AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Scott Carruba

Meghan: Hey, Scott. Welcome back. It’s always wonderful to have you on the blog, especially at Halloween time. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Scott: The scary aesthetic. I love the colors and decorations and just the whole feel, with everything being dark and spooky.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Scott: Though I don’t do it anymore, I’ve always enjoyed the concept of trick or treating. It’s fun to get candy and to give it and see all the costumes.

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

Scott: It is my favorite. I am into dark, scary aesthetics and all of the gothic feel of Halloween. I enjoy dressing up in a costume and going to parties. It’s very fun for me, and it feels extra special because of the theme and the sense of freedom of being dressed up. It’s almost as if you have one night to be more than yourself.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Scott: Nothing. It’s bad luck to be superstitious

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

Scott: Hannibal Lecter. Despite my imagination, I’ve always found human/realistic villains to be scarier than fantasy ones, and of all the fictional predators out there, I find Hannibal to be the most alluring and frightening.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Scott: The Zodiac killings. I know that’s more than one, but can we lump them all together. I have read books, watched documentaries, films, all sorts of examinations of it. We’ll probably never know the answer now, either.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Scott: None really. When I was younger, I was very scared of the “Bloody Mary” thing you could do in the dark, chanting to a mirror, but now, none of them scare me.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Scott: That’s a tough one. I am very interested in serial killers. I considered, for a time, going into a career to try to understand them better and/or capture them, but I figured I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure and risk. As to my favorite, I’d probably say Jack the Ripper. Probably because we don’t know who he is, and he has been so thoroughly romanticized at this point. The time period, the place, the savagery of what he did, it’s all very tragic and alluring. Then the killings stopped, which makes the mystery all the juicier. Did he die? Did he stop? Was he caught, but the public was not informed? So many interesting mental and imaginative avenues to explore regarding him.

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

Scott: I was quite sheltered from horror when growing up. My mother was an adamant gatekeeper about things she felt were “inappropriate” to us, and that definitely included horror. I also was a child before the advent of cable television, so my options were limited.

The first horror movie I can recall was the television edit The Island of Dr. Moreau, which I saw when I was probably around nine. I was totally enthralled by it. They even showed some blood, which really got me. It was as if I knew I loved horror, and seeing this film simply helped the seed to bloom.

As to book, I don’t remember the exact title, but in middle school (so around eleven or twelve), I checked out a book of ghost stories from the school library. They were not very scary, but it was my first exposure to stories specifically written to be scary. I loved them, and of course, it was the first steps down the deep rabbit hole.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Scott: It by Stephen King. I have talked about this before, even in posts on my own blog. I’ve read a lot of horror. I couldn’t even tell you how much now, and though I enjoy it, none of it really “scares” me. It managed to scare me on more than one occasion, and it definitely had unsettling parts, several.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Scott: Dead & Buried. It’s a very graphic horror movie with a pretty cool reveal ending. I saw it on VHS when I was fourteen, and I had not seen many real scary movies, definitely nothing that violent. Wow, it got me.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Scott: Dressing as a Cardinal – the member of the Catholic clergy, not the bird. I bought the costume many years ago, and I wear it nearly every year. Dressing as a “priest” definitely gets a lot of fun attention at parties.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Scott: “Everyday is Halloween” by Ministry, but you may have seen that coming.

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

Scott: I don’t know that I have a particular favorite. As much as I have a sweet tooth, I still don’t go crazy at Halloween. Partaking somewhat in the indulgence is the fun. There are plenty of disappointing ones, amongst those being licorice, circus peanuts, candy corn.

Meghan: Thanks again for joining us today, Scott. Before you go, what are your top two Halloween movies?

Scott: I just considered Halloween-themed movies, not scary or horror movies, so this will be a short list.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – yes, not a scary movie but a Halloween one, and it’s great. I used to watch it every Halloween. It encapsulates the Halloween spirit on a different level than the obvious scares, and I feel it is just as important.

The Nightmare Before Christmas – yes, it has Christmas right there in the title, but it’s a Halloween film, and what a great one. The special effects, the singing, the story, the aesthetics, it’s an all around great film. I had the pleasure of seeing it in the theater when it was first released, and I still find it enjoyable.


Boo-graphy:
Born in Houston, Texas into the temporary care of a bevy of nuns before being delivered to his adopted parents, Scott discovered creative writing at a very young age when asked to write a newspaper from another planet. This exercise awakened a seemingly endless drive, and now, many short stories, poems, plays, and novels (both finished and unfinished) later, his dark urban fantasy trilogy has been published.

Having lived his whole life in the same state, Scott attended the University of Texas at Austin, achieving a degree in philosophy before returning to the Houston area to be closer to family and friends. During this time, he wrote more and even branched out into directing and performance art, though creative writing remains his love.

Butterfly 1: Dance of the Butterfly
A modern dark urban fantasy, telling of two powerful families who uphold a secret duty to protect humanity from a threat it doesn’t know exists. Though sharing a common enemy, the two families form a long-standing rivalry due to their methods and ultimate goals. Forces are coalescing in a prominent Central European city- criminal sex-trafficking, a serial murderer with a savage bent, and other, less tangible influences. Within a prestigious, private university, Lilja, a young librarian charged with protecting a very special book, finds herself suddenly ensconced in this dark, strange world. Originally from Finland, she has her own reason for why she left her home, but she finds the city to be anything but a haven from dangers and secrets. Book One in a planned series.

Butterfly 2: Sword of the Butterfly
The tale continues in Sword of the Butterfly, book two of the series, as Lilja and Skothiam continue to fight demons within and without. The infernal forces make a grand play, hoping to stab the world in its very heart. Casualties mount as further tensions rise in the City, threatening the vigilante with a loss of freedom and life. Children become victims of a madman’s design while the hunt is on for a powerful creature wreaking havoc across parts of the U.S. Lilja begins to question herself and her place in Skothiam’s life even as the very treasure they must protect comes under danger.

Butterfly 3: Soul of the Butterfly
The third Book awaits. The last of them. All holding promises of untold power. Skothiam and Lilja continue their journey as they follow the trail to places unimagined. Strange forces lurk, biding for the moment to strike and exact price. Unexpected allies arise even as others seek to disentangle from the web. Who will gain and who will lose? What shadow waits, eager to consume them all? Find out in the conclusion of the Butterfly trilogy.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Kristopher Rufty

Meghan: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Kristopher: I’m in love with all of it. Have been since I was a kid. Now, I get to enjoy it with my own children, which makes the holiday even more fun. We’ll bake Halloween cookies, using spooky cookie cutters and carve jack-o-lanterns and all. It’s always a fun time in the Rufty house.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Kristopher: All of it. It’s hard for me to narrow it down. I do like a good Halloween party, though.

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

Kristopher: I guess because Halloween sparks that childlike fun and excitement in me. Usually, every day is a form of spooky season for me, but during the Halloween season, it’s all over the place, everywhere I look. Just makes my heart pump as it did all those years ago.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Kristopher: Not too much of anything anymore. As a kid, I was superstitious about everything because my mother sometimes leaned that way herself. It’s just something I don’t put too much faith into anymore—superstition. I feel like if the day is going to be bad, it’s just going to be bad.

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

Kristopher: Jason Voorhees. I love all the iconic and not-so iconic slashers. Jason is my favorite, though.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Kristopher: I don’t know how many fascinate me over the other. My daughter reads and watches a bunch of true crime, so she tells me a lot about it. I’m curious about Jack the Ripper, of course. And the Black Dahlia, how her case exposed a side of Hollywood that nobody really knew about at the time.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Kristopher: I’m really not sure. There’s a few that are kind of terrifying. One that probably gets to me a bit, because I see it out here where I live, is the legend about the headlights. I’ve passed many cars with no headlights on. Not once have I felt obligated to flash them with my lights out of fear of being chased down and killed.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Kristopher: Ed Gein. Though he wasn’t technically a serial killer. I guess what sparked my interest in him was the fact so many of my favorite stories were based on his crimes. My own imagination began to run wild with Gein ideas and that was how The Vampire of Plainfield was born. To me, he seemed to be a very lonely, bored man who became consumed by his sick fantasies.

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

Kristopher: I was five and watched Friday the 13th on a summer Saturday while my mom was busy canning. I loved it. Friday the 13th part 2 aired that night and the following weekend, Friday the 13th part 3 was shown. It was all over for me after that. I was hooked on horror. Luckily, I had parents that were very vocal about explaining how its make-believe and the people in the movies were just pretending. I started drawing pictures of what I saw in the movies, using crayons and construction paper. My mom would hang them on the fridge. From then on, I spent a lot of time trying to turn my friends into horror fans. Most of the time, I succeeded.

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

Kristopher: I read a lot of children’s horror books like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, books like that. I read my first adult novel around the time I was twelve. It was King’s Gerald’s Game. From there, I read Night Shift. Then my father introduced me to John Saul. I read Nathaniel and Sleep Walk. Then my dad led me to Graham Masterton. I loved them all.

Years later, a friend introduced me to authors Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, and Edward Lee. I read Off Season and it changed my life. I’m serious when I say that. That book completely changed everything on how I viewed my own writing, and it let me know it was okay to have a good bit of gore and sex stuff in the story.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Kristopher: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. It’s truly terrifying because of how real it is. It’s based on a true story that Ketchum took liberties with. Yet, he somehow manages to capture all the intensity and brutality while writing it in such a way you can’t stop reading it no matter how awful it makes you feel doing so. He was truly a master.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Kristopher: The Changeling with George C. Scott. That movie is just constant grim darkness for its entirety. Some of those scenes have stayed with me through the years. I’ve only watched it twice in all my life.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Kristopher: In the third grade, I dressed up as Jason Voorhees. My uncle had a shirt that looked a lot like Jason’s shirt. I had a bald cap and a hockey mask. This was when you could still wear masks at school for Halloween. I showed up with fake blood splattered on my clothes, carrying a plastic sword that was supposed to be my machete, dressed in total Voorhees Cosplay. I was very popular that day.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Kristopher: Monster Mash! I love it!

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

Kristopher: I know this candy isn’t the best candy in the world, but to me it’s not Halloween without Smarties. As a kid, I also enjoyed getting little paper treat bags filled with different goodies. Whenever somebody opened the door and held a large bowl with these small paper bags adorned with ghosts and witches, I knew I was in for something special. Sometimes there would be Halloween erasers or little plastic spider rings, fake eyeballs. All kinds of good stuff.

The most disappointing treat is that honey candy. I can’t remember what’s it called, but it’s basically like a small ruler made of sticky, honey-flavored puddy. Yuck.


Boo-graphy:
Kristopher Rufty is the writer and director of the movies Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood, and also the author of Angel Board, PillowFace, and The Lurkers. He has a new book, The Devoured & the Dead, coming soon from Death’s Head Press, part of their Splatter Western line.

He used to host Diabolical Radio, an internet radio show devoted to horror fiction and film for five years and developed quite an archive list and following.

He is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of two insane children that he loves dearly, and together they reside in North Carolina with their 120 pound dog, Thor, and a horde of cats. He is currently working on his next novel, script, or movie.

Angel Board
Not all angels are sane.

Someone saved David Barker’s life, but he doesn’t know who—or what—she is. Now he’s haunted by the image of that beautiful, nebulous vision with the features of a woman and determined to find out why she appeared when he almost died. David uses an angel board in hopes of contacting her, and unfortunately for him, he succeeds. This angel has loved him all his life, guarded him and protected him. And she’ll hurt anyone who interferes with that love. David’s guardian angel is obsessive, possessive…and homicidal. Her unyielding love for him will leave a trail of grisly “accidents” and murders as she eliminates all those who want to hurt David. Or love him.

Pillowface
Twelve year old Joel Olsen loves all things devoted to horror.

Movies, comics, books, and of course his true passion, special effects. Being raised by his older sister Haley after the sudden death of their parents Joel is in a world truly of his own. But at the launch of summer vacation Joel finds lying bloodied and near death in his backyard, a masked man that is the epitome of what he adores. A flesh and blood slasher maniac! When he invites the masked man into his home to recover from his wounds an unexpected friendship is born, but Joel quickly realizes he’s actually become involved in a true to life horror tale that he’ll be lucky to survive. This maniac known as Pillowface is not only an uncontrollable killing machine, but he also has others searching for him, and they will go to great and bloody lengths to find him.

The Lurkers
They’re waiting for you in the woods.

They’ve lived in the woods and cornfields for as long as anyone can remember. Small, humanoid creatures with sharp teeth and grasping hands. The people in what’s left of the nearby town live in fear. They’ve learned that if they let the creatures take what they want, they won’t be attacked. An uneasy peace has reigned. But no more. The leader of the creatures has decided his kind will be dormant no longer. To survive, they must kill. They will satisfy their unholy hunger with their favorite prey—humans. But some humans—females—will be kept alive in captivity…to breed.

The Vampire of Plainfield
Plainfield, Wisconsin. 1954.

Robbing graves to appease his malevolent desires, Ed Gein inadvertently sets loose an ancient vampire on the unsuspecting town of Plainfield. As the number of missing persons rises, Ed realizes the vampire’s ultimate plan has been put into motion, and to prevent his dastardly practices from being exposed, he decides to slay the vampire himself. But he soon understands that he’s all the hope Plainfield has. As the few people closest to Ed are sucked into the vampire’s realm, he’ll be forced to reach deep inside himself to bring the incredible nightmare to an end.

On this night, the Ghoul of Plainfield must battle the Vampire of Plainfield…to the death!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Boo-graphy:
Karissa Laurel lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of her favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, superheroes, and Star Wars. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. In the summer, she’s camping, kayaking, and boating at the lake, and in the winter, she’s skiing or curled up with a good book. She is the author of the Urban Fantasy trilogy, The Norse Chronicles; Touch of Smoke, a stand-alone paranormal romance; and The Stormbourne Chronicles, a YA second-world fantasy trilogy.

Serendipity at the End of the World
Serendipity Blite and her sister, Bloom, use their unique talents to survive the apocalyptic aftermath of the Dead Disease. When Bloom is kidnapped, Sera is determined to get her back. Attempting a rescue mission in an undead-infested city would be suicidal, so Sera forms a specialized team to help retrieve her sister. But unfortunate accident sets Sera teetering on the edge of death. She must fight to save her own life, because surviving could mean finding family, love, and possibly a cure.

You can find it on Kindle Vella
New episodes come out every Saturday

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Karissa Laurel

Meghan: Hey, Karissa! Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books! What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Karissa: I like that Halloween makes it culturally acceptable to indulge the darker side of our human natures. We can explore our feelings about monstrous and evil things without explicitly approving of them. The world is both light and dark, and most of the times we’re not supposed to acknowledge the dark stuff, but on Halloween, it’s acceptable.

I also love the aesthetics of Halloween—skeletons and bats and spiders and gothic clothing. I love costumes and how, for one night, you can be something or someone completely different. I love the idea of trick-or-treating, that we let down our guards and open our homes, even temporarily, to the community. It’s one activity that will never work as a virtual, on-line event. You only get the candy if you’re willing to go door to door and actually meet your neighbors. Some people hate that part of it, but I always liked the human interaction aspect of trick-or-treating.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Karissa: In my day job, I work in an office in a historical home in the downtown area of my city. My office/house is adjacent to one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, and that neighborhood goes ALL OUT at Halloween. They put up very elaborate decorations. The city shuts down one of the main streets in the neighborhood to keep cars out, and there’s a huge street party and tons and tons of trick-or-treating. Ever since I started working near that neighborhood about six years ago, I’ve been taking my family there on Halloween night. My kid is too old to trick-or-treat any more, but we enjoy going to see the decorations and the costumes. There’s also a Krispy Kreme nearby and we always stop in and grab some of the Halloween themed donuts.

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

Karissa: I don’t know that I have a favorite holiday because there’s something I like about most of them. I guess, if I had to choose, I like Thanksgiving most of all because it’s all the best stuff about Christmas but without all the commerciality and pressure to spend money and give gifts. I love to eat, I love spending time with my family, and there are fewer expectations. But Halloween might be my second favorite (even though we don’t get any days off from work for it. Why not? Who do I send a petition to about that?) because of all the things mentioned previously. So many holidays are similar, but there’s nothing else quite like Halloween, culturally speaking. It’s all about having fun, letting loose, indulging in fantasies.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Karissa: I am not really a superstitious person, although I do sometimes feel afraid to acknowledge out loud when something is going well or when I’ve had a streak of good fortune. Some part of me seems to think that acknowledging good luck is the fastest way of making sure that good luck comes to an end. But I’m not afraid of anything like broken mirrors, walking under ladders, or black cats.

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

Karissa: This is a hard one, mainly because there are so many good ones. I conferred with my kid (who is 19 y.o. and not much of a kid anymore) and he chose the demon from the Jeepers Creepers franchise, and I agree he’s a good choice. He only shows up every so often, but once he does, he’s impossible to kill. No matter what you do (like run him over with the car until he’s pulp in the road), he just keeps coming back. And he has the scariest face ever. That is some quality special effects make-up right there.

But while the Creeper is high on my list, I think Tim Curry’s performance as the demon clown in Stephen King’s It is probably top of my list. He was utterly terrifying in the most subtle way. He could just stand there in his clown make-up and pointy yellow teeth and scare the bejeezus out of me.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Karissa: I do watch quite a lot of true crime shows and listen to podcasts, but I can’t say there’s one that really fascinates me more than another. I was intrigued by the story of Hae Min Lee’s death, and whether or not Adnan Syed, convicted for killing her, really did it. Check out Season one of the Serial podcast for the whole story. I have to say, based on what I’ve heard and what we know in the years since…I think there’s a really good chance Adnan didn’t do it.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Karissa: Not so much an urban legend but when I was little, I had a book of local, North Carolina ghost stories that fascinated me. Ever since then, I’ve had a special place in my heart for local stories like the Devil’s Tramping Ground and The Maco Light.

The Devil’s Tramping Ground is a camping spot located in a forest near the Harper’s Crossroads area in Bear Creek, North Carolina. Lore says that the Devil “tramps” and haunts a barren circle of ground in which nothing is supposed to grow. Things left there will disappear overnight. Of course, there are some scientific explanations for why this place is so strange, but speculating about the devil is more forum

As for the Maco Light, according to the most common version of the legend, Joe Baldwin was in the rear car of a Wilmington, NC-bound train on a rainy night in 1867. As the train neared Maco, Baldwin realized the car had become detached from the rest of the train. He knew another train was following, so he ran to the rear platform and frantically waved a lantern to signal the oncoming train. The engineer failed to see the stranded railroad car in time, and Baldwin was decapitated in the collision. Some say the head was never found

Shortly after the accident, residents of Maco and railroad employees reported sightings of a white light along a section of railroad track through swamps west of Maco station, and word spread that Joe Baldwin had returned to search for his missing head. The light was said to appear in the distance, before approaching along the tracks facing East, bobbing at a height of about 5 feet, and either flying to the side of the track in an arc or receding from the viewer. Other reports spoke of green or red lights, or other patterns of movement

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Karissa: Although I like true crime a lot, I don’t tend to care for serial killer stories. It’s one thing to get a thrill from a fictional murderer like Mike Myers, but I don’t like anything that smacks of glorification of real-life killers in any sort of way. I tend to shy away from serial killer mythology.

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

Karissa: I probably had seen movies that were considered horror at an earlier age, but don’t remember anything specific. However, I do remember having a Halloween sleepover with some girlfriends when I was in middle school, I was probably about 12 years-old, and my mom let us rent The Lost Boys. I was absolutely enthralled. I don’t know if that can actually be considered a horror movie, but Kiefer Sutherland and his band of vampire misfits were certainly no vegetarian, sparkly Twilight vampires. I still love that movie to this day.

I can’t specifically remember when I picked up my first horror novel, but I do remember that The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree was one of my most favorite books as a little kid—I was always drawn to spooky things and didn’t scare easily. I read way ahead of my grade level, and I grew up reading Stephen King, Christopher Pike, V.C. Andrews, and Dean Koontz. My mom was very open minded about reading, and I have no memory of her discouraging me from reading anything.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

As a kid, I remember reading The Tommyknockers by Stephen King and being so freaked out that I had to go outside in the daylight to finish reading it. But the most recent thing I’ve read that made me feel deeply unsettled is The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. The whole book is full of moments that took my outside of myself in a frightening, disturbing way, but there is a climactic chase scene near the end that is one of the most downright horrifying things I’ve read in a long, long time. Jones establishes a prolonged period of heightened tension that is torturous, but in a really good way, and it’s never boring or tedious. If you love horror and haven’t read that book yet, you must.

I also have to shout out to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It’s nothing like the Will Smith movie, by the way. It’s one of the most gorgeously written books I’ve ever read and filled me with so much existential dread. It’s also extremely timely and relatable to the current pandemic culture we’re all experiencing.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Karissa: Horror, like comedy, is highly subjective, right? What scares one person won’t scare the next. I’ve watched tons of horror over the years and little of it has actually scared me. However, I can’t stand movies that are classified as horror but are actually just torture porn, such as House of 1000 Corpses. My husband, when we first started dating years ago, asked me to watch that movie with him and his friends. I ended up putting a blanket over my head and going to sleep instead of watching it. It didn’t scare me so much as sicken me. I still won’t go anywhere near that franchise, and I’m reluctant to watch any Rob Zombie productions because of that movie.

I wouldn’t say it scarred me, but George A. Romero’s ’68 Night of the Living Dead scared the crap out of my when I saw it years ago. It still gives me chills, and it’s still my favorite zombie movie, ever. With little in the way of special effects and nothing like CGI even remotely possible, Romero had to be clever. He used music and sound effects, lighting, and careful pacing to create a highly atmospheric movie that is thick with dread and horror. The opening scene, with that slow shambling zombie in the background, out of focus, slowly coming closer and closer… That was pure cinematic genius. I still prefer it over newer zombie movies that rely too much on CGI.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Karissa: As a kid, I was kind of spoiled and precocious about costumes. My mom was crafty and could sew. I always insisted that she make me one-of-a-kind costumes, and she indulged me. The biggest hit of my childhood costume career was when I went as a whole bag of M&Ms. My mom sewed me a costume that looked like a classic bag of regular M&Ms complete with the logo and barcode—it was kind of like a giant, brown, rectangular dress. I painted my face to look like a green M&M poking out of the top and put M&Ms made from balloons on my shoulders. I won a costume contest, and my mom sent pictures of me to the Mars chocolate company that owns M&Ms. They sent back stickers, coupons, and a personalized thank you letter.

I don’t sew like my mom can, but I like making things, so I’ve managed to make some pretty good costumes for my kid over the years. He’s been Popeye (that was a big hit with the old folks in my neighborhood), a Ghost Buster, the Ghost Rider, Gene Simmons from Kiss, and many more. When I used to work in a bigger office, I once made fancy witch hats for all the ladies in my section to wear on Halloween.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Karissa: Easily the answer to that is Thriller. I am Gen-X and was a little kid when that album came out. I loved everything Michael Jackson in those days. I didn’t see the video until I was a little older, maybe around seven or eight years old, and I remember being absolutely captivated by it. I still love the song and the video after all these years, even when it’s not Halloween.

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

Karissa: When my son was still trick-or-treating, I always looked forward to taking his Mounds or Almond Joys. I love coconut, but he didn’t, so it worked out well for me to take those and leave the rest for him. I especially like Mounds because I prefer dark chocolate. I absolutely cannot stand Twizzlers. They taste like wax to me. Ugh.

Meghan: Karissa, this was fantastic! Thanks for stopping by. Before you go, can you leave us with your go-to Halloween movies and books?

Karissa:

Top Ten Horror/Halloween Movies:
10 The Cabin in the Woods
9 It (The 1990 Miniseries)
8 Jeepers Creepers
7 Blade (1 and 2)
6 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
5 Three Witches of Eastwick
4 The Lost Boys
3 Alien (I and 2, especially 2)
2 Tumbbad
1 Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)

Top Halloween Books:
10 The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (much more terrifying than the musical version)
9 Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
8 Dracula by Bram Stoker
7 Prodigal Son (Frankenstein Series) by Dean Koontz
7 The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
6 The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
5 The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
4 Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
3 The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (The BBC audio production is wonderful)
2 The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
1 I am Legend by Richard Matheson


Boo-graphy:
Karissa Laurel lives in North Carolina with her kid, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of her favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, superheroes, and Star Wars. She can quote Princess Bride verbatim. In the summer, she’s camping, kayaking, and boating at the lake, and in the winter, she’s skiing or curled up with a good book. She is the author of the Urban Fantasy trilogy, The Norse Chronicles; Touch of Smoke, a stand-alone paranormal romance; and The Stormbourne Chronicles, a YA second-world fantasy trilogy.

Serendipity at the End of the World
Serendipity Blite and her sister, Bloom, use their unique talents to survive the apocalyptic aftermath of the Dead Disease. When Bloom is kidnapped, Sera is determined to get her back. Attempting a rescue mission in an undead-infested city would be suicidal, so Sera forms a specialized team to help retrieve her sister. But unfortunate accident sets Sera teetering on the edge of death. She must fight to save her own life, because surviving could mean finding family, love, and possibly a cure.

You can find it on Kindle Vella
New episodes come out every Saturday

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Erica Lucke Dean

Meghan: Hi, Erica! Welcome to this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Erica: I’m a huge fan of all the spooky stuff. I love the pumpkins, witches and ghosts… especially the old decorations from the 30s. Somehow they’re creepier to me than the modern slasher movie props.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Erica: It isn’t Halloween without watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. And Hocus Pocus. The original Halloween. I don’t know, I like it all… from trick-or-treating to picking out costumes to decorating the house (mine isn’t done yet this year, but it will be!)

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

Erica: Halloween is most definitely my favorite holiday. I think first of all, from the time I was a kid, it was like the gateway to the holidays. Mom used to pull out the velvety paper cutout decorations. We always found the biggest pumpkin to cut into a jack-o-lantern. Mom made our costumes. Our little town had a parade with prizes to the best costumes.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Erica: I can’t sleep if my feet aren’t under covers. Or if any part of my body is dangling over the side. I don’t know if that counts or not. I’m not afraid of black cats – in fact, I’ve had several growing up. And my daughter has 2 now. They love sleeping in my lap.

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

Erica: Michael Meyers from the original Halloween movie. And I don’t endorse anything between the first one and the most recent ones with Jamie Lee Curtis. Those are the best. I’ll give bonus points to the Rob Zombie version. It was good, but sooooo gross. LOL.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Erica: I don’t really follow unsolved murders that closely, but I think the Black Dahlia is the most fascinating one I can think of.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Erica: I don’t like looking into mirrors in dark rooms. I’m always afraid I’ll see Bloody Mary or the Candyman in them.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Erica: I hate to say I have a “favorite” because serial killers are bad dudes. But I can’t seem to help myself when any documentary on Ted Bundy comes on. It’s terrifying to think someone could live a normal life, have a family, a job, and just be out there killing people on the side. He could be anyone.

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

Erica: I was a huge fan of the old Abbott and Costello movies when I was a kid, especially Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula/Frankenstein/the Wolfman. I loved those movies. I was probably 7 or 8 the first time I saw them. I can’t remember how old I was when I read The Amityville Horror, but I LOVED scary books and movies as a kid. I think I read exclusively horror until I graduated college. Weird, right?

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

I loved Stephen King books when I was a teenager. To this day, ’Salem’s Lot scares the bejesus out of me.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Erica: I’ve seen a lot of horror movies in my day, but the one that scared me for life was Final Destination. I still can’t fly.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Erica: I dressed a I Dream of Jeanie one year. That was my favorite adult costume. My favorite kid costume was the year my mom dressed my sister and me as a two-headed man. We won a prize at the annual Halloween parade that year.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Erica: I have too many. Monster Mash, Little Red Riding Hood, Werewolves of London, I have an entire playlist that goes on loop from October 1st – 31st.

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

Erica: I actually love candy corn. Mary Janes. Sugar Daddys, Snickers. You can keep your Gushers, Smarties, and those other fruit flavored things.

Meghan: Thanks again for stopping by. Before you go, what are your top 15 Halloween movies?

Erica: There are really too many to choose. I might not watch all of them every year, but I might watch some of them more than once. My list might fluctuate from year to year to add or subtract one or two. But these are must watch movies!

  1. Carrie
  2. Night of the Living Dead
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street
  4. Scary Movie
  5. Shaun of the Dead
  6. An American Werewolf in London
  7. The Witches
  8. Fright Night
  9. The Nightmare Before Christmas (this one does double duty at Christmas too!)
  10. Beetlejuice
  11. Halloween
  12. The Lost Boys
  13. Practical Magic
  14. Hocus Pocus
  15. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Boo-graphy:
After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica Lucke Dean moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains where she lived in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse.

Tired of being woken up in the middle of the night by a pesky poltergeist, the author of contemporary young adult, romantic comedy, and paranormal romance moved into a cute little cabin in the woods, where she lives with her husband, her dogs, and the occasional bear. Much like the characters in her books, Ms. Dean is a magnet for disaster, and has been known to trip on air while walking across flat surfaces.

How she’s managed to survive this long is one of life’s great mysteries.

You can find out more about Erica, in addition to her humorous blog posts and disasters, on her website.

Represented by: Cathie Hedrick-Armstrong of The Purcell Agency

Eve Versus the Apocalypse
When everyone she cares about is killed in an alien invasion, college color guard Eve uses her skills with a saber to battle her way through the changing landscape. Faced with monsters of more than one kind, Eve isn’t sure who to trust. After running into a group of survivors, she must decide if a new alliance with the dangerously sexy Archer is worth the risk. His offer of protection is tempting, but if she agrees to join him, her life may not be the only thing on the line.

Eve on Kindle Vella
New episodes drop every Sunday