AUTHOR INTERVIEW: J.P. Choquette

Meghan: Hey J.P. Welcome back to our annual Halloween Extravaganza? What is your favorite part of Halloween?

J.P.: I love the dressing up and pretending to be someone else aspect. As a kid, playing dress up and imagining myself in different roles and situations was one of my favorite things to do. And of course, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

J.P.: Decorating the house with my husband and son is always fun. My very favorite part of that is standing down by the end of the driveway when we’ve finished and looking at the lights/decorations. Last year (COVID) we weren’t sure if trick-or-treating would be possible, so we had a big outdoor Halloween party with several families in our neighborhood and my son’s friends and families. It was a blast and I really enjoyed our creative Halloween-themed snacks (puking pumpkin was a hit but maybe not as much as the spider donuts).

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

J.P.: Halloween is toward the top of my list. I just love the idea of everyone connecting with their creative selves—the decorations, costumes, the fun of walking the streets in the dark with kids as they go door-to-door, the movies and books, candles and coziness—there’s a lot to love!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

J.P.: No superstitions here. 😊

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

J.P.: I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time a few years ago. While I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of vampires and their eerie transformation from person to blood-sucking-villain, this book made the idea so much more real…and frightening. Highly recommend this book—the atmosphere Stoker created was incredible and the writing really beautiful.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

J.P.: I read a scary book by Mary Higgins Clark when I was a teenager about a babysitter who was getting crank calls…and realized they were coming from inside the house. I did a lot of babysitting back then and it was at the back of my mind from that point on! I have heard variations of this as an urban legend but am not sure which came first—the story or the novel.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

J.P.: Ohhhh, I do not like serial killer stories at all.

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

J.P.: I saw Child’s Play at a friend’s sleepover party when we were in the third grade. I was terrified. Afterward, my little overactive imagination saw Chuckie everywhere I went—behind the shower curtain, in my closet, under the bed….

My first horror book was Dean Koontz in high school, I think. I can’t remember the title but there was some sort of supernatural monster in it. I love supernatural suspense and the type of horror that causes all the fear and dread without relying on gore.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

J.P.: I think it was the year I made a Bride of Frankenstein costume. I bought a big Marge Simpson-style white wig and spray painted it black (cutting out lightning bolts first to keep the hair underneath white). I made a dress from an old sheet and my husband helped with the makeup. It was fun and I loved the way it looked in the end.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

J.P.: I love Halloween songs! Thriller, Monster Mash, and Purple People Eater–they’re all great. My absolute favorite, though, is Little Red Riding Hood by Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs. Love it!

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

J.P.: I’m a huge chocoholic so anything with chocolate is a yes for me. If it’s paired with peanut butter (Reese’s PB cups or Butterfinger) makes it even better.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by today, J.P. Before you go, what kind of Halloween books and movies are your go-to?

J.P.: Right now, I’m listening to Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie which I’m really enjoying. Anything gothic-y, dark, atmospheric, preferably set in the deep woods, a crumbling mansion, or a boarding school are my go-to choices for Halloween…and most of the rest of the year, too.


Boo-graphy:
Thriller author, J.P. Choquette, writes atmospheric suspense novels with themes of nature, art, and folklore.

She started writing “books” when she was old enough to hold a crayon. These were held together with staples and left some painful scratches. 

In her career, J.P. has been a vet tech, a Montessori teacher helper, an administrative assistant, a case manager, and a buffet hostess, in no particular order. She’s been writing full-time since 2008. 

When she’s not working, you’ll find her sipping a hot beverage, reading, or in the woods with her family. 

Join her Readers’ Club and get peeks into her writing life, upcoming releases, thriller book recommendations, and other treats for book lovers.

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Green Mountain Trilogy:
Let the Dead Rest, Shadow in the Woods, Dark Circle

Combined for the first time, readers of J.P. Choquette’s Gothic tales of suspense will be riveted by The Green Mountain Trilogy.

In “Let the Dead Rest,” a strange doll makes her appearance in the life of Isabel Joven, an artist living out in the boondocks of Vermont. When strange things begin to happen, Isabel is drawn deeper and deeper into the doll’s frightening past, even as her own world starts to fall apart at the seams.

Readers are calling “Shadow in the Woods,” a “fast-paced, fun thriller,” and remarked that it “hits the accelerator and never lets up on the gas.” In it, two mental health counselors bring a small group of patients for an “ecotherapy” weekend in the wilds of the Vermont mountains. But when the group is forced to take refuge from a storm in a cave, sinister things begin to happen. Six go into the woods, but only three come out.

Sarah Solomon is recovering from a traumatic experience in “Dark Circle,” and moves to northwestern Vermont for a fresh start. But strange things are happening in the gated community where she and her husband live. When Sarah sees the “gray lady” in the woods, she’s unsure if it’s a ghost or a real person. As Sarah digs deeper into the community’s past, she discovers secrets that others want very much to stay buried.

Now available for the first time in a trilogy format, readers can enjoy a collection of Choquette’s most popular supernatural suspense titles. Fans of Ruth Ware, Lisa Unger and Peter Swanson will enjoy Choquette’s atmospheric, chilling tales packed with twists and turns. All three novels are set in rural or small town northwestern Vermont.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lee Rozelle

Meghan: Hi, Lee. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books and our annual Halloween Extravaganza. I’m excited that you decided to take part in this year’s frivolities. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Lee: Watching frightened children in handmade outfits and pumpkin baskets lumber across the street in little hordes.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Lee: When I was a teenager, on Halloween we would get some of the kids together to roll Joe’s yard. But the little rollers didn’t know that Joe would be in his tree stand behind his house with a semiautomatic weapon. We would start rolling, and after a few minutes Joe would begin to fire his rifle into the air at a steady clip. At that point I would “get shot” and start screaming for help, gargling, whining, and rolling on the ground. It was really interesting to see who would come back and save me and who left me to die. The next year, of course, the kids who previously got punked would want to go “roll Joe’s yard” to see the new kids run like hell.

No yard rollers were injured in the making of this prank.

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

Lee: In Alabama it’s not necessarily cold during Halloween, but there’s wind, fog, and orange leaves. It’s very much a time of uncertainty, when people have the chance to take all of their beliefs and think, “maybe not.”

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Lee: Organ transplantation.

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

Lee: It would have to be Renfield in the 1931 Dracula. Never will I forget that laugh.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Lee: Not sure if she qualifies as a serial killer, but here’s the most compelling case that I’ve puzzled over:

Amy Bishop—The Crazy Professor Amy Bishop, a biology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, shot and killed three faculty members and wounded three others on February 12, 2010. In March of 2009, Bishop was denied tenure, which meant spring 2010 would be her last semester to be employed by the university. During a faculty meeting, Bishop stood up and began shooting those closest to her with a 9mm handgun – execution style. Bishop didn’t have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and she was in total denial after the event. She didn’t believe her colleagues were really dead. The day of the shooting, students claimed she seemed perfectly normal. On September 11, 2012, Bishop pleaded guilty to one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder in order to avoid the death penalty. On September 24, 2012, Bishop was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

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

Lee: When I was five, my father took me to see Jaws. One of the trailers before the movie flashed the words “Rated R” and I yelled loudly in my seat, “Rated R! I’m getting out of here!” The other audience members laughed at me and my father told me to sit down and hush. I’ll never forget that googly eyed corpse that pops out deep beneath the sea…it scared the hell out of me.

In regards to my first horror novel, my father was an elementary teacher and he supplemented our family income by selling socks to people at banks, gas stations, restaurants, and bars. He traipsed from building to building in small towns with a little basket selling 6 packs of socks. On one trip, he filled his truck up with 6 packs—we had footies too, don’t think this was a two-bit operation—and mail a huge box of socks to California. We would sell socks all the way to the West Coast, pick up the box at the Post Office, and on another route would sell socks all the way home. Anyway, we’re in Arizona and New Mexico hauling down the road, no AC, and I’m eleven years old and bored to death. On the dash there is this wrinkled up black paperback with a grayish cover. The book was The Dead Zone. I cracked it and started reading. Never been the same since.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Lee: No doubt, that baby in Salem’s Lot unsettled me into an exquisite freak out that I have rarely felt before or since. My skin crawled, my pancreas crawled, and I felt this stark, blank undercurrent inside me. Yeow.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Lee: Oh they all did. One that stands out as having messed me up big time is The Beast Within. We got bug rape, cannibalism of creepy old dudes, strange head inflations, head snatched through walls, puberty, more bugs, more rape…it was nasty.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Lee: Like most men of my generation, my favorite costume is Urkel from the TV show Family Matters.

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

Lee: The worst Halloween treat I ever received was a potato. I hated it.

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by today, Lee. Before you go, what’s your go to Halloween movie?

Lee: I was really sad that people didn’t like Halloween 3 when it came out, and I like to wonder what might have been if Carpenter had been able to produce anthology style “Halloween” movies with different plots. Could have been spectacular. And hey, those snakes and bugs coming out of those Silver Shamrock masks and kids’ heads in Halloween 3…phenomenal!


Boo-graphy:
Lee Rozelle’s debut novel Ballad of Jasmine Wills is forthcoming from Montag Press. Lee is the author of nonfiction books Zombiescapes & Phantom Zones and Ecosublime. He has published short stories in Cosmic Horror Monthly, HellBound Books‘ Anthology of BizarroShadowy Natures by Dark Ink Books, If I Die Before I Wake Volume 3, and the Scare You to Sleep podcast. Learn more on his website.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jamie Lee

Meghan: Hi, Jamie. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books AND our annual Halloween Extravaganza. Thanks for stopping by today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jamie: The uptick in horror movies, which is odd considering the number of streaming services that I subscribe to. But I have fond memories of getting my schoolwork completed and taking a long nap, all so I could stay up obscenely late to watch late showing of Hammer movies.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jamie: It’s one that I’ve let lapse, sadly, but want to pick up again. I used to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, every year, for Halloween.

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

Jamie: Halloween is the time of year I pick up my new, home décor.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Jamie: Opening an umbrella. I was eight the first time I did this and my mother informed me that it was bad luck, so I proceeded to do it several more times. Later that day I was chased down the road by several feral dogs, which my grandfather intercepted by swinging a cane like a club. Since then, I haven’t felt the need to test the validity of bad luck, with a repeat performance.

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

Jamie: I love Sam, from the movie Trick R Treat. He’s the perfect gentleman, if you’re celebrating Halloween appropriately; otherwise, he tends to get a tad stabby.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Jamie: The Torso murders. It’s what Elliot Ness did, when he wasn’t chasing Al Capone.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Jamie: The ankle slicing, car thief. Because, ouch!

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Jamie: Mine is fictional, Hannibal Lecter. He eats the rude.

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

Jamie: I saw The Exorcist when I was five, which is probably more a statement about parenting. It gave me waking nightmares all-night, so much that I couldn’t tell, if I was awake or dreaming.

I believe I was twelve, when I first read The Stand, by Stephen King. I couldn’t put it down, so much so that I finished it in a day.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jamie: I remember the Splatterpunk genre and had an anthology of short stories, entitled funnily enough: Splatterpunk. I had to read it in small doses and don’t know if I ever completely finished it.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Jamie: See The Exorcist, above. Although, Creepshow is a contender, after I saw it when I was six or seven.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Jamie: I bought one of the “paint your own” Halloween masks when I was in college. It was a red skull. I spent days working on it and didn’t think the brushes were good enough, so I started using some of my Warhammer brushes for detail work. Anything that allows me to mix hobbies is just magical.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Jamie: I am listening to “I Am Halloween” by Midnight Nightmare, as I type this.

Also, the Munsters theme song!

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

Jamie: Caramel apples, even if I’m such a fastidious eater now that I’d cut one into slices before eating.

Smarties: they are colored chalk, but that never stopped them getting used as a staple of Halloween bag filler, as a child.

Meghan: This has been great fun. Thank you again for participating. One more thing before you go: What are your go-to Halloween movies and books?

Jamie:
Movies: Halloween (original), Trick R Treat
Books: Dracula


Boo-graphy:
Jamie Lee has been writing fiction for 30 years. His debut release, Harmony, has been 25 years in the making. While he holds a degree in Microbiology and welcomes comparisons to a mad scientist, writing has always been his first love and interest.

After a successful private release in 2019 of short stories, Harmony was finally ready to debut in March of 2020.

However, life had other plans.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the release, rollout, and convention travel in support of Harmony to come to a screeching halt.

With an unexpected year-long hiatus, Jamie chose to work on final edits and begin to focus on the second book in the Harmony series, Cacophony.

When not writing, Jamie is a fervent, life-long gamer. He can be found every Friday night with long time friends playing any number of online RPGs and, during the week and weekend, building and painting his countless Warhammer armies, playing any chance he gets. He also enjoys health and fitness, reading, music, traveling, searching or the best bar-b-que and being fueled by endless coffee and kombucha. He is forever searching for the perfect haunted home to live in since his condo is simply not large enough for a proper library or laboratory.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Karissa Laurel

Meghan: Hey, Karissa! Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books! What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Karissa: I like that Halloween makes it culturally acceptable to indulge the darker side of our human natures. We can explore our feelings about monstrous and evil things without explicitly approving of them. The world is both light and dark, and most of the times we’re not supposed to acknowledge the dark stuff, but on Halloween, it’s acceptable.

I also love the aesthetics of Halloween—skeletons and bats and spiders and gothic clothing. I love costumes and how, for one night, you can be something or someone completely different. I love the idea of trick-or-treating, that we let down our guards and open our homes, even temporarily, to the community. It’s one activity that will never work as a virtual, on-line event. You only get the candy if you’re willing to go door to door and actually meet your neighbors. Some people hate that part of it, but I always liked the human interaction aspect of trick-or-treating.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Karissa: In my day job, I work in an office in a historical home in the downtown area of my city. My office/house is adjacent to one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, and that neighborhood goes ALL OUT at Halloween. They put up very elaborate decorations. The city shuts down one of the main streets in the neighborhood to keep cars out, and there’s a huge street party and tons and tons of trick-or-treating. Ever since I started working near that neighborhood about six years ago, I’ve been taking my family there on Halloween night. My kid is too old to trick-or-treat any more, but we enjoy going to see the decorations and the costumes. There’s also a Krispy Kreme nearby and we always stop in and grab some of the Halloween themed donuts.

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

Karissa: I don’t know that I have a favorite holiday because there’s something I like about most of them. I guess, if I had to choose, I like Thanksgiving most of all because it’s all the best stuff about Christmas but without all the commerciality and pressure to spend money and give gifts. I love to eat, I love spending time with my family, and there are fewer expectations. But Halloween might be my second favorite (even though we don’t get any days off from work for it. Why not? Who do I send a petition to about that?) because of all the things mentioned previously. So many holidays are similar, but there’s nothing else quite like Halloween, culturally speaking. It’s all about having fun, letting loose, indulging in fantasies.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Karissa: I am not really a superstitious person, although I do sometimes feel afraid to acknowledge out loud when something is going well or when I’ve had a streak of good fortune. Some part of me seems to think that acknowledging good luck is the fastest way of making sure that good luck comes to an end. But I’m not afraid of anything like broken mirrors, walking under ladders, or black cats.

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

Karissa: This is a hard one, mainly because there are so many good ones. I conferred with my kid (who is 19 y.o. and not much of a kid anymore) and he chose the demon from the Jeepers Creepers franchise, and I agree he’s a good choice. He only shows up every so often, but once he does, he’s impossible to kill. No matter what you do (like run him over with the car until he’s pulp in the road), he just keeps coming back. And he has the scariest face ever. That is some quality special effects make-up right there.

But while the Creeper is high on my list, I think Tim Curry’s performance as the demon clown in Stephen King’s It is probably top of my list. He was utterly terrifying in the most subtle way. He could just stand there in his clown make-up and pointy yellow teeth and scare the bejeezus out of me.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Karissa: I do watch quite a lot of true crime shows and listen to podcasts, but I can’t say there’s one that really fascinates me more than another. I was intrigued by the story of Hae Min Lee’s death, and whether or not Adnan Syed, convicted for killing her, really did it. Check out Season one of the Serial podcast for the whole story. I have to say, based on what I’ve heard and what we know in the years since…I think there’s a really good chance Adnan didn’t do it.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Karissa: Not so much an urban legend but when I was little, I had a book of local, North Carolina ghost stories that fascinated me. Ever since then, I’ve had a special place in my heart for local stories like the Devil’s Tramping Ground and The Maco Light.

The Devil’s Tramping Ground is a camping spot located in a forest near the Harper’s Crossroads area in Bear Creek, North Carolina. Lore says that the Devil “tramps” and haunts a barren circle of ground in which nothing is supposed to grow. Things left there will disappear overnight. Of course, there are some scientific explanations for why this place is so strange, but speculating about the devil is more forum

As for the Maco Light, according to the most common version of the legend, Joe Baldwin was in the rear car of a Wilmington, NC-bound train on a rainy night in 1867. As the train neared Maco, Baldwin realized the car had become detached from the rest of the train. He knew another train was following, so he ran to the rear platform and frantically waved a lantern to signal the oncoming train. The engineer failed to see the stranded railroad car in time, and Baldwin was decapitated in the collision. Some say the head was never found

Shortly after the accident, residents of Maco and railroad employees reported sightings of a white light along a section of railroad track through swamps west of Maco station, and word spread that Joe Baldwin had returned to search for his missing head. The light was said to appear in the distance, before approaching along the tracks facing East, bobbing at a height of about 5 feet, and either flying to the side of the track in an arc or receding from the viewer. Other reports spoke of green or red lights, or other patterns of movement

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Karissa: Although I like true crime a lot, I don’t tend to care for serial killer stories. It’s one thing to get a thrill from a fictional murderer like Mike Myers, but I don’t like anything that smacks of glorification of real-life killers in any sort of way. I tend to shy away from serial killer mythology.

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

Karissa: I probably had seen movies that were considered horror at an earlier age, but don’t remember anything specific. However, I do remember having a Halloween sleepover with some girlfriends when I was in middle school, I was probably about 12 years-old, and my mom let us rent The Lost Boys. I was absolutely enthralled. I don’t know if that can actually be considered a horror movie, but Kiefer Sutherland and his band of vampire misfits were certainly no vegetarian, sparkly Twilight vampires. I still love that movie to this day.

I can’t specifically remember when I picked up my first horror novel, but I do remember that The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree was one of my most favorite books as a little kid—I was always drawn to spooky things and didn’t scare easily. I read way ahead of my grade level, and I grew up reading Stephen King, Christopher Pike, V.C. Andrews, and Dean Koontz. My mom was very open minded about reading, and I have no memory of her discouraging me from reading anything.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

As a kid, I remember reading The Tommyknockers by Stephen King and being so freaked out that I had to go outside in the daylight to finish reading it. But the most recent thing I’ve read that made me feel deeply unsettled is The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. The whole book is full of moments that took my outside of myself in a frightening, disturbing way, but there is a climactic chase scene near the end that is one of the most downright horrifying things I’ve read in a long, long time. Jones establishes a prolonged period of heightened tension that is torturous, but in a really good way, and it’s never boring or tedious. If you love horror and haven’t read that book yet, you must.

I also have to shout out to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It’s nothing like the Will Smith movie, by the way. It’s one of the most gorgeously written books I’ve ever read and filled me with so much existential dread. It’s also extremely timely and relatable to the current pandemic culture we’re all experiencing.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Karissa: Horror, like comedy, is highly subjective, right? What scares one person won’t scare the next. I’ve watched tons of horror over the years and little of it has actually scared me. However, I can’t stand movies that are classified as horror but are actually just torture porn, such as House of 1000 Corpses. My husband, when we first started dating years ago, asked me to watch that movie with him and his friends. I ended up putting a blanket over my head and going to sleep instead of watching it. It didn’t scare me so much as sicken me. I still won’t go anywhere near that franchise, and I’m reluctant to watch any Rob Zombie productions because of that movie.

I wouldn’t say it scarred me, but George A. Romero’s ’68 Night of the Living Dead scared the crap out of my when I saw it years ago. It still gives me chills, and it’s still my favorite zombie movie, ever. With little in the way of special effects and nothing like CGI even remotely possible, Romero had to be clever. He used music and sound effects, lighting, and careful pacing to create a highly atmospheric movie that is thick with dread and horror. The opening scene, with that slow shambling zombie in the background, out of focus, slowly coming closer and closer… That was pure cinematic genius. I still prefer it over newer zombie movies that rely too much on CGI.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Karissa: As a kid, I was kind of spoiled and precocious about costumes. My mom was crafty and could sew. I always insisted that she make me one-of-a-kind costumes, and she indulged me. The biggest hit of my childhood costume career was when I went as a whole bag of M&Ms. My mom sewed me a costume that looked like a classic bag of regular M&Ms complete with the logo and barcode—it was kind of like a giant, brown, rectangular dress. I painted my face to look like a green M&M poking out of the top and put M&Ms made from balloons on my shoulders. I won a costume contest, and my mom sent pictures of me to the Mars chocolate company that owns M&Ms. They sent back stickers, coupons, and a personalized thank you letter.

I don’t sew like my mom can, but I like making things, so I’ve managed to make some pretty good costumes for my kid over the years. He’s been Popeye (that was a big hit with the old folks in my neighborhood), a Ghost Buster, the Ghost Rider, Gene Simmons from Kiss, and many more. When I used to work in a bigger office, I once made fancy witch hats for all the ladies in my section to wear on Halloween.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Karissa: Easily the answer to that is Thriller. I am Gen-X and was a little kid when that album came out. I loved everything Michael Jackson in those days. I didn’t see the video until I was a little older, maybe around seven or eight years old, and I remember being absolutely captivated by it. I still love the song and the video after all these years, even when it’s not Halloween.

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

Karissa: When my son was still trick-or-treating, I always looked forward to taking his Mounds or Almond Joys. I love coconut, but he didn’t, so it worked out well for me to take those and leave the rest for him. I especially like Mounds because I prefer dark chocolate. I absolutely cannot stand Twizzlers. They taste like wax to me. Ugh.

Meghan: Karissa, this was fantastic! Thanks for stopping by. Before you go, can you leave us with your go-to Halloween movies and books?

Karissa:

Top Ten Horror/Halloween Movies:
10 The Cabin in the Woods
9 It (The 1990 Miniseries)
8 Jeepers Creepers
7 Blade (1 and 2)
6 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
5 Three Witches of Eastwick
4 The Lost Boys
3 Alien (I and 2, especially 2)
2 Tumbbad
1 Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)

Top Halloween Books:
10 The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (much more terrifying than the musical version)
9 Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
8 Dracula by Bram Stoker
7 Prodigal Son (Frankenstein Series) by Dean Koontz
7 The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
6 The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
5 The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
4 Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
3 The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (The BBC audio production is wonderful)
2 The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
1 I am Legend by Richard Matheson


Boo-graphy:
Karissa Laurel lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of her favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, superheroes, and Star Wars. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. In the summer, she’s camping, kayaking, and boating at the lake, and in the winter, she’s skiing or curled up with a good book. She is the author of the Urban Fantasy trilogy, The Norse Chronicles; Touch of Smoke, a stand-alone paranormal romance; and The Stormbourne Chronicles, a YA second-world fantasy trilogy.

Serendipity at the End of the World
Serendipity Blite and her sister, Bloom, use their unique talents to survive the apocalyptic aftermath of the Dead Disease. When Bloom is kidnapped, Sera is determined to get her back. Attempting a rescue mission in an undead-infested city would be suicidal, so Sera forms a specialized team to help retrieve her sister. But unfortunate accident sets Sera teetering on the edge of death. She must fight to save her own life, because surviving could mean finding family, love, and possibly a cure.

You can find it on Kindle Vella
New episodes come out every Saturday

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephen Volk

And now, for a little bit of fun…

Meghan: Hey Stephen! Welcome… back? Hahaha. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Stephen: 1) My grandsons having fun!

2) The movies!……. It is the one day of the year when TV puts out horror movies or shows about horror movies. And it is the one night of the year when people who don’t like scary things like to be scared, And – see – that’s when we GET them! Heh heh heh!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Stephen: Telling ghost stories by candle light. Except nobody does it any more. Our campfire tales are usually told in front of the latest wide screen plasma screen. And told by cinematographic storytellers. But there is nothing quite like the old tradition of HEARING a ghost story to truly chill the blood. The images you conjure up in your head are far worse than any CGI can deliver!

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

Stephen: I like ANY holiday because it means the phone won’t ring and I can get on with writing without being disturbed!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Stephen: I’m not superstitious in the conventional sense, but I have a desk full of talismanic objects… A statuette of Peter Cushing, Poe and Alfred Hitchcock, skull money boxes, monster toys etc…

But generally I believe in “paying back” – so if I get paid for a screenplay, I like to spend money on a work of art. Be it a small print of £50 or a bigger piece of artwork I have fallen in love with – or indeed an expensive or lavish book. I love the visual arts – painting, etching, etc – lots of my friends are artists and you can pick up an original work of art rather than a mass produced print and feel you are supporting the artist. I like that! I also like to share all sorts of weird images on my twitter feed or Facebook timeline – they are great inspiration for stories!

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

Stephen: It would have to be Frankenstein’s creature. It isn’t just frightening it has a lot of tragedy and pathos – it was rejected by its father, so it wasn’t born bad, it was made bad by being treated badly. I love that as a metaphor for life. Maybe there is a story to be written where Viktor Frankenstein was a good daddy? That would be interesting.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Stephen: The Jack the Ripper murders of Whitechapel in 1888, of course. I don’t think we will ever get to the bottom of the mystery. Not anymore, so long after the primary evidence has decayed and the witnesses and investigators are all dead. All the theories overlap and the territory is too muddy. My own theory is that “London” or specifically the East End was the murderer. There was no single killer of the canonical five. And the person who wrote the “Dear Boss” letter was an enterprising reporter called Tom Bulling. In fact, I wrote a TV script about him, and the creation of the first tabloid true crime story. Bulling “created” the myth of Jack the Ripper, I think. (I was always fascinated that Inspector Abberline was alive long enough to have watched Hitchcock’s “Ripper” film The Lodger in a movie house!)

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Stephen: The phantom hitchhiker, probably. It’s very easy to hallucinate a figure at the side of the road but it turns out it’s only a signpost or tree, but the idea of a hitchhiker being a ghost sitting next to you is terrifying. We’re terribly vulnerable in our cars at night. I tried to dramatise this is a script I wrote called Octane (called Pulse in the USA) starring Madeline Stowe and Norman Reedus. It was about vampires who prey on people in car crashes at night. It was a cool idea but the movie didn’t quite work.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Stephen: I don’t find serial killers interesting or charismatic. In real life they are boring, odious non-entities. I think we have to grow up and face the fact that they aren’t comic book monsters let alone “heroes” – they are human beings who have gone badly wrong. And we can’t spot them in a crowd because they look like you and me. In my stories about people who do terrible things I always want there to be shadings of gray. Maybe a terrible person does something for a good reason, or a good person is forced to do something awful. That is much more interesting to me than a Freddy or a Jason.

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

Stephen: First horror movie was on TV and it was a black and white one called The City of the Dead. It was a British film, I think, but set in the USA, full of men in monks’ cowls and streets swathed in fog – it was terrific! There is one particular image that stayed with me ever since, and that was a man staggering through the fog holding a life sized cross from the graveyard to ward off the evil ones – who I think burst into flames! That, to me, was almost the equal of the iconic scene in Hammer’s Dracula where Van Helsing leaps up and pulls down the curtains letting in the sunlight that shrivels Dracula to a crisp – then holds the two candle sticks in the form of a crucifix to finish him off! Wonderful stuff!

First horror book was a magazine – FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine! I used to save up my pocket money and go to the local newsagent and buy it. The photographs were like nothing I’d ever seen. And of course long before I was old enough to see any of the movies themselves – which were “X” certificate in Britain – ADULTS ONLY! That’s how I got to know Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, way before I saw the films.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Stephen: Possibly Dracula at a young age – it sort of felt real because it was in diary form. Like the equivalent of a “found footage” movie today. You plunge into the immersive world and it doesn’t let go. When you are young you don’t understand the graphically sexual imagery – it is just the force of predatory evil and strangeness that is all-consuming.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Stephen: Without doubt, Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. It’s my number one film of all time because when the ending happened (I was sitting in a movie house all alone on a wet Wednesday afternoon) I thought I’d lost my mind. I thought the reels must have been switched. I didn’t get it, then it all made sense. Then there was that marvellous montage of all the hints that had told you what was going on all along. It’s a true cinematic masterpiece, and I will watch it over and over till the day I die. Purely from the craft point of view there is so much to learn from the storytelling and the depth of character.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Stephen: I have a skinhead skullcap with a massive rubber Mohawk sticking up. I like it because my dad wore it one time and it looked hilarious so it reminds me of him. And, since I’m bald, it is kind of perverse to wear a bald skull cap on top of a bald head! But hey, that’s how I roll!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Stephen: Gotta be “The Monster Mash”. I can’t think of any other. And now I’ve got it playing in my head, damn you!

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

Stephen: Nothing. I’ll eat anything. If you were a chocolate bar, I’d eat you.

Meghan: Stephen, thanks again for joining us today. Not for one interview, but TWO. Before you go, what are your favorite Halloween movies?

Stephen:

#1 Halloween – the original and the best!!

#2 Ghostwatch (I wrote it – so, sorry!)

But for Halloween night, I’d always recommend these superlative cinematic treats:

#3 The Innocents
#4 The Haunting (black and white version)
#5 The Woman in Black (British TV version)
#6 Herzog‘s Nosferatu
#7 Dreyer‘s Vampyr
#8 Haxan
#9 Viy
#10 The Devil’s Backbone

Thanks for the interview. To sign off here is George, my grandson, carving pumpkins and looking super chilled:

Boo-graphy:
STEPHEN VOLK is best known as the writer of the BBC’s notorious “Halloween hoax” Ghostwatch and the award-winning ITV drama series Afterlife. His other film and television screenplays include The Awakening (2011), starring Rebecca Hall, and Gothic, starring the late Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley. He is a BAFTA Award winner, Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and the author of three collections: Dark Corners, Monsters in the Heart (which won the British Fantasy Award), and The Parts We Play. The Dark Masters Trilogy comprises of three stories (Whitstable, Leytonstone, and “Netherwood”) using Peter Cushing, Alfred Hitchcock, and Dennis Wheatley as fictional characters, with a guest appearance by the occultist Aleister Crowley. His provocative non-fiction is collected in Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror (PS Publishing, 2019) and his most recent book, also from PS Publishing, is Under a Raven’s Wing – grotesque and baffling mysteries investigated by Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allan Poe’s master detective Dupin in 1870s Paris.

Under a Raven’s Wing
The Apprenticeship of Sherlock Holmes

In 1870s Paris, long before meeting his Dr Watson, the young man who will one day become the world’s greatest detective finds himself plunged into a mystery that will change his life forever.

A brilliant man—C. Auguste Dupin—steps from the shadows. Destined to become his mentor. Soon to introduce him to a world of ghastly crime and seemingly inexplicable horrors.

The spectral tormentor that is being called, in hushed tones, The Phantom of the Opera . . .
The sinister old man who visits corpses in the Paris morgue . . .
An incarcerated lunatic who insists she is visited by creatures from the Moon . . .
A hunchback discovered in the bell tower of Notre Dame . . .
And—perhaps most shocking of all—the awful secret Dupin himself hides from the world.
Tales of Mystery, Imagination, and Terror

Investigated in the company of the darkest master of all.

The Dark Master’s Trilogy
Whitstable – 1971.
Peter Cushing, grief-stricken over the loss of his wife and soul-mate, is walking along a beach near his home. A little boy approaches him, taking him to be the famous vampire-hunter Van Helsing from the Hammer films, begs for his expert help…

Leytonstone – 1906.
Young Alfred Hitchcock is taken by his father to visit the local police station. There he suddenly finds himself, inexplicably, locked up for a crime he knows nothing about – the catalyst for a series of events that will scar, and create, the world’s leading Master of Terror…

Netherwood – 1947.
Best-selling black magic novelist Dennis Wheatley finds himself summoned mysteriously to the aid of Aleister Crowley – mystic, reprobate, The Great Beast 666, and dubbed by the press ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’ – to help combat a force of genuine evil…

The Little Gift
The nocturnal scampering invariably signals death. I try to shut it out. The cat might be chasing a scrap of paper or a ball of silver foil across the bare floorboards downstairs, say a discarded chocolate wrapper courtesy of my wife, who likes providing it with impromptu playthings. I tell myself it isn’t necessarily toying with something living, but my stomach tightens.

What time is it?

Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror

The Parts We Play
An illusionist preparing his latest, most audacious trick… A movie fan hiding from a totalitarian regime… A pop singer created with the perfect ingredients for stardom… A folklorist determined to catch a supernatural entity on tape… A dead child appearing to her mother in the middle of a supermarket aisle… A man who breaks the ultimate taboo—but does that make him a monster?

In this rich and varied collection of Stephen Volk’s best fiction to date, characters seek to be the people they need to be, jostled by hope, fears, responsibility, fate, and their own inner demons—and desires. These tales of the lies and lives we live and the pasts we can’t forget include the British Fantasy Award-winning novella, Newspaper Heart.