Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Joanna Koch

Meghan: Hi, Joanna! Welcome back to my annual Halloween Extravaganza! It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Joanna Koch: Hi Meghan! Thank you for having me back. Since we talked about Doorbells At Dusk last Halloween, I’ve had about a dozen stories published in journals and anthologies. A project I’m especially thrilled to be part of is Not All Monsters, edited by Brahm Stoker award winner Sara Tantlinger! It’s a privilege to work with her. My story “The Revenge of Madeline Usher” will be included along with so many amazing female authors. I’m still a bit speechless. There will be a deluxe hardcover version with gorgeous illustrations by Don Noble (Twitter), and the images I’ve seen released on social media are fierce.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Joanna Koch: Addicted to privacy, a lover of silence. I work a day job dealing with financial and quality control matters in a hectic environment; lawful evil surrounded by chaotic good. I’m a former counselor. I’m an artist, too, although most of my energy goes into writing now.

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

Joanna Koch: I try not to think about it. My inner critic is loud enough.

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

Joanna Koch: You know, it’s a drive to create or make a mark, the same as any other drive. I don’t like perpetuating the myth of talent and gifts and all that. You follow your drive and make something, or you don’t. Instead of a gift or a curse, let’s call it a choice, a way to direct energy.

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

Joanna Koch: I’ve moved around the US and experimented with a variety of lifestyles. I feel like I’ve lived enough different lives to give me a good pool of material to draw upon, and heard a plethora of stories and secrets as a counselor.

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

Joanna Koch: How to make compost out of dead bodies in outer space.

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

Joanna Koch: The middle. Until recently I exclusively wrote short stories without bulk in the middle. Moving on to pieces where I want more character change, I find I need more time to get through the arc while staying true to the character. But it’s challenging to linger. My natural tendency is to get in, stir some shit, and get out quick.

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

Joanna Koch: I go with something that hooks me. It might be a character, an event, a feeling, an abstract idea, a memory or impression from my life. Or someone else’s. I trust there’s a pattern to what captures my interest, start running with it, and apply logic and orderliness along the way.

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

Joanna Koch: I try to get to know them better.

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

Joanna Koch: I sit down and write. I’m too impatient for writer’s block. Besides, I’m getting old. I’ll be dead soon. I don’t have time to waste.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Joanna Koch: There are so many books I want to read! I can’t keep up. Yes, I love reading and always have, even long before I tried to write.

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

Joanna Koch: I like writing that is both intellectual and shocking, realistic and poetic. beautiful and ugly, that takes me to an unexpected place. I want it all!

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

Joanna Koch: They are separate mediums. One cannot replace the other.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Joanna Koch: This is difficult to answer. I’ve been playing with boundaries and ambiguities surrounding identity, existence, and physical integrity lately with my main characters. I have definitely killed villains and libidinal objects. My work is not always wholesome.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Joanna Koch: Not exactly. I’m interested in testing characters and exploring how they fail, because I think we all do that. I’m interested in what we do with suffering and how it changes us. I want to get more into that in the future.

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

Joanna Koch: My current main character is three characters that will be a single entity by the end of the story. One of their current forms is that of a hemimetabolous insect.

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

Joanna Koch: “Readers are smart; you don’t have to tell them everything.” This sounds obvious, but it’s what I needed to hear at the time to move forward.

Meghan: What’s the worst?

Joanna Koch: The critique that a female character who’s my own age is “out of character” or “not believable” if she swears or makes racy remarks. Apparently I’m a badly written human.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Joanna Koch: Do I have fans? That’s a lovely idea. When someone takes the time to let me know they appreciate a story, it means the world to me. It’s not only the ego-gratification; it’s about the way I get attached to a story or the characters in them and want them to have a life of their own outside of my head. Readers give them that life!

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

Joanna Koch: Uh-oh, I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to steal! I stole Madeline Usher from Poe because I wanted to give her a voice.

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

Joanna Koch: My first stand alone work – a novella called “The Couvade” – is in the editing phase and will be published soon. I’ve been invited to create a longer serialized piece that I’m working on now with an editor I trust. It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on, and I’m filled with fear that I won’t be able to pull it off. I’ll keep faking confidence and let you know next year if it works out!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Joanna Koch:

Website ** Twitter ** Amazon

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?

Joanna Koch: Thank you, Meghan, for inviting me back; thank you to readers who indulge me while going through this process of becoming a writer. I’ve delved into variations in style and content over the past year that range from fairy tale to splatter. I think I will always be a work in progress and I hope you enjoy the ride!

Author Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Her short fiction has been published in journals and anthologies such as Synth, Honey & Sulphur, and In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight. Look for her novella, The Couvade, coming soon. Consumer her monstrous musings at Horrorsong.

In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight

Midnight strikes like an invocation, clock hands joining in prayer to the darkness. After the twelfth chime, there’s no escaping the nightmare.

Fear reigns supreme.

In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many facets of modern horror—shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.

Midnight is here. It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.

Featuring stories by:
Josh MalermanOne Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Delores Ray
William MeikleRefuge
Jason ParentViolet
Ryan C. ThomasWho Are You?
Mark MatthewsTattooed All in Black
Evans LightOne Million Hits
Lisa LepovetskyKruze Nite
Israel FinnThe Pipe
Patrick LaceyIn the Ground John McNee: Dogsh*t Gauntlet
Michael BrayLetters
Monique YouzwaRules of Leap Year
Billy ChizmarMirrors
Espi KvltPulsate
Paul MichaelsAngel Wings
Andrew LennonRun Rabbit Run
Joanna KochEvery Lucky Penny is Another Drop of Blood

Halloween Extravaganza: Evans Light: STORY: The Treat-or-Tricker

A Halloween story from Evans Light is almost a tradition now here on Halloween Extravaganza. In fact, he was the first author that gave me one in lieu of a guest post. Even though he spoke of having no more Halloween stories in him, he surprised me with this… and, as usual, did not disappoint. Make sure you read this one with the lights off…


It was nearly nine-thirty when the doorbell rang.

Awfully late for trick-or-treaters, the man thought. The last group had stopped by almost an hour ago, and the man had just gotten comfortable in his recliner and lost in a TV show.

Teenagers, he guessed, making their final rounds. Cleaning out leftover candy.

He set his remote down on the coffee table, grabbed the bowl of Halloween candy from the kitchen counter and headed for the door.

A little boy, about eight or nine years old, stood alone on the porch.

He was not wearing a costume.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said.

The man didn’t recognize the boy from around the neighborhood, and no car waited on the street.

The boy held a clear plastic bag full of candies. They were all the same kind, not the hodgepodge assortment one would expect a child to have towards the end of Halloween night.

A small cardboard box sat on the porch beside him.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said again.

The man laughed.

“’Treat or trick?’ Don’t you mean ‘trick or treat?’ Where’s your costume?”

The boy didn’t flinch.

The boy didn’t smile.

“No, I said what I meant to say. Do you want a ‘treat’ or a ‘trick’?”

The absolute seriousness of the child surprised the man. It was amusing, so he decided to play along.

“Well, let me think . . . no one really likes a trick, except the person playing it. So I suppose I’d rather have a treat.”

“You do know tonight is Halloween, right?”

“Why of course,” said the man.

“Then you should also know that you need to be wearing a costume. You do know that, right?”

“But I don’t have a costume.”

The little boy sighed, as though immensely burdened.

“I figured you wouldn’t. That’s why I’ve brought some with me.”

The boy unfolded the flaps of his cardboard box and withdrew two large rubber masks. One was a zombie head with an eyeball dangling onto the cheek. The other mask was some sort of tree monster with a very long twig for a nose.

“My, aren’t those frightful!”

“Please pick one quickly, I have many houses yet to visit,” said the boy, all business.

“You want me to wear a mask?”

“Yes, please. Halloween must be done correctly or else it’s not Halloween.”

The man scratched his head, puzzled. “I’ve got some candy left over. You can have the rest of it if you want,” he offered.

“I asked you first,” said the boy. “I asked if you wanted a ‘treat’ or ‘trick’ and you said ‘treat’. Now please pick a costume. As I said, I have the rest of the neighborhood to visit this evening.”

The man wondered where the boy’s parents were, why he was out so late all by himself. He considered dropping a candy into the boy’s bag and shooing him away. But the child was so earnest, he decided to play along. Doing otherwise appeared as though it might cause the boy great stress.

“Okay,” said the man. “I’ll be the zombie.”

“Excellent choice,” said the boy. He gave the mask to the man and waited for him to put it on. The man adjusted it until his eyes blinked out from behind cut-out holes.

“Arrggh!” said the man, extending his arms as though he’d joined the ranks of the living dead.

“Very nice,” said the boy. “You really scared me. Now, what do you say?”

“Thank you?” guessed the man.

“No, not ‘thank you’. At your age, I’m surprised you don’t know this. To get the candy, you should say, ‘trick or . . .”

“Oh right!” said the man. “Trick or treat!”

A broad smile spread across the boy’s face. The porch light reflected in his eyes, twinkling like a swarm of fireflies. The boy reached into his sack, extracted a single hard candy and handed it to the man.

“Happy Halloween,” the boy said.

“Happy Halloween to you, too,” said the man, his voice muffled inside the rubber mask.

“Well?” said the boy.

“Well what?” said the man.

“Aren’t you going to eat it?”

“Right now?”

“Yes, right now. I want to see if you like it.”

The man held the candy up to the mask’s eyehole to get a better look. It was red and round and individually wrapped. The man had eaten none of the treats he’d passed out that evening. He’d specifically purchased candies he didn’t like to avoid temptation.

One little piece of candy wouldn’t hurt. In fact, it looked like something he’d enjoy.

“You can eat it through the mouth-hole, if you want to,” the kid said, his voice suddenly bright and full of cheer. “It’s so funny to see a zombie eat candy.”

What the hell, thought the man. He popped the candy out of the wrapper right through the rubber hole, into his mouth. His tongue explored the raised ridge that ran around the middle of the confection. It had a strong cherry flavor that was thrilling and delicious.

“Thank you,” the man said. “It’s wonderful.”

“I’m glad you like it. Can I have the mask back now, please?”

The man pulled off the mask and returned it to the boy, who packed it neatly into the box, carefully folding each flap back into place. Once done, the boy collected his things and bowed slightly.

“Enjoy the rest of your Halloween,” said the boy.

“You as well,” said the man. He closed the door and headed back to finish his television show. What a weird ass little kid, he thought as he bit down hard, crunching the candy.

Foam filled his mouth as the sweetness of cherry gave way to caustic bitterness, causing him to gag. He jumped up from his chair and took two steps towards the kitchen. Then he fell down, dead on the floor.


At the house next door, the doorbell rang.

A man and his wife exchanged puzzled looks. She grabbed the bowl of leftover Halloween candy from the kitchen counter and headed for the door.

A little boy, about eight or nine years old, stood alone on the porch.

He was not wearing a costume.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said.

Evans Light is a writer of horror and suspense, and is the author of Screamscapes: Tales of Terror, Arboreatum, Don’t Need No Water, and more. He is the editor of the well-received anthology Doorbells at Dusk, and is a co-creator of the Bad Apples Halloween anthology series and Dead Roses: Five Dark Tales of Twisted Love. He most recently co-edited the new anthology series In Darkness, Delight, the first two volumes of which are now available.

Evans lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, surrounded by thousands of vintage horror paperbacks, and is the proud father of fine sons and the lucky husband of a beautiful wife.

Corpus Press ** Amazon ** Goodreads ** Facebook ** Twitter

Screamscape: Tales of Terror

Ten twisted tales designed to delight fans of modern horror.

Razor-sharp scares and Tales from the Crypt-style mayhem lurk within these dark stories of possession,obsession, deception and revenge… this is one collection you don’t want to miss.

In Darkness, Delight 1: Masters of Midnight

Midnight strikes like an invocation, clock hands joining in prayer to the darkness. After the twelfth chime, there’s no escaping the nightmare.

Fear reigns supreme.

In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many facets of modern horror—shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.

Midnight is here. It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.

Featuring stories by:
Josh MalermanOne Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Delores Ray
William MeikleRefuge
Jason ParentViolet
Ryan C. ThomasWho Are You?
Mark MatthewsTattooed All in Black
Evans LightOne Million Hits
Lisa LepovetskyKruze Nite
Israel FinnThe Pipe
Patrick LaceyIn the Ground John McNee: Dogsh*t Gauntlet
Michael BrayLetters
Monique YouzwaRules of Leap Year
Billy ChizmarMirrors
Espi KvltPulsate
Paul MichaelsAngel Wings
Andrew LennonRun Rabbit Run
Joanna KochEvery Lucky Penny is Another Drop of Blood

In Darkness, Delight 2: Creatures of the Night

Predatory eyes flicker in darkness, a legion of abominations seeking human destruction. Slashing claws and gnashing teeth, hungry for flesh, eager to kill. Clutch onto hope and pray for dawn. Creatures rule the night.

In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many faces of modern horror— shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.

The creatures are here.
It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.

Featuring stories by:
Josh Malerman: One Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Bully Jack
Jeff Strand: The Last Thing You Want to Be
Ray Garton: A Survivor
Richard Chizmar: Father
Mary SanGiovanni: The Giant’s Table
Tim Curran: White Rabbit
Chris Motz: Scales
Kev Harrison: Snap
Evans Light: Gertrude
Mikal Trimm: Infestation
Mark Cassell: River of Nine Tails
Mason Morgan: The People in the Toilet
Andrew Lennon: Silent Scream
Chad Lutzke: He Wears the Lake
Adam Light: Valley of the Dunes
Eddie Generous: The Newell Post
Frank Oreto: The Worms Turn
Gregor Xane: The Ugly Tree
Kristopher Rufty: Hinkles
Glenn Rolfe: Human Touch
Curtis M. Lawson: The Green Man of Freetown

Doorbells at Dusk

Halloween has always gone hand-in-hand with horror. The holiday gives many children their first taste of terror, the discovery and overcoming of fears. For those who find they love a good scare, that first taste can grow into a voracious appetite.

That might be why you’re looking at this book right now. If so, you’ve come to the right place. Doorbells at Dusk is a treasury of brand-new Halloween tales from both modern masters and rising stars of dark fiction, horror and suspense.

These are the thrills you crave, packed into a collection of stories that’s pure Halloween.

Carve your pumpkins and turn on the porch light, Halloween frights begin with the sound of…DOORBELLS AT DUSK.

Featuring stories by:
Sean Eads & Joshua ViolaMany Carvings
Amber FallonThe Day of the Dead
Charles GramlichA Plague of Monsters
Joanna KochOfferings
Curtis M. LawsonThe Rye-Mother
Lisa LepovetskyMasks
Adam LightTrick ‘Em All
Evans LightRusty Husk
Chad LutzkeVigil
Josh MalermanAdam’s Bed
Jason ParentKeeping Up Appearances
Thomas VaughnThe Friendly Man
Ian WelkeBetween
Gregor XaneMr. Impossible