Friday, June 24, 2016

Brian Moreland: Spooky Horror Deep within the Heart of Texas!

Horror author Brian Moreland has written many short stories and novels, and his excellent novella collection, Blood Sacrifices, has just been released. I’ll certainly be checking out more of Brian’s books. But, for now…let’s check out Brian himself.

SRW: Brian, I see you hail from Dallas, Texas. One of my favorite places to visit (or at least it used to be in my younger barn-storming days). The people there were friendly, the women all smiles and flirtatious. So, I gotta’ ask…what happened to you?

BM: Hey Stuart, thanks for having me as a guest. Funny, I haven’t barn-stormed in years. But I do own a cowboy hat and one pair of boots. I’m not really a cowboy, since I grew up in the suburbs, but I’ve been to a few of the Country Western dance clubs around town and have ridden a mechanical bull. The women in Dallas are beautiful. It’s a great city to live in. You’ll have to come back.

SRW: Okay, you'll put me up, right? I’m gonna blow by The Girl from the Blood Coven as it actually feels to me like a prologue to The Witching House more than anything. But The Witching House? Wow. Hands down the scariest thing I’ve been witness to since the U.S. Republican debates. Was the titular house based on anything real hailing from Texas?

BM: Thanks, Stuart. The Blevins House where the story takes place is pure fiction. I made up the house and the legend of the massacre. I based the 1972 hippy colony on the Charlie Manson Family, only I made the Blevins Family a cult of witches who practice black magic. The location of the haunted house, the East Texas pine country, is where I skip off to for a few days to write in an isolated cabin. While I was on one of my writing sabbaticals, I was driving along a backwoods road and saw all these fenced-off private dirt driveways that disappear into the woods. As I began to imagine what could possibly be concealed at the end of one of those dirt roads, I envisioned a three-story rock house with boarded-up windows. The Blevins House was born.

SRW: Have you ever been urban exploring like your protagonists? You certainly seem to know your way around spelunking through creepy abandoned houses.

BM: I have explored abandoned buildings and house. Not to the degree that the Ghost Squad does, with their headlamps and climbing ropes. I’ve just walked around a few creepy places. The best houses are the ones that still have people’s stuff in them and the owners are sleeping in their beds. Just kidding. I’ve only entered old houses and buildings that were abandoned and left to rot. It’s fun to explore them and sometimes spooky. Great inspiration for a haunted house story. 

SRW: Hmm, maybe I don't wanna crash at your pad, after all.

So, let’s move onto Darkness Rising, probably the most interesting tale in the book. Tell the folks out there in Tornado Alley what it’s about. (What you can, of course…much of the novella relies on plot twists and the unexpected).

BM: Yes, Darkness Rising is my most off-the-wall book. I can share that it’s an ultra-violent revenge tale about a poet named Marty Weaver who’s been bullied his whole life. He’s in love with a college girl, Jennifer, who’s out of his league. Even though they’re friends, he writes poetry about her and doesn’t tell her. Marty also has a dark past, and when he gets confronted by three sadistic killers at a lake, Marty’s dark side gets unleashed. 

SRW: The book is nearly slap-happily delirious in its nightmarish plot. It almost seems like a “greatest hits” package of horror. You have savage psychopaths, ghosts, Lovecraftian critters, serial killers and snuff films all woven into the fast-moving plot. It almost read as a stream of consciousness experiment. Did you set out to incorporate all of these elements? Or did you wing it?

BM: Darkness Rising is over the top, for sure. It was inspired by my love of Grindhouse revenge movies of the 1970s, like I Spit On Your Grave, Ms. 45 and Fade to Black. In each case an innocent victim gets brutally tormented by a gang, beaten, and left for dead, then the seemingly weak protagonist transforms into something dark and goes on a killing rampage to avenge the brutality. My love for multi-genre novels by Dean Koontz is also a strong influence. He often had a monster threat, as well as some psychopath roaming the story with a twisted agenda. It certainly makes for a high-octane story when multiple elements are happening simultaneously. 

So there’s a mishmash of genres going on in much of my fiction. That’s how my brain works. My novels Dead of Winter and The Devil’s Woods also have ghosts, serial killers, and physical monsters. They always tie together in some way. I wrote Darkness Rising very organically, meaning I just let my imagination roll and let the characters take over the story. It was a fun ride writing Marty and all the grindhouse horrors.

SRW: Psst, I love the grindhouse films, too.

Furthermore, some of the imagery seems nightmarish-worthy. I have a bet with myself (I’m like Sybil; multiple personalities), that some of the tale was inspired by your nightmares. Who’s gonna win the bet? Me or me?

BM: While I don’t have a specific nightmare that I put into the book, I do draw inspiration from dark dreams that ramp up my fear. I can tap into that heightened state of fear when I write. So you half win. As a prize, I’ll give you a half-off coupon for some Tex-Mex nachos next time you come to Dallas.

SRW: My favorite scene in the book is in the basement of Marty’s childhood home. The anchor piece of scary. Nothing scarier than old lady ghosts for me! In your writing, do you try to exorcise some of your fears by confronting them, either adult or childhood fears?

BM: I’m never trying to exorcise fears when I'm writing, although I do face them head on. I grew up being a kid who thought being scared was super fun. I loved haunted houses, telling campfire stories with my friends, and watching creature features that gave me goose bumps. As a kid, I was terrified of being alone in the dark. So what did I do? When I was alone at home one night, I went into my closet and shut the door so that it was pitch black. I sat there terrified that hands were going to grab me or a door in the wall was going to open up and some force was going suck me through it. Or maybe there was a prowler in the house and he was going to find me. To my over-imaginative brain, those terrors felt real. The more I sat there in the dark, shaking and waiting for the ultimate horror--death--the more I realized the dark itself is safe and I conquered my fear of it. When I began writing, the adrenaline rush I felt writing scary things is to me what makes a fun story. Since horror books and movies have been around for several decades, I like to think it’s natural for us to enjoy being scared, at least a little.

SRW: Okay, I want to chat about "Cerulean." The word itself means “the color of the sea.” Yet in your novella, Cerulean is the name of a demon inhabiting poor Marty. Is there a correlation? Other than Marty’s (and his father’s) obsession with the very important lake in the book?

BM: What inspired the name was more about the sound of the word rather than the color. I knew that I wanted the demon to have an unusual name. I wrote a list of several strange names: some were real demon names, others were uncommon words that had other meanings. “Cerulean” stood out on the page and the sound of it resonated with the poetry of my story and the watery world of the lake. 

SRW: Somehow you’ve managed to tell a good portion of the story while keeping the reader in the dark regarding the “reality” of Cerulean. Even given the supernatural shenanigans going on (or is it all in Marty’s head?). Real demon or poor Marty’s twisted psyche? Did you intend this? Or is this just my lackluster interpretation?

BM: You’re spot on. I really wanted this story to unfold in layers with the mystery behind Marty’s dark side being one of the final layers.

SRW: I sense a bit of a Clive Barker influence going on in Darkness Rising. Particularly in Marty’s gruesome “work of art.” (Nice imagery, by the way). True? Or am I shooting fish with a gun?

BM: Yes, true. Barker is probably the horror author who has influenced my writing most. I’ve read his complete Books of Blood collection twice and studied his writing and plotting like they were textbooks. I love how he shows the shocking horror and describes it with beautiful prose. He can take a simple setting, like a subway or a suburban house, and turn it into a place connected to other worlds and frightening monsters. I’ve aimed to do the same in many of my stories.
You asked earlier about how I came up with the name “Cerulean.” One thing that I love about Clive Barker’s stories is he creates characters with all these cool-sounding, strange names that add to the dream-like quality of his writing. Names like Mamoulian, Quaid, Peloquin, Mahogany, Cenobites. It was his stories populated with these unusual characters that inspired me to create my Cerulean character in Darkness Rising and Mordecai in The Vagrants

SRW: Now, I don’t know squat about poetry. Your protagonist, Marty, is a poet. And there are many of his poems throughout the tale. I can vouch for your writing. Can’t so much for your poetry. So…tough love time, Brian…is your poetry any good?

BM: I do not claim to be a great poet. Many of those poems I wrote just after college when I was experimenting with writing poetry, both love poems and dark poetry. They were more outpourings of the heart or angst, as opposed to measuring iambic pentameter or dissecting William Blake. When I decided to use my poems for the book, I could have consulted a professional poet and had them show me a thing or two about structuring a poem. I decided I wanted the raw words, the emotions that inspired them. I thought they worked for Marty. He’s never shared his poems with anyone. He just keeps all these outpourings of his intense emotions in a private journal. They range from poetry he wrote as a child living in foster homes to a young adult living in isolation. That the poems are raw and unrefined fits with his deeply flawed character. 

SRW: Even with all of the hyper-violent and grotesque events transpiring in the book, I was very impressed with the lovely melancholy of the opening chapter and, to a lesser degree, the epilogue. A nice way to ease the reader into terror and then give them the calm after the storm. I, for one, thought they were very well done and badly needed. Otherwise, it’d be relentless. As a fellow writer, I gotta ask…Brian, did you tack these on after the fact? Or were they always planned?

BM: Thanks. As an organic writer, I never plan my stories, so those scenes were a part of the evolutionary creative process. I will say this. Darkness Rising originally started out as an experimental short story titled “The Night Shadow Collection” that I wrote twenty years ago. It was told partly through short fictional scenes and partly through poems. I had forgotten all about it. When I rediscovered that revenge story two years ago hidden away on my computer, I decided to flesh it out into a longer fictional narrative. I wasn’t even aiming it to be a novella in the beginning, just a short story for an upcoming collection I’ve been working on. Well, as I tinkered with this story, and explored who this Marty character is and what he’s up against, I wrote many of the brutal lake scenes first. Then, as I got to know who my killers were and what motivated them, I came up with the prologue to kick off the story with something horrific. I kept adding more and more to the story, until it eventually morphed into a novella. My ending came toward the end of the process and was inspired by Marty’s emotional journey and how he transformed by the end of the story. 

SRW: The final tale, The Vagrants, has a very strong beginning, much mounting dread and mystery. It’s a story about the homeless and well…I won’t spoil it. Now you and I both know horror is very subjective. Readers bring to it what they will. For me, The Vagrants was the one weak link. It almost seemed padded out with the Irish mafia until we get to the money shots (but man, the ending is powerful and creepy). Was this the case?

BM: Well, I’ll agree that horror is subjective, as The Vagrants is one of my favorites that I’ve written and I had a lot of fun writing it. It’s not a perfect story structure. Before getting to the showdown with Mordecai, I wanted to spend some time setting up the mystery around the Seekers, develop the characters of Daniel Finley, his father, and their struggles with the Irish Mafia. I did fall in love with the O’Malleys, especially the mob boss Drake, and wanted them to be a big part of the story, especially when all the scary stuff happens in the final third of the story.

SRW: What did your research entail? Any underground visits? Chats with the homeless? Did you go all out like your protagonist and live amongst them (that’s dedication!)?

BM: I’ve seen a lot of homeless people in Dallas. Where I live, I get approached by them often. I’ve given a few money, food. I even hired a down-on-their-luck married couple to do some work around the house and they inspired my married couple character in the story. Years ago, Dallas had a tent city under some bridges and when I drove by it I saw this whole underground community of people who had nothing but a few possessions, some shanty tent homes, and time on their hands to talk and drink and sleep. Witnessing that inspired the tent city in which Daniel stays at when he lives among the homeless. My story is set in Boston, where there are some real abandoned subway tunnels. I researched those watching videos of urban explorers who went down there.

SRW: Brian, what’s currently darkening your mind and keyboard?

BM: I’ve been writing over a year now on my next historical horror novel called Tomb of Gods. It’s set in Egypt in 1937. A team of archaeologists and soldiers enter a mountain tomb that seems to go on forever, and they aren’t alone inside these caves. It’s based on real Egyptian myths. I’m currently at 250 pages. My aim is to finish the manuscript this summer and release it within the next year or so. 

SRW: Alright, I’ve wasted enough of Brian’s time. Folks, if you like horror, go give Darkness Rising a shot!

Author Bio: Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His books include Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist, The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, The Devil’s Woods, The Vagrants, Darkness Rising., and Blood Sacrifices: Four Tales of Terror. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror book. 
Follow on Twitter: @BrianMoreland

Monday, June 20, 2016

Hate disguised as religion

Apologies, folks. But I'm jumping up on my soap-box for a rare departure.

The Orlando shooting was a tragedy. Very sad, very frightening.

Then this ass-hat, "pastor" Roger Jiminez from Sacramento, proclaims that he thought the tragedy was great. "Orlando's a little safer tonight."

Safe from what? He's apparently so fearful of homosexuality, he protests too much. Repressed much? Love should not be a crime, no matter the gender, certainly not a governmental concern.

I'm not a religious guy much, but I do know the teachings of Jesus certainly wouldn't sway toward the outright hatred, the vile evil this douche is spilling. Advocating killing?

Jiminez goes on further, saying the government should round up all gay people and blow their brains out. He proclaims the dead "pedophiles."

I can't believe Jiminez has a following flock of believers.

Jesus was open to everyone. Hung out with an unsavory crew. Nice guy by all accounts.

Jiminez, you suck. One of the most evil people since Hitler.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Colonoscopies are fun!

I've been in hospitals a lot. Never as a patient, though, not until recently.

My doctor decided I needed a colonoscopy. Quite a lovely hospital visit actually. I was treated as a King. As I sprawled out in comfort and all my glory on the hospital bed, a nurse asked if I wanted a toasty blanky. A toasty blanky! Then she inquired if I'd like nice socks for my feet. Man, you can't pay for such pampering. Wonderful. For sure, I thought a manicure was up next.

The feeling of being wheeled into the Special Room on a gurney was peculiarly freeing. Doing absolutely nothing, yet still mobile. Goosebumps. A nurse swayed me in with a Brylcream smile and a game-show hostess hand gesture. Very welcoming.

The procedure itself was a blast. None of that nonsense about counting down to ten while you go under. The anesthesiologist told me to breathe deeply. Boom. And out!

Then my wondrous day of being pampered took a dark turn.

Next thing I know Nurse Ratched is standing over me, screaming that it's time to wake up and get the hell out her hospital. My reign as King of the day didn't last for long. But it was good to be King. At least for a little while.

Still, all in all, for such an intrusively invasive procedure (considering there was a snaky camera up my wazoo), it was nothing.

It's the prep work that'll kill ya. Seriously.

Good Lord, I didn't know I had that much to give. And give and give. I know giving is kind, but come on, even Jesus had his limits. Endless bathroom agony.

I'm still trying to adjust. Things like this usually only happen to people who are abducted by aliens (why aliens have a strange attraction to anal probes is beyond me.). My butt doctor said she'll see me in ten years. I dread it already.

And I promise this is the last time I'll blog about my bum. I swear! (Maybe).

Friday, June 10, 2016

Ghosts and Social Awkwardness: A Chat with Horror Author Mick Sims

Recently I had the pleasure of reading a terrific collection of ghost stories, Death’s Sweet Echo. It’s attributed to the work of two men, Len Maynard and Mick Sims. I was able to track down one of the two gentlemen, Mick Sims. The other? I’ve found no proof of his existence. In fact, given the subject matter of the book, I believe he may even be a ghost (a ghost writer?). Be that as it may, Mick Sims has agreed to be grilled this week on Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley.

SRW: Welcome Mick! Okay, I’m sure you’ve been asked this question a lot, but as it’s new to me, I’ve gotta ask…How in the world do two men collaborate on a book? As a writer, I have a hard enough time dealing with all of the voices in my own head (hence why I drink).

MS: Hi. Firstly let me confirm the physical existence of my writing partner. Len and I met when we were 11 at school but became friends later due to a mutual girlfriend. The friendship always comes first, before the writing, although that is the cement that binds the relationship. Anyway. How the hell do we do it? Wish I knew! It was a painful process to get to the fluent process we have now. Our early stories were a learning curve. What I don’t think we realized at the time was that we were both not only learning to write – and all writers develop at different speeds – but we were also learning to write with another person. Those two things combined certainly made for a combustible mix.
                One way it would work was one would start a story, stop for a variety of reasons, hand it over to the other for them to finish. We then had a jointly written story. We decided very early on that each story should have one author voice – more than just a style, although a cohesive style was important. Another way we did it was for one of us to completely write a story and then hand it to the other to edit, revise, as needed. That was when a lot of rows began. How dare he suggest changes to my precious story? We had a meeting place by the river, near the pub we frequented, and after a row, sometimes hours after, we would meet up there as if by pre-arrangement and come to an agreement about the story. Pregnant pauses were our specialty, with silence as a weapon.  We’d spend hours discussing a single word if we felt passionately enough about it.
                Over the years we have smoothed it all out. We are open and honest with each other, and no offence is taken when change is suggested. I have a voodoo doll of Len at home with enough pins left to carry me over the next few years. Taking it right up to the present day, when we write more novels than stories, we each write the complete book/story and then hand it over to the other for revision which includes proofing, copy editing, as well as revising if we feel it needs it. With each book we spend days at the end reading it together, page by page, for grammar, continuity, repetition and other flaws we find.
                We wrote as individuals for a while then realized that we would be competing for the same markets, so the sensible thing seemed to be to pool our resources. Luckily our individual styles have developed over the years into a single M&S style so there is never a case of anyone being able to see the joins. Although one reviewer did say they could – on a book one of had written alone. No wonder they couldn’t reply when I asked them where the joins were! We also got a review along the lines of – did it really take two of them to write this pile of **** - which was one reason behind the change of name to Maynard Sims.
                We used to brainstorm, sometimes for weeks on end. I remember one novel we planned was discussed at length and completely story-boarded - a process that went on for weeks if not months. In fact it took so long to plan we both ran out of steam on it and it was shelved. We refined the process after that. I think we have been writing together for so long now that we respect each other’s strengths and recognize each other’s weaknesses.

SRW: The writing in Death’s Sweet Echo is at times exquisite, very British. Now keep in mind I live in Kansas, so anything sounds upper-crust to these Midwest ears. Do you purposefully strive for quaint, somewhat old-fashioned prose? Is it the same style you use in your crime thrillers?

MS: I remember standing in line at Disney Orlando and people were getting onto the rides quicker than us. A US man asked me what was happening and I told him the others had a ‘Fast Pass’. I come from South London, not upper-crust land at all. My accent is not posh. Yet for him he thought it was funny to mimic my words as though I’d spoken them in a Royal family very upper voice. He sounded odd for sure.
                With the writing our first stories were M R James type traditional ghost stories. 
                 Since those collections we have steered the ghosts and strange tales into the modern world, but our stories do have a voice that sets them apart from our novels. Even a story set in the US, like Glorious Dilapidation from Death’s Sweet Echo, is written with as much grace and subtlety as we can manage. Our intention with our stories is to invoke a mood rather than to explain. To paint a picture of atmosphere and disquiet.
                Our novels - whether they are standalone supernatural horror or the Department 18 books or standalone thrillers or the DCI Jack Callum series of crime novels or the Bahamas set of thrillers or the erotic romances - each has a very different voice from the stories. Each type of novel has its own style that is different from the other novels.

SRW: In Death’s Sweet Echo, the tales are of an old-school sort. Very old-school, M. R. James ancient school, even. A compliment! You effortlessly combine James’ subtle style of supernatural shenanigans with a more modern day psychological slant. Are James’ ghost stories an inspiration?

MS: I remember being driven in my lunch hour from my day job back in 1972 to a local book shop who had advertised a copy of the 1931 Collected M R James with a signed handwritten letter inside. I paid £10 for it all those years ago - probably about £130 now or $185, still cheap and very worth it.
                His work is an inspiration but for us some of the other ghost story writers of the early twentieth century are more so. H R Wakefield, R H Malden, L T C Rolt, and several others. We have a large collection of horror books and most are pretty old collections and anthologies. It’s the collective charisma (almost) of them that is our real inspiration.
                When we write a story the usual method is to have a title that inspires us. Then a germ of an idea - like the man haunted by his own guilt (Guilt Casts a Long Shadow from DSE) - and we just run with it until the end creeps up like a shadow at the end of a summers day.

SRW: And like James, many of your protagonists are socially backwards, misanthropic in several cases. They say you should write what you know. Are you a hermit, Mick? Or a social butterfly?

MS: Not a hermit although given the choice I would be far less social than I am. My wife nags me to go out occasionally and talk to people but I much prefer to sit and write or potter in the garden or play with my granddaughter. I can rise to the occasion when social butterfly mode is required but usually hide behind a fa├žade of smartass ‘funny’ comments that keep people at arm’s length so I don’t have to reveal how shallow I truly am and how all my interesting ideas get put into my books rather than spoken out loud.

SRW: In the current age of splatter horror and torture porn, I appreciated the subdued approach you guys took in your ghost stories. These are tales I’d feel safe having my mother read, yet they don’t forego the creepy dread the best supernatural tales evoke. Is this a reaction to today’s anything goes horror ethic? Or just what you guys like?

MS: Definitely what we like to read and so it’s what we write. When we published and edited Enigmatic Tales and all its sister titles we had strict rules on what was acceptable. Swearing was out, sex and violence were out.
                Horror doesn’t have to be bloody or gory or even nasty. For me it is far more scary for the normal to gradually reveal itself to be anything but. Quiet horror is my preference. It is far more challenging as a writer I think to be able to hold back and to suggest rather than to throw it all in and hope for the best. Writerly advice is always to show not tell and we use a similar approach with our stories. Suggest don’t explain.

SRW: Following up on that, are all of your books of this ilk? Or do you vary genre and style?

MS: Oh, variety is our spice. Our standalone horrors feature Moroccan water gods (Shelter), sexual vampires (Demon Eyes), psychic demons (Nightmare City), a type of werewolf (Stronghold), an erotic ghost (Stillwater), and a pedophile (Convalescence). There is swearing sex and violence aplenty.
                The Department 18 series are supernatural / crime crossovers and has demons, witches, and all manner of evil entities, with as much modern horror as we can fit in. There are five books so far - Black Cathedral, Night Souls, The Eighth Witch, A Plague Of Echoes and Mother Of Demons.
                Our standalone thrillers are good versus evil and are as hard edged as they need to be. Gangsters and cops. Drugs and guns and sex and enough violence to keep the modern reader drooling and reading. Let Death Begin, Through The Sad Heart and Falling Apart At The Edges
                The Jack Callum crime books feature an ordinary cop investigating extraordinary crimes. The crimes are gruesome and relentless. No Evil and Prime Evil.
                The Bahamas thriller books are the same - criminals and cops with our hero - an ordinary man thrust into situations he has to fight against to survive. Touching The Sun, Calling Down The Lightning and Raging Against The Storm.
                Our erotic romances are described by the publishers as ‘red hot sexual content’. Based purely on fiction (believe that!) - written under a pseudonym to protect the innocent.
                So each type of book we write has its own unique style. We switch into that style when we start a new book in the series and we are comfortable writing in different styles. Sometimes an idea forms and we have to decide which type of book the story and plot best fits.

SRW: As writers, we’re told the importance of opening sentences. These days you gotta hook the reader fast. You two excel at opening sentences. Readers, check out these: “It was colder than the grave in the sarcophagus.” “By the end of the day one of us would die…” and my personal favorite, “The first time I saw Melinda laugh out loud, she was already dead.” Do you spend a long time perfecting the opening sentence?

MS: Sometimes. Usually though it is either the opening sentence or the story title that inspires the whole idea for the story. Often the title and opening sentence is all we have. They come easily - drop into the head when out walking the dog, or cooking or whatever. The way we each write is slightly different. I start with the sentence and the title and begin writing. The characters take the story where it needs to go.

SRW: Along these lines, the tales’ titles are very poetic, of a very old-fashioned bent. What comes first, the story or the title?

MS: Usually the title and the first sentence or two. I often have titles stocked up waiting for a story to follow. Many first lines are also filed away for later use. We have had collections where the first few stories had one word titles so for consistency, and being a slave to low level OCD, every story then had to be a single word.
                Other collections where the first story or two had longer, poetic titles so that had to be followed through. A title should have some relevance to the contents of the story of course. That can often be a driver for a plot - follow the title to its natural conclusion.
                You keep using the phrase ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘old-school’. We aren’t old - 63 is the new 27 didn’t you know? We like to write proper English and that can appear a bit staid. We like to throw in some literary flourishes to keep the reader on their toes as well. British English is different to US English of course, and so writing what we were schooled as correct use of commas, and so on, we may come across as being traditional rather than modern.            
                Our minds do hark back with our ghost stories to an indiscriminate time between the wars and just after World War 2 when unexplained things were easier to describe and to use a frighteners. When we write a story we are trying to invoke the spirit of the best of the traditional ghost story writers but without becoming pastiches. 

SRW: Of course you knew I’d enjoy your stand-up comedian tale, “And It Goes Like This,” seeing as how my last book was a stand-up comical horror riff. Have you had any experience in stand-up? Research or wing it?

MS: I like to play the comic at social events but that is merely to mask a social inferiority complex. In my previous day job I had to do presentations and they used to frighten me far more than any horror film ever did. Shakes, sweats, I had them all. Then I was best man at Len’s second wedding and I treated the speech as a standup gig. I basically said what a miserable old git he used to be until he met his wife. There was more to it than that but the audience reacted well so I milked it for all I could get. I read out ‘funny’ cards and went on far too long. At the end people groaned when I finished and came up afterwards asking me if I did it for a living. That gave me the confidence to talk in public at the drop of a hat.
                “And It Goes Like This” was a title I got in a way that I often do - while listening to music. Maroon 5 - Move Like Jagger. “My ego is big / I don't give a shit / And it goes like this / [Chorus:] Take me by the tongue”. I occasionally listen to music when writing and the phrase stuck. Putting in so many jokes made the writing easier and quicker - a lazy way to get some word length. The man haunted by his own past while sad about his downfall from grace and the heights he used to enjoy followed. 

SRW: The final story, “Restitution,” perfectly captures the weary, dreary job search that frightens kids straight out of college. Practically my life story told in a few pages!  While a lot of your stories feature unlikeable protagonists, more often than not, they’re portrayed in identifiable situations a lot of readers will be able to relate to. Do you find this helps ground the supernatural events?

MS: Totally. To us it is far more scary for your normal life to hold the terrors. We go to school, to college, university maybe and then to work. We both held a day job for 40 - 45 years. Young people these days rarely do that. They will have to work longer and with far less security than we ever had and that’s frightening. To me it is horrible that anyone has to work for money at all. There should be a way for the world to operate where we can all do what we love rather than enduring jobs to earn the money to live our lives. You shouldn’t have to just live for the weekends.
                I would love my daughter (and her daughter later in her life) to be able to have the freedom to do what they would like to do rather than be tied to a grind it out job.
                With the stories our scares come from the characters. It is important for us for the reader to recognize the person, even if they are not very nice people. We try to describe ordinary situations but put in enough twists and uncertainties so that a gradual sense of dread and unease builds until the normal has been turned on its head.

SRW: What’s up next for the very prolific and interesting duo of Maynard and Sims?

MS: We have written more stories (by invitation) since DSE so another collection will appear possibly next year. The third Jack Callum book (Appetite For Evil) will be finished shortly so should be out by the end of this year. The three Bahamas books are scheduled to come out this year and next. The sixth Department 18 novel (Tashkai Kiss) is being read. We have just sent off a crime novella - Devil. An erotic romance novella has just come out - First Time Arousal.

                Our website has all the fun at the fair
                Our Amazon Author page is
                Death’s Sweet Echo is out in hardcover at a discount at the publishers
                Prime Evil is up at
                We’re on Facebook
and loads of other social media hangouts - we love to do YouTube book trailers - check a few out.
We like them YouTube

SRW: Thanks much for visiting, Mick. If you readers enjoy old-fashioned goose-bumps read late at night, check them out!

MS: Good man. Some lovely questions. Touching on my favorite subject. Me. But seriously…