AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Clay McLeod Chapman

MEGHAN: Hi, Clay. Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. We’re happy to have you here today. Let’s start with an easy one… What is your favorite part of Halloween?

CLAY: I love taking my kids trick or treating… I loved it as a kid and now I get to relive vicariously through their candy-snatching as their chaperone.

MEGHAN: Do you get scared easily?

CLAY: I do. My flight-or-fight response is permanently flipped on to flight flight flight…

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

CLAY: It’s impossible to narrow it down to just one! The original Black Christmas is a top contender. The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is profoundly upsetting. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death haunts me.

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

CLAY: Two pop into my mind. The opening double-homicide that kicks off The Last House on the Left is excruciating to me. I’ve only ever watched that film once and I never want to watch it again. And then there’s the closing moments of Martyrs. That’s such a tough one for me, I can’t do it again.

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

CLAY: I’m pretty sheepish around extreme violence for violence’s sake, so there are certain films that I just know are not going to be for me… If they’re films that make it to the multiplex, I can usually take it, but there are those underground movies (I’m looking at you, A Serbian Film) I just know to avoid.

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

CLAY: A nice one? Twilight, perhaps? I always wanted to be one of The Lost Boys… Maybe that one?

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

CLAY: Flatliners would be fun, the original, just so I could go to med school and get free therapy.

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

CLAY: Gill Man from Creature of the Black Lagoon immediately leaps to mind. You can’t go wrong with the alien in Alien/Aliens. But I have a fondness for the “space herpes” creature in Ice Pirates.

MEGHAN: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

CLAY: Carving pumpkin! Every year we host a pumpkin-carving party. BYOP (bring your own pumpkin)!

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

CLAY: My son got obsessed with Monster Mash, so that was on heavy rotation in our house for a while…

MEGHAN: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

CLAY: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Hands down my favorite. There are more disturbing books (I’m looking at you, Jack Ketchum), but this book took its unsettling storyline and elevated it to something heartbreaking, which I absolutely love.

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

CLAY: Solo parenting can be pretty creepy…

MEGHAN: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

CLAY: I’ve been obsessed with the Alaskan Triangle… Where did all of those people go?!

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

CLAY: Not the spookiest, but for me, the campfire tale that had the most impact on me as a child was the story of Taily-Po. It’s an Appalachian folktale about a hunter who stumbles upon something that he probably shouldn’t have. When I first heard that story around the campfire as a kid, it changed my life forever. I’ll always go to bat for the Wendigo, the folktale behind it.

MEGHAN: Okay… let’s have some fun:
In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?
CLAY: Something long and stabby.
MEGHAN: Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?
CLAY: Vampire.
MEGHAN: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?
CLAY: Zombie?
MEGHAN: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?
CLAY: Ewww… Why?! Dead bodies in the graveyard, I guess.
MEGHAN: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?
CLAY: Poltergeist house!
MEGHAN: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?
CLAY: Bitter melon!
MEGHAN: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?
CLAY: I love the idea of cotton candy made of spider webs! That should make its way into a story…

MEGHAN: Clay, I can’t wait to read your spider web cotton candy story so… yeah… you should get to writing haha. Thanks for stopping by today. It’s been great!

Boo-ography:
Clay McLeod Chapman is the author of the novels Whisper Down the Lane, The Remaking, and miss corpus, short story collections nothing untoward, commencement and rest area, as well as The Tribe middle grade series: Homeroom Headhunters, Camp Cannibal and Academic Assassins.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Edward M. Erdelac

Meghan: Hey, Ed. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Edward: Taking my three kids trick ‘r treating.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Edward: At the end of the night we head to our favorite pizza joint (Joe Peeps on Magnolia in Valley Village, CA), order a couple of pies, and then head home. The kids swap candy on the floor and I close the night with a rewatch of Halloween III.

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Edward: It’s been my second favorite since as long as I can remember but as I grow older it’s beginning to bump Christmas out of the top spot, I think because I’m much more the father than I am the kid these days. Christmas is really for kids. Halloween is an equalizer in that I think my kids and I both enjoy it on the same level. We all love horror movies and spooky stuff, costuming and decorations. I love the enthusiasm my kids put into it, love getting them ready, getting their costumes put together, love spending the time walking the neighborhood at night with them, checking out costumes. I like renewing my Shudder subscription for the month and just delving into old and obscure horror movies. I try to get in as many first time watches as I can and as horror movies are pretty much a neverending crop, there’s always something new to see. It all starts the weekend after Thanksgiving when I crack open the decorations box, which has smelled of paper and old fog machine juice since a jug of the stuff spilled in there years ago. We put up the paper witches and cats, dig out the Bela Lugosi figures and the electric props and we’re off to the races.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Edward: I grew up Catholic and have a very mystical mindset, but I don’t think I subscribe to any of the classic supersitions about ladders and black cats and umbrellas indoors, etc. I do have a thing about doing whatever fridge business I’m doing before the door open warning chime comes on, but it’s probably just because I find the sound annoying.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Edward: Of the classics I dig The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Wolfman, and The Invisible Man in that order. Modern, I’m a big Jason Voorhees fan.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Edward: John ‘Wheat’ Carr, who in 70’s Yonkers was a suspect in the Son of Sam case and mentioned by name (John Wheaties) in one of the letters from the killer to the press. He was the literal son of Sam (Carr) and David Berkowitz’s neighbor, owner of the infamous dog that supposedly told him to kill. Berkowitz admitted to having been at the scene of the Son of Sam killings but said he wasn’t necessarily the trigger man every time. There were wildly different suspect descriptions throughout that summer, and a lot of people suspected multiple shooters. John Carr fit the tall eyewitness description of the tall blonde that was seen more than a few times. In later years in North Dakota, John bragged about being in a cult and having had trouble with the police in New York. He used to draw the Son of Sam symbol idly in the margins of books. He was murdered in 1978 and his brother Michael died suspiciously in a car accident a year later. I don’t necessarily believe all of the Maury Terry conspiracy stuff, but I do believe there were multiple shooters and that John Carr probably was one. If Berkowitz was in prison, then somebody else connected to the shootings probably did Carr in.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Edward: There was a book I had as a kid, Reader’s Digest Mysteries of The Unexplained which had an illustration of The Jersey Devil that used to really unsettle me. Tall, gaunt body and unwieldy head, like Yak-Face from Star Wars. The burning hoof prints found going up walls and over rooves was a creepy signature.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Edward: Difficult to say ‘favorite’ in respect to his victims, but the ingenuity and diabolism of druggist H.H. Holmes fascinates me. During the Chicago World’s Fair he rented out the rooms of what was later dubbed his murder castle to tourists. They would find themselves gassed in locked, soundproof rooms and dropped through floors into acid vats. Holmes would disassemble his victims in a surgical room in the basement and sell the organs and bones, then cremate the rest. He hired a bunch of contractors to build each of these contraptions and install them, firing and hiring them liberally so that nobody ever got a clear picture of what he was building. He confessed to 27 murders.

Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Edward: I have no idea how old I was, but as a kid in the Chicago suburbs I used to tune into Son of Svengoolie every weekend, and devoured the Universal classics, Godzilla/Gamera and Hammer horror movies he showed. The earliest I can remember seeing and being really entranced by was either Black Lagoon or Hammer’s Brides of Dracula. Both stuck with me in a big way. Brides, probably for that ‘midwife’ scene where the crazed servant coaxes the fledgling vampire out of her grave as if she’s being born, and for Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. The various anti-vampire tricks he employed. The shadow of the windmill and flushing his cauterized bite wound with holy water. Then there was the singular look of the Creature From The Black Lagoon, the way he stalked and breathed…and probably Julie Adams in that bathing suit.

The first horror novel I read….probably Simon Hawke’s adaptation of Friday The 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. It was also probably the second no-illustrations, non comic book I ever read. I wasn’t allowed to see rated R movies as a kid, so I’d get the novelizations. I read a lot of Alan Dean Foster. But F13 Pt. 6 I read in one sitting, absolutely flabberbasted by the graphic descriptions of violence and the horrific backstory Hawke gave Jason. He also delved into Jason’s POV a couple times, and it blew my mind that a book could be so revolting and blood-soaked. It threw open the window of my imagination and I went blowing out on the wind. It was kind of instrumental in me becoming a writer myself.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Edward: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I read it trying to overcome my unreasonable fear of the movie (see below) and it wound up keeping me up at night, as did the sequel, Legion. I would sit up till 3AM thinking about it and trying to bring myself down bingeing Three Stooges shorts as a sort of buffer.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Edward: When I was way too young I was at my great aunt’s and my dad was sitting in the living room in the dark watching TV. I crept in to see what he was watching and it was The Exorcist. I entered the room just as Regan’s neck crackled and her head turned around. I looked from the screen to my dad, and, his face only illuminated in the blue glow of the TV screen, he grinned at me and waggled his eyebrows. I shrieked in abject terror and had to be coaxed out from under the kitchen table. I was in high school before I was ever convinced to watch another modern day horror movie (The movie that brought me back in the fold turned out to be the criminally underseen Exorcist III).

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Edward: I was the Michael Landon Teenage Werewolf one Halloween. That was one of my favorites. My mom sewed me these werewolf hands with hair and long fingernails and I wore a rubber mask and one of those letterman jackets. I won a costume contest in my town Halloween parade going as a Tusken Raider from Star Wars. My mom and my cousin made the mask out of papier mache and my dad welded me a gaffi stick out of parts in the garage….those were my two favorites.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Edward: Josh Ritter’s The Curse. It’s about The Mummy. Go on Youtube and watch the video. It’s all done with marionettes and it’s amazing.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Edward: I love peanut butter cups and hate candy corns, which my Uncle Jim told me tasted like McDonald’s cheeseburgers as a kid to induce me to try them. I was severely disappointed. They sorta look like McDonald’s cheeseburgers too.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by today, Ed. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Edward: OK so Christmas has its old seasonal standbys. For me, the absolute essentials of the Halloween season, the five movies and shows that best incorporate the holiday somehow are It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, The Halloween Tree, Garfield’s Halloween Special, Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, and Dark Night of The Scarecrow. I watch them every year without fail. They’re A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty The Snowman, It’s A Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol Halloween equivalents for me.


Boo-graphy:
Edward M. Erdelac is the author of thirteen novels including the acclaimed Judeocentric/Lovecraftian weird western series Merkabah Rider, Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos, Conquer, Monstrumfuhrer from Comet Press, Terovolas from JournalStone Publishing, and Andersonville from Random House/Hydra.

Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and a bona fide slew of kids and cats.

Conquer
In 1976 Harlem, JOHN CONQUER, P.I. is the cat you call when your hair stands up…the supernatural brother like no other. From the pages of Occult Detective Quarterly, he’s calm, he’s cool, and now he’s collected in CONQUER.

From Hoodoo doctors and Voodoo Queens,
The cat they call Conquer’s down on the scene!
With a dime on his shin and a pocket of tricks,
A gun in his coat and an eye for the chicks.
Uptown and Downton, Harlem to Brooklyn,
Wherever the brothers find trouble is brewin,’
If you’re swept with a broom, or your tracks have been crossed,
If your mojo is failin’ and all hope is lost,
Call the dude on St. Marks with the shelf fulla books,
‘Cause ain’t no haint or spirit, or evil-eye looks,
Conjured by devils, JAMF’s, or The Man,
Can stop the black magic Big John’s got on hand!

Collects Conquer Comes Calling, Conquer Gets Crowned, Conquer Comes Correct and four previously unpublished stories – Keep Cool, Conquer, Conquer Cracks His Whip, Conquer And The Queen of Crown Heights, and Who The Hell Is John Conquer?

Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against the Lovecraftian Mythos
“The oaths of secrecy she [Zora Neale Hurston] swore, and the terrifying physical and emotional ordeals she endured…left their mark on her, and there were certain parts of her material which she never dared to reveal, even in scientific publications.” – Alan Lomax

ZORA! She traveled the 1930’s south alone with a loaded forty four and an unmatched desire to see and to know. She was at home in the supper clubs of New York City, back road juke joints, under ropes of Spanish moss, and dancing around the Vodoun peristyle. Her experiences brought us Their Eyes Were Watching God, Mules And Men, Tell My Horse, and Jonah’s Gourd Vine. But between the lines she wrote lie the words unwritten, truths too fantastic to divulge….until now.

LEAVES FLOATING IN A DREAM’S WAKE, BEYOND THE BLACK ARCADE. EKWENSU’S LULLABY. KING YELLER. GODS OF THE GRIM NATION. THE SHADOW IN THE CHAPEL OF EASE. BLACK WOMAN, WHITE CITY. THE DEATHLESS SNAKE. Eight weird and fantastic stories spanning the breadth of her amazing life. Eight times when she faced the nameless alien denizens of the outer darkness and didn’t blink.

ZORA! Celebrated writer, groundbreaking anthropologist, Hoodoo initiate, footloose queen of the Harlem Renaissance, Mythos detective.