AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Thomas Smith

Meghan: Hi Thomas. Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. I’m glad you could join us today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Thomas: When I was younger I used to like setting up a haunted house in our basement with my brother (more about that later in the Extravaganza). I like haunted hayrides and monster movie marathons. And for the last 20 years I have enjoyed the Halloween Express that came through our neighborhood. Some of the parents started with a lawn tractor and attached a couple of wagons full of kids in their Halloween costumes. And as the years progressed and kids became more numerous, it became an ATV pulling five decorated floats with lights and sound. All loaded with trick-or-treaters. Parents and kids all having a blast.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Thomas: Not really. Unless it’s snakes. Then, all bets are off. I will run over an elderly nun to get away from a snake.

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

Thomas: I wish I could remember the title. It was probably made in the late 50s or early 60s. It had to do with a serial killer who the police thought had died at the end of the movie. When everyone had left the scene, the killer comes out of the darkness, turns to look directly at the audience (me, I know he was looking at me) and said something very close to, “If you tell them I’m alive, you’re next.” And even though I’ve seen easily hundreds of horror movies since then, that one still gives me the creeps.

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

Thomas: While this is more of a mercy killing, David Drayton’s killing of his companions (including his son) in The Mist just moments before the military shows up to rescue them is still up there at the top of the list. Especially after his expression/reaction when the unexpected help arrives.

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

Thomas: Not really. But there are some (The Human Centipede, a Serbian Film) that the descriptions were enough to make me say no thanks.

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

Thomas: Frankenstein (1931)

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

Thomas: Quatermass in Quatermass and the Pit

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

Thomas: The wolfman

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Thomas: Watching all night horror movie marathons

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

Thomas: For fun, it would be Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You and for just general creepiness, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells or John Carpenter’s Halloween Theme.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Thomas: When The Amityville Horror first came out, that was intense. It took me a while to finish it. Then I didn’t want to be able to see it on the shelf, so I turned it around backwards for a while.

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

Thomas: Years ago, we lived in a house on the White Oak river and on this particular night, my wife was working the night shift at the hospital. So, I was the only one at home. I had just home about 12:45 a.m. from visiting a dying church member (I was a minister back then) at a different hospital and thought I’d read a little before going to bed. I had just opened my book when I heard a drawer slide open in the kitchen (they tended to stick, so there was always a scraping noise when we opened a drawer) and heard what sounded like someone rummaging through the drawer as if looking for something. I grabbed the shotgun in the corner and ran into the kitchen. All the drawers were closed, the kitchen door was closed and locked, and there was nobody there.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Thomas: The Lost Colony has always fascinated me. How did all those people just disappear? In fact, I wrote a story recently about what might have happened to the people on Roanoke Island, the Mary Celeste, the town of Hoer Verde, Brazil, and the fishing village on Lake Anjikuni in Canada (and the editor I sent it to likes the concept). And if my theory is right, we’re all in trouble.

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

Thomas: The Haunted Doll’s House by M. R. James

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

Thomas: A Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical Shotgun and a lot of buckshot. I also wouldn’t mind having an Infantry Kukri-Sword. That 15-inch blade would relieve a zombie of his/her noggin pretty quick.

Meghan: Let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Thomas: Werewolf

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Thomas: Zombie Apocalypse

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Thomas: Drink Zombie juice

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Thomas: The Poltergeist house

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Thomas: Maggot infested cheese

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

Thomas: Lick cotton candy made of spider webs

Boo-graphy:
Thomas is an award-winning writer, essayist, playwright, reporter, TV news producer, and a three-time American Christian Writers Association Writer of the Year. His work has appeared in numerous publications from Writer’s Digest and Exploring Alaska, to The Horror Zine and Cemetery Dance magazine.

He has written for many publishers including Grinning Skull Press, Zondervan, Barnes & Noble Books, Adams Media, Chronicle Books, Borderlands Press, Barbour Publishing, Pocket Books, and Cemetery Dance Publications. Two of his short stories (Mother and Child Reunion and The Heart is a Determined Hunter) have appeared on Tales to Terrify, and his short story, A Rustle of Owls’ Wings, has been adapted for the stage.

Thomas has written jokes for Joan Rivers and his comedy material has been performed on The Tonight Show.

He is also, quite possibly, the only writer in captivity to have been included in collections with Stephen King, and the Rev. Rick Warren in the same week.

And other than author bios, he rarely refers to himself in the third person.

Rarely.

Something Stirs
Ben Chalmers is a successful novelist. His wife, Rachel, is a fledgling artist with a promising career, and their daughter, Stacy, is the joy of their lives. Ben’s novels have made enough money for him to provide a dream home for his family. But there is a force at work-a dark, chilling, ruthless force that has become part of the very fabric of their new home.

A malevolent entity becomes trapped in the wood and stone of the house and it will do whatever it takes to find a way to complete its bloody transference to our world.

Local sheriff, Elizabeth Cantrell, and former pastor-turned-cabinetmaker, Jim Perry, are drawn into the family’s life as the entity manipulates the house with devastating results. And it won’t stop until it gets what it wants. Even if it costs them their faith, their sanity, and their lives.

Monsters
“I killed my parents when I was thirteen years old.”

And now, with the murder of Missy Blake twenty-two years later, it’s time for Jack Greene to finish what he started.

When the co-ed’s mutilated body is found, the police are clueless, but Jack knows what killed the pretty college student; he’s been hunting it for years. The hunt has been going on for too long, though, and Jack wants to end it, but he can’t do it alone. The local police aren’t equipped to handle the monster in their midst, so Jack recruits Major Kelly Langston, and together they set out to rid the world of this murdering creature once and for all.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: David A Riley

Meghan: Hey, David! Welcome back. It’s always a pleasure to have you here on Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

David: Until recent years Halloween wasn’t really regarded by most people here in the UK as a holiday as such. It’s only been in the last few decades, for instance, that trick or treating has followed in the footsteps of the United States, influenced by films such as ET. Even now I don’t think we make as much fuss of it as in the US. I must admit I don’t do much to celebrate it myself, other than watch a few favourite horror movies.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

David: Not at all. Which possibly helps when it comes to writing horror stories.

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

David: On first viewing, probably the original Night of the Living Dead which I viewed for the first time at a British Fantasy Convention sometime in the late 70’s. I had never before watched a more relentlessly nihilistic movie in which everyone is doomed to face a violent death. It’s bleakness was possibly even more disturbing than the image of the marauding zombies.

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

David: Martyrs. I found the whole film highly disturbing, especially the addiction the main character gradually developed for being tortured. It’s not a film I would ever willingly watch again. Once was more than enough.

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

David: I can’t say I have. Commercials have sometimes put me off watching certain movies, but not because they looked too scary.

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

David: Well, definitely not a slasher movie! It would have to be one where there was a reasonable chance of surviving till the end. Not that the survival rate in most scary movies is particularly high. They wouldn’t be scary if there was. Ghostbusters would seem to be the obvious choice.

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

David: Any with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, probably the Horror of Dracula.

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

David: That’s a difficult one as there are so many great ones, but probably Dracula as portrayed by Christopher Lee. At least there are several films to follow him through.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

David: I’m afraid I don’t have one other than try and watch a few appropriate movies. As I mentioned above, Halloween has never been much of a celebration here in the UK, possibly because it comes only a few days before Bonfire Night on the 5th of November which has always been a big festivity here, with fireworks and a huge roaring fire made up of piles of wood on top of which we burn Guy Fawkes, added to which we have treacle toffee and jacket potatoes cooked in the embers of the fire.

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

David: That would have to be the theme from The Rocky Horror Show. That gets in so many horror and science fiction references, it’s amazing.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

David: The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley with its satanists and the Devil himself, plus the Angel of Death. It’s a great adventure story too.

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

David: Hearing footsteps running along the landing outside my bedroom when I knew there was no one there. This has only happened the once in thirty years, but this is a very old house (over two centuries old). I must admit, though, I was more intrigued than frightened. Indeed, I wasn’t frightened at all, even when the footsteps stopped at my bedroom door.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

David: The Yeti ever since I watched that old Hammer movie The Abominable Snowman.

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

David: A View from a Hill by M.R. James, which is my all-time favourite Jamesian story. The image of the man being carried away through the streets by invisible spirits of the dead he’d used in his alchemical experiments is uniquely vivid.

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

David: An axe. I’ve always thought the ease with which everyone in The Walking Dead manage to pierce zombie skulls with their knives and daggers particularly unrealistic, as if their skull bones had turned to cardboard. You need something with a bit more weight to reach their brains.

Meghan: Let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

David: A vampire – at least that usually still has a mind of its own, whereas a werewolf is just a ravening beast.

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

David: Neither is appealing, of course, but an alien invasion is probably the one I would choose, as for zombies to exist in reality would be a bit too much to absorb. Reanimated dead bodies just do not make sense.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

David: Lovely choice! I think both would result in almost immediate vomiting! I suppose the zombie juice. At least you could drink that down quickly with your eyes shut. Yuck!

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

David: As I do not believe in all the razzamatazz about the Amityville house that would easily be my choice. Of course, if you mean the one as portrayed in the movies then maybe the Poltergeist house.

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

David: The melon any day, though there are some connoisseurs who would go for some rare but special cheeses which are actually infested with maggots. Those are definitely not for me.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

David: Am I partial to “eye of newt” and all the other icky stuff that goes in it? Possibly. I’m definitely not partial to cotton candy in its usual form so I think I would try my luck with the cauldron. I must admit these are some of the worst alternative foodstuffs I have ever come across!

Boo-graphy:
David A Riley writes horror, fantasy and SF stories. His first story was in the 11th Pan Book of Horror in 1970. He has had stories published by Doubleday, DAW, Corgi, Sphere, Roc, Playboy Paperbacks, Robinsons, etc, and in magazines such as Aboriginal Science Fiction, Dark Discoveries, Fear, Whispers, Savage Realms Monthly and Fantasy Tales. His first collection of stories was published by Hazardous Press in 2012, His Old Man Demons. A Lovecraftian novel, The Return, was published by Blood Bound Books in 2013. A 2nd collection of stories, The Lurkers in the Abyss & Other Tales of Terror, was launched at the World Fantasy Convention in 2013 by Shadow Publishing. Hazardous Press published his 3rd collection, Their Cramped Dark World & Other Tales, in 2016. Both Hazardous Press collections have been reprinted by Parallel Universe Publications, plus two new collections After Nightfall & Other Weird Tales (illustrated by Jim Pitts) and A Grim God’s Revenge. A fantasy novel, Goblin Mire, and a horror novel, Moloch’s Children, were published in 2015. He and his wife Linden recently relaunched Parallel Universe Publications, which originally published Beyond magazine in 1995, and have now published around 50 books, including two art books.

Along with the award-winning artist Jim Pitts he edits a twice-yearly anthology of swords and sorcery stories: Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy. The fifth volume will be published as a paperback and ebook in November. Recent publications containing his stories are: Savage Realms Monthly #12 “The Carpetmaker of Arana”; Summer of Sci-Fi & Fantasy “The Storyteller of Koss”; Sword & Sorcery Magazine #118 “The God in the Keep”; Mythic #17 “Baal the Necromancer.” I also have a novelette due in the next issue of Lovecraftiana “The Psychic Investigator.”

Fourteen dark tales of fantasy and horror ranging from 1971 to 2020.

Dead Ronnie and I was first published in Sanitarium issue 44, 2016
Corpse-Maker was first published in Weird Window issue 2, 1971
The Urn was first published in Whispers issue 1, 1972
Gwargens was first published in Beyond issue 3, 1995
Retribution was first published in Peeping Tom issue 3, 1991
The Bequest was first published in Dark Horizons, 2008
They Pissed on My Sofa was first published in Malicious Deviance, 2011
Old Grudge Ender was first published in The Screaming Book of Horror, 2012
A Girl, a Toad and a Cask was first published in The Unspoken, 2013
Scrap was first published in Dark Visions 1, 2013
Lem was first published in The Eleventh Black Book of Horror, 2015
A Grim God’s Revenge was first published in Mythic issue 4, 2017
Grudge End Cloggers was first published in Scare Me, 2020
Hanuman was first published in Phantasmagoria issue 16, 2020

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ramsey Campbell

Meghan: Hey Ramsey!! Welcome back to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. It’s always a pleasure to have you here, and I thank you for taking time on this busy book-release day to join us here.

Yes, you read that right, everybody. Fellstones is out today.
You can pick it up by following the link below:
Flame Tree Publishing

Sorry about that. What were we talking about? Oh yeah… What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Ramsey: I have to say it has no great significance as a festival in Britain. There were attempts a few years back to situate it as an alternative Autumn event to Guy Fawkes Night, since it was felt there were too many accidents at private firework displays on 5 November. When I was a child it wasn’t celebrated locally at all, and so my only sense of it was through fiction—specifically, some of the great tales of Ray Bradbury. Ray made October uniquely his, both capturing its flavours and adding individual ones of his own. While you can read them at any time, they have a particular relevance to Halloween, and so I’ll name them as my favourite aspect thereof.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Ramsey: No longer, but as a child I was—by films, by books, by my domestic life. I must have been three, maybe a little older, when I saw my first film, Disney’s Snow White. Elements in it terrified me—the unstable face in the magic mirror that doesn’t reflect the person in front of it, and even the sight of darkness beyond a window in the dwarfs’ cottage while they perform their song and dance, because I was sure something would appear out of the dark. M.R. James gave me many uneasy nights jut a few years later. As for my everyday experience, my parents were estranged when I was three but continued to live in the same house, which meant I hardly ever saw my father face to face—he became the footsteps on the stairs at night, the presence beyond a door that I dreaded might open. All this was exacerbated by my mother’s schizophrenic fantasies: for example, that he would poison us or creep into the bedroom to commit some terrible act. The neighbours were conspiring against her and writing a nightly radio soap opera that contained references to her and secret messages addressed to her, and so on. I had an interesting childhood, which has subsequently produced much literary material.

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

Ramsey: Apart from Not I, that terrifying Beckettian tour de force performed by Billie Whitelaw (and enacted less intensely by Julianne Moore), all my candidates are the work of David Lynch. Some scenes in Fire Walk With Me affected me so profoundly I was close to leaving the first time I saw it, but I’ll go with Lost Highway, the first extended section of which in particular frightens me afresh on every viewing. I’ve concluded Lynch uses every element of film—lighting, camera placement and movement, staging, especially sound—as skillfully (if possibly instinctively) as Hitchcock, to convey the uncanny at its most indefinable and disturbing.

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

Ramsey: The protracted finale of Megan is Missing, a film I analyse and defend at length in Ramsey’s Rambles. The scene is appallingly convincing, not least in its banality.

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

Ramsey: The trailer, do you mean? No, never. As for the other kind of commercials, I’d do my best to avoid any film interrupted by them and see it uninterrupted elsewhere.

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

Ramsey: Night of the Demon, my all-time favourite, since you can avoid falling victim to the demon if you know how.

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

Ramsey: The same, for the same reason.

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

Ramsey: The original King Kong, the greatest of all monsters in the greatest monster film.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Ramsey: Alas, for reasons outlined above, I have none. Oddly enough, I’ve often been at World Fantasy Conventions in America over the season, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen signs of the celebrations. Ah, hang on—in Baltimore in 1980 all the check-in staff at the Park Plaza were dressed as witches and pumpkins and the like. I think it was a pumpkin who proved loath to let Steve King have his room because he presented not a credit card (he had none in those days) but cash.

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

Ramsey: Horror uncanny enough for Halloween—Schubert’s Opus 1.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Ramsey: Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable—one of the books I celebrated in an essay in The Book of Lists: Horror. It may be a protracted cry from the afterlife, or a narration by a limbless body displayed in a jar on a street, or by something even more featureless. I read it in a sitting one afternoon and have been haunted by it ever since. If it isn’t horror, I don’t know what is.

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

Ramsey: The room next to my workroom (where I’m writing this) has seen various uncanny manifestations over the decades we’ve lived in this house, and here’s the most extreme. Jenny and I had discussed befriending the room by spending the night up there together. During one of my attempts to let her sleep without my snoring I wakened at about two in the morning to discover that she’d decided to try the experiment. It was only when I opened my eyes and reached for her that I realised the silhouette next to me, its head on the other pillow, wasn’t Jenny. I tried for a very long time to move and cry out. Apparently I achieved the latter. In our bedroom on the floor below Jenny heard me make some kind of protest, but I’ve often exhorted her not to wake me if I’m having a nightmare, because I believe these dreams contain their own release mechanism, and I resent being taken out of them before the end. Jenny headed for the toilet on the middle floor, and when she returned I was still making the noise. Perhaps I was dreaming, in which case it had to be the longest nightmare, measured in objective time, that I’ve ever experienced. It consisted purely of lying in the bed I was actually in and trying to retreat from my companion. I admit to never having been so intensely terrified in my life. After minutes I found myself alone in the bed. I made myself turn over and close my eyes, but had a strong impression that a face was hovering very close to mine and waiting for me to look. Meanwhile, downstairs, Jenny felt an intruder sit beside her on our bed.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Ramsey: I believe the Marie Celeste.

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

Ramsey: I heard Graham Watkins tell this tale onstage at an American convention. He investigated haunted places, and had arranged to spend a night at a deserted mansion notorious for manifestations. He chose an upstairs room as his base of operations, and for several hours he heard ordinary domestic noises from downstairs—people talking, kitchen sounds and the like. After some hours he lost patience with them, as I recall, and declared as much aloud. At once there was silence, and he realised he’d alerted whatever was there to his presence. And then all the noises recommenced—directly outside the room he was in…

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

Ramsey: My brain.

Meghan: Okay, let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Ramsey: A vampire, since it might give me a chance to experience immortality until I tired of it. A trip to Vasilema should do the job.

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Ramsey: Aliens—the less boring option, I’d hope.

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Ramsey: Neither. I find disgust nothing except tedious.

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Ramsey: Amityville if I wanted a quiet time, since the entire thing was a cynical hoax (which I said in a review as soon as I’d read the original book).

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Ramsey: I’ll take the melon.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

Ramsey: If the cauldron conferred magical powers I’d take the risk.

Boo-graphy: Ramsey Campbell was born in Liverpool in 1946 and now lives in Wallasey. The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes him as “Britain’s most respected living horror writer”, and the Washington Post sums up his work as “one of the monumental accomplishments of modern popular fiction”. He has received the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association, the Living Legend Award of the International Horror Guild and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University for outstanding services to literature. PS Publishing have brought out two volumes of Phantasmagorical Stories, a sixty-year retrospective of his short fiction, and a companion collection, The Village Killings and Other Novellas, while their Electric Dreamhouse imprint has his collected film reviews, Ramsey’s Rambles. His latest novel is Fellstones from Flame Tree Press, who have also recently published his Brichester Mythos trilogy.

Fellstones takes its name from seven objects on the village green. It’s where Paul Dunstan was adopted by the Staveleys after his parents died in an accident for which he blames himself. The way the Staveleys tried to control him made him move away and change his name. Why were they obsessed with a strange song he seemed to have made up as a child?

Now their daughter Adele has found him. By the time he discovers the cosmic truth about the stones, he may be trapped. There are other dark secrets he’ll discover, and memories to confront. The Fellstones dream, but they’re about to waken.