AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Chad Lutzke

Meghan: Hey Chad!! Welcome back to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. Thank you for joining in our Halloween shenanigans once again. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Chad: Probably that for a short time, my tribe widens, meaning that even those outside the tribe acknowledge horror by way of the décor in every store, front lawns, films released in theaters, and even TV episodes dedicated to spooky, making us monster kids feel a little more at home.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Chad: Not from movies or books, no. From the possibilities of experiencing legitimate trauma that comes with living on this planet? Yes.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Chad: The Exorcist. I’ve seen it several times, and it still makes me feel uneasy.

Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Chad: When they all stab the kid to death in Bully. That got to me. Another one would be the guy’s wife in the shower at the beginning of Terrified.

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Chad: No, though there are some I won’t watch because I’ve heard a lot about them. One of those being A Serbian Film. I have no interest in watching stuff like that.

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Chad: The Greasy Strangler. Hanging out with those guys would never get boring.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Chad: Mike from Phantasm. I mean… he’s like 13 years old and works on cars, drinks beer, drives a Cuda, and has brass balls.

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Chad: Does Michael Myers count? As far as creature, either The Thing or the monster from The Ritual.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Chad: When I was young, it was trick or treating, of course. Now that I’m older and the kids are too old for that, it’s watching a horror movie. But I do that nearly every day anyway.

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Chad: The entire soundtrack for John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Chad: Communion by Whitley Strieber

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Chad: Technically, I wasn’t alone, but my wife was asleep. About 25 years ago we were renting a place that had the bedroom windows facing a little one-lane alley that never had any traffic. It was a hot summer night and those windows (which were directly behind the head of the bed) were open. Just as I was falling asleep, I could hear footsteps in the alley, then I smelled cigarette smoke. The footsteps stopped right behind my head, and my dog looked out and started growling with his eyes on the bushes under the window. I was too afraid to look behind me, so I slid off the bed as quietly as I could and called 911, whispering in the phone. After the footsteps stopped right at the windows, I never heard them again. I was terrified.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Chad: I can’t think of anything crime wise, but I get a kick out of Bigfoot and alien stuff.

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Chad: My son’s girlfriend showed me security camera footage of a woman in their house wearing a nightgown, walking off camera to the corner of their room for an hour, then coming back into view and leaving the room. They have no idea who it was, but it happened while they were sleeping.

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Chad: Samurai sword for sure

Meghan: Okay, let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?
Chad: Vampire
Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?
Chad: Zombies… far less threatening.
Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard? Chad: Won’t zombie juice turn me undead? If so, give me the body smothered in nacho cheese.
Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?
Chad: 112 Ocean Avenue, here I come.
Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?
Chad: You almost had me with the cheese, but I’ll take the melon.
Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?
Chad: Depends on what’s in the cauldron. I love frog legs, so I’m cool with that.

Boo-graphy:
Chad has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. He’s had dozens of short stories published, and some of his books include: Of Foster Homes & Flies, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface Boy, The Same Deep Water as You, The Pale White, The Neon Owl series, and Out Behind the Barn co-written with John Boden. Lutzke’s work has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, Richard Chizmar, Joe Lansdale, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Massie, and his own mother.

Slow Burn on Riverside
When 18-year-old Jex moves into a new apartment, his roommate’s descent into drugs paves the way for mental illness, while Jex deals with their sexually assertive landlady. But when her teenage son shows up, things take a very dark turn.

The Neon Owl 1: When the Shit Hits the Van
Jinx is a record-collecting, middle-aged minimalist whose dreams of becoming a detective are waylaid by love and laziness. But when he inherits his late aunt’s rundown motel, The Neon Owl, his passion for investigative work reignites while he searches for answers as to who keeps shitting in the bushes. His findings lead to a full-blown murder mystery where he and new-found friend, Roddy, the elderly, one-legged handyman, set out to find the killer.

A crime noir-ish whodunnit rife with humor, grit, and ranch dressing.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jonathan Janz

Meghan: Hey, Jonathan. I don’t know if you realize this, but you have been a part of our annual Halloween Extravaganza long before it was named a Halloween Extravaganza. In fact, you have been part of every Halloween celebration since I started blogging, back in 2014, on The Gal in the Blue Mask. So thank you so much for all the support. And for once again taking part. Let’s begin: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Jonathan: I think the general mood. I love the aura, the spooky, cozy, gloomy vibe of late-October/early-November. There’s something uniquely mysterious in the air, the feeling that anything could happen, will happen. Wet-black tree trunks and rain-shiny streets. Drooping leaves and shadows. No time can transport me back to elementary school like this time of year. Nothing can reproduce that shivery feeling quite like Halloween time.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Jonathan: Hmm… For me, the music plays a big role. The Halloween score is a central, seminal work there. I think not only of Carpenter’s incredible main theme, but of the other tracks, specifically the one we hear when Jamie Lee Curtis walks through the neighborhood when we first meet her. I hear the same music when I walk through my own neighborhood, which is like hers with more hills. I also love “This Is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I sing that one with my youngest daughter Peach.

So listening to the music is a big part of the celebration for me.

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

Jonathan: It’s my favorite non-religious holiday, I’ll say that. It’s just such a marvelous celebration of all the things I love about horror. It’s being joyful in the terror, it’s reveling in the macabre. It really is a time where what we love all year is normalized and appreciated by all, including the hobbyists. For a short time they can see through our eyes and understand the dark beauty we see all year. So there’s a sense of community with the full-timers and a moment of communion with the part-timers.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Jonathan: I’m really not superstitious anymore, but I used to be. Like catastrophically so. I was afraid to leave a room without first smiling into a mirror because I was sure the last expression I made in that mirror would determine the tenor of the day or evening. I had an intricate series of rituals I had to complete (everything in threes, everything pointing in a specific direction) that held a mystical power over me. Essentially, I was raddled with these superstitions, and they profoundly affected me in many negative ways. I eventually overcame them, but it took time.

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

Jonathan: Michael Myers still scares the daylights out of me. So does Jerry Dandridge from the original Fright Night. I love werewolves in general, so the one in Silver Bullet, for instance used to really give me the willies. Oh, and The Thing was awesome because it’s this hostile intelligence and always changing.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Jonathan: Wow. Tough one. There were a pair of murders in my hometown of Delphi, Indiana (which is known as Shadeland in Children of the Dark) that remain unsolved, so for several reasons I want that killer to be caught. Two adolescent girls lost their lives, so it’s an unspeakable tragedy.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Jonathan: I don’t know if this qualifies, but Spring-Heeled Jack has always fascinated me. I love the uniqueness of his powers and the mysterious, fantastical nature of his abilities. I’d like to write a novel about it someday.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Jonathan: Well, I probably wouldn’t say that any would be my favorite, but the most fascinating has to be Jack the Ripper. So much of that has to do with the surreptitious nature of the crimes, the Whitechapel setting, the myriad theories about the killer’s identity, and the fact that it remains unsolved. I also think the clothing of the time and the fog add to the mystique.

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

Jonathan: Probably something like The Omen, which scared the crap out of me. I vividly remember watching The Twilight Zone when I was little, especially Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Also the one where there’s an alien in the café and the one where the woman is going to have plastic surgery because (supposedly) she’s so hideous. Those shows truly impacted me. They scared me to death but they absolutely absorbed me and compelled me to keep watching despite my terror.

As far as the first horror book, that one’s easy: Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers. That book changed everything for me. Not long after that, I read ‘Salem’s Lot, The Stand, The Dead Zone, The Shining, Night Shift, Carrie, The Gunslinger, Skeleton Crew, Pet Sematary, and It. Essentially, the first twenty books I read were all by Stephen King, so he’s the reason I’m where I am today. He made me a reader, a writer, and an English teacher. Regarding the way those stories made me feel…for the first time, I felt smart when I was reading those books. Obviously, I was entertained too. And mesmerized and unsettled and transfixed. Those books were revelations to me.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Jonathan: Ah, nice question! Let’s see…I’m going to say The Girl Next Door. Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr had a way of going to the core of an issue and showing us what he found there, without flinching. That book made me cringe, put it down, return to it reluctantly, despair for humankind, and weep for what happened to that poor young woman.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Jonathan: This one is easy, though it’s surprisingly recent. It’s called Lake Mungo, and it’s a slow-burn faux-documentary that’s at turns depressing, unnerving, and flat-out terrifying. There’s a moment in the film I keep replaying in my head to an unhealthy, obsessive degree. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I’m afraid to see this face coming out of the dark. So even though I’m an adult…I might just be permanently scarred by Lake Mungo.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Jonathan: I had a chintzy Godzilla costume when I was really little. Cheap as hell, the sharp plastic mask with the string. But I loved it, felt like I was a fire-breathing monster when I wore it. I loved that costume and love it still.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Jonathan: Got to be “This Is Halloween,” though some of the tracks from Halloween are in the running. The song I referred to earlier I think is called “Laurie’s Theme,” though I could be wrong about that.

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

Jonathan: My favorite candy altogether is Dots, so because I sometimes get to eat those on Halloween, I’ll go with Dots. Other favorites include Snickers, Twizzlers, Reese’s Cups, and Kit Kats. Disappointing candy? I can’t think of any.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by today. As always, it was an absolute pleasure having you here. Before you go, what is your go-to Halloween movie and book?

Jonathan:
Top Halloween Movie: Halloween (1978): I know this is an uncreative answer, but Carpenter’s original film is just perfect. What I appreciate is how Carpenter treats the quieter moments, not just the kills. That film just drips atmosphere.

Top Halloween Book: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Look, there are many great Halloween stories, but this one feels perfect for Halloween. I love the evocation of the small town, the friendship, the father-son relationship, those cusp-of-adulthood themes, and of course the sinister elements in the book. Basically, it’s perfect. I taught it for a few years to freshmen, and they ate it up. It’s a timeless novel.


Boo-graphy:
Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.

Website