AUTHOR INTERVIEW: S.C. Mendes

Meghan: Hey!! Welcome back. Thanks for agreeing to help us see how long we can celebrate Halloween this year. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

S.C.: Dressing up! I love costumes, and the time spent finding the perfect one is just as fun as sharing it with others at a party. This is also the reason why Halloween is my favorite holiday. As a child, it was my favorite for the spooky movies and decorations and of course what kid doesn’t live getting free candy, but as I got older the joy transferred almost entirely to the aspect of costumes. They don’t even have to be scary anymore. I just like seeing the creativity of myself and others in the art of the costume.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

S.C.: Haunted Houses and carving pumpkins. From my teenage years until late in my 20s, I was a huge scaredy cat at haunted houses. That was part of the fun though. I enjoyed those jump scares and cowering behind friends as we walked through the dark corridors; it helped me get into the spirit of the season. I never understood the guys (or girls) who went in and talked back at the characters in the house or were proud that nothing scared them. I didn’t understand the point of going if you weren’t going to let yourself be vulnerable to the fear. It’s like watching a horror movie and expecting it to be unscary.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween memory?

S.C.: There is a gray area during high school, when you still want candy, but society starts saying you’re too old to be trick or treating. It’s also just before you start getting into trouble at “drinking” parties. My solution to this limbo stage was to turn my home into a haunted house for younger trick or treaters.

My brother and I had a great set up for this. He would sit on a chair at the front door in a costume that made him look like a stuffed scarecrow. Newspaper coming out sleeves and shirt buttons. Kids would be hesitant to approach the door for candy, rightly assuming the scarecrow would jump at them. But my brother never moved a muscle. Parents would assure the kids the figure was just a dummy or older kids would even poke him to prove it. Still my brother waited patiently. After the doorbell was rung and my mom gave out candy, only then would he jump from the chair and scare them. Kids and families would retreat and get to the driveway to laugh and catch their breathe at the good scare…. Then, I would come from the backyard and get them a second time with a fake chainsaw that made noise. We did that two or three years in a row. Good memories!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

S.C.: In a way, I’m superstitious about everything. Not in a fearful way though. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and the universe/unseen world is always communicating with us through signs and events. So if something strange happens to me, I tend to analyze what the deeper meaning may be.

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

S.C.: Very hard to pick. But I would probably say Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. At the very least, I quote him more than any other horror villain.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

S.C.: Cliché, but I’ll go with Jack the Ripper because the various theories on his identity fascinate me.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

S.C.: Bloody Mary. Mirrors have always been mysterious objects to me. I remember a high school birthday, maybe sixteen; I had friends over and they pulled that nonsense of summoning her in my bathroom mirror. Well, it’s all well and good until everyone goes home and I’m alone wondering if someone of something is going to appear later in the night and kill me.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

S.C.: I am no longer fascinated by serial killers in the way I was as a youth. As a teen though, I really enjoyed Silence of the Lambs—I dressed as Hannibal Lecter for junior year—and so cannibals became my obsession in serial killers.

Being the rebellious teen I was, not only did I want to be unique in my fashion and music, I wanted my serial killers to be obscure as well. Since everyone knew Dahmer as a cannibal, I researched people like Albert Fish, Peter Stumpp, and the Vampire of Dusseldorf.

If you enjoy serial killers and heavy metal, I cannot recommend this band enough: Macabre.

Macabre has been around for thirty something years, I think, and there songs contain so much info on what these monsters did. Hard to pick a favorite album but Murder Metal is probably my favorite.

As an adult, I feel very different about these monsters. I’m glad I learned about the serial killers at the time, but I no longer want to buy merchandise or dress up like them even for Halloween.

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

S.C.: Not sure what the first was, but I will tell you that I distinctly remember the endings of Friday the 13th and Prince of Darkness. Around when I was 12 or 13, I think. Just when I thought the movie was over—Bam! Jason pulling her into the lake and the melted face of the girl in bed had me off the couch and running from my room before the credits.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

S.C.: We Need to Talk About Kevin. I was always nervous about having kids. Being responsible for the creation of life and ensuring that this human grows up to be…. Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Are you responsible for what your child becomes? We Need to Talk About Kevin put the final nail in the coffin when it came to me wanting to have children. Terrifying though not a novel all will consider horror.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

S.C.: Again, I may have a response that isn’t quote horror, although it was violent. As a kid, my Grandma was watching Wisdom with Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore. I was maybe six years old at the time and walked in during the ending scene when the Bonnie & Clyde duo is riddled with bullets. I had never seen people killed in movie before except for Disney and it’s not the same when Bambi’s mom dies or Ursula turns someone into a seaweed person. Watching their real human bodies tear open and bleed scarred me. Maybe it subconsciously spurred my fascination with blood, death, and horror. Who knows. I always remembered Emilio and Demi’s face though and when I was much older I found out what the movie was called. At the time, I had no idea what the movie was. To this day though, after learning what it was, I still have never watched it from start to finish. Just that ending as a six-year-old…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

S.C.: Too hard to pick a favorite, but some of my standouts over the years were The Dude from The Big Lebowski, Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Johnny Depp from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Honorable mention to Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

S.C.: Anything by John Carpenter. His music set the stage for so many classic horror films, including Halloween that he is synonymous with the holiday for me. I love his Lost Themes album. Perfect background music if you’re handing out Halloween candy. Or writing scary stories 😉

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

S.C.: Reese Peanut Butter Cups and Butterfinger when I was a kid. Disappointed by Candy Corn.


Boo-graphy:
Learn to appreciate the darkest moments of your life. It is those moments that make our time in the light even more beautiful. S.C. Mendes is the author of numerous short stories and a fan of pen names. The anonymity helps maintain his day job as an indoctrinator of children for the state. THE CITY is the beginning of the Max Elliot saga.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Feind Gottes

Meghan: Hey, Feind! Welcome back! What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Feind: When I was very young my favorite thing at Halloween was seeing The Wizard of Oz on TV. The Wicked Witch was the first thing I ever remember scaring the bejesus out of me and it also meant trick or treating was only a few days away. These days it always seems to play around Christmas which makes zero sense to me. My favorite thing about Halloween these days is watching some of my favorite horror movies leading up to the big day. COVID killed it in 2020, but I had been frequenting a local theater that played horror movies for the month of October. It’s fun to view these movies, some that I never had a chance to see on the big screen, or get to relive my youth by seeing them that way for the first time in decades.  

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Feind: I live in an apartment so I can’t really decorate much and I get zero trick or treaters so my tradition is usually to pick 2 or 3 of my favorite horror movies to watch on Halloween. I try to pick something old like a black & white or old Vincent Price then build to something bloody & gory to end the night. Unfortunately this is usually me alone but add a few adult beverages to the mix and I have plenty of fun anyway. 

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

Feind: As a horror writer it’s hard not to have some affinity for Halloween. It is the night we get to dress up and celebrate all the spooky things I only get to write about the rest of the year. Seeing everyone veer to the dark side always warms my heart. I won’t be the cliché horror writer who claims Halloween as my favorite holiday, for me that is Thanksgiving for completely personal reasons. Halloween is by far the most fun, or at least it can be if you’re not a stick in the mud. 

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Feind: I have to say I don’t really have any superstitions. Maybe that’s disappointing? It’s just me being honest. Send a million black cats across my path and I’ll just stare at how strange a sight that would be LOL

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

Feind: I’m going to cheat here since it wasn’t specified books or movies. In literature I have to go with the beast to beast all beasts, Cthulu! Lovecraft’s Elder God, for me, is the coolest monster ever created and as far as I know he’s never really been done very well or at all in film. This is a fact that makes me very sad.

Now for movies, there are so many greats to choose from but I think my favorite monster is The Thing even though you never even see it in its true form, whatever that is. My favorite human villain of all-time is Otis Firefly played by Bill Moseley in Rob Zombie’s Devil’s Rejects trilogy (so far). I love Otis with an unhealthy passion. Also Bill is one cool MFer who loves to engage with fans whenever he can.  

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most? 

Feind: I have two and neither are a single unsolved murder. I think all lovers of the macabre have at one time or another been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper killings which so far are still frustratingly unsolved despite numerous theories that fill several books. The other would be The Zodiac killings even though this one has essentially been solved. I picked up the book Zodiac by Robert Graysmith when I was a teenager and I’ve been fascinated by the case ever since. The fact that both of these killers managed to get away with their crimes is amazing since every other killer manages to make a mistake or mistakes that finally get them caught.  

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most? 

Feind: Again I’ll disappoint everyone here because I don’t have one. I don’t believe in any of them hence I can’t find them very scary. Sorry.  

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Feind: Wow, there are so many to pick from which is the truly terrifying part. I’m going to go with a lesser known (probably) here and say David Parker Ray sometimes referred to as The Toy Box killer. He, his wife and a group of others who, I believe, remain unknown would kidnap, rape, torture and then sometimes kill their victims. What makes Ray stand out for me is a transcript I read of a recording he would play for his victims after he kidnapped them. He would drug young women and when they awoke they would be naked and tied to a gynecologist exam table. Ray would watch remotely then play a recording when he saw they were awake. In a cold, calculated voice he would describe exactly what the woman was going to be put through. If they tried to escape as some had managed to do they were quickly recaptured or killed and another woman would be kidnapped to take their place. Some of his victims were raped and tortured over years and some became so broken they stayed of their own volition. The transcript is absolutely sick and bone chilling. Look it up if you dare! 

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

Feind: Aside from The Wizard of Oz, since that stopped being scary by the time I was about 6 years old, my first horror movie was The Amityville Horror (1979). I don’t remember the exact year I saw it for the first time, but it was after it came to regular TV so probably about 1982-ish. My oldest sister is about 5 years older than me and she would torture myself and my other sister (also older than me, I’m the youngest) by watching it. At the time it scared the living you-know-what out of me, though I find that pretty laughable now. I was determined to watch it all the way through so my sister couldn’t make fun of me anymore. I did and my love of horror was born.

I became an avid reader around the ages of seven or eight. I blew through young reader books like the Hardy Boys then moved into mercenary books which became uber popular in the early 80s. Then I needed something more. My mother was also an avid reader who had hundreds of books of all genres so I went to her for a suggestion. She knew I liked horror so she suggested I read something by Stephen King. She had several to choose from so after much consideration I picked The Stand because it was huge which I saw as a challenge. I was eleven years old. I loved it and my love affair with King was born. 

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Feind: I am a bit of a weirdo here in that I’ve never really had any book scare me very much. Perhaps a passage here or there but it will likely surprise anyone reading this to know I’m not a very visual person. I find when reading you’re only as scared as your imagination allows you to be. I think from early on I had a knack for suppressing my imagination while reading. The best answer I can give though would probably have to be Zodiac because it was about a real killer who was never caught. I still find the things that scare me most are the real human monsters that could be living right next to you.  

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Feind: Now here I could name several so the hard part is picking just one. I’d say the last one to deeply affect me would be The Human Centipede. Again when you really get into it there could be someone as demented as the doctor in the film out there right now. Also, in this first film of the trilogy, Tom Six went out of his way to see if something like this could actually be done and how it would be done. The scene where one of the girls escapes and the doctor explains to her why he is going to make her the middle segment and why it’s the worst is so disturbing and disturbingly real I had a hard time continuing to watch. Of course, I did ‘cause I’m that kind of sicko. Also “The Scene” in A Serbian Film is the only thing more disturbing I’ve ever seen (if you’ve seen it you know exactly what I’m talking about).

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Feind: Well it wasn’t for Halloween but I would totally do it if it didn’t make such a mess! When I was young my mom and I were part of a “simulation team.” We did accident simulations to help local fire departments and first responders deal with real crisis situations. It was a lot of fun but my favorite scenario we set up was a simulated industrial accident which was actually at the factory my father worked at. I was given dual injuries. I wore a disembowelment prosthetic as well as a severed arm both were complete with blood bladders for me to pump out at the appropriate time. The emergency team that found and worked on me unfortunately failed miserably as they found and treated my disembowelment but completely missed my severed arm. This is why we did these things. So if I had the prosthetics and available fake blood I would totally do something like this for fun on any given Halloween (or really any day of the year just to freak people out)!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Feind: Music is a huge part of my life and I honestly couldn’t write without it. Since I’m a huge heavy metal fan most would consider much of what I listen to, at least, somewhat horror and Halloween themed. However, I think my favorite classic Halloween themed song would have to be Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett. I’ve always loved that one.

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

Feind: I honestly don’t eat very much candy but if you want to make me happy a simple peanut butter cup will do nicely! However, if you try to slip me licorice I may have to kill you in real life not just in print! Also there may not be anything worse than chomping down on what you think is a nice, fruity Mike & Ike’s only to find out it is actually a vile, disgusting Good & Plenty. This is a capital offense requiring the death penalty!

Meghan: Thanks for stopping by, Feind. But before you go, let’s talk Halloween books and movies.

Feind: I know some like to read on Halloween and that’s fine, as a writer myself I won’t discourage it. If that’s what you like to do on Halloween then I would go with an anthology of short stories like Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew or Clive Barker’s Books of Blood though I have stories in several that should fit the bill nicely as well! That said, I prefer to watch some horror films on good ol’ Halloween. You can never go wrong with a classic like John Carpenter’s Halloween (or even Rob Zombie’s remake) or The Thing. If you only have time for one movie you’ll just have to pick your favorite – I have a fondness for The Shining when this is the case. However, if you have time I always prefer to watch two or three films. Sometimes I’ll choose a progression from something old up to a new favorite. For example, a couple years ago I went with Steve McQueen in The Blob followed with Evil Dead II then ended with The Devil’s Rejects. I also find it fun to watch trilogies if possible. I’ve done the Evil Dead or Rob Zombie’s Reject trilogy. I even did a marathon of Ash Vs Evil Dead one year.

I know I was supposed to give you a list of my best but, honestly, it really depends on my mood as to what ends up on such a list. I am a life-long lover of all things horror from the old Universal monster movies to the 50s giant radioactive creature features through the slasher era to low budget Troma horror-coms and everything in between. It would probably be easier to tell you what I don’t like and that is the modern PG13 era horror films that have nothing to offer other than jump scares which is weak sauce to me. I like a good, well-written story that chills you to the bone. It doesn’t have to be bloody and gory but I don’t shy away from any of that either. I also don’t like films that only offer blood and gore with no story. A lesser known film that is a personal favorite is High Tension or Haute Tension which is the first film of Alexandre Aja (Piranha, The Hills Have Eyes, Maniac). I love the story and it has some over the top bloody kills along the way. For me, Halloween is a time to celebrate and revisit your favorite horror films or books. Leading up to it is a good time to check out some new stuff too but to a horror nut, like me (us?), I’m on the hunt for new great horror all year long to have as a new favorite for future Halloween marathons.


Boo-graphy:
Feind Gottes [Fee-nd Gotz] is a horror nut, metal lover and an award winning horror author. Feind currently resides near Omaha, NE

Feind has short stories and flash fiction appearing in over a dozen anthologies with more to come. His novella, Essence Asunder, unleashed by Hellbound Books in 2018 was his first solo release. Feind also gained his first editing credit by co-editing the anthology, Blood From A Tombstone, with Don Smith Jr in 2019. Lastly Feind’s debut novel, Piece It All Back Together also published by Hellbound Books, was released in Spring 2021.

The first draft of Feind’s debut novel won the 2016 Dark Chapter Press Prize followed in 2017 by a Top Ten finish in The Next Great Horror Writer Contest and winning the Vincent Price Scariest Writer Award from Tell-Tale Publishing.

Piece it all Back Together
Deliciously gruesome, original, and highly innovative!

Private Investigator Jamie Windstein has a dark secret: she collects her victim’s heads.

When millionaire Thomas Combs hires her to find his long lost friend, Jimmy, Jamie’s world is turned upside down. Ghosts of the past pile mystery atop mystery while ghosts of the present add grim new riddles with no solution.

Jamie is determined to get answers even if she has to kill her way to the truth. She must tiptoe a fine line when she learns her only friend’s police officer husband has been assigned to a special task force on the hunt for Jamie and her head collection.

Dark secrets abound as the past is dragged kicking and screaming into the light. It’s serial killer versus serial killer versus the police in a race to the answers.

Jamie Windstein’s life will change forever if only she can Piece It All Back Together.

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

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Patrick Lacey

Meghan: Hey, Patrick!! Welcome back. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Patrick: Pumpkin beer. And pumpkin coffee. And also pumpkin English muffins. My favorite part of Halloween is all of it. It’s that you can walk into any grocery store or pharmacy and find at least one discount skeleton mask that’s probably painted with poisonous chemicals or one plastic rubber bat that’s probably…painted with poisonous chemicals. It’s that the entire world seems to be on my wavelength, which, lemme tell you, is quite often not the case.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Patrick: May I make this a two-for-the-price-of-one answer? If so, super! If not, this is awkward. I grew up in a horror household. My parents dug the genre and, lucky for me, they didn’t much care what I watched, R ratings be damned. So what we’d do is we’d go trick-or-treating but once the eggs started cracking and the tee-pee started rolling, we came back home and watched horror movies like they were going out of style. The real stars of the show were the snacks. I’m talking junk food like you’ve never seen. My mom persuaded me to eat relatively (insert air quotes here) healthy but on Halloween night, all dietary bets were off. We’re talking nachos, pizza rolls, and deviled eggs (emphasis on the devil). We’d shove snack after snack into our mouths until our bellies inflated and what’s better than that? What’s better than spending quality family time watching Kevin Bacon get his throat pierced with the sharp end of an arrow or Johnny Depp get swallowed by a bloody bed, all while eating things with more artificial ingredients than a can of paint thinner? Answer: nothing. It was during one of those marathons that I leaned over a lit pumpkin-scented candle and managed to catch my bangs on fire. I snuffed the flames out quick enough but have you ever smelled burnt hair? It’s a lot stronger than anything Yankee Candle carries. I surveyed myself in the mirror and yeah, there would need to be an emergency hair cut before returning to school, but you know what? Who cared? Burning bangs or no burning bangs, that night there were no problems. There were only slashers and junk food and is there anything else? To this day, if by some strange circumstance, I catch a whiff of charred hair, it zaps me back to that living room, to those snacks, to that wonderful night.

Which brings us to part two of this question, the newer tradition of carving a jack-o-lanterns with my wife and daughter. With my wife, we’ve been doing this since day one of us, but with my daughter, we’re coming up on Halloween II (the holiday, not the movie), so it’s about as new as new gets. Last year, I don’t think she was cognizant enough to understand why her parents were wielding chef’s knives and gouging large orange apples but this year—this year, all bets are off. She’s got about five non-mom and non-dad words in her vocabulary, one of which happens to be “pumpkin.” Really, it’s more like “pum pum” but she’ll get there. Any flash of orange, she lights up like a Halloween blow mold, so I’m thinking the carving will be one for the books this year. The best part is I’ve tried not to push the seasonal addiction on her, but the moment she saw her first Beistle cut-out, she smirked ear to ear. I think it’s been passed down to her, this addiction that comes from who knows where. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

Patrick: Two words: spooky walks. There is nothing—I repeat—nothing better than taking a stroll around your neighborhood, town, city—whatever—once the leaves start to turn. What other time of year can you see gravestones and animatronic gargoyles in someone’s front yard? And that’s just one house, if you’re lucky. I adore pulling on a sweatshirt and grabbing a pumpkin beer and then hiding that pumpkin beer in a non-descript thermos so as to avoid being arrested, then going for a seasonal stroll. I always end up in a neck of the woods I never even knew existed. This one time, a few years back, I traversed a side street wherein every single front porch was decked out in Halloween bliss, but here’s the kicker: I could never find that street again, no matter how many times I searched, which begs the question: did I accidentally cross over into a parallel dimension or did I have a few too many of those non-descript pumpkin beers? Probably it’s the latter but a man can dream.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Patrick: Everything. But there’s this one thing in particular. It’s maybe more innocuous than walking under a latter or spotting a black cat (which doesn’t bother me, seeing as how I’ve owned two or five). What it is, is the number thirteen, specifically how that number appears on my Kindle. I mostly read ebooks on account of my glasses are trifocals and the font’s easily adjustable. If I’m reading and arrive at the 13% mark, I’ve gotta keep going, if only to reach 14%, because if I stay at that cursed number, something insane will happen. Dead birds will fall from the sky. Every tree within a five-mile radius of my house will shrivel and rot. And the sun itself will burn out, dowsing the world in a never-ending cycle of darkness.

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

Patrick: Freddy Krueger, full stop. Here’s the thing. Freddy’s the reason I’m a horror fan. Like I mentioned before: my parents didn’t give a darn what I watched, for better and worse (mostly better). Because of this lack of parental advisory, one of the first movies I remember watching is A Nightmare on Elm Street. And let me tell you: it did a number on me. I had actual nightmares for days, maybe weeks, on end. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that glove and that fedora. So I watched it again. And again. Then I watched the sequels. And my revulsion turned to fascination. I loved the sense of nightmare logic. Because we’re dealing in dreams, the rules are less rigid and more fluid. Doors don’t lead where they ought too. Steps are made from oatmeal for some reason. And is that a goat over there? Yes, that’s definitely a goat.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Patrick: The Zodiac Killer has long been a morbid fascination of mine and I think it has to do with reading too many Batman comics, specifically those with the Riddler and how he always left clues and if you could just decipher them, you could stop him from performing whatever villainy was on his mind. But the difference is that Batman always solved said puzzles and real life isn’t so squeaky clean. I’m not exactly writing my thesis on the Zodiac but from what I’ve read, part of me wonders if the puzzles were intentionally unsolvable. He promised answers in there somewhere, all jumbled up, but maybe there never were answers.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Patrick: I’m from a small fishing town named Gloucester. It’s on the north shore of Massachusetts. And in my small fishing town, there was this tale making the rounds when I was a freshman, sophomore, somewhere around there. People swore there was a group of kids that called themselves the Gloucester Vampires. They congregated in abandoned buildings and under bridges late at night, when the town slept, and they did unspeakable things, performed rituals from texts so evil, reading a single page could make your mind burst like an over-ripe cantaloupe. Or so they said. Probably, it was a bunch of kids who wore black and were in the thick of their Hot Topic phase. But to my over-active mind, there was a cult in my small fishing town, a cult searching for new members. Once they chose you, there was no canceling your membership. I was so perturbed by this (probably) imaginary cult, I wrote a novel about it. It’s called We Came Back. It’s about to go out of print as of this writing but it’ll rise from the depths in a new edition soon enough.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Patrick: Care for a deep cut, so to speak? My wife’s family has a vacation home in Cape Cod. We got there twice, maybe thrice times a year, and in the neighboring town of Truro, there was once a serial killer who went by the name Tony Chop Chop, which, as far as serial killer names go, has got to be up there. The killings had a slight ritualistic bend, insofar that the hearts were removed from the victims. The case never gained the popularity that other killers of the time did, but Kurt Vonnegut wrote an article about Mr. Chop Chop in Life Magazine of all places, so the situation didn’t exactly go unnoticed. I’ve traveled to one of the supposed murder locations—a crypt long since busted open and cleared out—and you can’t deny the dread. It sticks to you like Laffy Taffy. In reality, serial killer culture deeply disturbs me, so much so that I wrote a novel (Where Stars Won’t Shine) to get it out of my system. And while I’m not exactly going to start a Tony Chop Chop blog, I do find the case fascinating.

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

Patrick: I’ll echo my earlier answer here. It was A Nightmare Elm Street, which I saw at the ripe age of way too young. But I’m not complaining. Thanks again, Mom and Dad. For horror books, it’s got to be Stephen King‘s Skeleton Crew but that only counts on a technicality. See, my mother had an dog-eared, spine-creased copy on her bookshelf. The one with that wide-eyed monkey and the cymbals. I’d pull it down, half-cover my eyes so said monkey couldn’t stare into my soul, and flip to a page at random. I loved what I read but I couldn’t read for long because I knew the book was alive, that it had teeth in some secret compartment, so it was better to place it back on the shelf where I found it. Years later, I’d give it a proper read and it would become a favorite. I still have my mom’s copy. Thus far, I haven’t seen those teeth. Maybe they just haven’t come in yet.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Patrick: It’s gotta be The Grip of It by Jac Jemc. I don’t see this one getting as much love as it rightfully deserves. It’s a haunted house novel, which is probably my favorite sub-genre, seeing as how I grew up in one (a story for another time). The horror that makes me all shivery is when bad stuff isn’t easily definable. Masked killers are fun but you can see a masked killer. What you can’t see are invisible forces working to unravel our minds one cold spot at a time. That’s what The Grip of It is. It’s a series of inexplicable scenes with no clear-cut answers. We, as readers, aren’t even sure if the house is haunted. And if it is, we can’t begin to theorize what’s haunting it. I don’t like it when authors tie things up in bow. I much prefer when horror is kept vague and it doesn’t get vaguer than The Grip of It.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Patrick: Stick with me here. There’s this one scene in The Mothman Prophecies that’s always on repeat in my brain. It’s when Richard Gere is washing his face in the bathroom sink, huddled over the faucet. We see the mirror and in that mirror is a shape standing just behind Richard. The problem with that shape is you can’t see its face. It’s like a smear on the lens that became sentient. And I have this thing with smooth faces. The concept of person with no eyes, ears, mouth, just smooth flesh—heck no. So while The Mothman Prophecies isn’t exactly known a walk-don’t-run flick, that scene is burrowed beneath my skin. Even today, when I’m washing my face, I know he’s there in the mirror. Mothman’s there and this time my eyes are the camera.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Patrick: My favorite Halloween was when I dressed up as a zombie this one time in eighth grade, which in and of itself doesn’t demand bragging rights, but I wasn’t just any rotting corpse. I was fourteen and it was the early 2000’s. Nu metal was having a moment. The most infamous practitioners? Limp Bizkit. And since I was a super fan, I dressed as the lead singer. Let me say that again: one time, two decades ago, I walked around dressed as a dead Fred Durst and asked strangers for candy.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Patrick: Gonna cheat here and choose the original Halloween theme, composed by Mr. ball-of-sunshine himself, John Carpenter. Sure it’s not a Halloween-themed song but it’s a song in a film called Halloween. Take that, semantics. The thing with this theme is it makes anything sinister and brooding. Break it out at a party, and it’ll set the mood with those dueling notes and that odd time signature (I wanna say it’s 5/4 but my math could be wrong). But why limit yourself? Crank it while you’re washing the dishes. You’ll be surprised by the results. On their own, dishes are boring. But with John Carpenter in tow, suddenly that chef’s knife takes on a whole new meaning. It’s great for long drives, too, especially on a cool fall night when the trees are bare and the fallen leaves scuttle in the wind. And make sure you keep those high beams on because you know Michael’s out there. He’s always out there.

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

Patrick: My favorite Halloween candy is candy corn and the most disappointing is also candy corn. Hear me out. I love the OG kind. And yes, I understand it tastes like melted candle wax mixed with high fructose corn syrup but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. And if you have tried it, and you still hate it, then it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. Which brings us to the disappointment. It’s like I said: I love the original candy corn, but these weird new flavors? These fruity-flavored knock-offs? These caramel-flavored monstrosities? Not on my watch. There’s something so pure about candy corn and to mess with perfection only ruins the allure. So give me some CC all day long but make sure it’s the kind that’s been on sale since the seventies and is probably from the same batch.

Meghan: I just can’t imagine Halloween without you, Patrick, and some of these answers made me laugh out loud. Thanks for stopping by!! We’ll have to make plans for next year as well. But before you go, what are your top three Halloween movies?

Patrick:
Hack-O-Lantern
If you haven’t seen Hack-O-Lantern, stop reading this and go see Hack-O-Lantern. This thing is dripping with vintage Halloween goodness. You could make a drinking game wherein you pause and take a shot every time a retro seasonal decoration pops up in the background. Though, on second thought, don’t do that because I refuse to be held accountable. Also, it’s got heavy metal and satanic panic vibes, the chocolate and peanut butter of horror. If robed cultists, devil-masked killers, and incessant music video dream sequences are your thing (and they really should be), look no further.

Night of the Demons
Just the perfect movie to throw on for the big night. It’s got a spooky mansion, excellent demonic make-up effects from legend Steve Johnson, and a fantastic wraparound story in which a grumpy old man gets what’s coming to him. Director Kevin Tenney is on record saying he wasn’t even a horror fan when he came aboard the film. Could’ve fooled me. I watch it every October. And also every November and December.

Trick or Treat
Note the “or” as in not Trick ‘r Treat. This is another heavy metal horror flick and if you’re sensing a pattern, it’s because I’m a life-long metal head and horror head (which I’ve never seen in print and will most certainly not Google). In a nutshell, a high schooler’s favorite metal musician dies and inhabits our protagonist to then help him exact revenge against his bullies. Bad things ensue. Like the other two films, this thing is just begging to be watched on a cool autumn night in the presence of a pumpkin-scented candle. Unfortunately, because of legal issues with the heavy-metal-tinged soundtrack, this one can be difficult to track down. The DVD’s out of print and there’s no American Blu-ray, though there is a Spanish one with an English version of the film. What I’m saying is, it might take some effort to track down, but the pay-off’s worth it a thousand-fold.


Boo-graphy:
Patrick Lacey was born and raised in a haunted house. He currently spends his time writing about things that make the general public uncomfortable. He lives in Massachusetts, in a hopefully un-haunted house, with his wife, his daughter, and his ginormous cat. Follow him on Twitter.

Sleep Paralysis: A Collection
Sleep paralysis: A transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, accompanied by powerful hallucinations and muscle weakness, preventing one from moving.

A website that specializes in suffering. A basement filled with secrets and bones. An apartment housing much more than just ghosts. These are the places between reality and the unknown. These are the stories that stay with you long after you’ve read them. These are the things that visit your dreams. And nightmares.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kristopher Triana

Meghan: Hey, Kris. Welcome back to Meghan’s House of Books and our annual Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kristopher: As a kid, it was being out on a cold night with the leaves blowing about, seeing the jack-o-lanterns glowing, running down the street in my costume and pretending I was a werewolf or vampire or whatever. That was even better than the candy! As an adult, I cherish those memories. Now, my favorite part of the holiday is its rich traditions, and the way adults can return to that childlike wonder for a night.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kristopher: The horror movie marathon, especially when it’s with a significant other or a good friend. You carve pumpkins as the sun goes down, put on scary movies, and hope to get trick or treaters.

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

Kristopher: It is my favorite, hands down. I’m a horror writer, and also a horror fanatic. Halloween is the time of year everyone is into what I’m always into all year long.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Kristopher: Nothing, really. I don’t believe in that stuff. Give me a black cat to pet!

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

Kristopher: Oh, that’s a tough one. As for the old monsters, I’d have to say The Wolfman is my favorite. I’ve always related more to a tortured soul trying to contain his inner beast than some undead bloodsucker being all suave and perfect. I also dig The Blob!

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Kristopher: The Black Dahlia. It was such a brutal crime and so shrouded in mystery.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Kristopher: I’ve always loved the hook, with the teens at lover’s lane who hear on the radio about an escaped maniac with a hook hand, then find the bloody hook on the handle of the car door after they drive home.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Kristopher: I wouldn’t say I have a “favorite” one because I don’t like when people glorify someone like that. I see someone at a horror con wearing a Richard Ramirez t-shirt and I’m just like, “You know he raped and murdered old ladies, right?”. It’s just messed up. People need to differentiate between horror fiction and reality. But I do find true crime stories very interesting. Edmund Kemper’s story is so beyond messed up. Well worth a read if you can stomach it!

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

Kristopher: I can’t remember exactly, but probably eight or nine, watching the old Universal monster movies. I was about eleven when I saw my first slasher film, which was John Carpenter’s Halloween, and I was hooked.

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

Kristopher: I read the Crestwood Monster Series and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as a kid. Then I moved on to Stephen King and Clive Barker. I think The Mist by King was my first adult horror story, and my first novel read was The Dark Half. Then Barker’s The Great and Secret Show opened my mind to the limitless possibilities the genre could offer. By the time I was fourteen I was devouring what is now referred to as “Paperbacks from Hell”, all the novels from the horror boom of the ’80s. I knew early on that I wanted to be a horror author too.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kristopher: King’s The Shining was the first book I ever had to put down for a few hours because I was so freaked out. Since then, there have been many that got under my skin—brutal books like Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door and Off Season, or more recent thrillers like Come With Me by Ronald Malfi. There are even books that don’t qualify as horror but are deeply unsettling, such as Last Exit to Brooklyn and The Demon by Hubert Selby Jr. His books are incredible.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Kristopher: I saw part of Prince of Darkness when I was way too young and it scared the crap out of me! I never knew what is was, and then one day I’m watching this movie, and the scene I always remembered—the hobo impaling a man with a bicycle—comes on and I’m like, “Holy shit!”

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Kristopher: I loved being Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, but dressing as Leatherface was the best because I hid in the bushes and then chased kids with a real chainsaw! I had removed the chain, so it was totally safe, but still loud and terrifying. They came back for more every year.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Kristopher: Again, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I do love Tim Curry’s song in The Worst Witch.

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

Kristopher: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my Halloween staple. Even the old school label screams Halloween with its autumn colors. The worst in the world is that horrible abomination known as candy corn.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by, Kris. Make sure you send Bear our love. But before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Kristopher: My ideal Halloween movie/TV marathon is:

John Carpenter’s Halloween
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Ginger Snaps
Trick or Treat (1986)
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episodes
Night of the Demons (1988)
Night of the Demons 2
The Exorcist III
The Monster Squad


Boo-graphy:
Kristopher Triana is the Splatterpunk Award-winning author of Gone to See the River Man, Full Brutal, The Thirteenth Koyote, They All Died Screaming, and many other terrifying books. His work has been published in multiple languages and has appeared in many anthologies and magazines, drawing praise from Rue Morgue Magazine, Cemetery Dance, Scream Magazine, and many more.
 
He lives in New England.

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And the Devil Cried
When Jackie is released from prison, his boss Pino sends a limo to pick him up. Even fresh out of the joint, ruthless Jackie is ready to work, collecting money for the mob and using his special training to take care of bad accounts—permanently.

But when a drunk driver kills Pino’s young son, he gives Jackie a task that goes against every moral code. The drunk driver has a pre-teen daughter, and Pino doesn’t just want vengeance—he wants an eye for an eye.
Jackie accepts the job, but once he finds the girl he starts making plans of his own…

And the Devil Cried is a dark thriller from Kristopher Triana, the award-winning author of Gone to See the River Man and Full Brutal. It is a vicious, unflinching novel that’s bound to keep you burning.