Robert Stava is a writer who now lives in the lower Hudson Valley just north of NYC, apparently not far from that half-imaginary village he sets so many of his stories in, Wyvern Falls. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and after going to college for Fine Arts wound up making his career in advertising at Y&R and J. Walter Thompson in NYC. He went on to become a multimedia Art Director and later as Creative Director ran the 3d Media Group at Arup, an international U.K-based design and engineering company before catapulting into the wild world of writing horror fiction and design.
His first novel "At Van Eyckmann's Request" was published in 2012.
He is also author and designer of "Combat Recon: 5th Air Force Images from the SW Pacific 1943-45" (Schiffer Publishing, 2007), a historical account based around his great uncle's service as a combat photographer during WWII.
His most recent novel 'The Feast of Saint Anne' has found its way into the hands of such eminent authors as T.C. Boyle and Ann Rice and has also been previewed by acclaimed novelist & screenwriter Michael Marshall Smith who commented: "I loved it...as if I was being pulled into a Ray Bradbury or something like BOY'S LIFE."
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a writer living here in the historic Hudson Valley, not far from Sleepy Hollow in fact – just one more guy trying to keep his head attached around here. In a previous life I was a Creative Director doing graphic design and 3d visualization and losing my marbles on Madison Avenue. There was an 8-year stint on the NYC alt rock music scene in there as well. Nowadays it’s about the thing I love most; writing horror stories. I love exploring old houses and ruins and discovering the seeming endless history and folklore in the area.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Horror. Though there’s plenty of weird and dark stuff popping up throughout the stories…
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Richard Matheson, Michael Marshall Smith and John Dickson Carr. E.A. Poe and Algernon Blackwood as well. Plus Crichton & King of course. I always loved that Simpson’s episode where Homer keeps passing the endless ‘Crichton & King’ bookstores at the airport…
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I just finished ‘The Orphan Master’s Son’ by Adam Johnson and all but read it non-stop, it was that compelling a read. The last book that really disappointed me was Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Halloween Tree’. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was way too floofy for my taste.
How would you describe your writing style?
Illustrative. The first book I recall reading as a child was “Treasure Island’ with all those brilliant N.C. Wyeth illustrations…that concept stuck with me.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Personally, I find negative reviews just as helpful as positive. Although my work seems to be very well received so far one guy took me to the mat on a short story I rushed out without proof-reading properly. He was pretty harsh, but it was a very valuable lesson; ALWAYS get your work properly edited and proofread.
What’s your favourite food?
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. It’s the ultimate FU song. For those of us who have survived the insanity of corporate jobs…
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
Stephen King said if ‘you don’t have time to read you don’t have time to write’. That’s true but if you want to write compelling fiction I think you have to get out there and do some living before you have anything to really write about. And that means all the good, bad, and anything in between that life knocks you around with. Otherwise you’re just recycling other people’s experiences. Also: pay attention. You can draw inspiration from just about anything. Even that idiot sitting on the train next to you yapping on his cell phone…hey I just killed him off in my next story…
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Trying to stay on top of self-promotion and seemingly endless social-networking while maintaining a consistent writing schedule. These days, unless you’re in the top 5% of best-selling authors, you have to get out there and do your own leg work.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Well, you learn best by continually writing, but arguably the best thing I ever did was to pick up a copy of ‘Self Editing for Fiction Writers’ – it really opened my eyes on all the obvious ‘rookie’ mistakes I was making. The flip-side of that was understanding the ‘rules’ and disregarding them.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
This past summer I was getting frustrated about how I was getting a lot of ‘Great stuff, call us when your famous and we’ll sign you on’ responses from agents and publishers so I shot off an email to Anne Rice for the heck of it and to my surprise she wrote a very encouraging response back suggesting I self-publish and keep at it and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I’ve received the same advice from Michael Marshall Smith several times – just keep going.
That sounds simplistic but there’s nothing more useful than getting encouragement from people who are already successful and hearing how they overcame adversity. Some, like Anne Rice, went through huge failures before they succeeded.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
In my 2nd novel ‘Feast of Saint Anne’ there’s this village librarian named Forest Tucker who’s a mass of contradictions – he kind of pops up out of nowhere. He’s this big bear-like black guy with a lazy eye who’s the resident genius, a walking encyclopaedia and is addicted to hot chocolate. Also he drives a hepped-up 70s muscle car while listening to the Beach Boys and obsessively watches soap operas like ‘General Hospital’ and ‘Days of Our Lives’ in between quoting Einstein. He kind of wrote himself into the story….
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Joel Hewitt. He’s the frat-boy ‘Lead Investigator’ of the ‘Ghost Seeker’s International’ (that screws everything up in the 3rd tale with the main character, Lorenzo King). He represents everything I see wrong with so-called ‘Reality Television’, particularly in supernatural-themed shows; they take a fascinating and spooky subject matter and cheapen it with schlocky dialogue and editing, terrible camera work and endless “Did you hear that!?’ exclamations every time a mouse farts.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Fortune. Fame is meaningless and respect won’t pay your mortgage. No I’m not that really cynical…ideally I’d just like enough to not have to worry about anything but writing for a long, long time.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
The fact that I’m actually completing things. For years and years I started stories that never progressed past a title and a few paragraphs. Then suddenly I finished two short stories. Then a novel. Then two. Suddenly it hits you: ‘I think I can actually do this!’ I think it was the infusion of oxygen up here after 20 years of NYC living…
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
The last book I wrote was actually the 4th in the series (the third, ‘By Summer’s Last Twilight’, is currently being edited) and it’s called ‘The Nightmare from World’s End” It was a hoot to write as it involves a sea monster or two, local American Indian characters and legends, our mainstay British Detective character John Easton and some Ancient Alien Theorists to help muddle things up. Even the NOAA and a celebrity oceanographer get involved. High body count and a healthy dose of sex scenes. And sea monsters are a riot– no need to ‘understand their issues’. Just cut them loose and watch them gobble things up.
Currently I’ve just wrapped up three more short stories and am writing the 5th in the ‘Hudson Horror’ series, “Legends of Wyvern Falls” which I can’t talk about except to say it involves one huge spooky-ass mansion and draws on some stranger-than-fiction local history.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
Would you mind terribly if I gave you a new Maserati Granturismo…for free?
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