Ginger Nuts of Horror
William Blackwell studied journalism at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and English literature at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia. He worked as a print journalist for many years before becoming an author. He has written over seventeen novels, mainly in the horror genre. Currently living on an acreage in Prince Edward Island, Blackwell loves to travel and write dark fiction.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Sure. Encouraged by some friends, I started writing novels about six years ago. Before that I worked for over fifteen years as a real estate agent in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Prior to that I held many jobs, but my passion has always been writing. I worked as a journalist for a couple of rural Alberta weekly newspapers and was always writing creative blurbs on scraps of paper in my spare time. Much of these story ideas were inspired by my nightmares, which I’ve had frequently for as long as I can remember.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I live on 45 acres of oceanfront property in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Weather permitting, I love to enjoy the outdoors and can often be found grooming my numerous sites with my trusty chainsaw, Mister Stihl. I love nature and my backyard is a giant outdoor playground. When I’m not writing, I also enjoy reading, online book promotion (maybe I don’t really enjoy it, but I have do it), horror movie, documentary and news watching, and socializing with my friends in an attempt to solve all the world’s problems. We usually do, by the way.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
I’m influenced constantly by everyday events, people, places and things. Often while I’m writing a novel, I find ways to incorporate news of the day into my story line and this often adds a dramatic twist to the novel and takes it in an unexpected and exciting direction.
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
The horror genre is intended to scare, disgust, or startle readers. Many horror readers just love to be frightened and it has almost a cult-like following. But horror often crosses into other genres such as thriller, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic fiction, suspense, murder mystery, etc. I would like to see the definition of horror broaden to not only scare the hell out of readers, but also be a medium to entertain, educate and influence. Although my novels contain many macabre and grisly scenes, and I try my damnedest to shock and frighten my readers, I also try to impart a positive message somewhere in the book, a golden nugget of my moral code; something readers may take away that may help them on the pothole-laden path of life. My road to hell is often paved with good intentions.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
To say the least, we now live in dangerous and uncertain times. In the next few years, I think you’ll see more horror writers reflecting that in their work. From a horror writer’s standpoint, we now have more real-life material than ever to draw from.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
As corny and overused as it sounds, horror master Stephen King influenced me a lot. I love The Stand, his bible of post-apocalyptic fiction. Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of post-apocalyptic thriller Metro 2033, inspired my Assaulted Souls series. I loved Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and, as lame as it sounds, I think all the horror films I watch influence and shape me as a writer to greater or lesser degrees.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
Stephen King’s son Own King is definitely gaining traction, particularly with the recent release of Sleeping Beauties, a father-and-son collaboration.
How would you describe your writing style?
A: Raw, gritty, real, clear and concise. Trained as a journalist, I’m not a fan of overly descriptive, verbose or flowery prose and edit my own words ad-nauseam for clarity and brevity. I love Earnest Hemingway’s simple writing style; it communicates to audiences from all walks of life—from elementary school children to scholarly doctorate degree holders.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
A: The first novel I wrote, a strange hybrid of inspirational fiction and horror, is called Brainstorm. After many long months, I finally finished it and was unsure of its future. I sent it to Winslow Eliot, my editor, and said: “If you don’t like it, I’m trashing it and giving up novel writing.” I waited with anxiously for a response. Finally, one came. One of the first things she said was, “Wow! What a truly amazing story of courage and personal transformation. I was deeply moved by this novel.” If it weren’t for her inspiring words, I wouldn’t have written seventeen novels. She confirmed that indeed I do have talent and encouraged me to pursue my calling.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Sometimes the editing process is a real grind for me. Before I even send a manuscript to my editor, I do at least three editing passes of my own, in addition to having a beta reader provide feedback. Then after Winslow performs her masterful surgery, there are usually at least two more edits and a final proof-read before it goes to press. By the time I’m done with it, I’m more than ready to move onto the next project.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I’ve read excerpts from non-fiction books about women who’ve been abducted, held captive, tortured, and sexually abused. While I have written about abduction and torture in a fictional context, I could never write a novel on this topic based on a true story. I would be too afraid if would further scar victims of such heinous crimes.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way they sound or the meaning?
I love symbolism and sub-text. I pick names very carefully based on sound and symbolism.
Writing is not a static process. How have you developed as a writer over the years?
I’ve become far more disciplined. I aim for 2000 words a day and don’t leave the office until I’ve accomplished that. I used to write a lot at night but I found when I went to bed, I couldn’t turn my brain off and would be getting up every few minutes and writing down new ideas. Often I’d find myself at the keyboards churning out words deep into the night. Sleepless night is not a way to maintain a steady and productive writing schedule. Now, while drinking gallons of coffee, my fuel, I write first-thing in the morning and don’t shower, eat, or talk (unless it’s to myself or one of my novel characters) until I’ve reached my daily writing quota. I also make sure all social media and the phone is shut off during this creative time.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
William Shrunk and E.B White’s The Elements of Style. Also Stephen King’s On Writing; an AP Style Guide; a good dictionary and a good thesaurus.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
I believe great writers are born talented. However, bad writers, with practice, can become good writers. A writer friend once told me, “Writing is not rocket science. If you want to become a good writer, read a lot and write a lot.”
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
I’m one of the worst examples in terms of self-promotion. I’d rather start a new novel than try and sell one of my existing ones. But this year, out of necessity, I’ve actually developed a marketing plan. I’m slowly developing an email list of my fans. I blog regularly, have a fixed time for posting and interacting on social media, and am constantly searching for that evasive book-promotion secret that will set me apart from that sea of mediocrity.
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child to write for and why?
In my new horror release Freaky Franky, Franklin Reiger is one of my favorite characters. What make a horror novel interesting is when characters are not black and white. Shades of gray make characters interesting and help readers identify with them. Freaky Franky is more than an evil character. As a child, he witnesses the deaths of many close family members, and eventually believes he’s cursed. Everyone around him dies and perhaps reluctantly he decides to give a few of them a little nudge. But, guild-ridden and regretful, he embarks down a landmine-laced path for redemption and rebirth.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
A Head for an Eye, The End Is Nigh, and Freaky Franky are among my favorites. Maybe they’re biased, but my editor calls Freaky Franky one of my best works and my publisher says it is my best work.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Inspired by true events, Brainstorm chronicles the lives of an epileptic man and his mentally challenged wife who have so little but give so much. Although my editor’s glowing praise of Brainstorm brought me to where I am today, when I read it I can certainly see how much my writing has evolved and improved over the years. If I decide to rewrite any of my backlist, Brainstorm is first on the chopping block.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
It’s a tough question as I have many favorites. But, since I’m under duress, I’ll take Freaky Franky. If I believe my writing improves with every novel (which, I do), then Freaky Franky represents the most recent culmination of that evolution.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
I have many favorite passages. This excerpt is from The End Is Nigh, a recently released post-apocalyptic thriller about an unlikely group of people who retreat to an underground shelter as a blazing inferno decimates the world.
“It wasn’t just the flames that made Ralph see red as the trailing SUV skidded to a stop about thirty feet from the inferno. Nor was it the dark red blood dribbling down his face from Steel’s sucker punch and Crass’s boot to the nose. No. It was something else. The agitation had started with Penny’s betrayal of the whereabouts of his friends—slowly unleashing the uncontrollable fury of the intermittent-explosive-disorder monster lurking inside him. Then it was the rejection demon intertwined with the green-eyed monster of jealousy that had begun to unravel the ties that bound him to a semblance of sanity. Frankenstein’s monster had begun to unravel. He first noticed it during the interrogation, but had dismissed it as tricks of his imagination. A look Penny had exchanged with Steel. A look of affection. Nothing. My mind playing tricks on me. But on the way to Sandra’s house, he had seen it again. Not once, but twice. And, to rub salt in the wound, he had also watched her exchange a weird look of affection with Crass.”
Can you tell us what you are working on next?
I’ve become fascinated with the mysterious landscape of dreams. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of research and writing blog posts on nightmares, lucid dreaming, night terrors, sleep paralysis and other sleep-related phenomena. I can feel a great story idea gelling that involves many aspects of dreams. The idea has a ghastly shape, but has yet to solidify into a discussable form. When the mold has form, I’ll give you more.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
The evil cat. Why don’t they make the cat the good guy for a change?
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is well-written and contains great character sketches. Also some very meaningful social commentary. Found Dean Koontz’s Shattered somewhat lame in terms of action and character development, although it is well written.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
A: People ask questions such as: “Are you making any money? How’s it going with your new book? Do you ever think you can really rise out of that ocean of obscurity?” And, although I’m not one to arbitrarily begin discussing writing without being prompted, I sometimes wish they’d ask me why I write. I write for many reasons: to feed my addiction (there are worse things to be addicted to), to please myself, and to educate, influence, entertain, and scare the hell out of my readers.
When an enigmatic town doctor saves the life of Anisa Worthington’s dying son, she abandons Christianity in favor of devotion to the cult of Santa Muerte or Saint Death. Some believe the mysterious skeleton saint will protect their loved ones, help in matters of the heart, and provide abundant happiness, health, wealth, and justice. But others, including the Catholic Church, call the cult blasphemous, evil, and satanic.
Anisa introduces Santa Muerte to her friend Helen Randon, and soon one of Helen’s enemies is brutally murdered. Residents of Montague, a peaceful little town in Prince Edward Island, begin plotting to rid the Bible belt of apostates.
Anisa suspects Helen is perverting the good tenets of Saint Death. Before she can act, a terrible nightmare propels her to the Dominican Republic in search of Franklin, her long-lost and unstable brother, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace twenty years ago.
To her horror, Anisa learns Franklin is worshiping Saint Death with evil intentions. As a fanatical and hell-bent lynch mob tightens the noose, mysterious murders begin occurring all around Anisa. Unsure who’s an enemy and who’s an ally, she’s thrust into a violent battle to save her life, as well as the lives of her friends and brother.