AUTHOR INTERVIEW: M. Ennenbach

Our next author, as long as he takes part in our annual Halloween Extravaganzas, will always be on November 1st. Why? Because today is his birthday – and what better way to celebrate than to have him on to share more about the awesomeness that is he.

Meghan: Hey, Mike!! Welcome back! It’s always a pleasure to have you on the blog. Thanks for stopping by. Now that all the niceties are out of the way, let’s get started. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Mike: It is different in Texas, less a spectacle, but that may be because I have gotten old and lost the joy. As a kid it was the cool autumn air, the threat of snow lingering, and of course, my birthday being the next day. Most kids just get candy, bit I got paraded to relatives’ houses and showered with gifts as well in my scratchy plastic Spiderman costume.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Mike: I grew up poor, so we didn’t do pumpkins or decorations. Halloween was always a rush to get ready and then stomp through the leaves as my parents sat smoking in the rusted red Chevy Nova down the block. I try to read one horror book in October, time permitting. I am lame. I don’t do holidays.

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

Mike: It would definitely be my favorite because I am a child of Autumn. The pressure isn’t there like other holidays to scrabble together a meal or buy gifts. An excuse to dress up and get wasted.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Mike: So much. My anxiety is fierce. I don’t know if I am superstitious, or just so used to things going badly. I toss salt over my shoulder and avoid going under ladders. But I love black kitties and go out of my way be in one’s path.

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

Mike: I like it when man is the villain. Dr. Decker from Nightbreed. Hannibal Lecter. Though I have a great affection for the Universal Monsters, the tragedy of them resonates.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Mike: Black Dahlia or Jack the Ripper.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Mike: Any of them with a siren luring men to their doom. I know just how much of a hopeless romantic I am, and that I would for sure heed the call.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Mike: HH Holmes. He built a murder house in the middle of the World’s Fair.

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

Mike: First movie was The Hand with Sir Michael Caine. I was so young. Every shadow was that effing hand scurrying in the darkness for weeks after. First book was a collection of Poe in first grade. It didn’t scare me, but it opened my eyes to a whole new world.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Mike: The first half of Heart Shaped Box, when it was still a ghost story. It went to crap when he over explained everything and it turned into one of his dad’s books. But that first half was amazing.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Mike: I grew up with Faces of Death, so nothing really affected me after. I think The Autopsy of Jane Doe might have scared me the most.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Mike: One year I got a zoot suit and that was pretty awesome.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Mike: I don’t know really. I guess anything by the Misfits.

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

Mike: I like sour fruity candy. Anything else is just gross.

Meghan: This has been great fun, as usual. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Mike: Halloween 1 and 2 (original) are the best.


Boo-graphy:
M Ennenbach. Poet. Author. Member of Cerberus. Mike has four collections of poetry, two chapbooks, a collection of shorts, a Splatter Western, the debut by Cerberus, and thirty some anthology appearances in his three years of writing. He writes a lot of horror, but depressing and absurd literature is his sweet spot. He writes on his blog on a daily basis, mostly poetry with a smattering of fiction and news. He works with Eleanor Merry at Macabre Ladies Publishing, and they have exciting things on the horizon.

(un)poetic
Unscaled highs, perilous lows; this is a journey filled with both. A free form dance in the form of poetry; tended with loving care that drips sorrow. Darkness tinged with hope, forged in the fires of life. Of the sea, of the stars, of the night air as the sun breaks on the horizon. A desperate love, in the guise of loving desperation.

(un)poetic is anything but.

No rules. Just pure expression poured on the page with shaking hands and envisioned through tear-filled eyes. This is different, this is new. Raw. This is poetry, here and now.

(un)fettered
to soar free of inhibition. a collection of poetry that skims the surface of fathomless emotion, leaving waves across the placid sea. m ennenbach plumbs these ripples in search of connection. sometimes the only answer is to tear down everything and examine it in its basest form. (un)fettered.

(un)requited
unwanted. unfulfilled. unworthy. in the moment you offer every bit of yourself, mind body and soul, only to find you were not enough. broken hearted and alone. (un)requited.

GUEST BOOK REVIEW by Karissa Laurel: The Haunting of Hill House & NOS4A2

Reviewing Horror Novels:
Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson & NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I was working on an interview post for Meghan about Halloween, and that got me in the mood for a good horror story. Since I listen to way more audiobooks than I can afford to buy, I often rely on my library to supplement my Audible diet. When I went searching on my library’s audiobook app, I stumbled across The Hunting of Hill House. While I’m familiar with Shirley Jackson and the story on which a terrible 90s movie and a pretty good recent Netflix series is based, I’ve never actually read the source material. So, I decided it was time to remedy that.

I’m glad I did. Hill House is clearly a foundational story in the horror genre, particularly the hunted house sub-genre. You can see Jackson’s inspiration in so many stories that came after hers. Stephen King openly admits Hill House was a big influence on The Shining, for example. Eleanor and Danny Torrance have a lot in common. So does Hill House and Overlook Hotel.

If you know nothing about The Haunting of Hill House, here’s a blurb: “It is the story of four [paranormal activity] seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile [abandoned mansion] called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.”

The main protagonist is Eleanor, who has an extremely sensitive connection to the house. Jackson, however, leaves what the house actually is, and what the haunting actually is, very much up to the reader’s interpretation. Read carefully from here on… my discussion will contain spoilers. For me the fact that Jackson made a point of mentioning Eleanor’s childhood “poltergeist” experience (an avalanche of rocks rained on Eleanor’s childhood home without any clear source or reason) meant it was Jackson‘s intent to show that the “haunting” at Hill House wasn’t entirely inside Eleanor’s head. Plus the book clearly states the other members of the party were witnesses the haunting events (beating on doors, vandalism of Theodora’s clothes, writing on the walls in what seemed like blood, a frigid cold presence that sucked the warmth out of rooms). Whether Eleanor is the poltergeist herself–she might be some kind of telekinetic–or is highly psychically sensitive to those kinds of energies is what’s so wonderfully ambiguous in this story. Ambiguousness plays a big part in heightening the story’s sensations of terror and dread, and it’s often my most favorite tool in horror.

I decided that, for me, I believe Eleanor was psychically sensitive to the energies of the house, which had a history and reputation for malevolence long before Eleanor’s arrival. Those energies manipulated her specifically because of her vulnerabilities and sensitivities.

The arrival of Ms. Montague (Dr. Montague’s wife and a self-proclaimed spiritualist/psychic) seemed to underscore this—she was the embodiment of dramatic irony. She was so insistent that the others in the party had no psychic ability. However, when she worked with “planchette” (as in a Ouija Board planchette), all the information Ms. Montague received from it had to do with “Nell” i.e, Eleanor, which proved how physically sensitive Eleanor was and how obtuse Ms. Montague actually was even, although she believed the opposite about herself. This irony was one of my favorite devices in the story. The results from Ms. Montague’s consultations with “planchette” were yet another clue that the things happening to Eleanor were not completely in Eleanor’s head. Yet, it also served to further muddy how much of what happened in the house was Eleanor’s doing and how much was the house itself.

In the end, it’s my belief that (BIG SPOILER) Eleanor’s spirit becomes a part of the house’s energies along with those of the others who died there before her. I think before her death, Eleanor was already starting to become a part of the house’s sentience, as if the house were absorbing her and vice versa. The house is basically an amalgam of all the people it victimized over the years.

I can’t believe it took me this many years to finally get around to reading this book, but I’m glad I did. It’s such a cultural touchpoint, I think it should be expected reading as much as Dickens or Shakespeare or Faulkner or Steinbeck, etc. It’s also interesting in its themes of female sexuality. It’s definitely ahead of it’s time and such a masterful portrayal of the “human condition”. I’ll fight anyone who says genre fiction can’t represent the human experience as well as literary fiction. Haunting of Hill House should prove all genre naysayers wrong.

After finishing Hill House, which was indeed very literary in tone and style, I was still in the horror mood, so I went back to my library app and found N0S4A2, which has showed up repeatedly over the years in lists of “best horror novels”. The book is by Joe Hill, who is Stephen King’s son. It’s written in a much more commercial and accessible style, and Hill is clearly influenced by the works of his father. So, if you’re a King fan, which I am, you might enjoy Hill’s books, too.

Again, for those who may be unfamiliar, here’s a blurb (with which I have taken great liberties):

Victoria “Vic” McQueen, a deeply flawed woman who spends most of the novel in a state of perpetual denial, has an uncanny knack for finding things using a Raleigh Tuff Burner bike and a magical covered bridge. Joe Hill is, as I mentioned, Stephen King’s son, so it’s no surprise this story is set in New England, and what is a New England story without a covered bridge?

The magic bridge eventually takes Vic to Charles Talent Manx, a soul sucking vampiric creature-person who drives a cool old Rolls Royce Wraith that’s a lot like Kit from Knight Rider if Kit were possessed by a demon. Or, you know, kind of like that evil 1958 Plymouth Fury in Christine, a book by Joe Hill’s dad. Anyway, Charlie Manx likes kids but not in that “kiddie fiddler” kind of way that everyone wrongly accuses him of, and he kidnaps and takes the kids to a perpetual childhood in “Christmasland” (Hint: Christmasland isn’t as fun as it sounds). Helping him is the “Gasmask Man”, a simple-minded, childlike man who really, really hates women, especially “Mommies,” and does everything he can to torture and abuse them throughout the book. Fun times.

Manx sees Vic as a threat and tries to do bad things to her, but Victoria manages to escape and spends decades dealing, poorly, with the emotional trauma of her magical abilities and her near-death run-in with Manx and Gasmask Man. She has some good times, even manages to fall in love with a wonderful cinnamon roll of a man (seriously, Lou is the best character in the book), and she writes some successful children’s novels (that sound so cool they should exist in real life), but literal demons from her past haunt her into near insanity, and her life starts falling apart.

Eventually Vic, Manx, and Gasmask Man have their final showdown when Manx, still pissed that Victoria got away from him all those years ago, comes to seek his revenge. She puts on her big girl panties long enough to get stabbed, burned, beaten, and broken a whole lot before she finally goes Grinch all over Manx’s Christmasland.

I’m not going to lie. I struggled with this book. There was a time when I had more patience and tolerance for horror that used misogyny as one of its elements. That the misogyny was presented as an evil thing that came from the “bad guys” who may or may not meet justice for their violent hateful ways isn’t enough justification for me anymore. I don’t have much stomach left for premises that are predicated on violence against children and women (mothers in particular). I feel like we’ve been victims in media far too long, and I’m just so tired of that trope.

That Vic, a woman and a mother, turns out to be a righteous hero (somewhat of an anti-hero at times) was perhaps a redeeming element. She’s a complex character, written well. She and Lou, a great gentle giant of a man who was a great contrast to the woman hating violence of Manx and Gasmask Man, are what made the book worth finishing. There were more than a few times when I wanted to give up on it, but Lou and Vic were worth rooting for.

I might read The Haunting of Hill House again in the future. It’s the kind of book that will, I suspect, stand up to re-reading and will reveal new secrets and themes and elements upon future study. For me, N0S4A2 has none of that. Not that a good entertaining book needs to be deep or literary to be worthwhile. The kinds of books I write don’t stand up to long term scrutiny either. But as far as horror goes, phycological terror always appeals to me more than bloody violence and gore. For that reason alone, I definitely recommend The Haunting of Hill House over N0S4A2. But, I think any well rounded reader, especially ones who are fond of horror, would get something out of reading both.


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: Ben Eads

Meghan: Hi Ben! Welcome to Meghan’s (Haunted) House of Horrors. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Ben: The weather and the colors of Autumn. I love that crisp cinnamon smell in the air. Most of my fiction is written during the winter. I love taking walks in the woods and just taking it all in. I always looked forward to visiting my relatives in Tennessee. My uncle would take me for walks into the hollow behind his house. My imagination was operating on all 8 cylinders then, and it does now. I was able to bring that same hollow into my latest horror novella, Hollow Heart. Of course, my uncle called it a “holler.”

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Ben: It was handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters but, sadly, that’s come to an end. Now it’s re-reading my favorite horror novels. Also, I love dressing up as one of my favorite horror creatures. I plan to dress up as The Hell Priest this year, and I have a friend who does special effects. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of. Hopefully, a few buddies of mine and I can get together and read short horror stories to one another.

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

Ben: Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. As a child, we could dress up and go to school as our favorite monsters. I always tried to scare the hell out of my classmates. You can’t do that on any other holiday or regular day, for that matter. It’s also a time of renewal—out with the old, in with the new.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Ben: Talking about fiction I’m currently writing. That’s the only thing. I’m sure this is disappointing. LOL

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

Ben: There’s a lot! I think it would be a tie between Pennywise, The Hell Priest, Charlie Manx, and Frankenstein. Freddy isn’t—and hasn’t been—scary, at least to me, for many years. Ditto Jason Vorhees and the other slashers. I love some of the other Universal movie monsters, too. But Dracula, at least for me, isn’t very scary anymore.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Ben: The murders of Jack the Ripper. Why? Because we’ll never, ever, ever, know who committed those murders. It’s left up to the imagination. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I think Alan Moore was on to something with his amazing graphic novel, From Hell. Big fan of Alan Moore.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Ben: I don’t believe in the supernatural, so none. However… people try to mimic urban legends as well as perform hoaxes. I had a friend in middle school that almost convinced the school the Jersey Devil was roaming the halls. Ha! I guess this comes close: I had a friend in high school that pulled one hell of a prank on me. He even got some of my friends in on it too. He took my Lovecraft books out of my drawer, burned my drawer, and placed a bible in their place. I literally believed that… for about a day. Then a friend called with a guilty conscious and told me about it. With friends like that…

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Ben: Jack the Ripper. Again, we’ll never know who did it. It leaves the imagination wide open, and there’s tons of conspiracy theories based on him/her. Who knows?

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

Ben: I was six-years-old when Hellraiser was playing one night on cable. I only made it ten or fifteen minutes in before shutting the TV off. I couldn’t sleep for two days after that. Thankfully, I didn’t need therapy. But it was the taboo of it, as well as me needing to face my fears that got me through the film. After finishing it, I was still scared to death, but my imagination was operating on a whole new level. Barker is a genius.

I was ten-years-old when I read The Dark Half by Stephen King. I remember not really getting it and realizing I wasn’t old enough yet. I took the book to my mother and asked her a ton of questions. She helped me out a bit but said that one twin absorbing the other fetus in the womb was impossible and, therefore, the book was silly. A month later, a co-worker told my mother that she had the same thing happen to her when she was in the womb. She came home very scared, and said that whoever Stephen King was, he’s a weirdo, sick, twisted, and demented. It was love at first sight! I have him to thank for getting me hooked on horror.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Ben: That would be tie between Stephen King’s IT, The Shining, and Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. The former due to it being one of the best horror novels ever written, at least in my very humble opinion. The concept, the characters, the world, and how IT could be anything. The Shining had me actually believing in ghosts for a few years. That’s how well that book is written. The movie is good, but the book is so much better. The Girl Next Door has amazing characters, an amazing world, but, oh, man… that poor girl. It’s based on a true story, which shows what human beings are truly capable of. I had a very, very hard time reading the book towards the end, for obvious reasons. But you can’t put it down. You’re there, like the other kids, bearing witness to true horror.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Ben: That would be a tie between Hellraiser and Alien. With Alien, Ridley Scott’s vision, as well as Giger’s art and creature scarred me. The life-cycle of the xenomorph hits us on a sub-conscious level, too, which, when you think about it, you can’t get more disturbing than that. The sequels just didn’t hold up to the original.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Ben: The Hell Priest because it’s so damn hard to do! Ha! That’s why I’ve enlisted a friend who does special effects for a living. He told me it will take about four to five hours just to get my face and head finished. It’s going to be hard to pull off, but I love a challenge!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Ben: I dislike gothic music, but every Halloween I love cranking up Type O Negative. My favorite song would be Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-all). I have no idea why, but when Halloween hits, it’s gothic music time for Ben!

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

Ben: Favorite treat would be a Snickers bar. I hate candy-corn. Whoever invented the latter should be drug out into the street and shot. I’m biased because I bit into one once and cracked a tooth. The pain was instant and immense. Not a good Halloween that year!

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by Ben. Before you go, what Halloween reads do you think we should snuggle up with?

Ben:

  1. IT, Stephen King; The Shining, Stephen King; Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.
  2. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson; The October Country, Ray Bradbury; The Books of Blood, Clive Barker; The Cipher, Kathe Koja; Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury.
  3. The Bottoms, Joe R. Lansdale; Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill; NOS4A2, Joe Hill; Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Joyce Carol Oates.
  4. The Vegetarian, Han Kang; The Woman in Black, Susan Hill; Sineater, Elizabeth Massie; The Scarlet Gospels, Clive Barker.
  5. The Great and Secret Show, Clive Barker.
  6. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde; The Great God Pan, Arthur Machen; The Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft.
  7. Broken Monsters, Lauren Buekes; The Turn of the Screw, Henry James.
  8. Pet Semetary, Stephen King; Misery, Stephen King.
  9. The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers.
  10. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson.
  11. Minion, L.A. Banks; Bird Box, Josh Malerman.
  12. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier.
  13. Psycho, Robert Bloch.
  14. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova; The Road, Cormac McCarthy.
  15. Bubba Ho-Tep, Joe R. Lansdale.

#1 and #2: The October Country, Ray Bradbury; Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury. Both are some of the best Halloween reading one can find.


Boo-graphy:
Ben Eads lives within the semi-tropical suburbs of Central Florida. A true horror writer by heart, he wrote his first story at the tender age of ten. The look on the teacher’s face when she read it was priceless. However, his classmates loved it! Ben has had short stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When he isn’t writing, he dabbles in martial arts, philosophy and specializes in I.T. security. He’s always looking to find new ways to infect reader’s imaginations. Ben blames Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, Jorge Luis Borges, J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, and Stephen King for his addiction, and his need to push the envelope of fiction.

Hollow Heart
Welcome to Shady Hills, Florida, where death is the beginning and pain is the only true Art…

Harold Stoe was a proud Marine until an insurgent’s bullet relegated him to a wheelchair. Now the only things he’s proud of are quitting alcohol and raising his sixteen-year-old son, Dale.

But there is an infernal rhythm, beating like a diseased heart from the hollow behind his home. An aberration known as The Architect has finished his masterpiece: A god which slumbers beneath the hollow, hell-bent on changing the world into its own image.

As the body count rises and the neighborhood residents change into mindless, shambling horrors, Harold and his former lover, Mary, begin their harrowing journey into the world within the hollow. If they fail, the hollow will expand to infinity. Every living being will be stripped of flesh and muscle, their nerves wrapped tightly around ribcages, so The Architect can play his sick music through them loud enough to swallow what gives them life: The last vestiges of a dying star.