- Who has been your biggest influence as a writer?
I guess that would depend upon which genre we’re talking about. For my humor writing, definitely Mark Twain. His Sketches New and Old are the most hilarious pieces of writing I have ever read.
For the children’s books I write, it would have to be P.L. Travers, Roald Dahl, A.A. Milne, J.M. Barrie, and Astrid Lingren.
Though I am primarily known as a horror writer, I hate to categorize my work as such; mainly because when most people think of horror they think of blood, gut and veins in the teeth kind of writing, and what I do is fairly far removed from that. Not that gore doesn’t have a place, it certainly does—but not so much for me or my audience. I write paranormal suspense, which is a bit more psychologically-based and thus somewhat more subtle. At any rate, biggest influences for me would have to be: Shirley Jackson—The Haunting of Hill House is a masterpiece; Bentley Little—our writing styles are similar; and Charles L. Grant. But the writer from whom I learned effective character development was not a horror author at all—Maeve Binchey. Read a book or two of hers and you’ll see what I mean.
- What do you prefer to write: novels, novellas, or short stories?
It’s sort of comparing apples and oranges and bananas. I enjoy writing all of the above—and whether the piece turns out to be a short story, a novella, or a novel just depends upon how long it takes to tell the story I have in mind. I never really know for sure when I begin. All I know at the start is how I want the story to end, and I write to that.
- Who is your favorite writer?
Only one? Here, in no particular order, is the list: Ray Bradbury, Michael McDowell, Terry Pratchett, Susan Hill, Sarah Blake, Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, Matthew Costello, T.M. Wright, Anne Rule, John Irving, Melissa Marr, Edgar Allan Poe, Dan Simmons, Michael Crichton, early Dean Koontz, early Stephen King, as well as the other authors I’ve previously mentioned.
- When did you first decide you wanted to become a writer?
When I read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. If I were to aspire to write exactly like someone else, it would be Mr. Bradbury. While reading his work, I will frequently come across a sentence or an entire paragraph that I will reread or read aloud, just to savor the beauty of the language he’s used. He was such a maestro with words that they can absolutely break your heart sometimes—a consummation devoutly to be wished.
- What current writing projects are you working on?
I am finishing up my fourth novel. I was stuck for a while, because I realized that the ending I had originally envisioned for it would not work—but now I’ve figured out how to fix it. The working title is The Traveler and it is a paranormal suspense novel about evil and redemption.
- What type of scenes do you most enjoy writing?
Anything with dialog. My work tends to be dialog-heavy, as I prefer to get my point across with a conversation rather than laboriously spelling things out in narrative. This makes my work very streamlined and probably faster to read.
- What made you start writing?
I knew from childhood that I wanted to be a writer, and began, at age six, by writing books of my own, hand-drawing covers, and selling them to any family member who would pay (usually a gum ball) for what I referred to as “classic literature.” When I ran out of relatives, I came to the conclusion that there was no real money to be made in self-publishing, so I studied writing and read voraciously for the next eighteen years, while simultaneously collecting enough rejection slips to re-paper my living room…twice. When my landlord chucked me out for, in his words, “making the apartment into one hell of a downer,” I redoubled my efforts, and collected four times the rejection slips in half the time, single-handedly causing the first paper shortage in U.S. history. But I persevered, improved greatly over the years, and here we are.
- How do you define horror?
Horror is the aftermath of terror.
- Is there any subject that is off limits for you as a writer?
- If you could invite five people to a dinner party (alive or dead, real or fictional)
who would you invite?
Nikola Tesla – a brilliant man who is one of my heroes.
Albert Einstein – another brilliant fellow who, when asked how it felt to be the smartest man in the world, replied, “I don’t know—you’d have to ask Mr. Tesla.” Einstein is another hero of mine.
Mark Twain – He’d be the life of the party.
Leonardo da Vinci – another genius who I suspect had a great sense of humor.
Earle W. Munson – my father, who has been dead since 1991 and whom I sorely miss to this day.
Severus Snape (Harry Potter)—would love to learn to make potions
Dracula (Dracula by Bram Stoker)—so long-lived that he would be interesting to talk to from the historical standpoint.
Death (from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series) Again, long-“lived” and interesting.
Dr. Fingal O’Reilly (Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country Doctor series) A curmudgeonly physician who I would love to chat with about the world of medicine.
Owen Meany (A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving) Read the book and you’ll understand why Owen would be most worthwhile to meet.