AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lex H. Jones

Meghan: Hey Lex! Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. You haven’t been here yet, but were a regular over on The Gal in the Blue Mask. It’s a little different here, but definitely interesting. We appreciate you stopping by today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Lex: I love decorating the house for the big Halloween party I host every year. “Trick or Treating” isn’t really a huge thing in Britain in the way it is in America, so you don’t generally see a lot of houses that have really gone crazy with it. The ones that do tend to be having some sort of party, whether it’s for children of adults. Having grown up watching American films and shows, I always wanted to do big Halloween parties with everything from theme music, themed foods, games, costumes, and of course decorations inside and out. Now that I own my own house, I get to that every year.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Lex: Planning the decorating for the house. I like planning and organizing, it helps me enjoy things better as I don’t do well with outright spontaneity and chaos. So I’ll have a notebook with sections for each room (and the garden), and I’ll work out a different theme for each. After I’ve worked that out, I’ll see what I can get from the shops, how much of it I might need, and then as a rule, buy far more than that. I always end up needing more cobweb. However much cobweb you think you’ve bought, I promise you it’s not enough.

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

Lex: It’s my second, as my first is Christmas. I know a lot of people don’t like Christmas and have their own reasons for that, and that’s fine. But I love it and always have.

Halloween, though, comes a close second as it’s the time of year when everyone is suddenly ‘into’ the stuff that I’ve always liked. I particularly liked, as a child, that for one month of the year the shops would suddenly be full of skeletons and ghosts and such. Essentially all the kinds of toys and decorations that I coveted the year round.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Lex: To be honest, I’m not. I’m an absolutely rational atheist (not the militant dickhead kind like Dawkins, don’t worry) so I don’t really do superstitions. The one thing I have which is kind of close to that, is we have a phrase you hear a lot in Britain is “don’t speak ill of the dead”. Now from a purely ‘absolute honesty’ point of view (which I’m often guilty of, given that I’m autistic) I admit that I find it odd when I hear folk describing a dead man as an absolute angel, when in life he’d been an unrepentant career criminal. But, it’s not about them. They’re dead, they can’t hear and don’t care. But their relatives, already grieving from their loss, don’t need to hear someone bad-mouthing them. So we tell little lies and say they were nicer than they were. Or, at the least, don’t point out the (still true) bad things about them. I always try to adhere to that. But it’s out of politeness to the living, rather than fearing the wrath of the dead.

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

Lex: I love ghosts. They’ve always been my favorite. Just the ethereal nature of them, the floatiness, the fact they’re sort of there and sort of not. I find anything purely physical less frightening as a ‘monster’, because ultimately it’s just another thing to shoot or stab or run away from. Yeah a werewolf is scary, but ultimately it’s a just a big dog isn’t it? A zombie is just a diseased human. These things still exist within the confines of the natural world and must operate within it. Shoot it in the head and it’s done. Get home and lock the doors and you’re safe. But a ghost? Well that’s a different matter entirely.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Lex: It’s probably an obvious one to say, but the Jack The Ripper murders. It’s not as though there’s no information about them, because actually there’s a fair bit. And many expert criminologists and investigators and outright historians have dug into it to try and figure out the case. And yet they never come up with the same answer. I do think we’ll never know the truth of that one.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Lex: There’s that one about a man waiting for a phone call that will tell him if he’s about to lose his business or not. The thing he’s worked all his life for. If he gets a call at 4pm then he’s fine. If he doesn’t, he’s lost everything. The story goes that 4pm comes, the phone fails to ring, so he goes up to the roof and jumps off. As he’s falling past his office window, he hears the phone ring. They were a couple of minutes late.

Now, like any urban legend, it’s absolute nonsense. How would we know any of this, for one thing? But what makes this one chilling to me is because, nonsense it may be, but it’s a cautionary tale about giving up too quickly. How many times do you nearly give up on that dream or ambition today, only for something amazing to happen next week which really pushes it along? As shitty as today may be, you have no idea how good tomorrow might be. So don’t ever give up.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Lex: Boring as it may sound, I don’t have one. I’m not really ‘into’ serial killers, they don’t interest me that much, so I’d struggle to pick any out of a lineup. Manson seems vaguely interesting to me, I guess, because he wasn’t the typical serial killer and was more of a cult leader. I’m fascinated by cults, because I never quite understand how people can fall into them. Seemingly intelligent people can fall down these rabbit holes of absolute nonsense and refuse to climb out of it, even when their own health is at stake.

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

Lex: As a child I had that classic ‘slightly older friend’ who was a gateway to more grown-up things that I’d otherwise not have access to. Through him I saw bits and pieces from Alien, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Fright Night and The Terminator, but the first horror film I saw all the way through was Predator. Now, I know there’ll be some debate about whether this is horror, sci-fi, action, or a mix of all three. But I think it’s fair to class it as horror. Predator was shown to me (probably far too young, aged about 8, I think) by my grandad. He loved horror movies and knew I was into monsters, so without my parents’ knowledge he showed it to me one day. And I loved it.

My first horror book was a book of ghost stories called Ghostly Tales, which I was bought when I was four or five, I think. It was a beautiful hard cover book with illustrations (I still have a copy, actually). The stories, whilst ostensibly for children, were actually legitimately quite chilling. I must have read that thing so many times, as I remember having to stick some of the pages back into the spine with sticky tape.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Lex: I remember reading Slugs by Shaun Hutson, again probably far too young, and finding it very off-putting. I’d never liked slugs as a creature in the real world. They just don’t look right. I think it was horror writer Arthur Machen who once described the eerie nature of slugs and snails and grubs in some of his writing, saying that they look like something from another world. Something that we, as denizens of the upper world, shouldn’t see, shouldn’t encounter. They’re things of darkness and slime, devoid of structure and organs and movements in the way the creatures above the ground are formed. It’s the same as when we see creatures that live deep under the ocean, and they lack any sort of cuteness, resembling instead some nightmare beings from a realm that we should avoid at all costs. Slugs were always like that to me, as a child. As an adult I’ve got a garden now so I regularly have to move them away from my plants, so I’ve gotten over my dislike of them somewhat through necessity. But Hutson’s book takes a creature that I already found disturbing, and made them into a carnivorous source of actual horror.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Lex: I think the first time I saw The Fly (the 1980s version, not the B-Movie original) it stuck with me a long while. I always find body horror has that effect on me, because it’s the worst kind of thing imaginable. It’s not a foe to be fought, a monster to be hacked at or a demon to be exorcised. It’s the betrayal of your own body, twisted and broken into something it shouldn’t be. I’ve lost too many people close to me through dreadful illnesses, and body horror is always a little too close to that for me, so I tend to steer clear of it these days.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Lex: A couple of years back, when it was the 20th Anniversary of Buffy starting, I think, we decided to have a Buffy/Angel themed Halloween party. Everyone dressed as different characters, and I went as Spike. He’d always been my favorite character on the show. My friend Zoe was coming as Drusilla, which I didn’t know, so that worked out perfectly for photos. I put a picture of me and her together on Twitter, and the actual Drusilla, Juliette Landau, commented to say how great we looked. I particularly enjoyed wearing that costume because, prosthetics aside, it wasn’t particularly uncomfortable. Often the costumes that look the best are the most uncomfortable to wear, so it’s nice when you find one that’s a good compromise.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Lex: I don’t know if you’d call it strictly Halloween-themed, but ‘Killing Moon’ by Echo and The Bunnymen. I just feel like, from the 80s onwards, if you watch pretty much any film or show set at Halloween, you’d hear that song. It was ingrained in my psyche as the perfect Halloween Party song, so when I started hosting my own such events I whacked it straight on the playlist.

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

Lex: Don’t be too horrified, but we don’t really get Halloween-specific sweets in the UK! What tends to happen is, stuff that’s available all year round, will have a slight Halloween makeover. So the chocolate mini rolls with jam in them now have green-colored jam instead. The gingerbread men will have little fangs added to their smiles. That’s about the best we get. Weep for us.

Meghan: Before you go, can you share with us your top 5 Halloween movies?

Lex:


Boo-graphy:
Lex H Jones is a British author, horror fan and rock music enthusiast who lives in Sheffield, North England.

He has written articles for premier horror websites the Gingernuts of Horror and the Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog, and appeared on multiple podcasts covering various subjects such as books, films, video games and music.

Lex’s first novel, Nick and Abe, a religious fantasy about God and the Devil spending a year on earth as mortal men, was published in 2016. This was followed in 2019 by noir crime novel The Other Side of the Mirror and illustrated children’s weird fiction book The Old One and The Sea. His latest release is a collection of ghost stories, Whistling Past The Graveyard. Lex also has a growing number of short horror stories published in collections alongside some of the greats of the genre, and in 2020 he co-created the comic strip series The Anti-Climactic Adventures of Detective Vampire with Liam ‘Pais’ Hill.

When not working on his own writing, Lex also contributes to the proofing and editing process for other authors.

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Whistling Past the Graveyard
A hilltop cemetery where the dead just won’t stay sleeping. An ill-fated voyage to an uncharted region off the coast of Iceland. An English village reminded of its heritage through the discovery of ancient bones.These tales and more can be found within the first short story collection from author Lex H Jones. Light the fire, make yourself a comforting drink, make sure the doors and windows are lined with salt, and settle in to enjoy this gathering of haunts and horrors.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Russell Coy

I had the pleasure of meeting Russell at a convention we were both attending, and he quickly became one of my favorite people. He was almost shy, which surprised me, and as we hung around together in a group where we had mutual friends, as the games and conversations continued, I realized just how much he loved horror as a whole and how knowledgeable he was on the subject. After reading one of his stories, I could not believe my luck in meeting him that night, before he became the big author I expect him to become. Such a talented writer, someone who truly inspires me, though I realize that, until this moment, I’ve probably never shared that with him.


Meghan: Hey Russell. Welcome BACK to the annual Halloween Extravaganza. Always awesome to have you here and I’m so glad you could once again join in the shenanigans. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Russell: I have two. Firstly, seeing my daughter in the moments after donning her costume. It’s the dividing line where her eyes widen and she crosses fully over into the Halloween spirit, which nothing can bring her down from the rest of the evening.

The second would be how the world around us changes as the season kicks in–the yard decorations and costume aisles, the horror movie-thons and haunted houses.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Russell: Out in the country here there’s a place called Fashion Farm, an old homestead turned restaurant/antique shop. It becomes a Fall attraction in October: straw maze, hayrides, cider and donuts, and Pumpkin Fantasyland, which is like a wax museum but in an old animal barn with faces drawn on pumpkins. My parents took me every year, and now I take my own family.

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

Russell: I grew up at the very edge of town with no other kids in the neighborhood, so if I wasn’t reading or watching movies, I’d be wandering through the fair-sized patch of woods beside our house, or the local cemetery behind that. Of course, that developed a good sense of the scary and otherworldly in me, which Halloween fed right into, as did horror in general.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Russell: If you trip over something in the first few minutes after getting up, don’t leave the house for that entire day.

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

Russell: The villain of the 1999 movie Ravenous—who I’ll leave unnamed for those who haven’t seen it—is fascinating to me. He’s a pure predator that kills to live, but he’s also refined and cunning, with big ambitions. Come to think of it, he’s like Count Dracula in many ways.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Russell: What really freaks me out is when bodies are found but the circumstances are unknown, like the Yuba County Five or the Lead Masks Case. You can spend a lot of time on YouTube going down those rabbit holes.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Russell: Snakes in toilets. Just typing that gives me the willies.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Russell: Joseph Kallinger is up there. He’s less-known but his story is a lot like the movie Frailty, only a hundred times weirder and more brutal.

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

Russell: From what I’m told, I saw David Cronenberg’s The Fly when I was three. Judging by some of what I write, it stayed in my brain whether I knew it or not.

The first horror book I read was The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I remember very clearly reading the scene where Hyde knocks down and stomps over the young girl. It hit a nerve with me as a bullied kid, but I had to keep reading, which I now realize was because I wanted to see Hyde get punished.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Russell: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. It’s known for its most violent scenes, but even the moments which seem innocent have a subtle violence to them, like when David is at the pond with Meg and feels driven to prod her about the scars on her legs, even though she doesn’t want to talk about it. You’d think it would get easier to read the second or third time, but Ketchum just keeps giving you new layers to be disturbed by.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Russell: This is a tough one, but I’ll go with Martyrs. I’ve got a strong constitution for violence and depravity in film, but that’s probably the most emotionally draining horror movie I’ve ever seen, in addition to the violence.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Russell: I was an obsessive Superman fan as a kid, and I wore that costume to bed and on weekends until it came apart at the seams.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Russell: “Pet Sematary” by the Ramones pretty well captures the early 90’s pre-Scream horror vibe I get nostalgic for.

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

Russell: Love some Snickers, hate that rock-hard bubblegum you get, whatever it’s called.

Meghan: We have a fair few things in common I see from reading this interview (like snakes in toilets – eek!! haha). Before you go, what books and movies are on your top list for this time of year?

Russell:
Books:

Movies:


Boo-graphy:
Russell Coy lives with his family in their cat Penelope’s house in Northern Indiana. He is also the author of the novelette The One Who Lies Next to You. His weird horror novella, Dimentia, is available now from Clash Books.

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Dimentia
After giving up on his dream of being a published writer, Chris is plagued by a series of nightmarish visions of grotesque creatures. As the visions manifest with greater frequency they start targeting his young daughter. They are finding their way into his world and only he can fight them. Chris must uncover the truth about his connection to this strange, sadistic realm, and plunge headfirst into the unknown if he wants to save his daughter and himself.

The One Who Lies Next to You
When Angie Berg suspects her husband is having an affair, it has an impact on every aspect of her life. Confiding in her boss, Angie learns Carol’s husband had also been unfaithful, and it was the reason for their divorce. Carol wants to help Angie get to the truth, and she has the means to do so — a handmade Amish quilt. Thinking her boss has gone off the deep end, Angie accepts the gift in the spirit in which it had been intended.

Later that night, still plagued with doubts, Angie figures there’s no harm in throwing the quilt on the bed. What does she have to lose? What she discovers is worse than she imagined, and now Angie finds herself in mortal peril as she tries to figure out what to do next.