AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Steven L. Shrewsbury

Meghan: Hi, Steven!! It’s great to have you here today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Steven: These days, there are a lot of classic horror films on TV leading up to that time. It also brings out the ghoul in everyone.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Steven: When the boys were younger, they’d get made up in their costumes and go trick or treating in town (I live way out in the country). Also, they would go through a local nursing home that had the residents all outside their rooms in costume.

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

Steven: I’d say Christmas is my fave, but Halloween was always fun growing up and then with the kids. My buddies & I used to dress up and go running around in town or wherever back in the day.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Steven: Oh, silly things like not going under a ladder and all that. I respect graveyards as some goofs will go out to them on Halloween or at night. Not me. I show some respect.

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

Steven: Prolly the Wolfman ala Lon Chaney Jr. I felt for the guy, plus, he was named after my ancestors, the Talbots. Wolfman/werewolf tales are cool. I need to write a book about them.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Steven: The Zodiac murders. I thought I read where they cracked his code at last recently. Jack the Ripper, of course. I’ve read a great deal about that over the years.  

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most? 

Steven: The stealing of kidneys is a good one. Slender Man creeps me out because a few years back I was working at harvest overnights in a Corn Dryer facility and thought I saw him. Not much scares me like that, and I told the guy I worked with I’d have hit him if approached. Dunno what that image was, tho. My dad told me of one he heard in WW2 about an undying pilot that waged war on the Japanese. In the late 80s (or early 90s) we happened to see the Philadelphia Experiment film and dad popped out, “Near the end of the war, we met some guys (sailors) who told us they can make a ship disappear now.” He wasn’t one for freaky tales, either.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Steven: Doubt I have a ‘fave’ but was amazed John Wayne Gacy got away with it for so long. Ed Gein is more likely, not because of his actions, but just that he was more rural and easier to hide his actions. Gacy was in town, for Chrissake.

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

Steven: I used to watch NIGHT GALLERY with my brother, Mark, when I was 3 or 4. I have vivid memories of this show. Film, prolly DIARY OF A MADMAN with Vincent Price as a kid, really scared me. I recall watching HALLOWEEN with my dad when I was 11 and checking every room upstairs when I went to bed. Book, THE OMEN by David Seltzer. I knew it was Bushwah by my own Biblical teachings (even as a kid), but it still creeped me out. It made me want to tell more of a story like that.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Steven: EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty. It’s a small book, but what stuck with me more weren’t the movie crazy parts everyone thinks of, but the description of the Black mass and other pagan things mentioned in the book. The stuff with the statues, ugh.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Steven: The original INVISIBLE MAN made me love horror. Claude Rains voice still rocks in that. I probably liked the original DAWN OF THE DEAD most, but no scars. Although not really a horror flick, I never wanna see CLOCKWORK ORANGE again. There was a screwy flick called BURNT OFFERINGS that scared me as a kid.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Steven: I dressed as Elvis in 1978. Alice Cooper when I was 19. Always wanted to be Gene Simmons. There are pics of me as a priest in the early 90s online somewhere.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Steven: MONSTER MASH, or Nick Cave’s RED RIGHT HAND. Several tunes by Alice Cooper.

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

Steven: Liked mini SNICKERS as a kid or candy corn. I used to put those in as fangs, but I digress. I don’t care for apples or fruit as treats from strangers, although I used to enjoy Carmel apples.

Meghan: It’s been great talking to you again, Steven. Before you go, what are your go-to Halloween movies?

Steven: Loved the original HALLOWEEN film. TRICK OR TREAT was cool. I kinda liked the HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH film as it dealt with a more mystic side of things. That’s the sorta thing I like, not just killers killing to kill. The mating of magicks and technology was a good idea. Plenty of great horror flicks not related to Halloween theme. I suggest ANGEL HEART with Mickey Rourke, as the punchline is pure horror. THE THING, THEATER OF BLOOD…I’m not so big on all the SAW gory modern stuff. Seems redundant, which is odd considering how violent the stuff is I write. I enjoy newer stuff that is more complex. It is rare. I also have a tough time seeing a new flick that I can’t figure out a mile away.


Boo-graphy:
Steven L. Shrewsbury lives, works, and writes in rural Illinois. Over 360 of his short stories have appeared in print or electronic media along with over 100 poems. 9 of his novels have been released, with more on the way. His books run from sword and sorcery (Overkill, Thrall, Bedlam Unleashed) to historical fantasy (Godforsaken), extreme horror (Hawg, Tormentor, Stronger Than Death) to horror-westerns (Hell Billy, Bad Magick, Last Man Screaming).

He loves books, British TV, guns, movies, politics, sports, and hanging out with his sons. He’s frequently outdoors, looking for brightness wherever it may hide.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jonathan Janz

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

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

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

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

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

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

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

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

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

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

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

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

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

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

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

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

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

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

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

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

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

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

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

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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