Halloween Extravaganza: Tristan Drue Rogers: Deciding Not to Take Halloween for Granted Anymore

Deciding Not to Take Halloween
for Granted Anymore

Ever since I was a boy, Halloween was the big event, the bees knees, the great horror spooktacular, the horrific—dastardly—candy-having marathon of fun and games, and then some, if I do say so myself. As I’ve grown older, though, the joy in which I have for the holiday has become few and far between, depending on the year and whether or not someone in my life had convinced me to go out and actually live life in the night during it or not, perhaps instead choosing to stay home to probably sleep early in order to be in tip-top shape for work the following morning. After having this sad state of affairs brought to my attention, please allow me to lament that fact.

My earliest memory of Halloween was probably similar to many other young children, that of being horrified in person due to a jump scare by a grown man in a rubber mask, bringing myself and whichever family member my age that was with me to screams so loud and so bloody-murder-style distraught that dogs in the next district started to howl at a moon that wasn’t there. However rocky the start, my mother made sure to provide much more cherished incentives to celebrate. She would deck out our home—trailer, house, apartment, it didn’t matter—with cobwebs, all manner of skulls, baroque drinking glasses filled with gooey eyeballs, paintings that looked normal until viewed at an angle (which would then unnerve the onlooker as if they’re being watched), make-shift witch umbrellas (the handles were made of her legs, as were her shoes with the popular imagery of the witch herself), crystal balls, and so many books without stories filled with edible bugs and other creepy models of deliciousness. I could spend an entire essay describing the amount of effort that my mother went into the holidays, this goes for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even the Fourth of July, but October 31st was something special. My mother made us active participants in the structure of the world we lived in when it came to the entirety of that month. I remember many a night sitting with my mom at the table—Monster Mash coming from the speakers—as she had my siblings and I tie a loop of string around a tissue filled with paper before we would use our permanent markers to make darkened eyes and mouths. We’d hang them from the ceiling using clear tape, each in a spot of our choosing for the adults to ever be bombarded with ghosts on high. It was a magical land of character archetypes that if not for Halloween and my mother’s intense appreciating and fostering of its traditions and imagery that I’d likely never have deep dived into stories about werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster, beautiful mermaids that are actually disgusting sea creatures, killer dolls, vampires, and the ilk; later, these led into mythology and other forms of storytelling that inspired much of my writing thereafter. That which makes us scared and reflects our fears of the mundane world, twisted and formed into something that at face value already adds a higher level of mystique and wonder to it are all things that a growing child can really sink their teeth into.

My mother had costumes for us and our friends, too, out the wazzoo. Did you want to be a super hero? Bam, Superman and Batman, there you go. Did you want to be scary? Heck yeah, here’s a Grim Reaper outfit, a scythe, and skeleton mask with a button attached through your sleeve that will make it look like blood was gushing from your skull. Would you rather be a zombie or paint something on your face? She had paint made specifically for your skin back when that stuff was hard to come by. Mom thought of everything, so much so that I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

Well out of high school and still at home, I’d show up from work in October and the decorations, which weren’t there that morning, miraculously covered the house. Every year, with my participation and enthusiasm slowly draining, as if a grain of sand intermittently pushed the value of it further from my understanding and eventually it all began fizzling out into oblivion. Mostly, the last time I visited my mother during Halloween, only a miniature haunted house remained upon the dining room table.

One year, a group of friends had asked me to go out with them, so I dressed as a greaser, partying it up with my drunken cohorts downtown, and after leaving to go to another late night after party, I had a gun pulled on me (check that story out in issue 22 of Weird Mask)—I wasn’t home, so I got into trouble again and again trying to be cool, forgetting what the holiday was really about. It wasn’t the scares, or the costumes, or even the candy. It was about joining my family in on the fun.

My wife asked me years ago when we started dating (and every year since) to help her set up around the house. She had her own set of reused cobwebs from a box marked with a sketch of a jack o’ lantern and I didn’t have any pep whatsoever. Next year, I helped in placing the window stickers that had a variety of cartoon ghosts printed inside the plastic, which started to make me smile and the kitschy candy jars reminded me of my mother, but I was too old for this pretend stuff. “This was the real world and it’s serious business,” said the fiction writer without an ounce of irony. We had wooded and stuffed black cats and bats that needed somewhere to live, nightly horror movies to watch, and Stephen King books to read. One year, we didn’t have money to spend on costumes, let alone did I ever dress up anyway, so my wife and her sister had the brilliant idea to dress in our best fall clothes and started to paint these brown paper bags in whatever designs we wanted. It was a real treat and a hit with our friends. I don’t know if my wife had intended to or not, but she brought that wide-eyed little kid back from the grave, digging him out with a shovel, and offered him a wobbly bowl of Jell-O-brains. He was back and he wasn’t going anywhere, especially now that we have a son who could join in. It was like my heart learned how to smile once more at the grotesque and the slimy, and rediscovered something far more meaningful that I had truly lost: the enriching warmth that is spending time with loved ones as we celebrate the holidays without a care in the world.

Now, I’m going to be 30 years old soon and my son was 10 months old when Halloween hit. A lot of my time aside from work has been thinking about the direction in which I want to raise my child. Of course I want him to have good manners, understand the value of standing your ground, and to know when to show kindness, but I also want him to experience the absolutely ghoulish spirit of Halloween that I knew when I was a kid, which I wish I had kept up on. I’ve got a lot of time to catch up with! I want him to read Casper, watch Stranger Things, light candles that could bring old spirits back—and Hell, I just might grab an old Ouija board for kicks, man. Recently, I haven’t even shaved my beard in a good while just so that I could be Tormund from Game of Thrones for Halloween and perhaps after we’ve raided the Spirit store, we’ll find an appropriate wildling costume for my son, or maybe an old lady costume with a walker that has miniature tennis balls at the bottom, or I don’t know, Ron Swanson or something. More than likely, my wife will create something one of a kind for him from scratch.

Literally, the world of family horror is at our fingertips, limited only within the utmost of our own creativity. I have finally decided not to take Halloween for granted anymore. I want to be kickass for Halloween, just like my mom.

Tristan Drue Rogers is an author living in Texas. His stories have been featured in fanzines such as Weird Mask and M, literary magazines such as Genre: Urban Arts, and horror anthologies such as Deep Fried Horror and 100 Word Horrors Book 3. His novel Brothers of Blood is available now in paperback and e-book.

Brothers of Blood

Brothers of Blood follows Belle Whynecrow in her final year of highschool. Her best friends Josue, Xavier, and Jesus the hobo welcome the new kid, Chris, with welcome arms. The only catch? To quell their boredom, Belle tells them to create a kill list, marking off the names as they complete their goal before senior year ends. While struggling to pass their classes with flying colors, this band of merry murderers seems to be on a delightfully bloody roll until Belle’s long imprisoned older brother, Beau, arrives at her doorstep. Now a devout man of God, the brotherhood schemes for his return to his original, and highly exaggerated, bloodlust. That is, if Chris’s jealousy doesn’t destroy Belle’s ranking in the gang first. Not everyone will survive, but those who do will certainly have a year to remember because those that kill together live forever.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Tristan Drue Rogers

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: I live in North Texas with my wife and 7 ½ months old son. My son is planning on becoming a multimillionaire entrepreneur, while my wife has accepted her first full time art teaching position. I am myself a man of so few talents that the likelihood of being hired beyond entry-level is completely out of the question. In another life, I was an amateur photographer who made some waves in Las Vegas before settling down back in Texas where I figured I might as well keep up with this writer thing. This is my second year working as a writer semi-professionally and it has been one crazy ride as I’ve been welcomed into so many different circles that were previously unknown to me, allowing me to learn and shape my craft in ways that I honestly couldn’t even fathom before.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: I would assume that most people don’t know a whole lot about me as I am quite reserved if I’m being truthful, but I suppose I could relent and discover a few possible gems that may be worth it for someone to become privy to. Here goes:

Although I’ve lived a vast majority of my life in Texas, I was actually born in Missouri before moving to California, Illinois, and then to Texas, Nevada, and back. I need to see more of this country as well as the world.

I am both obsessed and downright mesmerized by the vast majority of animated Disney films. In general, I just enjoy cartoons more than almost any other predominantly visual media.

Big Weird Al and Tim Minchin fan.

Everyone knows I love hip-hop, but in case you don’t, there ya go. Embarrassingly, I even tried my hand at rapping for a time. I was terrible and I thank the stars that I never really recorded anything.

And lastly—I had to have my wife help me with another tidbit—I suppose that I have a soft spot for farm animals, wanting a pet pig, a duck, and a goat one day. And they’ll be best friends forever.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Tristan Drue Rogers: I don’t know if it actually was the first book that I ever read, concerning my mother allowed me to bring most of my old books home with me now for my son, it’d likely be a Dr. Seuss story, but the first book that I vividly remember ever reading was Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. I have the original that my mother used to read with me as well and I can’t wait to see how my son reacts to it. It’s a simple tale, yet somehow I grew to love and cherish it in my childhood. I remember a time that I was super excited to present the book to the elementary school library, in front of the class as we were all instructed to bring a book of our own, and I did just that. Unfortunately, soon after the children got a little too excited and rowdy, discussing your favorite reads will do that to you, and the librarian told us all to “shut your asses up.” What a misadventure that turned out to be for her. Also, depending on the time frame, maybe Garfield’s Scary Tales was the first book I remember reading. I’m bad at real life timelines.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Tristan Drue Rogers: I am currently attempting to read The Complete H.P. Lovecraft. I think I have 700 or so pages to go. His name kept popping up and I had apparently never tackled any of his work before. I try to read at work on breaks, so it will be a while before I finish this one, but, like Poe, I have enjoyed watching his skill set evolve as the stories go on to his more final and substantial works..

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: That’s a fun question. I’ll really have to think about that one. I may have spoken about this briefly before, but it’s maybe worth noting that the structure of my own novel Brothers of Blood—which is a dark fiction/thriller/crime story with blood, gore, and psychological elements—was at least in part inspired by the two Little Women volumes. For a time while I wrote my book, I was reading Little Women and enjoyed it a lot, especially the way the characters interacted with each other.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: I remember when I was a kid, probably around the age of 10 to 12, my mother helped me get a subscription to Ultimate X-men and Ultimate Spider-man. I remember waiting and waiting for those first issues to arrive and in the meantime I started writing. I wrote about kids who stood up to bullies with the help of a magical spoon and another one about a guy who killed people whenever he judged them as inferior, even though these inferior qualities were things like jaywalking or smoking. Eventually, his friend had to take him down. Ever since then, I’ve just been writing whenever a cool story happened, but only in the past 10 years or so did I really look at it as a way out to something more meaningful than escapist fun.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: I’ve written atop my bed, under my bed, in the car, at the library, in a closet, and so many other places for writing that I’ve never really looked for anything more than enough space for a notebook or laptop to begin the journey. Although, as of late, my wife was kind enough to present me with her late grandfather’s writing desk, so I have become far more comfortable and aware of my need to sit before it instead of the other options. In my eyes, that desk commands more than a throne and I am fortunate to have it.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: This one time I told a friend that I look at my writing as method, similar to what actors like De Niro or Brando popularized. This meant that depending on what the story was about I would consume everything and partake in anything that I could which would then inform the first draft and the character s in any way possible. For instance, I have written a dark story, as of yet unpublished, about a homeless man who fancies himself a super hero, so I watched The Maxx, interviewed people I knew who had been homeless or had friends who were homeless, etc, while learning about the language and lingo that they used and if they had signs or postmarks indicating safe spaces and all that jazz. Only some of this was actually put into the manuscript, but it helped me understand what state of mind someone like my main character might have had. So, I try to do that as much as possible. Just dive deep, forget about gasping for air, and learn to open your eyes when below the murky depths.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: All of it. Simply all of it is an immense challenge. I cannot stress that enough. I love having written, but working on it is ground zero.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: Wow, I don’t know. Recently, I finished a novella that I’ve sent out to publishers about the not-so-distant future and an aimless young black man in college who had just learned that one of the candidates running for presidential office is hoping to bring reparations to and for descendants of slave families. The young man smells a rat and he ain’t wrong.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that for a time I was just obsessed with Joe Hill’s writing. Even his stories some think of as weaker, such as Heart-Shaped Box, were and still are fantastic to me and certainly inspired a lot of my early writing as it was during high school. Amelia Gray showed me that a writer can experiment to outstanding results and that the reader doesn’t have to know everything. Neil Gaiman let me realize that I could still write in genre fiction and have something meaningful to say. I mean, the list could go on and on. I become inspired by every book I read, even the God-awful ones, so I really think that naming them off would be a monumental endeavor that would just turn into a list of books that everyone should already know are worth the time and effort.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Tristan Drue Rogers: Characters make the most memorable stories and conflict elevates them to greatest status. You can have all the ideas in the world, but without attention to this, there is nothing else to really chew on.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: My favorite characters are those that react to what they don’t like in the world and actually do something about it. Becoming proactive, even when within the story they don’t always see it that way themselves, allows us to see in the characters that which we don’t often see in ourselves: the ability to change our predicaments. Often we are so scared of having the status quo come out negative because of what we’ve done that we don’t take any chances at all. This isn’t to say that characters that only have things happen to them are bad, per se, but I do think a distinction must be made. In my own writing, I try to have my characters be defined by clear goals. Sometimes they don’t change or they don’t even accomplish that goal, but in the end they will have known what they wanted and their relationship with it will be the struggle in which we’ve been following. For instance, in a new and upcoming project from the makers of Weird Mask, called M, I have a serialized short story within that entails a young body builder who really doesn’t want to work out anymore. He’s tired of it. His best friend will just not let him quit, however, and so our main character decides to chop off his hand to reach his goal of a sloth lifestyle. He thinks to himself, who can work out and lift weights without the use of a hand? Soon, he learns that his friend will find a way to work around that, but hey, props for thinking outside the box, my guy. Creative problem solving ensues for the body builder, just as equally destructive as before. That one’s fun.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: The easy answer is that they’re all like me. They may come from my mind, but they all do things that I would probably never do. I’m just an ordinary guy.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: I used to be, but now that I’ve been in the publishing game for more than a year now, I say that it’s not really the author’s vision anyway for better or for worse. The story is the story and the cover is there just to entice those that are into that specific genre, or however the publisher sees it. I hope to have more of a say next time, now that I know what I do. I just love a good cover, no matter the style. Regardless, people can always make their own covers with cardboard paper or something.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Tristan Drue Rogers: Hire an editor. No matter how often or thorough I read through my novel before it was published, I still find errors and it isn’t just embarrassing, it’s disrespectful to the readers. If I could go back, I’d actually save up the money to hire a real editor. The publisher doesn’t always do it for you. Never assume anything. Do as much yourself and professionally as possible.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: In Brothers of Blood, the climax of where the latter half of the story had been heading included the ending from multiple character’s perspectives leading into it. As murders piled up, betrayals fostered into resentment, and more. This was my first time attempting such a thing on this scale and to have it all be in a chase sequence, in the woods, with both good intended characters and the bad, but main characters, was so difficult and fun to complete that I am still in awe that it came out the way it did. I’m proud of that one.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: Without sugar coating the lives of high school students, particularly in the way they speak and bridge their own lives with each other, one must become aware of what can actually happen by their hands if demented enough to act on their desires. Brothers of Blood was an attempt at realizing a realistic portrayal of the world in which we live where children can prosper without the active involvement of their parents.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Tristan Drue Rogers: The book title above even the cover is the first sign of what your book might be to potential readers. Yet, there are book titles out there that aren’t that imaginative and somehow are still followed by groundbreaking and cherished novels. End the end, what matters is the story. The title will come, hopefully. With Brothers of Blood, I had the title before I even started writing. That doesn’t always happen. Maybe 50/50, but I was lucky as it helped me carve a path in the direction of dark fiction that deserved such a title.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: I enjoy both to ever really get more enjoyment out of the other. Short stories are only short stories until they aren’t. That’s how most novels work for me; they all most likely started out as short stories. I’ve had some short stories that were supposed to be novels, but they ended early. I really don’t have much say in how long they’ll take to end, but every story is my baby and I try to take care of them until adulthood.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: Knowing your audience is very important. I only wish I knew that then when I first attempted to gain readers for it. I’d say now that my book is aimed 17 and up, for dark fiction/thriller readers, at those who love My Favorite Murder podcasts, or Mindhunters on Netflix. If you obsess over serial killers, fictional or from the real world, my book is perfect for you.

After having read my book, I’d say that I want readers to discover the intelligence that high school kids have, the different lives that they all may hide from their friends, the vindictive nature of the most well put together kids, the brotherhood and camaraderie that is special when it fits just right in the time of your lives that will most affect you, and that I want readers to realize that anyone can want you dead, but it takes an extra type of person to gather a gang of murderers to then kill you in a show of peppy teamwork and brotherly love.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: Sure! In my book, there was a scene early on in a dream sequence—I always have to cut my ridiculous dream sequences—whereas before one of our main characters, Beau, was playing with the puppy that he got for his little sister before they went out to stalk and kill someone. Beau falls asleep and starts witnessing himself down on all fours, with his stomach facing the sky, twisted all about, as he began to echo the same bark that little puppy did. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that, but I put a giant X through it on the notebook and moved on as I was typing the manuscript. Sometimes, your head creates different ways to communicate something that you need to come across in the story, such as this guy is crazy. In this case, I knew that his actions both before and after represented that well enough that I didn’t need to resort to some cheap dream sequence that only the readers would be aware of for the entirety of the book.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Tristan Drue Rogers: I’ve wanted to work on so many projects that I’ve only half started. The big one right now that keeps popping up into my head is a dark fantasy story set in another world where giant monsters roam with a deep history that entails the shifting of continents and so much more. I’m really intrigued by this one so it may not stay in the trunk for long.

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

Tristan Drue Rogers: I have some stories popping up here and there in that M zine that I’ll announce soon and another in Weird Mask about the time a gun was pulled on me and a friend before we went to a party on Halloween. I also have a poem in the July (pushed back until August 16) print edition of Genre: Urban Arts. My work is everywhere nowadays at least comparable to last year, so don’t forget to check back on my sites and stuff to keep up with me.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Tristan Drue Rogers:

My personal and often updated website ** Twitter ** Instagram

I am also a Site Contributor at Genre: Urban Arts, where you can find posts by me, typically in the poetry and flash fiction category.

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?

Tristan Drue Rogers: My fans? That would be nice to imagine that I do have any fans at this point. Well, if they’re out there I hope they enjoy my work. I’m all over the place, but I’m slowly finding a path that works for me and fulfills my need to play around with the ways in which I perceive the world. Keep in touch and interact with me! I’m always online lurking somewhere and I’d love to speak with anyone about a good story.

Tristan Drue Rogers is an author living in Texas. His stories have been featured in fanzines such as Weird Mask and M, literary magazines such as Genre: Urban Arts, and horror anthologies such as Deep Fried Horror and 100 Word Horrors Book 3. His novel Brothers of Blood is available now in paperback and e-book.

Brothers of Blood

Brothers of Blood follows Belle Whynecrow in her final year of highschool. Her best friends Josue, Xavier, and Jesus the hobo welcome the new kid, Chris, with welcome arms. The only catch? To quell their boredom, Belle tells them to create a kill list, marking off the names as they complete their goal before senior year ends. While struggling to pass their classes with flying colors, this band of merry murderers seems to be on a delightfully bloody roll until Belle’s long imprisoned older brother, Beau, arrives at her doorstep. Now a devout man of God, the brotherhood schemes for his return to his original, and highly exaggerated, bloodlust. That is, if Chris’s jealousy doesn’t destroy Belle’s ranking in the gang first. Not everyone will survive, but those who do will certainly have a year to remember because those that kill together live forever.