GUEST POST: Paul Flewitt

Horror: An Origin Story

Hello, and Happy Halloween to all the readers of Meghan’s House of Books. Yup, its that time of year again, where Meghan allows me to come here and do a thing. So, I thought I’d have you all sit around the campfire and offer a bit of a short history lesson. Some of you might already know all this, but some might not. Here goes…

Any writer worth his salt is also a historian of the genre they write in. In an effort to understand how the genre works, what makes our writing that suitable for that genre, what the rules were from the outset and how they’ve changed and developed over time. We search with a rabid knowledge-lust to find out exactly where we came from, in a similar way someone might research their familial history.

Horror isn’t any different, especially in a world where the genre is constantly being divided into categories and sub-categories. We go back to move forward, discover where our cues came from and how we can best serve what we’re doing ourselves. By their own admission, Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell would scarcely have been the same writers if not for HP Lovecraft, MR James, and writers of their ilk. So, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on where I think horror came from, how it developed and who were the main players in its development. Be warned, there’s some left field ideas in here, but its all about the discussion. Disagreement is allowed in any debate.

Where to begin?

Well, I would arguably go back to written works like The Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and other ancient texts which document mythologies and spoken histories. Are they horror? Well, yes and no. My view is that there are elements of horror in all of them, alongside a heavy dose of fantasy. I would posit the notion that the earliest overt writers of horror did likely look to writings like these, if not those writing specifically, and take some inspiration from some of the stories told there. Remember, this is about finding the primordial ooze which gave rise to horror, and I think this is most likely where it’s to be found. Some of the imagery in these texts is pure horror, and we still use those images today.

Homer’s Illiad is, to my mind, the first real horror story. Like the ancient texts I referenced above, it is as much fantasy as horror, but I find the two genres are inextricably linked in many ways. There are many horrific moments in that work, and many tropes we still see in horror today. There are meek and mild maidens who rise to be badass warriors, there are evil antagonists who creep you out and make you want to see them die in messy ways, and sometimes Homer shows you those deaths. For an ancient Greek philosopher, Homer was definitely a hell of a horror writer.

Taking his cue from Homer, I would cite Dante Aleghieri. The Divine Comedy, and particularly the Inferno section, is truly overt horror. It gives us a view of Hell, and one man’s trip through the seven levels of it. If we have to look hard to find horror DNA in the ancient texts I described, or in Homer, we certainly don’t with Dante. There is beauty in the horrific, and Dante revels in its description. Is he the first true horror master, the grandfather and architect of it all? Well, I’ll leave that for you guys to debate.

Goethe is another one from a little later than Dante. His Faust poem has given rise to the term “faustian,” which is a trope often used in horror. Clive Barker is a great proponent of the faustian pact trope, where a protagonist accepts a gift or an offer, only to be confronted with unforeseen and often horrific consequences. In Goethe’s Faust, the title character makes a pact with Mephistopholes, or Mephisto in some translations, and finds he has actually sold his soul to the devil himself. Is this horror? I’d say so.

Another early writer who often saw beauty in the horrific is William Blake. Alongside his paintings, Blake was a polymath who certainly delved into the darker literary arts. His work is often cited by horror writers as an inspiration.

Which brings us to, quite likely, the more familiar architects. I’ve skimmed through several hundred years of history here, highlighting writers who shaped the future of what would become horror. When we hit the 19th century though, we see a massive shift in sensibilities and matters which suddenly become acceptable to write about. Horror, the supernatural and erotic are no longer the things of taboo they once were, particularly in Britain, where horror and science fiction seem to take root first and strongest.

Robert Louis Stevenson and Mary Shelley are perhaps the first real horror writers we would think of from this period. Stevenson wrote Jekyll and Hyde, which has all the hallmarks of horror and science fiction. There is a psychological element to both, as we witness a descent into madness for the main characters in both those works. For me though, it’s Mary Shelley who truly broke the boundaries and addressed what horror would become later. It’s Shelley who confronted the idea that mankind may really be the monsters. I would ask, is Prometheus really the monster in Frankenstein, or is it the doctor who creates and abandons him? This is the question which horror writers wrangle a lot of the time, whether the monsters in their tales are archetypes for the worst of human traits, or whether mankind truly is portrayed as the monster for their treatment of anything they consider other. For me, Mary Shelley was the true risk taker of this generation, and her work certainly pushed the boundaries of taboo like few others dared.

Moving on to Bram Stoker, and the later 19th century writers. Stoker wrote Dracula, and we know what that one book gave rise to. It’s a franchise before anyone knew what such a thing was. Another taboo breaker, which gave us horror with a hint of the erotic. He provided another element to throw into the primordial ooze of the horror blueprint. I would also cite Lair of the White Worm too, which has elements of Lovecraft’s weird fiction before such a term was ever coined.

Writers which may seem like left field choices here would be Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. Although their work is not, in the strictest sense of the word, horror, there are certainly elements to be found in their stories. Hounds of the Baskervilles certainly leans heavily into our world, and Dickens was a great writer of ghost stories which he often incorporated into his studies of life in Victorian London. Both are more than worthy of deeper investigation.

Edgar Allan Poe needs no introduction, and is widely accepted as one of the true architects of modern horror. His poetry and short stories are the inspiration for many modern writers, with such absolute classics as The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Telltale Heart, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Fall of the House of Usher, and so many, many more besides. He touched on so many different forms of horror that it’s difficult to argue with anyone who asserts that Poe is among the most important writers of horror we’ve had. I would tend to agree.

In the early to mid-20th century, horror still continued to burgeon. It was, however, branching out from the gothic sensibilities of the previous decades. Writers like HG Wells and Aldous Huxley were writing with a far more futuristic vision, imagining new worlds and visitations from warrior races from other planets. Some would call their writings science fiction, but there is certainly horror in there too. Tell me The War of the Worlds or Brave New World are not both works of horror. Shirley Jackson and MR James flew the flag for gothic horror and ghost at this time. Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, a staple which entertained and inspired for generations to come, while MR James’ short ghost stories are a staple diet for many modern writers trying to learn and hone the craft of creating atmosphere. But, the real trailblazer of this time was HP Lovecraft. Totally unappreciated at the time, Lovecraft’s contributions and importance didn’t gain popularity until the 60’s and 70’s, but his ideas have been the springboard for a good many writers since. He’s more than just the Cthulu mythos though. His ghost stories, tales of rats in the walls, and other gothic style stories are absolutely as important as the Old Ones stories.

All of these writers, in some way or another, have shaped horror in the last century. Without each of them, or some combination of them, we would not have had Ramsey Campbell, Robert Bloch, James Herbert, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and the other horror masters who have rightly taken their place in the pantheon in the years since. Horror writers like me look back on these creators in awe of their inspiration, their vision, their bravery to explore ideas which were certainly counter to societal conventions and often considered dangerous or immoral. Without that bravery, none of us would be here.

So, I raise a toast to all of those who went before. All any of us who write can hope for is that we honour their legacy, and keep the flames of their creations alive for the generations to come.

Boo-graphy: Paul Flewitt is a horror and dark fantasy writer from Sheffield, UK, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Paul began publishing in 2012, beginning with the flash fiction story, Smoke, for OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes anthology. He went on to pen further short stories, including Paradise Park, Climbing Out, Apartment 16c and Always Beneath.

In 2012, he also published his first novel, Poor Jeffrey, which was received to much critical acclaim.

His novelette, Defeating the Black Worm, was released in 2021, through Demain Publishing.

Paul cites writers such as Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Herbert, and JRR Tolkien as inspirations on his own writing.

Paul continues to write, contributing to Matt Shaw’s The Many Deaths of Edgar Allan Poe anthology in 2020 with The Last Horror of Dear Eddie. He also began releasing free short stories and fanfiction on his Wattpad account for fun.


Meghan: Welcome back, Jonathan. This has become so much of a tradition, you and me, that I can’t imagine Halloween without you. Thanks for joining us again this year. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jonathan: Cheesy answer here, but I love taking my kids trick-or-treating. My oldest is a junior now, and my middle child is a freshman, so they do things with their friends now, but my youngest (Peach) is still all-in for trick-or treating. I love going with her!

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Jonathan: Yes. I have a deliriously overactive imagination, so I get scared pretty frequently. The things I’m most scared of involve something happening to my loved ones, but I guess most people worry about that. Some more obscure things that scare me are waking in the middle of the night and worrying someone is going to seize my hand. I’m also creeped out when I’m in the school alone (where I teach). Schools can be really eerie places.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Jonathan: My favorite horror movie is Jaws, but the scariest? I don’t know which one wins, but there are some that genuinely freak me out: The Taking of Deborah Logan, Lake Mungo, Hell House LLC, Smile, Gondjiam: Haunted Asylum, Host, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and Hereditary.

Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Jonathan: You know one that really bothered me? I think it fit the movie, but it really hit me hard. In Summer of ’84, there’s a death near the end that really stunned me. I still can’t quite believe they went there, but I do think it was the right decision.

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Jonathan: Naw. If the commercials were scary, I’d be there. The only ones I don’t watch are ones I just know I wouldn’t dig from the stuff I’ve heard. Cannibal Holocaust and A Serbian Film come to mind. I’m not against them or anything. I just don’t have any interest in them.

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Jonathan: Weeellll, I guess I’d choose one from which I could escape? One that would be a lot of fun? So that being said, maybe Slaxx or Psycho Goreman? Or Love & Monsters, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Jonathan: If survival were the goal, I’d have to choose a pretty resourceful one, so I’d say… Ash from the Evil Dead series.

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Jonathan: Wow, great question. I love both vampires (when they’re ferocious) and werewolves, but if I HAD to pick one, it’d be the werewolf. I just love that concept.

Meghan:What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jonathan: My birthday is right around Halloween (the 27th), so it’s always fun to celebrate both around the same time. I get to have my family with me even more than usual!

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Jonathan: I love “This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s just perfect.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jonathan: Hmmm… for that one, let’s go with Ghost Story. I’ve been re-reading it for an upcoming podcast and remembering all the ways it freaked me out. Straub made something permanent there.

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Jonathan: I sleepwalked a great deal as a kid, so I woke up in some scary places. I remember waking up in a friend’s new house where they’d just moved in, and I was stuck in a pitch-black room in a maze of boxes for a good twenty minutes before I felt my way out. It felt like twenty hours.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Jonathan: The stuff with alien abductions fascinates me. I’m sure most accounts aren’t true, but what if? Also, I’m really taken with the notion of ghosts, so any haunting piques my interest.

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Jonathan: I’ll go way back for this one. The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens scared the hell out of me as a little kid. My mom brought in home on album from the Delphi Public Library. It had sound effects, the creepiest music, and a really good narrator. I still get chills thinking about it.

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Jonathan: Got to be the crossbow (after I mastered it, of course). Or a sword. I’ve watched too much Walking Dead, obviously.

Meghan: Okay, let’s have some fun. Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Jonathan: Werewolf. You don’t HAVE to kill to survive. I’d have my family lock me up as a precaution. Then again, if they were MY kind of werewolves (who changed because of a strong negative emotion), I might be a danger to my family. So let me think about it some more!

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Jonathan: It would depend on the nature of the aliens, but I’d lean toward the former because the latter seems more invincible.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Jonathan: Yikes! I guess the latter if they were seasoned properly *shivers*

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Jonathan: Amityville. The Poltergeist held too many terrors. Although I don’t like the way the Amityville House made him turn on his family.

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Jonathan: Yikes again! The former. No question at all. I’m not a maggot fan.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spiderwebs?

Jonathan: Is that code for something? I’m gonna assume no and go with the former.

Boo-graphy: Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels. He is represented for Film & TV by Ryan Lewis (executive producer of Bird Box). His work has been championed by authors like Josh Malerman, Caroline Kepnes, Stephen Graham Jones, Joe R. Lansdale, and Brian Keene. His ghost story The Siren &the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novels Children of the Dark and The Dark Game were chosen by Booklist and Library Journal as Top Ten Horror Books of the Year. He also teaches high school Film Literature, Creative Writing, and English. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children. You can sign up for his newsletter, and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.

The Raven 2: Blood Country
Three years ago the world ended when a group of rogue scientists unleashed a virus that awakened long-dormant strands of human DNA. They awakened the bestial side of humankind: werewolves, satyrs, and all manner of bloodthirsty creatures. Within months, nearly every man, woman, or child was transformed into a monster…or slaughtered by one.

A rare survivor without special powers, Dez McClane has been fighting for his life since mankind fell, including a tense barfight that ended in a cataclysmic inferno. Dez would never have survived the battle without Iris, a woman he’s falling for but can never be with because of the monster inside her. Now Dez’s ex-girlfriend and Iris’s young daughter have been taken hostage by an even greater evil, the dominant species in this hellish new world:


The bloodthirsty creatures have transformed a four-story school building into their fortress, and they’re holding Dez’s ex-girlfriend and Iris’s young daughter captive. To save them, Dez and his friends must risk everything. They must infiltrate the vampires’ stronghold and face unspeakable terrors.

Because death awaits them in the fortress. Or something far worse.

Halloween Extravaganza: Austin Crawley: Choosing Holiday Traditions

I absolutely love that, in lieu of a Christmas story, Austin Crawley wrote us about Christmas traditions in his house… and now I kinda want to do this every year, have people talk about THEIR Christmas traditions. Traditions are such a huge thing in my family and I can say that I am almost obsessed with knowing what others do as well.

Sit back, relax, and maybe you’ll come up with some new ideas to do with your family this year. Halloween is over… Thanksgiving is over… and this is the last day of November, so… Happy Holiday’s, y’all!

Choosing Holiday Traditions

We all grow up with certain holiday traditions, shaped by our geographical location and family cultural traditions. These can vary from one family to another even in a close community, but in the English speaking countries and much of Europe, we’re affected to some extent or other by the spectre of Christmas, including those whose religion doesn’t celebrate the Dickensian holiday that all the marketers tell us we must embrace.

Having grown up in Los Angeles, I, like most Americans, have been bombarded every year with expectations of the ‘holiday season’ which starts with Halloween, continues through Thanksgiving, comes to a climax for Christmas and then expresses an epilogue on New Year’s Eve, just before the heart-shaped candy boxes hit the store shelves in anticipation of February.

I was in my early twenties when I began to question some of the practices I was expected to follow that appeared to be shaped by television ads and retail outlets. The first to be examined was the tradition of the holiday dinner. If you live in the U.S.A., you’ll be familiar with the Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and any other trimmings your family is used to including. It makes for a great celebration meal and if your family is around the average of four people, chances are you’ll be eating leftover turkey for a while and run out of it just in time to do it all again for Christmas!

This close repetition of the holiday meal bothered me long before I grew to adulthood, but it was as a young man that I began to question whether I could break the tradition and not go to Hell for the infraction. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Turkey dinner, but I wanted it to feel more special for Christmas. To accomplish that, I would have to change the menu at Thanksgiving. The trouble with that is the symbolism involved in some of the specific foods and accepted history.

After giving it careful thought, I decided that the important part of the tradition was having a good meal and I started having tacos for Thanksgiving. Lots of them! This actually caught on with my mother and became a new tradition between us. My father was gone by then and my brother was married and lived away from us. The irony was the year I went to visit him the day after Thanksgiving, satisfied that I had avoided the turkey trap, only to find out that he had built his own personal tradition of having friends come over for a traditional turkey dinner on the Friday after!

Roll on to Christmas. Christmas traditions fluctuate from one country to another, but most of us are familiar with the symbolic bringing of greenery into the house to dispel the darkness of winter, the display of lights and colorful ornaments to brighten up those cold, dismal nights, the exchange of gifts among family and close friends and of course, bountiful food and treats.

The specific foods expected in a holiday dinner are subject to variation from one region to another, and this is one of the things I find interesting to examine. The Germanic and Scandinavian countries, for example, include some wonderful spiced cookies among their holiday fare and even the choice of vegetables and desserts are completely different between the U.S.A. and our closest cultural relative, the United Kingdom.

This is one instance where I allowed commercial advertising to shape an adopted tradition to add to my arsenal. Food catalogs like Swiss Colony and Hickory Farms offer all sorts of interesting treats, both sweet and savory around the holidays, but I believe it was Swiss Colony who started me having pastry for breakfast on Christmas. That first one was a Raspberry Kringle, something I note still appears in their Fall catalog, though the price has increased substantially.

Adopting a new tradition is nothing more than a matter of developing a chosen habit over time. Any one of us can pick and choose which traditions we like from any culture and make it part of our own personal customs.

When it comes to customs at Christmas, my favorite is a tradition from Iceland, where books are exchanged on Christmas Eve and time is put aside that evening for reading. Books make great presents if you know the reading tastes of your loved ones and reading among the family was popular in Victorian England, particularly ghost stories. Hence, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which has continued to be popular Christmas reading. My own Christmas story, A Christmas Tale, is based on Dickens’ ghosts and how they might manifest when three young women try to invoke them through a séance, only to be reminded that Christmas is not always nice for everyone.

One of my more recently adopted traditions was actually inspired by one of my characters who decided that Christmas was a time to help those who might be less fortunate, something that Dickens expresses through the mirror of Scrooge’s miserly habits in the early part of his story.

A few years ago I was in a shopping area where a street busker was singing Christmas songs. To the tune of Tis the Season to be Jolly I overheard him sing, “Tis the season to be miserable!” I spun round and looked at him. He pointed to the shoppers passing by and said, “Well look at them!” Sure enough, every face pushing their way through the throng of materialistic humanity looked as though they would prefer to be curled up in front of an open fire with a warm drink, like another song says.

I had been aware of the overblown consumerism that had taken over the holiday long before, but that really brought it home. No, I didn’t stop buying my family Christmas presents, but over time, I developed a habit of collecting things I knew they would like during the year and putting them aside for Christmas. No more buying crap just for the sake of giving someone a package to open! I went through a Christmas catalogue recently and was appalled at the percentage of useless garbage offered up as mindless gift giving fodder. Overpriced food hampers, more grooming aids than anyone would ever use, gallons of perfume and a plethora of ‘cutsie’ novelty gifts to be put in a drawer and forgotten.

Whether you practice the traditions you grew up with or start a few new ones of your own, whether your Christmas reading is ghost stories or you prefer the more heart warming tales, I hope everyone has a great holiday season and will do whatever makes you most happy.

Austin Crawley writes Horror and Dystopian fiction with a supernatural twist. His lifelong love of ghost stories and interest in comparative religions has led him to seek the darker corners of human existence and to exploit them in prose, touching on our deepest fears. he has been known to spend his vacations visiting places that are reported to be haunted.

Crawley is the author of A Christmas Tale, a story about three young women who perform a seance to raise the fictional ghosts of DickensA Christmas Carol with surprising results, and of Letters to the Damned, about a post box in a small English village that reportedly transmits written requests for favours to the dead and damned. His most recent release is A Halloween Tale, which came out last month, a haunted house tale filled with horrific, inter-dimensional terror.

A Halloween Tale ** A Christmas Tale

Halloween Extravaganza: Austin Crawley: Shades of Halloween Past

Shades of Halloween Past

Who doesn’t love Halloween? Scary stories, vampire movies, costumes and parties and most of all when you’re a kid, trick-or-treating!

When I was a kid in California where the nights don’t get as cold as a lot of other places, my brother and I treated trick-or-treating like a non-contact sport. We knew the rules. If the porch light is on, they’ve got candy. Only one hit per house, unless they’re giving out candy bars and a big group of kids is coming along so you can filter in among them and pretend you haven’t been there already.

Back in the days when grocery bags were still made of brown paper and held a lot more than the namby-pamby little plastic bags that replaced them (and are now polluting our oceans), we could fill them up in the hour and a half allotted as trick-or-treat time. When we got older and could stay out later, pushing the 9:00 cut-off time, we dropped off our full bags one year and started on another.

How old do you suppose is too old to go out trick-or-treating? Well, that depends on how creative you are. One year when I was sixteen, my parents had just bought a new refrigerator. I took the box it came in, cut holes for eyes and arms and a chute for dropping in candy, and no one knew there was a teenager inside. A little silver spray paint and some random dial knobs had turned me into a robot, height and age unknown.

Then we always went through the candy and discarded anything that looked like it might have been tampered with. That was silly. Our neighborhood was a small community and the houses we went to were all family homes. There were no bad people waiting for a chance to poison a child in those few blocks near my house.

Teenage Halloween wasn’t so bad when I finally accepted I was too old to beg door-to-door anymore. Halloween treats at parties have their own merits, especially imaginative cupcakes and cookies. We still got to dress up and with adolescence bringing on the pheromones, the costumes got sexier and kissing games began to feature. All in innocence of course. How disappointing it could be to meet a fascinating person at a Halloween party, then look them up at high school the next day to learn they had suddenly got younger and more ordinary!

The kissing games fell by the wayside as adulthood encroached on all our fun, but now that my driver’s license insists that I’m a grown-up, I can look back and see how Halloween fun has affected the person I grew up to be; one who enjoys cosplay and likes to read (and write) scary stories! I still watch the same movies I used to watch as a kid if I’m at home on Halloween night. The 1941 version of The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney Jr. was old before I was born, but I still enjoy it more than any of the remakes and have a copy of it on DVD.

Some years I may do no more than wear a wizard hat when I answer the door to give candy to the local kids (well packaged so they can see it hasn’t been interfered with) but Halloween is still a time of letting my imagination fly free into the dark recesses of what makes us afraid and why we still find it so fascinating. Reading scary stories in October gets me in that Halloween frame of mind and by the time the day comes at the end of the month, that wizard hat is all it takes to bring out my inner Bela Lugosi and add a little acting to my responsible adult giving out candy routine.

It’s all a bit of fun. Remember the old saying: “What’s the point of being grown-up if you can’t act childish?”

Happy Belated Halloween everybody!

Austin Crawley writes Horror and Dystopian fiction with a supernatural twist. His lifelong love of ghost stories and interest in comparative religions has led him to seek the darker corners of human existence and to exploit them in prose, touching on our deepest fears. he has been known to spend his vacations visiting places that are reported to be haunted.

Crawley is the author of A Christmas Tale, a story about three young women who perform a seance to raise the fictional ghosts of DickensA Christmas Carol with surprising results, and of Letters to the Damned, about a post box in a small English village that reportedly transmits written requests for favours to the dead and damned. His most recent release is A Halloween Tale, which came out last month, a haunted house tale filled with horrific, inter-dimensional terror.

A Halloween Tale ** A Christmas Tale

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Austin Crawley

Meghan: Hi, Austin. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Austin Crawley: A whole lot of real life, but I’ve been writing. I’ve got a Halloween story wrapping up now and a couple of series coming together in bits and pieces as well as another stand alone book.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Austin Crawley: Picture Ritchie Valens if he had lived to his late 30s and was into writing instead of guitar. That’s pretty much me.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Austin Crawley: My relatives don’t read my work. I use a pen name so most of them don’t even know I write Horror novels.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Austin Crawley: Definitely a gift. Creating imaginary worlds brings more euphoria than any form of intoxicant. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Austin Crawley: I grew up in a low income area of East Los Angeles where everyone is Catholic, but later went to college at UCLA, so I’m very aware of cultural divides. This came out a little in my first book, A Christmas Tale, which is about three middle class white college girls who do a séance without thinking out the implications of what could happen. One of them does some volunteer work to help the less fortunate.

In my second book, Letters to the Damned, the contrast between a guy from California and people in a small English village makes for a different kind of contrast. I’ve traveled in England so the village, though fictional, is based on a typical northern England village model.

There’s a lot of superstition in Latino Catholicism and that makes good source material for Horror novels. There’s a lot of symbolism couched in my stories, like the white raven who shows up in most of my books.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Austin Crawley: A Catholic exorcism rite for my most recent story, A Halloween Tale. Also some information about New Orleans voodoo to get the description of a Ghede right.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Austin Crawley: Making sure I enough middle has so far been most challenging. I go for fast action and so far my books have been novella length as a result. I have a plan to flesh out the stories I have planned for the series to come.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Austin Crawley: I think of a concept and start taking notes. At some point the start of the story will start running through my head and I just go with it. A sort of outline forms along the way.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Austin Crawley: Characters are independent creatures. I don’t over plan them but let them show me their story.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Austin Crawley: There’s a lot of self-discipline involved in writing. The most prolific writers I know choose a time of day that works for them and make an effort to sit and write at that time every day. I’m working on that. Real life gets in the way a lot. As far as motivation goes, the stories constantly going through my head are my main motivators. They want out! They want to be read by enthusiastic readers! It’s my task in life to bring them across to this plane of existence.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Austin Crawley: Oh definitely! I read every moment I get free. Not just my own genre but a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Austin Crawley: I go through phases of Horror, Fantasy, Historical, Dystopian, and even Steampunk when I can find some written for grown-ups. I keep an open mind. Anything well-written is a possibility.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Austin Crawley: It depends on how well they’re done. A lot of books I enjoy and don’t want to see a film version because that’s going to be a different story. Others translate better in video media, like Game of Thrones. I really enjoyed those books but the television series was so rich with costumes and top quality CGI that my imagination struggles to keep up.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Austin Crawley: I write Horror and Dystopian novels. Yes.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Austin Crawley: Not suffer so much as giving them challenges to overcome. There’s no guarantee of a happy ending in my genres so they might suffer if they fail, but the struggle is what makes the story interesting.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Austin Crawley: smiles The little boy in The Locked Door. That started as a short story and you can still read it online, but it was the kid and his uncanny ability to get into secret places not of this world that made me decide to flesh him out into a novel. It’s in progress now.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Austin Crawley: The best was responses to that story telling me I should expand it into a book. The worst, someone didn’t get why a Mexican protagonist would find fried tomatoes and baked beans in an English style breakfast would seem out of place when Mexicans eat refried beans and salsa. That told me I needed to explain the differences in more detail.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Austin Crawley: Every writer likes to know that someone enjoys their stories. I would always write even if no one read it, but finding followers on my blog and Goodreads as well as Amazon gives me a warm feeling and inspires me to strive to constantly improve my storytelling skills.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Austin Crawley: This one took some thought. I’m big on respecting the boundaries between my imaginary worlds and those of others, but if there’s one character I wish I had written, it would have to be Terry Pratchett‘s version of Death. The concept of looking at things from Death’s point of view isn’t entirely new, but he made him a sympathetic character, along with Death of Rats.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Austin Crawley: That would be a real challenge. An author leaves their own mark on a series and trying to fill the next slot would be like doing a cosplay of that author, or else derailing the feeling of continuity for the series.

If I had to choose one, Roger Zelazny‘s Amber series has a lot of room for expanding imagination. It already has prequels written by a different author, written well I might add, but adding something to that world could be an interesting challenge for the imagination.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Austin Crawley: I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman. His collaboration with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens is one of my favorite books of all time, so I think if we were paired up it would have to be some kind of Dark Fantasy with very imaginative supernatural overtones.

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

Austin Crawley: I have two series formulating simultaneously. The Locked Door will be finished first, but I anticipate four books in each of the series. Whether I alternate between them or finish one before going on to the other is yet to be seen.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Austin Crawley: Blog ** Amazon ** Goodreads ** Facebook ** Twitter

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 or the last?

Austin Crawley: Reading expands the mind, it’s all good. Just be prepared to explore some dark corners if you read my books. I like books that make people think.

Austin Crawley writes Horror and Dystopian fiction with a supernatural twist. His lifelong love of ghost stories and interest in comparative religions has led him to seek the darker corners of human existence and to exploit them in prose, touching on our deepest fears. he has been known to spend his vacations visiting places that are reported to be haunted.

Crawley is the author of A Christmas Tale, a story about three young women who perform a seance to raise the fictional ghosts of DickensA Christmas Carol with surprising results, and of Letters to the Damned, about a post box in a small English village that reportedly transmits written requests for favours to the dead and damned. His most recent release is A Halloween Tale, which came out last month, a haunted house tale filled with horrific, inter-dimensional terror.

A Halloween Tale ** A Christmas Tale