The Gal in the Blue Mask and The Christmas Corpse

Just a quick entry here to pimp an interview and a new short story, both now available to read at The Gal in the Blue Mask, an excellent fiction blog by Meghan Shena Hyden.  Both are part of Meghan’s yearly Christmas Takeover.  There are a lot of scary Christmas stories, and a lot of great interviews, including Mary SanGiovanni, Jonathan Janz, Armond Rosamilia, and film maker Mike Lombardo.

You can find my interview here, and I hope you’ll give my new story The Christmas Corpse  a read.  Yeah, I found some typos in the story.  I’ll make sure they’re fixed when The Christmas Corpse is included in my upcoming collection, Dangerous Toys.

Talk to you again soon.

Brian Knight

My interview with Mark Allan Gunnells – A Summer of Winters

I first met Mark on some message board or other a few years back and was first impressed by his enthusiasm for fiction … specifically mine. What can I say? I’m a sucker for flattery, and Mark was a very vocal supporter of my work.

Later I was impressed by his ability to spin a good scary yarn, very impressed. Of all his work to date I am most impressed by The Summer of Winters.

I found aspects of the story, the alienation and loneliness of some children and the cruelty of others, especially poignant. The disturbing sense of dark nostalgia that the story held for me, a resonance that genre fiction all too often fails to achieve drew me in almost immediately. Mark’s excellent storytelling kept me there, and I finished the story in a single sitting.

Q: Mark, A Summer of Winters feels like a very personal story. How much of it sprang from your own childhood, your friendships and relationships?

A: Well, the main plot is completely fictitious, and while some of the characters were modeled after people I knew, no one character represents a living person. That said, I threw in so much of my childhood into this story that I feel in some ways I was using it as a means to preserve my memories. The setting is real, my hometown, and I utilized as many of the places that were important to me as a kid as would fit in the story. The main characters house is a house I lived in as a kid, and the bamboo forest and the thick bushes with the tunnels running through them were all read. And several events in the story—the younger brother slamming the door on his finger and needing stitches, the teacher who snatched away the candy for not saying thank you, etc.—actually happened to me. So while the book is a piece of fiction, there is much truth of my past in it.

Q: How hard was this story to write?

A: Well, the plot goes to some very dark places, and that made it somewhat painful to deal with. Also, some of the more unpleasant aspects of my childhood made it in. That said, I did enjoy the process of writing the story.

Q: When I started reading, I expected a supernatural story, probably a ghost story. I was pleasantly surprised at the way you instilled such a creepy atmosphere into what is essentially a mystery/thriller. Is this the type of story we can expect from you in the future?

A: It is true that previous to this book, most of my published work was horror and supernatural in nature, but I don’t want to be a one trick pony kind of writer. My latest published book is a love story (with a sci-fi angle), and the book I’m currently working on deals with witchcraft and ghosts. So, I hope to explore many different genres in my career.

Q: A Summer of Winters is also a really great coming of age story on par with James Newman’s Midnight Rain (and trust me, that is a high compliment coming from me). Are you planning something similar in novel length?

A: I’ve always loved the coming of age genre, and the Newman you mentioned is one of my favorites. Along with works by Lansdale, McCammon, King. I’ve always wanted to write one but could never really hit on an idea that worked for me until The Summer of Winters. Would I be open to working in the genre again? You betcha. But I’d have to hit on an idea that I was really passionate about. I revere the genre so much, I wouldn’t want to half-ass it.

Q: What do you have in the works? What’s coming soon?

A: Well, I co-authored a novella with Benjamin Kane Ethridge entitled Locked Room Misery that is due out from Gallow’s Press sometime this year, but I’m not certain of any specifics. I’m also working on a novel for JournalStone, and eventually plan to do a sequel to my novel The Quarry. Also fingers crossed I’ll be doing a new collection with Evil Jester Press.

Q: Anything I missed that you’d like to talk about? I’m all ears.

A: I think you about covered it. Just want to thank you for your time, and thank everybody out there who has ever taken a chance on one of my works and everyone who may in the future.

Thank you very much for your time today, Mark. As always, you’re a real pleasure to chat with.

The Next Big Thing … Bla-Bla-Blog

My good friend and fellow writer T.G. Arsenault (Tim-ay!) tagged me in his The Next Big Thing blog, a kind of viral round robin thingy where we get to talk about a current work in progress.  I, in turn, was to tag another five writers to keep it going next Wednesday.  I was only able to dig up three who were interested, had a blog, and haven’t already participated.  Seems this thing is a bit like the flu, it’s making the rounds very quickly, and it seems everyone already got it.

The three suckers who allowed me to tag them are listed below, so be sure to check them out!

Here are my answers to the ten questions.

Q: What is the working title of your book?

A: I have a few irons on the fire right now, but the one that’s closest to being finished is the second book in my new YA Fantasy series, The Phoenix Girls, Book 2 – The Crimson Brand.  That is only a working title.  As I get through the second draft a better one might occur to me.

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?

A: This book is only a smaller part of a larger idea which came to me about half-formed in a moment of epiphany so strong it almost stunned me.  I remember exactly where I was when I had it, a passenger in my wife’s suv, instead of a driver which was usually the case.  Probably a good thing too.  I might have driven us straight off the road.

Where it came from … that’s a question I can’t really answer.  I have no idea where it came from.  I had toyed with the idea of writing something I could let my daughters read, they were younger back then, 14 and 11, and thought YA Fantasy would be a lot of fun.   I wasn’t looking for that kind of story idea though.  It found me, and I was happy to take ownership when it did, but that moment of epiphany wasn’t where the idea was born, just when it presented itself.  I think ideas like that one either come from a lifetime of accumulated experiences, from everything that made me who I am and how I am, or from nowhere at all.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?

A: Young Adult Fantasy, though it has hints of other genres in the story to spice it up.  There’s mystery, adventure, and just a dash of horror.  I also want to point out that I don’t think a good YA story needs to be written down to a certain level or age group.  I certainly wrote it with younger readers in mind, but I won’t insult them by suggesting in either word or deed that a story has to be simplistic or unchallenging for young readers to grasp it.  A good YA story, and I do think my Phoenix Girls stories are good or I wouldn’t be writing them, and certainly not committing myself to an entire series, is just as complex and challenging as its adult oriented counterpart.  Good YA stories are certainly capable of supporting complex characters, relationships, emotions, and ideas, and very capable of engaging adult readers.

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

A: Unfortunately, all of the actors and actresses I can see playing the lead rolls are already too old.  If I could go back a few years and recruit some of my favorites … Bonnie Write as Penny, Saoirse Ronan or Dakota Fanning as Katie, and well, can’t really think of anyone for Zoe.

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A: A young orphaned girls loses everything she has, family, friends, home, and finds them all again in a most extraordinary, and magical, way.

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

A: I will not self-publish.  I flatly refuse to self-publish.  I wouldn’t be able to do it properly for one, and more importantly, if no one is willing to take a chance on it, then maybe it’s not worth taking a chance on.  Luckily that is not the case with The Phoenix Girls.

No agency though.  Agents … just don’t get me started.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A: Around a year, though a majority of the 90,000 words were done in a few month of marathon writing.  It was simply the most fun I’ve ever had.  Ever!

Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

A: The Harry Potter books (yeah, I flatter myself) and the Narnia books (more flattery) come first to mind.  It’s really not like either of them.  I think The Phoenix Girls is pretty unique.  Or I like to think it is.  You read it and let me know.

Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?

A: My daughters, and the idea itself.  Once the idea hit me, it was too good not to write.

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A: Magic, monsters, bullies, and bad guys, and most importantly, I think anyway, sympathetic young protagonists who any young reader, or every reader who remembers some of the difficulties of being young, can relate to and love.

Well, that’s it I suppose.  There’s a lot more I’d like to say about this book, and series, but if I ramble too long, I’m likely to start throwing out spoilers.

Here are the writerly people I suckered into participating.

Trent Zelazny
Mark Allan Gunnells
Tim Marquitz