E. Stuart Marlowe is a filmmaker, screenwriter and author. He has directed and written numerous award-winning short films as well as two indie horror features, Blood Rush and Horror House, distributed by Brain Damage Films.
His debut novel, Menagerie, was adapted from a screenplay he had written with his wife, Kerry. The book went on to become an Amazon bestseller in horror and sci fi.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I'm in my mid-forties but look early thirties. I'm very happily married to a beautiful woman, for whom I spent my entire life searching. We have a son who thankfully doesn't yet realize how cute he is, and a Boston Terrier named Monty, who also goes by Mumbles or Bubbles.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I rarely write. Between work and family, there's precious little time left over. So what do I like to do when I'm not writing? Live, for one thing. I also love films and filmmaking and am constantly striving to expand my skills.
What’s your favourite food?
Indian, thank you for asking.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
I'm also a songwriter, which has helped teach me precision with words. You can go ahead and put my songs in the soundtrack, then.
Tell us a dirty little secret?
The knuckleheads are winning.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You can choose between abundance and scarcity mentality. Choose abundance. When you believe everything in life is available in abundance, so it is.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
For most of my life I've suffered from severe social anxiety. To get rid of it, I forced myself out to bars, by myself if necessary, to talk to strangers. It took years of daily work, but I finally controlled it. Had I not done that work, I'd most likely be coming home from work to an empty house to play video games.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I don't read much fiction but Clive Barker has had an influence on my style.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I have been reading Barker's Buckets of Blood. Aside from having some clever premises for short stories, his prose is stupefyingly brilliant. You finish a story and can be in awe at how he's organized words on the page.
I've also been listening to Harry Potter on CD. I can understand the universal appeal. The humor, the outpouring of creativity, the characters - just brilliant.
If there's a book that's disappointed me, it's The Stand. It starts as horror, very, very great horror, and then King has his infamous creative block. He picks up again and we're in a soap opera, and I guess eventually this turns into a sci fi epic. Not sure how it ends, since I've been working at it for more than a year, skimming over much of the middle section which is comprised of endless dialogue and a love triangle. I know this is heresy to admit and fans consider it one of his best books, but I've found it a struggle to get through. But I persist.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
I don't have a favorite book, but I can say I read the Amityville Horror novelization as a kid when it came out, and it freaked the hell out of me. So as for a book with a big impact, though maybe not an amazing novel, that's one.
Likewise it's hard to pick just one best horror film, but I'd point out Silence of the Lambs. It is perfect on every level, from the pacing to the editing to the performances. I'd put Suspiria as a close second. As for the greatest horror director, that's easily Michael Haneke.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would it be?
Maybe it's not a cliche per se, but the technique of "creating ambiance" by boring your audience for thirty or forty-five minutes. You can start slowly and build without having your characters mumbling to one another or gazing out windows dolefully. The Exorcist ramps up slowly, but every frame is gripping. It takes skill.
Which fictional character would be your perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
Han Solo would be a cool guy to hang out with. Always says funny crap, probably has a few stories to tell. Worst neighbor would be Jack, that kid with the beanstalk. You really want a beanstalk next door where giants could climb down? Sounds like a stupid idea to me.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
Snow White. Acid bath.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Never been better. You really do have something for everyone. You're a kid? Well, we have some YA horror for ya. Like Lovecraft or steampunk? We got you covered. Aliens, bugs, midgets in burlap hoods? Yes, yes, yes. All manners of horror are on the table, and not only that, horror has permeated other genres. Black Swan is horror posing as drama. And we've gone so far to push boundaries within the medium, that writers and other creators are forced to be inventive to find new ways to horrify. A great example is that segment in VHS 2, A Ride in the Park. You're thinking, God how can they make a found footage zombie story original, but they pull off something fresh. So yeah, I'm happy to be in this genre at this time.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I've put out two features and two novels, and have gotten a slew of negative reviews. When people like your work, they usually stay mute, or if they comment, it's something brief. But when they hate it, those are the most eloquent and long-winded people on the planet. None have really stayed with me. I register their dissent, decide if there's validity to their points, and move on. I guess I've never gotten so emotionally attached to anything I've created that I give any commentary much weight. Sometimes, though, the review is so scathing and full of venom, it serves an entertainment purpose.
What aspects of writing do you find the most difficult?
Taking my time. I tend to write short bursts, and get distracted very quickly. There are too many ideas clamoring to get out of my head. Get it out and move on. I write stories for me, so if you want long, complex tales where characters are multidimensional and conflicted, we probably won't see eye to eye.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
It's not that I wouldn't write about something because it's taboo, but it would have to be meaningful. That is, writing shock for the sake of shock is not artistically satisfying. So as long as I could have a deeper impact using the subject as a vehicle, sure, it's all fair game. I mean, Call of the Kaiju involves children exploring their sexuality, a big no-no. But exploitation to me is snake oil on its own.
What do you think makes a good story?
I want a writer to grab me by the face and never let go. This can be achieved in an infinite number of ways.
How important are names to you in your books?
Often I'll go with the first thing that pops in my head. Sometimes I need a little more. Some of the names of the kids in my latest book, Call of the Kaiju, reflect the character. Sebastian Smit likes smut. Crystal Bliss is a party girl. Mackenzie Sterling is wealthy. But these are intended to have a double meaning to bring levity. Too much of that and you look too clever for your own good.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
The internet for research and editing. Something to write with. Time and peace to think or find your muse.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Keep your day job.
What is the most demeaning thing said about you as a writer?
The worst insult I received about Menagerie was also the greatest honor an author can receive: "I would burn your book if it wasn't a kindle." When you've generated that much emotion in someone, you're doing something right.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
There is no way to know what works. Amazon should let authors track URL referrals but to my knowledge it doesn't. As far what turned Menagerie into a bestseller, it may have been the title, cover art, blurb, timing, reviews, plus my big online push. We will never really know what that secret sauce is made from. There are many horror Facebook pages you can promote on, most free and some like Fangoria for a fee. Again, I have no idea which are truly effective. Severed Press, who put out my two novels, would likely have a better answer.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
God, I dislike most of my characters. I suppose one of my favorites is an Indian military head I refer to simply as Field Marshal. He's the top honcho, and India has only had a couple in its history. My Field Marshal enjoys a bit of S and M when he isn't pulling hair-brained strategies out of his ass. Absolutely moronic and despicable, but I enjoyed getting in his head.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
One of the lead characters is a boy named Aiden. He's one of those people who start off flawed and overcome it by book's end. Blah. Like I said, I'm not particularly keen on character arcs. I prefer either people who come out fists flying, or else wallow pathetically in stagnation. But the medium demands we see character growth, so I will toss it in reluctantly.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I made a short film for a three-day competition this year, and it is some of my best work. It's called "The Box," and it's a synthesis of much of what I've been studying, even a little Bergman, whose catalog I've been watching. Here it is:
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Nah, even the weaker works represent growth, so I regret nothing.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
I'd start with my latest, Call of the Kaiju, a wild concoction of many of the influences I love. A little kaiju, some horror, dark humor, India. It's a jumbled free-for-all that represents my impatient approach to most things. I believe they all blend well and create a unified story in the end.
What are you working on right now?
I bang out short stories as the mood strikes, but for my next novel I plan on adapting another one of my screenplays called Incendiary. You know how certain film productions have been cursed, like The Omen, Poltergeist and so on. Well, this filmmaker and his crew seem to be dealing with a curse, as things go from bad to terrible. Aliens, zombies, psycho killers, all of it descending on these poor people. And yet they soldier on out of love for film. Kinda like me.
I'm also in preproduction on a feature called Abruptio, which will star puppets. Yep, puppets. Sort of like The Dark Crystal, but a horror/thriller. I don't think something like this has been done before. I'm in the process of attaching a cast.
Little is known of the creature spotted on satellite imagery, though several facts are certain. It's ten stories tall, it's on course for Southern California, and it is the deadliest maritime threat the United States has ever faced.
The U.S. Navy hastily puts together a crack team of researchers headed by oceanographer Lieutenant Commander Claudia York. Their mission: identify and lure to a deserted island the beast they have named Target Omicron.
Under the guise of a vacation sweepstakes, the military enlists ten children to serve as bait. These "winners" are a hodgepodge of nut jobs that no one will miss...a klepto, a party girl, a schoolyard bully.
But very soon, the kids turn on one another, and the island descends into mayhem.
Omicron rises. The military strikes. Who will survive?