Ginger Nuts of Horror
Carl went to Boston University majoring in Biomedical Engineering. Carl graduated with a BS degree, and has since worked in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries. He later graduated from Lehigh University with an MBA degree. His debut novel Two For Eternity was released in 2011 by Weaving Dreams Publishing. His novel Blood Street was released in 2012 by True Grit Publishing. His novel Reconquest: Mother Earth is scheduled to be released in 2014 by Montag Press. His short fiction has appeared in various publications such as Blood Reign Lit, Alien Skin, and Dark Eclipse. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and has attended the Penn Writers Conference. You can visit his website at www.carlalves.com.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
On the writing side, I primarily write horror and fantasy, although my newest novel Reconquest: Mother Earth is a post-apocalyptic, sci fi thriller. I try not to box myself into a specific category or genre. I write whatever strikes me as being a good story. For that reason, I don’t see myself ever writing a series. I mix in short fiction along with my novels. I’ve had about twenty short stories published and three novels.
Outside of writing, I work for a medical device company. After getting a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Boston University, I’ve spent the past twenty years working in different functions in the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device industries. It’s not always that interesting what I do, and my passion certainly lies in writing fiction.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I prefer Horror. I’ve always been a massive fan of horror, whether it’s literature or movies. I was raised on a steady diet of horror movies. I started reading Stephen King and other horror novels at about age eleven. Not that it really matters, but I don’t see why people in horror should shy away from the term.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
In horror my all time favourite is Stephen King. His early work is sheer brilliance. I’m not as crazy as what he has been producing lately, but he has a litany of excellent novels. I’m also a big fan of Graham Masterton. I’ve enjoyed every novel of his that I have read. Doorkeepers is absolutely amazing.
As far as fantasy authors go, George R.R. Martin is an amazing writer. I’m also a big fan of Terry Brooks and Brandon Sanderson. Outside of those genres, I’ve always been a big fan of Mario Puzo, and Vince Flynn is a terrific thriller writer.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
The Stand is the best novel I've ever read. I tackled this post apocalyptic epic fantasy when I was thirteen. It had a profound effect on me then and made me want to write. There is so much going on in the novel, but if you want to boil it down to its fundamentals, it's ultimately about good vs. evil. The personification of evil, and the best written villain I've encountered this side of Hannibal Lecter is represented in Randall Flagg, who is kind of like the devil incarnate and the one who started this super flu.
The Silence of the Lambs is without question my favourite movie. The plot, the tension, and suspense were terrific. Hannibal Lecter is the greatest villains ever portrayed in film. Most serial killer movies I see are pretty weak, but this one hits all the right notes. Above all else, what made the movie so great were the performances of Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. They are two fantastic actors, and this is their greatest role for each of them.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
I don’t know if this is a horror cliché specifically, but I think the amount of multiple personality disorder or cognitive dissonance in fiction and movies is absurd. It’s incredibly rare in real life, but in fiction it is about as common as the flu.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
I think Captain America would be a great neighbour. He would keep the neighbourhood safe. He believes in truth and justice. And he has a wicked, cool shield. On the other hand, I don’t think I would like to have Hannibal Lecter as my neighbour. He would come off as intelligent and thoughtful. Then he invites you over for dinner, and the next thing you know, he’s gnawing at your liver.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I think the Horror genre in terms of the newer writers that are cropping up is in great shape. I thoroughly enjoy the works of Brett Talley, Ronald Malfi, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, and J.G. Faherty among others. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be getting a whole lot of love from the public in general and the major publishing companies. I tend to think that sort of thing is cyclical, and eventually horror will reach much higher levels of popularity, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I recently read Dweller by Jeff Strand, and it was the first of his novels that I have read. I thought it had just the right blend of humor, horror, poignancy, and sentimentality. It was a very good read. On the downside, I had high expectations before I started reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I had a hard time getting through the novel and did not come close to meeting expectations.
How would you describe your writing style?
My writing tends to be very action oriented. I love writing fight scenes. I like to keep a very fast pace, trying to minimize long expositions, favouring shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
For my most recent novel, Reconquest: Mother Earth, Brett Talley gave me a really good endorsement, which meant a lot to me since Brett is such a talented writer, one of the best I’ve read in recent years. It was a great vote of confidence.
What’s your favourite food?
As far as an ethnic food good goes, I love Thai food. You also can’t go wrong with a nice steak that’s cooked well.
Who would be on the soundtrack toto your life story?
Something loud, dark, and heavy. Maybe old school Danzig or Metallica.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
I think the most important thing is to learn the craft of writing. I see a lot of early writers who are in a rush to get published, but the quality of their work isn’t there yet. I also look at my own early writing, which was absolutely dreadful. This writing thing takes times to be good at it. It takes many failed attempts and manuscripts before you start hitting your groove, and to rush that process isn’t beneficial.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
I think the most difficult aspect of writing is starting the story. Many times it’s difficult to figure out exactly when to start a story, especially a longer piece. I think it’s crucial to hook the reader in write away, and the beginning of the story is the most important part of it. You have to hit that just right because no matter how good your middle or end is, if the beginning of your story is weak, it’s likely that nobody will read the rest of it.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I don’t know if I have evolved creatively, but I know that I have evolved as a writer. I feel that I am constantly progressing. When I look at stories and novels that I wrote three years ago, six years ago, ten years ago, there is a definite progression and improvement from a technical standpoint. That’s the sort of thing that evolves from writing, paying close attention to stylistic things when you are writing, having your work critiqued, and critiquing the work of others. All of those things make you get better as a writer.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
The two things I couldn’t imagine being without as a writer are my laptop and access to the internet. A laptop allows me to write on the go even if it’s for a short period of time, and since I am often on the go, it is something I frequently use. Although I wouldn’t rely on it for in depth research, for finding small bits of information that used to take a while, that sort of information is now readily available at a moment’s notice.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I had a great conversation with Mort Castle one night at the World Horror Convention in Utah. His message to me was basically continue working at your craft, persevere, don’t let rejection bother you and you will find success. I don’t know if it was the message or just the way Mort said that made a strong impression on me.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
In my novel Reconquest: Mother Earth my favourite character is Mitch Grace, the lead protagonist in the story. He’s a Navy SEAL who is knocked into a coma on the first day of the alien invasion and wakes up five years later to find that aliens have taken control of the planet, and is determined to take the planet back from the aliens. I’ve always had a deep admiration for members of our military, specifically the Navy SEALs. They are almost superhuman to me. What they are capable of doing is amazing. For me Mitch Grace is the embodiment of what is good about the United States. He is intelligent, fit, strong in both mind and body, and has an uncompromising will to survive and not accept defeat.
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
It’s hard to say since I love all of my characters, even the villains. To be an effective villain, they still need to be the heroes in their own stories and feel justified in what they are doing. My main antagonist is a character called The Minister of Science. He is trying to create his ideal fiefdom on the planet Earth, and the people of Earth are insignificant to him, so they don’t matter. He feels fully justified in taking the planet from them.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
I already do quite well for myself with my day job, and I don’t find being famous to be particularly desirable, so I would definitely have to go with respect.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I would have to go with Two For Eternity, my first novel, if for no other reason than it was my first novel published, and that was a great feeling after pushing hard for so many years to finally get a novel published.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book do you think best represents your work and why?
I would say my novel Blood Street. I fashion myself as primarily a horror writer. Out of the three novels that I have had published, this is the only one that I would consider a horror novel. I like to describe Blood Street as True Blood meets the Sopranos set in the streets of Philadelphia.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My novel Reconquest: Mother Earth was just recently released by Montag Press. It’s a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel. I like to describe it as a combination of Red Dawn, Independence Day, and Gladiator. My main character is SEAL Mitch Grace, who was among the first humans to see the aliens when they landed at the naval base in Coronado, California.
He gets knocked into a coma and awakens five years later under the care of an alien physician to find that the aliens now control the planet. After Mitch heals himself physically and mentally, he starts a resistance movement to take the planet back from the alien conquerors. In the process he become an intergalactic gladiator, fighting for the human species.
I’m in the process of shopping a couple of novels including one called Battle of the Soul, which I like to describe as a combination of the Exorcist and Constantin.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
Q: Which came first, the chicken or the egg.
A: Beats the hell out of me.
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