell them at recess. I also wrote the lyrics down from songs on the radio and sold copies at school. I’ve always wanted to write. My mom was a big reader and she taught me the value of a good story.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Matt Scott: My office, at my desk. I carry notebooks around with me during the day, and I come home and put my notes or ideas on the laptop, adding to or revising whatever project I may be working on at the time.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Matt Scott: I don’t outline, but I work a lot from my notes. I also print out all my research so I can have hard copies with me while I ‘m writing.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Matt Scott: Honestly – making something special – to stand out – to live on – to make something that means, matters, something important.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Matt Scott: That’s not a very easy question. I’ve become attached to many projects over the years, not all of them great, but they have meant something to me. A poem I wrote after my mom died called – Night, Night, Beautiful – was inspired by my parents relationship and what my dad said at her bedside when she died. Another couple stories are Still Under and Asylum.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Matt Scott: I really love Kerouac and Bukowski. I love their voice and style. And Poe. I’m a sucker for dark gothic horror.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Matt Scott: While I write mostly genre fiction, I think believable, relatable, fleshed out characters make for a better story.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Matt Scott: A lovable character is a real one- one who is not perfect, who faces real trials, has real concerns and is true to their nature.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Matt Scott: I have a character in a story called So Tired that I modeled loosely after myself. It has an emotional payoff at the end, so I really like his reaction.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Matt Scott: I am, yes. A bad cover will make me skip right past it most times, unless I recognize the author. I have worked with Becky Narron from Terror Tract on both my book covers – I give her a general idea and she brings it home. She’s quite talented, love her designs.

Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?

Matt Scott: That I have much left to learn. I guess the biggest being, after you finish a draft, put it in a drawer for a while. Let yourself detach from it somewhat as it simmers, then go back to it with fresh eyes before sending it out into the world.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Matt Scott: I think every scene has its own difficulties, their own eccentricities. Hemingway was right, “writing is easy, you just sit down at your desk and bleed.”

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Matt Scott: My horror has been so far, for the most part, centered on human monsters; the evil shit that people do to one another, inexplicable, and with no remorse.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?

Matt Scott: Titles for me, whether they are for a short story, collection, or larger stand-alone work, prove troublesome. Ii think a great title is important, I just tend be a little disappointed in some of mine. They could be better.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Matt Scott: I enjoy finishing what I start, it really gives me a sense of accomplishment, so short stories are completed more frequently. Having said that, I am on the cusp of completing my first novel, so I’ll let you know then. I have put together a collection of shorts, which was satisfying and a poetry collection, which I’m proud of.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Matt Scott: What I have sent out into the world at this point is geared toward a pretty big slice of readers- males, 18-45. My first collection of short stories, called Darkness Calling contains a sort of shock and awe TOC. The stories consist of malicious intent, betrayal, debauchery, deviancy, and good old fashion murder. Splatterpunk, to a small extent. Mine are a little tame compared to some, and that’s ok.

Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.

Matt Scott: My story in Burnt Fur snuck up on me. It started out, believe or not, as a part of a longer stand-alone work aimed at a much younger audience – Think Babe, or Charlotte’s Web (yeah, I know). I morphed the story to fit the call actually. I had a solid character and a good protagonist, so I gave him anthropomorphic qualities and sent him to town. The result was bizarre, unexpected, funny, and horrifying – I was really quite happy with it.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Matt Scott: As I said, really everything outside the immediate scenario was cut out and the rating went from PG to… well, I don’t know what you would rate Oh Piggy, My Piggy.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Matt Scott: Right now I’m working on another collection of short stories (not quite as gory and graphic), three novels, another poetry book, and as mentioned earlier, my wife and I just started our own publishing company – Scover Publications LLC. I am really excited about all that’s going on right now, if not sometimes a little overwhelmed, but I’ll take that over the alternative.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Matt Scott: Hopefully a few substantial novel length works, more literary than horror, as well as a new collection of shorts and some more poetry. Also looking forward to putting out titles by other authors.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Matt Scott: Facebook ** Twitter **
Email (author) = mattscott1971@yahoo.com
Email (publishing) = scoverpublications@yahoo.com

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Matt Scott: I would just like to say thank you, Meghan, for the chance to reach out and answer some very hard and intriguing questions. I appreciate the opportunity. I had a lot of fun and hope readers enjoy this and the upcoming Burnt Fur anthology from Blood Bound Books.

About the Book:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele

About the Author: Matt Scott is the author of over two dozen published stories and two collections of short horror and poetry. His work has appeared in anthologies from Terror Tract, Deadman’s Tome, Infernal Ink Magazine, and Burnt Fur by Blood Bound Books. He recently began his foray into the world of publishing by launching his own press, Scover Publications LLC, something he is excited to learn from and grow. Matt lives in Central Indiana with his wife, Heather, and their ever growing gaggle of farmyard friends.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Rachel Lee Weist

Today, the talented Rachel Lee Weist is joining us on Meghan’s House of Books for the first time. She is a very talented author whose short story, 6 Dicks, is included in the anthology, Burnt Fur, released earlier this month from Blood Bound Books.

Meghan: Hi, Rachel. Welcome to the blog. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rachel Lee Weist: I grew up in Redding, California, before I moved to the coast to graduate with honors from Humboldt State University with my BA in English. I’m a life-long horror fan, from books, films, and video games to art and graphic novels. I was married on Halloween of 2019. I love nature and draw a lot of creative inspiration from hiking the forests and beaches of northern California. I get along with animals better than I do people, and I am always surrounded by a variety of critters.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Rachel Lee Weist: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a child, I had the same recurring nightmare about E.T. for years. I am terrified by the two deeps, sea and space, although they are two of my favorite settings in books, video games, and films. My husband bought me a tricycle because I can’t ride a bicycle, and I still managed to crash it and break my hand. I really love to hunt and hide marbles, and I am lucky enough to live in Humboldt County, home of Humboldt Marble Weekend, with a community of folks who share the obsession.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Rachel Lee Weist: I read a lot from an early age, but I think the first book to really make an impression was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Rachel Lee Weist: I am currently reading the Nox Pareidolia anthology of short stories.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Rachel Lee Weist: Stonefish, by Scott R. Jones, was phenomenal. It falls within an area of the horror genre that I haven’t delved into much until recently, so those who know my typical reading habits might be surprised to find that I’m expanding my interests.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Rachel Lee Weist: I have been writing, in some form or another, since middle school. I’ve always been an avid reader, but I needed a way to project ideas that didn’t exist outside of my own head in order to create the stories that I wanted to read. I made the decision to actively pursue my writing interests after taking a creative writing course during my final semester of college. Receiving feedback from those workshops was the final push that I needed to focus my efforts on becoming a published author.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Rachel Lee Weist: I often write in my library, because I can see out the second story window, where the rooftops of houses poke through the trees below like a neighborhood of tree houses. I do my early-morning writing in the kitchen, my other favorite room of the house.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Rachel Lee Weist: I wake up very early in the morning and sneak downstairs to the kitchen, make a pot of tea, and write before all of my animals (and the world outside) wake up to start the day. When I finish a story, I will usually let a few days, sometimes weeks, pass before I return to edit it so that I’m not too emotionally close to the story to recognize any short-comings.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Rachel Lee Weist: I find the absence of feedback most challenging. When I’m working in a vacuum, without the opinions and fresh perspectives of a workshop atmosphere, it can be difficult to tell whether a story is translating to readers the way I’ve intended.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Rachel Lee Weist: I just completed the first draft of a short story that is my version of a wendigo tale. It is a subject that has fascinated me for years, so it was satisfying to see the idea through to completion.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Rachel Lee Weist: I have been deeply inspired by most of the works of my favorite author, Stephen King, especially his earlier novels, short stories, and the Bachman books. Other authors who have influenced or inspired my work include Nick Cutter, Dan Simmons, Bentley Little, S.L. Grey, Joe Hill, Peter Straub, Kristi DeMeester, and Nathan Ballingrud.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Rachel Lee Weist: A good story is one that immerses the reader in the setting, while creating emotional investment in the characters.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Rachel Lee Weist: It takes a great deal of depth in characterization, of time spent with that character, exposure to their thoughts, and reactions, for me to love a character

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Rachel Lee Weist: I don’t consider any of my characters to be like me, because I try to write outside of myself when creating characters to avoid projecting my personal beliefs, opinions, or mannerisms into a work of fiction.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Rachel Lee Weist: Yes, I am very turned off by bad covers. I have also been lured, many times, by great covers that housed terrible books within. I have not been involved in any book cover creation yet.

Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?

Rachel Lee Weist: I have learned not to pull punches when it comes to the fates of my characters, trying to find a balance between attachment to a character and the willingness to follow the story to its natural conclusion.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Rachel Lee Weist: I have a currently unpublished short story in which a young girl regurgitates a kitten-sized mass of her own hair… that was rough.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Rachel Lee Weist: I like to explore the weaknesses or flaws of characters, because sometimes these are more instrumental in forming an attachment. Imperfections are believable, human, and I feel more involved in the character’s struggles when failure is an option. I am still an emerging author, so I hope to eventually develop my style in a way that will make my work easily distinguishable from others in the genre.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?

Rachel Lee Weist: A story’s title plays an important role in enticing the reader with a preview of what’s to come. I usually title mine after they are finished, because the few words are representative of the tale as a whole. I chose mine, “6 Dicks,” because the story is focused on resource acquisition, each with its own challenges and triumphs.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Rachel Lee Weist: I have only ever written short stories to completion.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Rachel Lee Weist: I am still an emerging author, so my current published works are few. I hope that those who read my stories will feel affected by them afterwards in some way, whether that be a lingering horror, reflecting on an interesting idea, or perhaps mourning the loss of a character.

Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.

Rachel Lee Weist: Burnt Fur is a furry-themed horror anthology. My story follows the journey of an opossum, named Wax, who must obtain soft human flesh for the creation of a fetish suit.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Rachel Lee Weist: I didn’t leave anything out.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Rachel Lee Weist: I am in the preliminary stages of writing my first book, and I will continue to submit short stories for publication in magazines and anthologies. I hope someday to assemble these stories into their own anthology.

About the Author: Rachel Weist lives in a century-old Victorian house on the coast of northern California, with her husband and the host of strange animals that she calls family. When she isn’t writing horror, roaming through the forest, or painting fungi, she can be found with a cat in her lap and a book in her hand.

About the Book:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele