1. What do you prefer writing: screenplays, non-fiction, short fiction or novels?
I really do enjoy it all, but if I had to pick I’d probably say short fiction. I’ve always loved reading short stories, and I believe that the short story form is ideally suited for horror and vice versa.
2. What’s the greatest moment in your writing career?
It’s an odd moment, because it was almost somewhat melancholic: It was during pre-production on my first movie, and a few nights before the start of principal photography I found myself alone in the middle of the soundstage, on this amazing set that had been created for the movie, and I sat there and just realized this had really happened and this world that had once existed only in my head and then on paper was real and concrete now…and belonged to other people. That’s both the plus and minus of movies: You literally get to see your dreams come true, but once they’re handed off to the set designers and cinematographers and directors and actors and all the rest, your dreams could end up as something you no longer recognize.
3. How has working in Hollywood affected you as a fiction writer?
Probably in more ways than I realize. It’s made me appreciate fiction that much more; the terse, highly-structured format of screenplays certainly rolled over into my fiction style; and it sure made me realize how pleasant and thoughtful most horror fiction writers are!
4. Out of everything you have ever written, what work are you proudest about?
That’s hard to say because I’m proud of different things for different reasons. I’m proud, for example, of The Halloween Encyclopedia because of the two solid years of research work that went into it. I’m proud of my first novel Netherworld (which was not my first published novel – that was The Castle of Los Angeles) because up until then I wasn’t sure I could write a full novel. And I’m proud of my recent novella Summer’s End because I feel like I took some big chances with it, and even if they don’t pay off, at least I tried something risky and different.
5. Who is your favorite writer?
I have different favorites in different genres. I think the first writer I really loved was Theodore Sturgeon, but my favorite science fiction writer now is Philip K. Dick. My favorite horror writer is Dennis Etchison, my favorite graphic novelist is Alan Moore, and my favorite mystery author is James M. Cain. My favorite non-fiction writer is probably currently Barbara Ehrenreich.
6. What type of scenes do you most enjoy writing?
It’s hard to get more intense than scenes in which characters are confronted with the immediate possibility of their own deaths. One novel of mine (and I won’t give the title away here, so no spoiler alert needed!) even has the protagonist experience death, and it was one of the strangest and most affecting (for me, at least) things I’ve ever written.
7. What made you start writing?
I’m not sure. I’ve been writing my whole life; but I’ve also been an avid (and even, for a brief while, professional) photographer forever, so I think both writing and photography appeal to me as attempts to capture little snapshots of life and lock them down.
8. To what do you attribute your fascination with Halloween?
It transforms things we’re afraid of – death, darkness, masks, the coming winter – into objects of play and whimsy. And it involves lots of chocolate.
9. Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?
Probably not. There are things I could say, like excessive cruelty towards an animal…but if I was writing something that I thought called for it, I’d try to find some way to do it that didn’t seem gratuitous.
10. If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would you invite?
Well, Phil Dick’s a given. Maybe the early French filmmaker Georges Melies, because I’ve always been fascinated by him. I’d like to know once and for all if Jim Morrison was an articulate poet or just a pretentious dopehead. For my fictional character, I’ve got to say Emma Peel. And for a real, living human being: I’ll confess to a lifelong crush on David Lynch, whom I’ve only glimpsed from afar.