- Who has been your biggest influence as a writer?
I’m tempted to say Clive Barker because his work really shaped me and inspired me to find my own voice, but there’s just no denying that growing up a constant reader of Stephen King influenced me in ways that I’m probably not even conscious of. His books are the foundation of my storytelling DNA.
- What made you want to write fiction in the world of HP Lovecraft?
I’ve always been drawn to his mythology and cosmic vision. It’s an almost psychedelic worldview that breaks horror out of the traditional religious mold and offers a lot of freedom for telling new stories without just repeating what he did. There are plenty of horror subgenres that don’t resonate with me, but that one rings my bell.
- What current writing projects are you working on?
I have a few things in the pipeline right now. A supernatural noir novella and a few short stories that are looking for the right home, and a new novel I’m excited about—a mainstream thriller with a subtle weird horror undercurrent. It deals with the anxieties that come with raising kids in the digital age. But, ironically, even though I’ve started moving away from Lovecraftian themes after finishing the SPECTRA Files trilogy, probably the first thing I have in the works that will see publication is an illustrated SPECTRA Files novella I’m looking to release at NecronomiCon Providence this summer. That one is a historical fiction riff in which Becca’s grandmother meets pioneering rocket scientist/occultist Jack Parsons in the 1940s.
- When you first wrote Red Equinox, did you intend for it to be the start of a series?
I wanted it to work as a standalone book with its own resolution, but I hoped it would launch a series, so I made sure to leave the door open for that at the end.
- Is there an overall theme to your writing?
There are probably a few I’m not consciously aware of because I’m too close to the books, but I do tend to write about people with deeply personal motives who are up against larger historical forces. Mental health is often an element. I write about artists and outcasts who have internal struggles competing with their external challenges. But probably the most obvious recurring theme is the mystical power of music in my stories. I started out as a songwriter and recording engineer, and I’m still fascinated by how sound can alter consciousness and evoke emotion.
- What do you prefer, creating fiction or creating music?
These days fiction is my focus, but even when I was writing songs, they were stories, and I often write to a soundtrack, so it feels like I’m just focusing on a different side of the same creative process. Lately, I play guitar just to relax and blow off steam, but my son is starting to play instruments and write songs now, so teaching and helping him keeps the rust off.
- What made you start writing?
My sixth grade English teacher got me hooked on reading with The Hobbit. That led to the Lord of the Rings. When I finished it, a friend loaned me his dad’s copy of The Stand. He recognized it was the same kind of epic fantasy but set in modern America, which was pretty astute for a thirteen-year-old. Anyway, that blew the doors open for me to Poe and Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson. It was just like how listening to the Beatles made me want to pick up a guitar and have a go. If something creative looks fun, I have a hard time staying on the passive end of it.
- What makes Massachusetts the hub of paranormal activity as described in Red Equinox?
I was born on Long Island, but Massachusetts is where I’ve lived for most of my adult life, and it’s where Lovecraft set most of his mythos stories. My wife grew up in Newburyport, which inspired The Shadow Over Innsmouth, so I was well aware of the local Lovecraft connections. But I wanted to put the cosmic horror in an urban setting. That doesn’t happen much in Lovecraft’s stories, except for “The Horror at Red Hook” and “Pickman’s Model.” And when I lived in Boston, I remembered hearing a ranting homeless guy saying, “They call Boston ‘the hub,’ and when you at the hub of the wheel, you bound to see the cracks!” That stuck with me and ended up in the book. Along the way, I also found some interesting Masonic symbolism in Boston’s monuments that was fun to weave into the plot.
- Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?
Nope. I think a sensitive writer can deal with any aspect of the human experience. That doesn’t mean there aren’t subjects I would be very careful with, and sometimes the research required to fill in your blind spots is daunting. But I think it’s all about how you approach the material. Empathy goes a long way in horror.
- If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?
I’d probably have a better time if I limited it to a group of my favorite writers or rock musicians, but in a crazy attempt to have it all, I’m thinking: Buddha, Lao Tzu, Shakespeare, Beethoven and a really good translator.