Meghan: Hi, Alma. Thanks for joining us here on Meghan’s House of Books for our annual Halloween Extravaganza. It is a pleasure meeting you. Let’s get started: What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Alma: Seeing what the kids in the neighborhood are wearing. It’s always fun to see them get so excited. However, now that we’ve moved to a mountain in a remote area, we get absolutely NO trick-or-treaters.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Alma: I used to love watching a cheesy horror movie late at night while eating a terrible frozen pizza (when I was a kid, there wasn’t a lot of frozen foods, so even a bad one was a treat.) Not to be a downer, but these days I tend to be doing events on Halloween so that’s another tradition out the window.

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

Alma: It is my favorite holiday, probably because it was one day that kids could do what they wanted to do—decide what they would dress up as, which neighbors they were going to. Maybe kids had a lot more autonomy back then. Parents didn’t worry much about anything bad happening to us.

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Alma: I was somewhat superstitious as a kid, maybe because I was raised Roman Catholic, perhaps the spookiest of all religions, but I’m not superstitious anymore.

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

Alma: Vampires, for sure, because they’re so sexy. Frankenstein’s monster is certainly interesting, lots of emotions and drama there. I’ve never been able to get into zombies or werewolves for some reason.

Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?

Alma: The really sad thing is that unsolved murders have become so mundane in our culture. Murders happen all the time and so frequently that there aren’t enough police resources to keep up with it. Still, there is something that fascinates the public—maybe the “it could happen to you” aspect of it. It’s said that the audience for true crime stories is disproportionately female, probably because females make up a disproportionate number of the victims.

Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?

Alma: I find stories around abandoned towns and cities the most interesting. Even though the truth is probably a bit more prosaic—changing economies drawing people out of town, or construction of a highway away from city limits—seeing those empty, decaying buildings always makes me wonder. There are a lot of abandoned farms where I currently live, so maybe that’s why it’s on my mind a lot lately.

Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?

Alma: Jeffrey Dahmer, for obvious reasons (see The Hunger).

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

Alma: So long ago for both book and movie that I can’t remember exact titles. I was probably inappropriately young, as in those days parents didn’t oversee children’s activities quite so much. Like, maybe 7 or 8? I remember reading Edgar Allan Poe at 8, and it was probably the beginning of my fascination with the Gothic, horror, and speculative fiction.

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Alma: The book that made the biggest impression was probably The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I can’t say it unsettled me, but it opened my eyes to what a horror novel could be.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Alma: Not a movie but an episode of the original Twilight Zone, the one with the ventriloquist’s dummy. I was eight years old and in the hospital, and wandered into the common room (there weren’t televisions in individual patient rooms at the time). Young and alone and scared in the hospital. Yipes!

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Alma: I wish I’d dressed as a pirate at some point…

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Alma: Probably the Monster Mash (again, dating myself…)

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

Alma: Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Anything with peanut butter. The worst? Candy corn or circus peanut-type things. Pure sugar, ugh.

Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of six novels, most recently Red Widow, The Deep, and The Hunger. She is a graduate of the master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several U.S. agencies. She lives in West Virginia with her husband.

Red Widow
An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division–one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered–including one of her own–and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it…

The Deep –
Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on… And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic…

The Hunger –
Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased… and very hungry?”

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Mark Slade

Meghan: Hi, Mark. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mark Slade: Not a whole lot to tell. Been writing off and on my entire life. I am the author of A Six Gun & the Queen of Light, Blackout City Confidential, Witch for Hire (An Evelina Giles book), and Mr. Zero (A Barry London Novel). I also write and produce audio dramas Blood Noir and Daniel Dread.

I first wanted to write after seeing the Twilight Zone episode Mr. Denton on Doomsday. I loved how cowboys and weird stuff was happening. I wanted to know who did it, who Rod Serling was. Plus, my older brother had tons of paperbacks and the Twilight Zone magazine. That’s where I learned about Serling. From there it was Bradbury, Ed Mcbain, and Richard Matheson.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Mark Slade: Those secrets are buried with anyone who knows them! I don’t know. I think people know a little more than I want them to, but I can’t shut up. Well, my favorite movie isn’t Crime or fantasy or horror related. It’s a British film about WWII called Hope & Glory. John Boorman film. People may not know that. I am controlled by a Chihuahua through his psychic powers. I’m a Brit TV enthusiast. I love British Television programs, especially old ones. I’m a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, but I think the world knows that. I’m also a jazz fan, but I love Rock n Roll. Guitar music, big Waylon Jennings/outlaw country fan… You know, I don’t think many people know I like Sade’s music.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Mark Slade: Where the Wild things Are. I saw a guy on PBS reading parts of it. I loved the art. But he left the ending. I think I got it from a school library and read it or maybe thought I read it. I probably made up my own story in my head. Second book, was an issue of Spider-Man. The death of Gwen Stacy, I think. Holy cow, it brought me to tears.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Mark Slade: Jim Thompson’s After Dark, My Sweet. And a biography of Ross Macdonald. Ross Macdonald was another writer that has cast a HUGE shadow over my life. Everywhere I go, his stories stay with me.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Mark Slade: Well, when my sister was reading Anne of Green Gables, I read it, too. I really liked it even though I wasn’t a young girl. Just a good story.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Mark Slade: Well, like I said before, I attempted when I was ten after that TZ episode. But at 14 I saw a movie on Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and thought “Yeah, I can do better than that!” So I wrote a story about a father who threw his kids down a well. Naw, I couldn’t do better than that.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Mark Slade: Convenient place is more like it. Dining room, Dining room table.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Mark Slade: I think about what I’m writing way too much. Takes over my life. I also try to listen to music that might inspire stories and characters.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Mark Slade: Definitely Richard Matheson, Ed McBain, and Ross Macdonald. Sparse style, lots of dialogue. Get to the story as quick as possible. Writers I see in print now that I am influenced by a lot are Paul D. Brazill, ever since I discovered his story Drunk on the Moon – I’ve always wanted to write a story as good as that – and G. Wayne Miller. Everything he has written, non-fiction, or fiction, especially We Who Are His Followers. Great stuff.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Mark Slade: Let the characters tell the story. Who cares about literature or styles of putting words on a paper. Lit, that’s a made up marketing tool. Best stories and writers come from the pulps. No lie.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Mark Slade: Flaws. If they are truly a well-rounded character they can’t be completely a good person all the time, nor a bad person.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Mark Slade: Oh, crap! I hope none of them! They do some awful things. Might be some interests that are the same, other than that, none.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Mark Slade: No. Not at all. If the plot on the back interests me, I’ll read it.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Mark Slade: Ah man. Some sex scenes are hard, or they were. Now its not as big a deal. I think in my new book it’s a scene The Klu Klux Klan chase somebody. And its set in 1956. That was tough.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Mark Slade: That I do not know. We all feed off each other. No ego or lack of can change that. I just want people to like or give my stories a chance.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Mark Slade: Short story is definitely an art form. I just started novels. Getting it done and hitting a word count, plus making the story work. I write crime mysteries now. That’s a tough nut to crack.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Mark Slade: Not sure if I have a target audience. I’d like to have a general or mass audience, if that’s possible. Maybe people who enjoy Crime, Horror, and fantasy stories. Taking away from my stories, I think good characters. I hope. A story that sticks to your ribs, like good food. A story they’ll never forget.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Mark Slade: For Blackout city Confidential, two scripts and one story was left out and some artwork by Lissanne Lake. Lots of murders, lots of great art left in the cold. Too bad.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Mark Slade: A collection of all my short stories would be nice. One huge book. In the audio drama world, I’d like to do two projects: One an adaption of the Lew Archer books or Ed MacBain’s 87th Precinct. That would be really great. Another, Dangerous Duos, would be the title where unlikely fictional/or historical characters get involved in some sort of action story. The other part of the series would to take fictional characters who would go together and have adventures, like Mrs. Peel and Honey West. Or in the case of real people, Bruce Lee and John Holmes break up a white slavery ring. Or Jim Brown and Truman Capote investigate Ted Bundy.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Mark Slade: I have a book being edited by Next Chapter called Strange Corridors. Illustrated by Cameron Hampton. Its about a little girl taken by a mysterious Jester into weird lands. And I’m writing a book called Yardbird about a man doing the bidding of an oil tycoon, such as investigate murders, blackmail payoffs, get rid of dead bodies.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Mark Slade:

Amazon ** Facebook ** Twitter
Daniel Dread ** Blood Noir

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Mark Slade:

“This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top.”
—-Lulu from David Lynch’s Wild at Heart.

Mr. Zero

Barry London is a Fixer by trade, lent out by his boss to other crime lords. He is sent to his hometown of Geneva, New Jersey to deal with corrupt cops at war with each other over a missing video, dealing with an ex-girlfriend who happens to be a cop, the wife of a good friend who also wants to sleep with him, both looking to tame the wild and rough London. On top of all that, London finds himself looking several murders and Firebug who torched a nightclub. The key to it all is cracking the mystery of Mr. Zero.

Witch for Hire

Do you need a potion? How about a spell? Maybe… murder someone? Evelina Giles is a witch chosen by magic, just like her father. She operates a shop in a sleepy college town in Virginia. When a businessman approaches Evelina for a spell so he can steal a project from his boss, Evelina’s practical joke turns deadly. Or did it? Now, along with her assistant Mungo and her Journalist-friend Jeanie, Evelina must investigate not one, but multiple murders.

Blood Noir
Daniel Dread: An Audio Drama by Mark Slade & Lothar Tuppan