the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘horror

alethea-lumos-2New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a fairy godmother, and a geek. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, and ranting about fairy tales on YouTube.  Her YA novels have won two Gelett Burgess Awards, and she’s twice been nominated for the Andre Norton award. She’s the author of  Wild and Wishful, Dark and Dreaming, the AlphaOops series, the ongoing Arilland Fairy Tale series, and her short fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Shimmer Magazine, Shroud Magazine, and various anthologies.

Alethea’s newest novel is Haven, Kansas.  She was kind enough to let me in on all the behind the scenes secrets of how this accidentally humorous and on-purpose scary horror novel came about,  her Traveling Sideshow,  how she scored such beautiful cover art for this newest novel, and more. Learn more about Alethea at her website AletheaKontis.com, her Patreon site, or follow her on twitter @AletheaKontis.

And Alethea? If you’d like to place your next novel in Hell, here you go. While she’s brainstorming on that plot, let’s the rest of us enjoy this fantastic interview!

Little Red Reviewer: Haven, Kansas is first and foremost a horror story, but it’s also very humorous! Did you set out from the start to include funny lines, or did they just grow with the story as you were writing? What’s the trick to successfully mixing humor and horror?

Alethea Kontis: I’ve been writing regularly—and submitting for publication—since I was eight years old. Due to a genius-level aptitude for math and science (because: irony), I did not take a formal class on fiction writing until I was 27 (Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp). One of the things I learned in that class was, “Humor sells. But it is almost impossible to write, and write well, so just don’t do it.” So I didn’t do it. I didn’t even try. I wrote dialogue I felt was real, and true to my characters, and I moved on.

haven-kansasAnd then I started hearing back from readers. I mean, beyond the AlphaOops books, because they were supposed to be funny….but like, I remember one of the first reviewers for Dearest said how it was the most romantic and funniest novel I had ever written, and I was shocked. Really? Romantic, yes, but I didn’t write it to be funny! I just created a world that included seven brothers who talked smack to each other, like every bunch of guys I’ve ever hung out with. I felt much the same way when I started getting feedback about the humor in Haven, Kansas. Humor and horror? Who does that? But I’m one of those crazy people who will cry all the way up to a funeral and then almost burst out laughing in the middle of the ceremony. Humor and hurt and fear and love…they’re all feelings—true feelings—that we all feel, whether we have control over them or not.

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nos4a2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

published 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Let’s get the crux of this novel out of the way right away:  Charles Manx is one creepy motherfucker.  Driving across the country in his Rolls Royce, he promises to take good little boys and girls to Christmasland where they will always be happy and every day is Christmas morning. Manx’s henchman Bing gets to take care of the mothers.

And then there’s Victoria McQueen. She is hella awesome. And unusually talented at finding lost things.  She can hop on her bike, travel across a rickety magical bridge, and find herself wherever she needs to be to find the lost item.  Her parents are half convinced she’s been stealing trinkets all this time and “magically” finding them as a way to get attention.  One day she hops on her bike angry, looking to find some trouble. She finds Charlie Manx instead.

At seventeen years old, Vic becomes the only child to ever escape Charlie Manx. She hopped on her bicycle in Massachusetts, and was found terrified and babbling days later in Colorado. Knowing  no one would ever believe her story about a magical bridge, she lied to the authorities and said she’d spent two days locked in the trunk of Manx’s car.

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blue aliceLast Night at the Blue Alice, by Mehitobel Wilson

published Oct 2015

where I got it: received review copy from the author (thanks!)

 

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You can thank the Glymjacks for the fact that you’re not surrounded by haunted houses and angry, vengeful ghosts.

 

Tonight is the night of Mollie’s final test to enter the ranks of the Glymjacks. If she passes the test, she can say goodbye to everything she’s ever known and loved. If she doesn’t pass, she can only hope for  a fast death.   Her test involves clearing the Blue Alice, a famous haunted house, of its resident ghosts.  Mollie isn’t interested in why these people died, and she doesn’t care that they died. Her mission to learn what they were going through when they died, and ensure that they die in a more peaceful manner. She’s auditioning to be their psychopomp, someone who will help them to the other side, help them go somewhere away from the Blue Alice.

 

There is a whole ton of gorgeous poetic prose in this short novel, almost functioning as textural and musical bridges between scenes and towards set pieces. Here’s an example that comes right at the beginning, and was one of my favorites:

 

“You would expect it to be a blue house, but it is not. It’s an exhausted color that warps with the changing of the light, beige at dawn, bone at noon, grey at night. But at dusk, just as the sun falls far enough below the horizon to withdraw all its gold from the landscape, the Alice turns blue.”

 

A sprawling manse that became a boarding house in the 1920s and then apartments by the 1960s, the Blue Alice has seen it’s share of happiness and misery. Urban legends tell of a woman dressed in white who haunts the building, music playing where there shouldn’t be any, and judgemental demons.  Barely a year has gone by in the history of this famous house where a tenant hasn’t fled in terror of something or someone haunting the rooms and halls. It’s time to clean house.

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necessary evil coverNecessary Evil by Ian Tregillis

published in 2013

Where i got it: from a friend

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Necessary Evil is the final book in Tregillis’s Milkweed series, and this book takes place immediately after the gut punch cliffhanger ending of the second book in the series, The Coldest War. So, I really can’t talk in any detail about Necessary Evil without giving epic spoilers for the entire series.  #sorrynotsorry

 

Before I get to the spoilers, let’s go back in a time a little bit. Back in 2013, I read the first book in the series, Bitter Seeds.  It was one of the darkest books I’d ever read.  When I finished it, I thought to myself that this Tregillis guy is a damn awesome writer, but I don’t know if I can read anymore of his stuff.  A year went by. And suddenly, all I could think about was this series – what happened to the characters?  So I finally read the second book. And it was even darker and more soul wrenching than the first one. And when I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely Gretel is, that maybe she was a victim, that she’s a horrible human being and I hate her, but she is lonely and a victim.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how how Raybould Marsh got to this point in his life, where his wife barely talks to him and their son is, well . . .  not even going to go there because then I have to thinking about why his son is the way he is.   Like the earlier books in the series,  Necessary Evil was an utterly engrossing page turner.

I just now described Necessary Evil to my husband with “it’s about the psychology of redemption and every page is  like a punch to the nuts and you just want to die on every page”. He laughed, a little.

 

While I was reading Necessary Evil, a line from my review of Bitter Seeds kept popping back into my head:

 

“When the cost gets too high you are supposed to know it’s time to stop.”

 

 

 

Over the course of the series, Will and Marsh realized the cost was far too high for what they were getting from the Eidolons. But when you work for people to whom money is no object, how do you get them to stop spending?  By becoming the enemy.

 

And with that,  it’s epic spoiler time.

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GeoffreyGirardPic1aGeoffrey Girard  published Tales of The Jersey Devil in 2005, and he’s never looked back.  After two more folklore based short story collections, he wrote Cain’s Blood and its companion novel  Project Cain, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker award. His over 60 sort stories have appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines, including Writers of the Future, Apex Horror and Science Fiction Digest, the Stoker nominated Dark Faith anthology, Dark Futures, Murky Depths, Mountain Dead, and many others.

His new short fiction collection, first communions, hits bookstore shelves later this week, and if you like spine tingling thrillers, this is a collection for you!  Sixteen stories to shock, entertain, and horrify you, from the curse of ancient evils to futuristic retirement homes where the dead still rule, haunted graveyards, planets of torture where all are equal, hockey-playing demon hunters, and dark sorcerers battling in Algeria.

You can learn more about Geoffrey and his work at his website, GeoffreyGirard.com.

Geoffrey was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology, his forthcoming novel Truthers, and his writing career. Let’s get to the interview!

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your upcoming collection, first communions! Which stories in this collection mean the most to you?
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Geoffrey Girard: Thanks very much. And thanks for inviting me to chat. And, yikes, if I have to pick one: “Dark Harvest” will have to get that nod. It’s about a Ringwraith (basically) who crash lands in some Podunk village and the trouble that ensues. It’s the one I wrote first, the one that got me started back into creative writing after a fifteen-year break, the first story I ever got paid for, the one that led to my most-formative week as a writer (while out in Hollywood as part of Writers of the Future) and the one directly related to a childhood spent in Middle Earth, Pern, and Shannara.

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Today I’m thrilled to have my friend Lesley Conner visit Little Red Reviewer. Lesley is an author, the Managing Editor of Apex Magazine, and all around amazing person. A wrangler of slush readers and girl scouts, Lesley somehow manages to find time to write her own fiction. Her debut novel, The Weight of Chains, comes out today from Sinister Grin Press.  A historical thriller of power, torture, and escape, The Weight of Chains is the story of Gilles de Rais and the woman who defied him.

Weight of CHains

Lesley was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her new novel. Let’s get to the interview!

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your forthcoming novel, The Weight of Chains!  What can you tell us about the novel?

Lesley Conner: Thank you! I’m extremely excited!

So what can I tell you about The Weight of Chains … I could go the old boring route and tell you it’s an alternative history horror novel inspired by the crimes of Gilles de Rais.

That’s true, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of it.

The Weight of Chains is about power and control. Gilles de Rais is nobleman who has absolute control over every aspect of his life. He’s also a killer with very dark desires, and he uses his status and power to make sure that he can play out his every fantasy. It is a novel full of torture and death. It’s also one that examines what happens to the people who get swept up in that world, who have no control and no choice, but have to fulfill their master’s wishes for safety and security, or just to make it through one more day. But what happens if Gilles’s control begins to slip? What if another power comes into play and the carefully constructed life that Gilles has built begins to crumble?

The Weight of Chains is full of murder, deceit, magic, desperation, a demon, and a little girl who wants to figure out how to do more than just survive. She wants to be happy.

lesley Coner

LRR: The novel takes place in medieval France. Tell us about some of the research you did to get the historical details just right.

LC: Gah! Research! By the time I was finished with the novel, I was to the point of telling any who would listen that if I EVER said I wanted to write another historical novel to smack me. And then I immediately got an idea for a novel heavily influenced by the 1920s New York speakeasy scene and fell right back down the research rabbit hole.

 

Researching a novel set in 1436, France was difficult to put it mildly. First, Gilles de Rais was a real person. I spent a lot of time reading about him, the crimes he committed, and the people who were involved. The facts of his life have been twisted – he really did hire a wizard named Prelati, but the real Prelati was very much a conman, whereas the one in my novel is a victim of Gilles cruelty – but anyone who knows about the historical figure will see little details that point to the real man.

Second, a major character in my novel is an eleven year old peasant girl. There is little detailed information about the peasantry at this time. So much what is out there seems to focus on nobility. Finding information about peasant children – girls in particular – was even harder. I wanted details like footwear and what they would eat to be as accurate as possible, so I ended up contacting some historical re-enactors. When all else fails, ask an expert! They were fantastic about answering my questions. Plus, they were always in character and would begin emails with “Dear fair lady,” which is kind of fun.

LRR: Without giving us any spoilers (if possible), what is your favorite scene in the novel?

LC: There is a scene where Jeanetta is serving Christophe a bowl of soup. It doesn’t seem like much, but something happens that makes her realize that life could be good, it could be more than the drudgery of moving through each day doing what needed to be done so she and her family could survive, she could be happy. It’s a very small moment and isn’t incredibly flashy, but it is integral to Jeanetta having the will and the strength she needs at the end of the novel. I don’t know that it’s my favorite scene (can a writer really pick a favorite?) but it always makes me smile because it’s a sweet moment, and I’ll be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of sweet moments in The Weight of Chains.

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What do you get when you mix nightmares with prose poetry and then set it all to the sound of unique and unexpected typography?  You get something like The Quick Shivers anthologies from The Daily Nightmare.  and when they say “quick” shivers, they aren’t kidding. Every entry in the anthology is only and exactly 100 words long and based on a Nightmare that was submitted to their website.  And the typography? Certainly I remember typography from my college graphic design classes, but I never knew it could be used like this.  This is quite literally, graphic literature.  Jim and Janice Leach of The Daily Nightmare were kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology series, the genius and challenge of unique typesetting, snob horror, and more!

Shivers 3

LRR: I absolutely adore your Quick Shivers anthologies. the writing is smart, snarky, fun and punchy, and the graphic design is just beautiful. It’s one thing to do an anthology of 100 word prose-poems, and a completely different thing to type set each entry differently and creatively. Can you tell us a little about the artistic process of putting these anthologies together?

 

Jim: Thank you for the kind words. The Quick Shivers anthologies are rather non-traditional, and not everyone appreciates the big concept. For instance, we’ve submitted both anthologies for consideration for the Bram Stoker Awards, but they don’t know what to do with them — they’re not poetry, not fiction, not graphic literature so there’s no category where they fit. And that’s kind of the point. We’re making something that’s intentionally interstitial.

 

And our other goal is to slow down the reader. I’ve had a long love affair with weird typography partially because it’s “difficult” to read. In our quickly paced society, we all rush through too much of our lives. We present the works in a way that is both expressive and helps a reader work through a piece with a bit more leisure.

 

Janice: But you’re not answering her question, dear. As far as artistic process, our books are a team sport, perhaps even a relay race. The writers pick the nightmare, give it their own interpretation, then we pass along our selections to the designer who works hard to make every piece unique. It’s fascinating to read the different takes on the same nightmare, to see how individualized and open-ended stories can be.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.