AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Matthew R. Davis

Meghan: Hey, Matthew! Welcome to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Books… or (Holiday) House of Books because, technically, it’s December… but I’m just not ready to finish with Halloween, as you can tell. Thanks for joining in our annual frivolities. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Matthew: The fact that we celebrate all that is spooky and dark! While the day has come a long way from its roots, it’s broadened to include all kinds of horrors, and so naturally I love the aesthetics and the focus on peering into the shadows.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Matthew: Ah, I don’t really have one. In Australia, we don’t get out on the streets as much as other countries – I’ve never been trick or treating, though at one of my previous homes (Ghastly Manor) we did put out some props and hand lollies over to groups of roving children. I do like to get out and celebrate the Spooky Season – there are usually a few goth events on, my partner and I attended a double bill of Shaun of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead a few years back, and last year a dearly departed friend had his final, posthumous exhibition opening on Halloween night.

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

Matthew: Again, it’s all about the celebrations of horror and the macabre. The trappings of Christmas are an annoyance to me – carols and tinsel, chintzy decorations indulged in just because It’s What We Do, the religious angle – so Halloween provides a much-needed balance.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Matthew: Pretty much nothing. I’m an entirely irreligious person, and while I keep an open mind, I don’t believe in the paranormal – which is perhaps an odd attitude from a horror writer whose work is so often supernatural! I guess I’d like some of the stories to be true, for these hints of further worlds to be genuine, because then there’s so much more to explore and it might also mean there’s something else to come after we shuffle off this mortal coil – and while I don’t think there is, I have to admit that the idea of an afterlife beyond the codified legends of religion, freely entered without having to follow some deity’s laws of conduct and devotion, is an appealing one. I believe we get one life and we need to make the most of it, but I won’t feel too bad if I’m ultimately proved wrong… so long as I don’t end up consigned to excruciating and unjust torture for all eternity!

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

Matthew: I tend to wince when I see yet another meme or image that wheels out the pop culture horror big guns like Freddy, Jason, Michael, Pinhead, Ghostface, Regan McNeil, Pennywise, Leatherface, etc. There’s so much more beyond these figureheads! That said, I am a fan of most of those characters, or at least some of the movies in which they feature. (My hot take: The Exorcist is overrated Catholic propaganda.) But I prefer standalone films with one-off monsters or villains, and having said that, now I have to think of some in order to actually answer this question! Here are some notables: the witches and their associates from Suspiria (original and remake), the titular woman from The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the ghosts of The Haunting of Hill House series, the creepy doubles from The Broken, the grotesqueries that appear throughout In the Mouth of Madness, the demons from, well, Demons, the haunting at the heart of Mungo Lake… and so, so many more!

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Matthew: I don’t know if I could pick just one! Some cases are so intriguing that a solution is craved if only to satisfy the onlooker’s curiosity, but then, so much of their interest is predicated on them remaining unsolved. I hope they are unraveled so those close to the victims can gain closure, but the mystery is always more satisfying than the solution. It may be a little ghoulish to find titillation in the unsolved disappearances and deaths of strangers, but why shouldn’t we be curious? Nothing is ever learned without someone applying thought to the situation.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Matthew: I’m not credulous and I don’t scare easy, and most legends are fairly humdrum and ridiculous anyway, so I guess… none. I do find them interesting, though, and I occasionally include one in my work. A pair of 1960s teenage spree killers inspire a schoolyard ditty in my novel Midnight in the Chapel of Love, and rumours of their visit to the titular Chapel lead others to try and find the place.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Matthew: None. Fuck those people. I don’t have a favourite rapist or a favourite thug, so why should I have a favourite murderer? While I am intensely curious about serial killers and love to read about them, I don’t ever glorify what they do – my interest lies largely in my inability to understand how people could do such atrocious things to others, and in the processes by which they can be profiled, identified, and captured. I want to know what causes some people to kill and I want to know how we can stop them. Accordingly, I find great interest in books by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, who set out their stall with Mindhunter.

Meghan: I guess I should have worded that question differently. I did not mean “favorite” as in one you idolize, but “favorite” as in the one that intrigues you the most. But I digress… How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?

Matthew: Okay… I don’t know for sure, but I remember seeing bits of a movie I now know is Cruise into Terror (1978), including an Egyptian sarcophagus that started breathing, and that was quite creepy when I was so young. The only movie I ever turned off was The Masterson Curse (aka Scared Stiff, 1987) when I was ten, because I couldn’t stand the tension building up to a well-telegraphed jump scare – something tells me I’d find that movie very mild going these days!

As for books… I read one of Guy N. Smith’s Crabs books before I should have, and that was pretty heavy going. The Choose Your Own Adventure books got quite grim sometimes, and then there were darker variants like the Plot Your Own Horror Story series. The only one I own is Grand Hotel of Horror (Hilary Milton, 1984), which snaked under my skin with its anything-goes terrors and eerie illustrations, and other entries saw you trapped overnight in a mall, a haunted house, and even a space museum. In fact, Space Age Terrors has one of the best back cover taglines I have ever seen.

It is programmed to destroy.
It can walk through locked doors.
It is looking for you.

Brrr!

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Matthew: At the risk of sounding repetitive and dull, it’s rare for a book to actually scare me. Sometimes it’s individual pieces that get to me: some of the seabase scenes in Nick Cutter’s The Deep, the exploration of an abandoned flat and subsequent entry of Black Maggie in Adam Nevill’s No One Gets Out Alive, the increasing religious mania of the father in Ramsey Campbell’s The House on Nazareth Hill and the concomitant persecution of his daughter that leads to a truly shocking climax. Sometimes it’s the creeping mood and atmosphere that lingers after the covers have been closed, like in Laird Barron’s The Croning, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, or Stephen King‘s Pet Sematary.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Matthew: See above, but to avoid repeating myself: Jaws (1975), which I saw far too young and instilled in me an instinctive fear of water deeper than I am tall, not to mention a lifelong phobia of great white sharks! My brother, who watched those films with me (and was two years younger to boot!), recently went cage-diving amongst the great whites of Port Lincoln, and man, let me tell you – it is exceedingly unlikely I would ever even contemplate doing the same!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Matthew: Nothing I’ve ever worn, as I’ve never dressed up in full costume for Halloween. I’ve seen some great ones, though! (Not Great Ones, thankfully.) Let me give a shout out to my partner, who did this great little goth vampire thing a few years back complete with fangs and creepy contacts. As for me, I was wearing a skirt and steel-capped boots – perhaps scary, but not in the same way.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Matthew: John Carpenter’s Halloween theme, naturally; “Halloween” and “Halloween II” by Misfits; “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare All)” and “All Hallows Eve” by Type O Negative. I can’t think of much else that is explicitly about the season, but I’m a big fan of dark, creepy music in general – I could put together a playlist for Halloween that would kill.

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

Matthew: Chocolate. Not chocolate.


Boo-graphy:
Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, South Australia, whose novelette “Heritage Hill” (found in Outback Horrors Down Under: An Anthology of Antipodean Terrors, edited by Steve Dillon, published by Things in the Well Publications) was shortlisted for a 2020 Shirley Jackson Award and the WSFA Small Press Award. His books are the horror collection If Only Tonight We Could Sleep (Things in the Well, 2020) and the novel Midnight in the Chapel of Love (JournalStone, 2021). Find out more at his website.

Midnight in the Chapel of Love
THE MAN: Jonny Trotter has spent the last fifteen years running from tragic memories of the country town where he grew up—but the black envelopes pushed under his door won’t let him forget, and now that his father has died, he can run no more.

THE TOWN: Returning to Waterwich for the funeral and wake with his partner Sloane, Jonny must confront old resentments, his estranged best friends Brendan and Coralie, a strange, veiled woman the locals call the White Widow…and the mystery surrounding the fate of his first lover, Jessica Grzelak.

THE GIRL: A morbid and reckless city girl banished to the country to live with her aunt, Jessica loved to push the limits and explore the shadows—and no one has seen her since the night of her high school formal, the night she and Jonny went looking for the Chapel.

THE CHAPEL: Rumored to be found in the woods outside Waterwich, mentioned in playground rhymes about local lovebirds Billy and Poppy and their killing spree in 1964, the Chapel is said to be an ancient, sacred place that can only be entered by lovers—a test that can only be passed if their bond is pure and true.

THE TRUTH: Before he can move on to a future with Sloane, Jonny must first face the terrible truth of his past—and if he can’t bring it out into the light at last, it might just pull him and everything he loves down into the dark forever.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Jonathan Edward Ondrashek

Meghan: Hi, Jonathan. Welcome back to the Halloween Extravaganza… and welcome to the new blog. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: Hi, Meghan! Thanks for having me back (and for finally dropping that restraining order against me). Since we last chatted, Books 2 and 3 of The Human-Undead War trilogy have been published, I’ve co-edited two more anthologies, have had over a half dozen more shorts accepted (mostly in paying markets), and recently appeared with both Stephen King and Guy N. Smith in It Came From the Garage!, an anthology of automotive horror from Darkwater Syndicate, Inc. In addition, I’ve edited two stand-alone novellas and a novel (with professional credit on the cover, finally!), lost my day job, and became a fur-father to a massive brown wiener (dog). Oh, and masturbation. Lots of masturbation.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: Please see the final sentence in my answer to Question 1. Yep. I’m a sick weirdo in every way, in and outside the writing realm.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I love it when they do, but I’m especially nervous anytime they mention wanting to read certain works. My stuff has progressively gotten more extreme and sexual and moral-bending, and some friends and relatives are too conservative to be the intended audience. But, at the end of the day, I want every reader I can get. Sometimes you just gotta bite down on the red ballgag and let friends and family find out how truly deranged you are.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: A bit of both. It’s a gift – any level of mastery over a skill is, whether it be writing or bagging groceries or laying brick. But it’s also a curse in that it permeates every aspect of my life even when I need to focus on other things. Work at the day job? Interrupted every 5 minutes for a random story idea, or a plot twist I hadn’t thought up before. Errands after work? I better give that character a more meaningful name while I’m waiting at this red light. Oh, and I should probably – Shit. Someone’s honking. Gotta roll.

It can also be a curse in that it affects my mood: If I know I can’t find time to write today, I’m miserable all fuckin’ day. If I’m able to write, I’m humping everyone’s leg whether they like it or not, goddamn it.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: My past has eked into my last few stories in greater proportions than it used to, so I’ve found my work morphing to incorporate my environments and upbringing – almost subconsciously. It’s made for some interesting settings and situations, and I plan to continue cultivating my past for horrors to exploit.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: For a scene in Patriarch (Book 2, The Human-Undead War), I had to do extensive research on blood transfusions. I had to use legitimate science and dormant math skills to figure out exactly how many liters of blood a person of X weight would have, how quickly blood flows inside the body, how quickly it can be pumped into arteries without blowing them out, the exact routes of the human circulatory system, what was a high enough blood pressure and heartrate to maintain life, what blood types meshed, and a lot more medical shit that was strange yet exciting to learn.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I tend to have an idea of the beginning and end early in the process. However, that bridge between the two doesn’t always connect as I’d envisioned it, and that’s where my frustrations surface. Those middles, for me, can sometimes be as painful as these goddamn hemorrhoids.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I’m not a good pantser, so outlining works best for me. I also don’t have a specific regimen for starting. The idea generally originates with a theme, which leads to plot, and then to character for me, though several of my works started with the character first – all depends on what impact I wish to leave on the reader. I’m not good at just sitting and writing, either. That evil fucking demon who resides within my gray matter requires me to reread and edit the previous day’s work before I can vomit new ink onto the page. He’s a mean SOB, so I listen to him, and that seems to work well for me.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I break out the cat o’ nine tails and beat the shit out of ‘em, until they stop moaning in pleasure and screech instead in pain!

In all seriousness, a few have gone rogue on me before. Rather than reel them in to fit my preconceived mold, I let them breathe on their own. It’s led to many interesting character meetups and romantic interests, twists and turns. (It has also led to many an unplanned death, so maybe the defiant bastards shouldn’t have strayed, huh? THAT’S WHAT YOU FUCKING GET, KAREN!)

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: Motivation to sit and write has been my bane for the past year. My productivity has halted due to the daily grind of life. However, recent fan adoration has rekindled a fire. Perhaps not working for a greedy corporation and spending most waking hours embedded in their bullshit might be the final spark now . . .

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I used to be, but have found my free time severely limited. And instead of novellas or novels, I’ve transitioned toward anthologies. I enjoy being able to rip through a short here and there without having to remember plot points or characters and whatnot when I pick the book up again. I’ve also been discovering more and more authors this way, which is always pleasant.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I don’t stray far outside horror these days, and the darker and more hardcore, the better.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I think they’re mostly great. Yes, the adaptation from page to screen often requires plot or character changes (sometimes major, too), but movies based on books inject creativity and originality into the Hollywood atmosphere, which is currently drenched in remakes (and remakes of remakes, or remakes of movies already once adapted from books). This can also drive sales for authors who write in the same or similar genres, which is great for the writing community. I just wish Hollywood would look at the indie scene more, especially in horror. There are some stellar fucking works out there that don’t have Big Name on the cover but would make for mind-blowing, action-packed gorefests on the big screen.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: Yes, I’ve killed many. Sometimes the acts of the main characters – including their deaths – are necessary elements regardless of how much I or a reader may love them.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: Does a paraplegic wish she could diddle herself while watching Fifty Shades of Grey?

Fuck. Yes.

Suffering – pain – makes us remember that we’re alive. Everyone must suffer in some way to transform. As for why I enjoy it, I guess I’m just a sick fuck who gets off on putting my characters through the wringer when possible. Increases the tension, makes the character come to life, and gets the blood pumping to extremities I haven’t seen in over a decade.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: The sole female jackal from The Human-Undead War series was a strange one. The jackals themselves are genetic pieces of gorillas, boa constrictors, hyenas, and human mashed into one giant two-legged undead freak closely resembling a troll-werewolf hybrid, and the female jackal had to stand out from them. She’s larger, has protruding nipples that dribble at will, is protected fiercely by the primary antagonist, and her sole purpose is to breed and produce. She is able to procreate and birth a human-sized jackal within a couple hours, and then she is ready to do it all again. Since she had to have a penchant for the horn and vampires needed to evolve, she required a (somewhat vague) bestiality scene at one point, which got really fuckin’ weird.

Did I mention that she rips off her victims’ cocks and swallows them whole when she is finished with them? I didn’t? You’re welcome.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: The best feedback was from an editor of a recent published story. She had commented, “NOOOO… This is so cliché in contrast to otherwise fantastic writing!” This from someone at a place who saw my work as worthy enough to pay me pro rates for it, and it was the only thing she really called out in the piece. Made my day knowing that she found it fantastic otherwise, given the caliber of the press.

I can’t recall the worst feedback, so it must not have been that bad. I either ignored it or learned from it.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: There have been many moments in the past year where I wanted to bow out of the writing scene entirely due to depression and anxiety, slumping sales, and whatnot. But then I attended a couple conventions as a vendor and got to meet my fans face to face like I have in the past, and it pulled me out of my funk, to a degree. Seeing their sparkling eyes, their genuine interest and excitement in my work – it gives me a massive heart-on (also known as “the feels”). It reminded me of why I do this and has brought me some sanity again, so I thank the few I have!

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I’d yank the original concept of Dracula away from Stoker and turn him into a true horrifying creature of the night, not some lamenting, compassionate elf that hisses every once in a while but otherwise does little or no harm to others. (I know Dracula helped horror go mainstream, but come on – Dracula is a bit of a pussy, ain’t he?)

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I’d write the next book in The Human-Undead War series that I had planned to do years ago. It would pick up 20 years after the events of the first trilogy with some familiar faces and many new, and with new apocalyptic turmoil brewing beneath the surface.

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: David Owain Hughes. We’ve co-edited and appeared in many anthologies together, but we have yet to co-author anything. We’ve entertained the idea, and if we do, it’ll be a bizarro novella of orgasmic proportions

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

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: I’ve been promising a short story collection for a few years now and have finally amassed enough to make it happen, so hopefully 2020 will be the year for it. I’m also working on a novelette and short story collection that are all tied together in a series tentatively titled Plumb Fucked Conspiracies. (Get your tinfoil hats ready!) In addition, I’ll have a racially charged revenge story in Shadows & Teeth Volume 4 from Darkwater Syndicate, Inc (release date TBD), and my overseas bearded brother from another mother David Owain Hughes and I will be unleashing Deranged, a horror/bizarro anthology that explores fucked-up sexual kinks (cover photo below), later this year.

After that, who the fuck knows? I may not be a bestseller, I may not be a household name, and my output may have dwindled to a GRRM-esque drip, but I’ve been around for years and ain’t goin’ nowhere. You’ll see me around, ya poor suckers.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: Website ** Amazon ** Facebook ** Twitter

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek: Said it last time and I’ll say it again: Fuck the rat race. No point in toiling away for a greedy prick in a suit if it means giving up your passions. Live while you can.

Jonathan Edward Ondrashek is a horror/dark fantasy writer and editor who hisses and screeches at sunlight. He’s the author of The Human-Undead War trilogy (Dark Intentions, Patriarch, and A Kingdom’s Fall). His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including the highly acclaimed VS: US vs UK Horror series, Nothing’s Sacred Volume 5, and It Came From the Garage!, which featured Stephen King and Guy N. Smith, among others. He also co-edited Deranged, F*ck the Rules, What Goes Around, and Man Behind the Mask, boundary-pushing anthologies featuring work from established and new voices in the horror genre. If he isn’t reading, editing, or writing, he’s probably drinking beer and making his wife regret marrying a lunatic. Feel free to stalk him on social media.

Deranged

Most of us have sexual fantasies. They are normally harmless, but what if the status quo wasn’t enough? What if your proclivity for climaxing tipped over the edge and into the extreme?

Would you fancy shagging a mermaid, or an otherworldly creature from another dimension or planet? Would you seek sexual revenge if some thing raped you? Maybe you’d let a ghost have its way with you, if the mood struck? Perhaps your penchant for asphyxiation would bleed over into guerrilla interrogation tactics?

What if you weren’t a necrophiliac but found yourself sopping wet after gazing into the milky white eyes of a pristine, hunky dead man?

The ten tales in this horror/bizarro tome will shock, disgust, and make your toes curl in unexpected ways.

Everyone has a kink. Some are just more deranged than others . . .

The Guilty Sickos:
Antonio Simon, Jr ** Sarah Cannavo ** Jonathan Butcher ** Colleen Anderson
Sidney Williams ** John Paul Fitch ** W.T. Paterson ** Annie Knox
C.L. Raven ** Suzanne Fox

It Came From the Garage

Shift your fear into top gear. 

Set your pulse racing with this collection of automotive horror that fires on all cylinders. This bad boy comes fully-optioned with fifteen tales of classic cars and motorcycles behaving badly; and the star-studded lineup is sure to provide all the nightmare fuel you can handle. 

So strap in and hold on, because we’re going pedal to the metal. It’s blood-soaked horror or bust, and we aren’t stopping for anything. You’re in for a ride. 

The authors who contributed to this anthology are: Stephen King, Guy N. Smith, Antonio Simon, Jr., Apara Moreiya, Stephanie Kelley, David Owain Hughes, Paige Reiring, R. Perez de Pereda, Sarah Cannavo, Alana Turner, Douglas Fairbanks, Jonathan Edward Ondrashek, Richard Ayre, Michael Warriner, and Nicholas Paschall.