Evenin’, Creeps… it’s a late-night stretch on this one, but I have a wonderful treat for all of you! With me tonight is the wildly talented and amazingly awesome Michael West, editor for Seventh Star Press’ Vampires Don’t Sparkle anthology. I stuck him in the hot seat to play 20 Questions with me. Check him out, then be sure to check out this ultra-awesome anthology!
20 Questions With Michael West
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am the critically-acclaimed author of Skull Full of Kisses, The Wide Game, Cinema of Shadows, Spook House, and The Legacy of the Gods series. I live and work in the Indianapolis area with my wife, our two children, our bird, Rodan, our turtle, Gamera, and our dog, King Seesar.
How long have you been writing?
I’d been writing scripts since I saw Star Wars in the first grade. Growing up, I had dreams of being the next Steven Spielberg or James Cameron, making movies with my parents’ video camera in the back yard, films with a lot of imagination and very little money. And when my imagination finally outgrew those budgets, I turned to writing prose. It took time before I really liked my own stories, however. I can’t even read the stuff I wrote early on without cringing. Awkward, clumsy, and the dialog…don’t even get me started on the dialog. It’s always been difficult for me to craft believable dialog. I can write what a character is thinking, feeling, or doing all day long with no problem, but once they open their mouths…my progress slows to a crawl. That’s become easier over time, but it’s still something I struggle with. My advice to beginning writers is to read your work out loud. If you can’t say it without tripping over your own tongue, something needs to change.
Oh my, so many. Growing up in the eighties, I read everything Stephen King and Clive Barker put out. I’ve always loved the writings of Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Rod Serling. Now, I get inspiration from contemporary authors such as Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzales, and Tim Lebbon, but Gary A. Braunbeck is one of the authors I admire most. He brings this emotional reality to his fiction that is simply amazing. His work elevates the entire genre, and I was so thrilled that he was able to write the introduction to my short story collection, Skull Full of Kisses, so honored and humbled by what he had to say.
Stephen King’s The Stand
What’s worse for you: a bad reader review, or a bad review from a fellow author?
A bad reader review is far worse. I write for myself, certainly, but I also write for all my faithful readers. Nothing makes me happier than to hear that they enjoy my novels and stories, and I always hate to hear that someone had a negative experience. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often.
Any awards we should know about?
My short story “Goodnight,” published in Wicked Karnival 6, was named Best Horror Short Story of 2005 in the P&E Readers’ Poll.
Tell us about this book and how we can get it:
You can get Vampires Don’t Sparkle! through my publisher, Seventh Star Press, or through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com
What’s the story behind this anthology?
I had grown tired of seeing the vampire, this fearsome creature of the night, turned into some brooding, misunderstood romantic lead. I thought it was time that someone brought back the animalistic, feral vampire in all his glory. Then, as I was putting the anthology together, my dear friend and fellow author Sara Larson became ill with a rare form of breast cancer. After several years of fighting the disease, it finally claimed her life. A few months after that, my own wife was diagnosed with cancer, and it became very important to me that we use this anthology to raise money to fight cancer in all its forms.
How many genres do you write in? Which is your favorite?
I write dark Sci-fi, Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Horror. Horror has always been my first love.
Do you prefer to scare your audience with a subtle build of terror or a big monster-behind-the-door reveal?
I like the subtle build of terror. That’s what I’m aiming for: nightmarish and psychologically disturbing, or just plain creepy. Nothing wrong with creepy. Creepy can make it so that you don’t feel safe in the room. I love it when my faithful readers tell me they had to sleep with the lights on after reading my stuff. That just makes my day.
Are the blood and guts necessary? Why or why not?
Well, I’m certainly not afraid to hack and slash. I think a certain amount of blood is needed and expected when it comes to Horror fiction or films. But if you have characters who bleed like a lawn sprinklers, more than the body can physically produce, it just becomes laughable.
How do you go about researching your stories?
It depends on the story. Some of my research is done online, some of it is done by talking to people who have the same jobs or life experiences as the characters, and some of it is from personal observations or experiences. For example: I went on several ghost investigations, doing research for my novel Cinema of Shadows, and I did have an experience or two. I was in what they called “the demon closet” in the old Woodcarvers building in Converse, Indiana, and witnessed a hanging light moving like a pendulum when there was no breeze or any reason for it to be moving. I asked questions, and received spikes on an EMF meter in reply. I also spent the night there and woke up to hear people arguing in the hallway outside my room, but there was nobody there. Very creepy place! I never felt alone there. It always felt as if I were being watched.
What comes first, the plot, the characters, or the setting?
It depends on the project. Sometimes a cool setting comes to mind, sometimes a neat plot idea, but for me, good, believable characters are the most important element of Horror, be it a novel or a film. When you really care about the people in a story, you get lost in the narrative and you feel things on a very visceral level. That’s the type of connection I strive for in my own writing. I want readers to feel like they know these people. I want the bloodshed to matter.
When you write, is it with or without visual/audio stimulation (tv, music, etc.)?
I write to music. Usually it is film scores, but sometimes it is eighties music or goth rock tunes.
As an author, what’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the next book in my Legacy of the Gods series, Hades’ Disciples, which I hope to have out in the fall.
What’s the weather like where you are today?
There was just a thunderstorm, actually.
Best monster ever: vampire, werewolf, or zombie?
Well, I love them all, but since I just edited Vampires Don’t Sparkle!, I’m going to go with vampire.
If the apocalypse happened tomorrow, how would you react?
I would get my family someplace safe. It would depend on the nature of the apocalypse, but I’ve always fancied myself living on a deserted island somewhere.
Be honest…which are better: Boxers or Briefs?
Boxers. Silk boxers.
Thank you, first and foremost, to Michael West for being one of my favorite victims! Last but not least, every vampire aficionado should definitely pick this one up.
Vampires Don’t Sparkle! (editor Michael West)
What would you do if you had unlimited power and eternal life?
Would you…go back to high school? Attend the same classes year after year, going through the pomp and circumstance of one graduation after another, until you found the perfect date to take to prom? Would you…spend your days moping and brooding, finding your only joy in a game of baseball on a stormy day? Or would you…do something else? Anything else?
The authors of this collection have a few ideas; some fanciful, some humorous, and some as dark as an endless night. Join us, and discover what it truly means to be “vampyre.”
Edited by Michael West
Foreword by Michael West
“A New Life” by J. F. Gonzalez
“What Once was Flesh” by Tim Waggoner
“The Darkton Circus Mystery” by Elizabeth Massie
“Robot Vampire” by R. J. Sullivan
“Beneath a Templar Cross” by Gord Rollo
“The Weapon of Memory” by Kyle S. Johnson
“The Excavation” by Stephen Zimmer
“Skraeling” by Joel A. Sutherland
“Dreams of Winter” by Bob Freeman
“Dracula’s Winkee: Bloodsucker Blues” by Gregory L. Hall
“I Fuck Your Sunshine” by Lucy A. Snyder
“A Soldier’s Story” by Maurice Broaddus
” by Douglas F. Warrick
“Vampire Nation” by Jerry Gordon
“Curtain Call” by Gary A. Braunbeck