This is a new feature on the blog. Please welcome Matt Molgaard of Horror Novel Reviews. Matt is the author of The Belmont Brothers: Binds Part One; Horror Novel Reviews: Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss; My Hero, Peter Cushing; and his current novel, Say No to Drugs.
Matt, tell us a little bit about Horror Novel Reviews?
Well, we’re working hard to ensure that HNR is the go-to site for genre novel coverage. We’re all over the place handling news, reviews, release schedules, editorials. And we were able to branch out and begin publishing last year. To date we’ve released a trio of collections (When Red Snow Melts, One Hellacious Halloween and Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss) in addition to this new release, Say No to Drugs. We’re about to move into the poster field as well. I work with an amazing artist by the name of Dan Melby and he does anything and everything. We’ll be launching a new run of limited edition collectible posters that fans of horror novels and fans of horror movies are really going to love.
What is it about the horror genre that draws you into writing for it?
Fear just riles me up. I love to be frightened. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading a book or watching a movie, or walking to the local Walgreens at midnight. I just love that sensation. Fear is very unique and it’s a nice reminder that we’re still alive.
Who are your influences?
There are a lot of people who inspire me, I can tell you that. I always try to do my own thing, and close myself off to outside influences as much as possible when writing, but it’s impossible to completely eliminate the impact that work that people like Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling and HP Lovecraft were involved in. Those were true geniuses. You just don’t stumble upon minds like that everyday.
What are some tips you’d recommend for today’s horror writer?
Always write as much as you can. It’s best to stay as disciplined as possible and make writing a serious habit. And it isn’t too hard to do that really. Once you’ve created something that you’re attached to, it’s pretty easy to really get on a comfortable schedule. There are a lot of things authors can do to create the best fiction they possibly can, and that’s a really big one, in my opinion.
Could you tell us about your writing process?
I’m extremely sporadic, and I always, always answer the call of my imagination. If I’ve got 15k words banked on a specific story, and I suddenly feel compelled to work on a completely different story, I’ll drop what I’m doing and move to the next thing. I’ll eventually make it back to what I was working on, but if it isn’t burning me up inside, and I’ve got something else that is, then that’s where I’m going to really invest my time and energies. Other than that, I try to approach every story from different angles. Sometimes I’ll plot everything out meticulously. Outlines, storyboards, five (if not more) drafts. And sometimes the stories fly by and I blow through everything with little premeditated thoughts or actual structuring of any sort. It’s always different for me, and it changes with each story and how the characters in those stories move me.
What are some of your greatest fears? And how do you use them to enliven your writing?
Being powerless absolutely scares the hell out of me. That often manifests itself in my dreams, which are the inspiration for at least eight out of every 10 of the stories I write.
What do you see as the future for the horror genre?
I don’t know. I’m hoping zombies finally die… really die. I can still handle the films and there are some good programs on TV. I still get a kick out of Robert Kirkman’s monster, The Walking Dead. But when it comes to zombie in novels I am absolutely shot. O’m just fried on them. That’s the only major swing I’d like to see in the genre at this point. As long as we continue to see awesome movies and novels hitting the market, I’m happy.
You’ve written in Fangoria, Horror Asylum, Relativity Media, and currently, Horror Novel Reviews. Is there any advice you offer those trying to write for the short story markets?
No matter what branch of this tree you want to walk on, you’ve got to be prepared to do serious work. Writing is a blast, but the moment you decide you’re going to take it seriously and look to make it a career, you’ve got to understand that it is work. It’s not just fun and games. It’s a job and it takes time and energy. You will not climb any mountains if you’re not prepared to work hard.
Finally, I understand that Say No to Drugs is two stories in one volume. Can you tell us about each of them?
They’re both nods to vintage EC Comics, but they’re also cautionary in nature without (well, I hope) being too preachy. The Pot is the story of a few high school guys who just want to get high. Unfortunately doing drugs doesn’t come without a price and these characters run face first into that realization when they discover their drug dealer in a strange state. The second story in the book is called Blue, and it’s about severe drug abuse, intense hallucinations and all the wrong things that can happen to someone when they’ve pumped enough toxins into their body to numb an elephant.
Here is an excerpt: of the book:
The door of Mrs. Macy’s classroom swung open, creaking on its rusted hinges. A cold draft blew in, accompanied by an uncharacteristically large plume of fog. Both propelled Jimmy Hanniger in the direction of the front of the class. He hadn’t given up on practicing miserable hygiene, it seemed. A rotten stench leaked from his every pore, trapped in the disintegrating fog, torturing all in its wake. The stink trailed behind him like a lost puppy in search of a new owner as he made the trek to his seat; giving way to sneers, turned heads and plugged noses. His dirty-blonde hair was in shambles, knotted and filthy, tangles overtaking his cranium. A smudge – of what looked like chocolate (but who the hell really knew?) – smeared the length of his left cheek. He wore the same Bob Dylan tee-shirt he’d worn the previous two days, and it didn’t seem as though he’d changed his jeans recently either. Both were covered in stains and riddled with holes, one of which, located in the crotch of his jeans, revealed glimpses of dingy white boxer shorts with each stride.
Perhaps he’d be a fashion genius, were it 1986 and the punk scene still thrived. Hell, he could have fit in quite well with the loser youth of the 1990s, or the rogues of the ‘70s. Today, he was sorely out of place.
He yawned, exposing a series of green teeth, dark tendrils snaked through his rotten gums. That was an orifice that had started heading south years ago, never to look back. Those dark green tones creeping through the gums were an obvious indicator of years of neglect. “What’s up, Mrs. Macy? What did I miss?” He shuffled onward, his left index finger reached for the concave of a nostril before – immediately – straying south to scratch at his crotch.
“A shower and a change of clothing, Mr. Hanniger,” Mrs. Macy’s frustration shone through her flush complexion.
He kept silent (save for a quick fart that summoned groans from the girls and laughter from the boys) as he crossed the room and slid lazily into his chair. Positioned directly to his right was Ray Waltz. Ray was the rebellious type. The leader of a small band of misfits who probably couldn’t put two and two together, if four consolation prizes were on the line. If a rule was made, Ray was there to break it – to Hell with everything else. He didn’t care for authority figures, and, while he was happy to use Jimmy for his resourcefulness when it came to obtaining weed, he didn’t particularly care for the kid. “You get all high before school again, dipshit,” Ray asked as Jimmy’s jiggly structure plopped into a seat two sizes too small for his husky frame.
Jimmy stifled a laugh and scratched at a beard that had yet to grow in. Not so much as a strand of peach fuzz peaked through his blemish (and chocolate, most likely) covered face. “If you only knew, Waltz. If you only fuckin’ knew.” This time he did laugh, which drew an immediate scowl from the teacher.
“Well, don’t be a fuckin’ prick. Cough some of that shit up.”
“Next shipment doesn’t come up until five. And I’m not sure you wanna flirt with this shit.”
“Boys!” Mrs. Macy’s voice rang out, the entire room overcome by sudden tension as she strode forward. “Are you finished?” Her gaze was piercing, boring a hole through both Ray and Jimmy, who opted to turn toward the nearest window and embrace the quiet of an early spring morning rather than engage in a war of words with their snarky teacher. Mrs. Macy shook her head violently before returning to the front of the room. A healthy stretch of first period expired before Ray reignited the conversation.
“Is your old man gonna be home? Should we hook up at the skate park, or what?”
“Ray… listen,” Jimmy leaned over and lowered his voice, “you might be a hard ass, but I’m tellin’ ya right now, ya can’t handle this shit. Just do yourself a favor and drop it. Wait till tomorrow when I get the KGB in. This stuff,” He said, pointing at his head with the same finger that had moments ago ventured deep into nasal passages before straying south of the border, “really… gets inside ya,” Jimmy’s eyes took on a strangely hardened edge, his pupils dilated. He shattered the suddenly eerie atmosphere as he let out a high pitched cackle.
An ice cold stare and a warning of a trip to the dean’s office led to another brief stretch of quasi-attentiveness.
“Handle what shit,” Terry Krager, one of Ray’s notorious cronies who sat in front of Jimmy had turned around after detecting a lull in Mrs. Macy’s observational habits. A devious grin crept across his freckle covered face. “You got some more of that smoka choka, dontcha buddy,” Terry poked at Jimmy, which garnered no response. “Well spit it out mother fucker, you got the chronic or what?”
“You guys think you want the chronic, huh?”
“Bitch, did we stutter,” Ray leered at the sad excuse for a human being who sat beside him, all patronizing grins, obnoxious odor, rolls of flab and tattered garments.
Kids like that always ended up in a gutter somewhere. No money, no friends… hell, no life.
“You get your fuckin’ money, and we get our fuckin’ weed. That’s always been the deal,” Ray hissed in frustration.
Then again, kids like that didn’t typically do too well either.
“That’s always been the deal,” Jimmy nodded in casual agreement.
“Look, we graduate in eight days. I wanna spend this last week partyin’ right. You know what I mean? So wadda ya say, you show up at the skate park around seven and we take care of business?”
“No can do, Ray.”
Terry let out a controlled chuckle, pointing at Ray, whispering harsh antagonism. “This piece of trailer trash is fuckin’ with you son! He’s fuckin’ with you! The junkie, makin’ you look like a junkie…. Ah man ain’t that funny business,” Terry had a way of pushing everyone’s buttons. If the slightest crack in the window of opportunity presented itself, he’d slide a snide joke right on through and watch it crawl inside you till you were ready to explode. Always the first to prod.
The trio cut their conversation short when Mrs. Macy advanced, a fearsome glower aimed in their direction, patience all but extinct. Her eyes always seemed to glow, a bright red burning away behind the surface; a furnace within the face of authority. A tirade of edited insults and a follow through threat (this time, technically, a promise) of a trip to the dean’s office spewed from lips wrinkled by years of long draws on Kools before she spun and headed for the front of the class once more.
Smoking did a hell of a job on that one. Take the chap-stick away and those lips sure look like an asshole, Terry thought as the teacher stormed away. He turned to Ray, crossed his eyes and made an unsettling puckering motion with his lips before quickly returning his attention to the front of the class.
I want to thank you for your time and being on Traci Kenworth: A Writer’s World. Good luck with your book and Horror Novel Reviews.
Thank you, Tracy. The pleasure was certainly mine!