Robert Essig is the author of People of the Ethereal Realm and Through the In Between, Hell Awaits. He has published over fifty short stories and two novellas. He is currently a member of the Horror Writers Association. Robert lives in Southern California with his wife, son and dog.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Hello, Ginger Nuts of Horror readers! I’m Robert Essig, author of the novels People of the Ethereal Realm and Through the In Between, Hell Awaits. In addition to those two novels, I have published over fifty short stories and two novellas. I live in Southern California with my wife, my son, and our dog. When I’m not slaving my life away for enough dough to pay the bills and spending time with my family, I’m reading and writing.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Horror, though I also like the all-encompassing term Dark Fiction. Weird Fiction makes me think of the heyday of Weird Tales Magazine. If someone tells me they write Weird Fiction I figure they’re a Lovecraft wannabe. Yeah, I know, that’s very judgemental of me.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Robert Bloch, Joe R. Lansdale, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, H G Wells, Ambrose Bierce.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
It’s tough to pin down a favourite horror novel. Stephen King’s Pet Sematary comes to mind. That one had quite an emotional impact on me. A recent contender is James Newman’s Animosity. My favourite horror film is the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, hands down. One of the only films that I found truly terrifying.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
In film I would like to see less loud noises after everything gets real quiet for the sole purpose of jolting the audience. Such a cheap trick that generally adds nothing to the story. In horror fiction it would be the gifted/evil child. That was big in the eighties and done to death. I think twice before reading a story that revolves around a child for fear the kid has some extraordinary power or is plain out evil. No thanks.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack would be a great neighbour. He would be respectful, keep to himself, and as long he and I are friendly enough with one another I figure he could…fix things for me. It’s not easy to pin down a nightmare neighbour (I’ve had plenty of them over the years). There are so many nasty villains to choose from. The Skinny Man from Ryan C. Thomas’s The Summer I died wouldn’t be the kind of guy you want to borrow a cup of sugar from, that’s for sure.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
Horror fiction has a wonderful community. I’ve only been to one convention, but I was overwhelmed at how friendly everyone was. As for the work produced, there’s a lot of good stuff out there. Gives me a run for my money and makes me better understand why I get rejection letters. Competition is tough, and I think that’s a good ting. A damn good thing. My only quibble would be the cash-in appeal of doing a series or sequel, and over using a particular trope. Some stories most certainly need to be broken down to a trilogy, but I have a feeling many authors are stretching it in hopes that they will have good sales if book one does well. I’m not really interested in zombies, vampires and werewolves, either. It doesn’t take long before a trope is burned to the ground. All that aside, there are some amazing stories being written everyday.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great book I read was Animosity by James Newman. Brilliant. Should be required reading for any fan of horror. Kept me engaged and had me discussing the plot with my wife like it was something that was really happening. That one put me through the emotional ringer, that’s for sure.
How would you describe your writing style?
Tough question. How does one go about describing their writing style without sounding arrogant? I like to write in different styles depending on the story. I prefer to think I write in a pulpy style all rigid, gritty, and nasty, but there are certain pieces that have none of those qualities. Sticking to one specific style is great for a core audience, but why not write what you like and appeal to a wide audience? Not speaking from experience with a fan base or anything. Just a thought.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Two come to mind. One was a positive review on the Hellnotes site, and other was a negative review on some blog or another. I don’t remember the name, but I’m sure it’s linked at my blog. Both reviews were for Scarecrow and the Madness, a double novella with my pal Craig Saunders that was published some years ago by Blood Bound Books. Pretty much all of the reviews were good, but those two stuck out the most.
What’s your favourite food?
Chicken cordon bleu. The way my mother makes it. Best dish ever.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Motorhead, Pantera, The Beatles, White Zombie, The Ventures, Alice in Chains, The Doors, maybe some Elton John from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, and some Mussorgsky for atmosphere.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
That there’s always something yet to be learned.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Writing a synopsis and back cover copy. I loath boiling a sixty-thousand word story down to two pages.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Bringing my characters to life. That was a big issue for me in the beginning. Something editors made note of in rejections. You can’t have a great idea with two-dimensional characters. The reader should care about the characters whether they like them or not, and in some cases even empathize or relate to them.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A great imagination. A computer. Grammar.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Read your work aloud before sending off the final draft. Not sure where I got that piece of advice (probably several times), but it’s right on target.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Gerald from People of the Ethereal Realm. He’s a blind man living in the ghetto who has the ability to see the lingering spirits of the dead, the ones who haven’t travelled to the “other side” yet. He helps people in the neighbourhood by allowing them to communicate with recently departed family members. He’s a gentle, sensitive man who has a compelling background that we see glimpses of as the story unfolds. I like him enough to make me want to meet him. Funny thing is that a few weeks ago I worked for someone who resembled him so much that I almost called the guy Gerald instead of his real name.
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
That would be Mr. Metzger, a homeless man who regularly falls down drunk and ends up in the hospital on the tax payer’s dime. He’s a pervert and a menace. I like his scenes in the book, but as a person I find him detestable.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Fortune comes with fame, and fame is a difficult prospect without the respect of your colleagues, so I will go with respect and hope the other two come in short order (and if it’s long order, so be it).
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
An unpublished novel called Broth House. I have a publisher reading the manuscript right now. Though it hasn’t been published yet I think it’s the best piece of writing I’ve produced.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Plenty. My first two published stories were terrible and I was a fool. I learned quickly to do a bit of research before submitting. There’s another story that was published by one of the most disrespectful and loathed goons in the business. He paid me, which is more than I can say for some of the other unfortunates who were published in the same issue. Those three stories are not mentioned in the bibliography on my blog and never will be.
For those who haven’t read any of you books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
I only have two books out. I’m proud of both of them, and as much as I would like to boast about my latest novel, I have to say Through the In Between, Hell Awaits is a great example of my work. I said something previously about my writing being gritty and nasty and all that? Yes, it pretty much is, and that’s the book that goes there. Take the opening for instance: Rich Wompler first saw her after the show hanging around like a dingle-berry on a gutter-drunk's Keester. She was your typical rock slut wearing leather like a new skin, knee high boots, and earrings that could have doubled as weapons. Her face was like a horse's ass run through a wood chipper, hair dyed so blonde you could see scabs on her head if you looked close enough, if your eyes drew themselves away from her absurd and lumpy boob job. Even the drummer of the band wouldn't touch her much less the road crew.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book is called People of the Ethereal Realm, published by Post Mortem Press. The initial idea behind this story was a simple question: Would someone become jealous if their loved one was having an affair with a ghost? Sounds like paranormal romance stuff, I know, but this book has plenty paranormal and no romance, so don’t get the wrong idea. I like the idea of realms that humans cannot see, which has been a recurring theme in my work. The Ethereal Realm is a place between life and death where confused souls stagger about. I wondered what would happen if one of those souls was cognizant…and evil. What kind of horrors could they unleash from a realm of existence we know nothing about?
As far as what I’m working on next… I have several novels and novellas that I’m pitching, one of which is the aforementioned Broth House, a story of corruption, torture, and cannibalism that takes place in my hometown of San Diego.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
What colour underpants are you wearing?
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads: I’m on Goodreads, but for the life of me I cannot find a link to my profile.
"Robert Essig's voice is a beautiful thing. He wields it like a handcrafted baseball bat, and People of the Ethereal Realm is Essig at his finest, with a story that hits hard but leaves pretty scars."
-- Craig Saunders, author of Rain and Home by the Sea
Barbara comes to Adam at night while his wife is working the graveyard shift at the hospital. She is but a dream in the mind of a frustrated man whose life is on the verge of collapse, but Adam has something she wants and she will go to any extreme in acquiring her desires.
Gerald lives a lonely life in the Boulevard, a ghetto on the wrong side of the tracks. He's blind, but where his sense of vision is obsolete, his ability to communicate with the souls of the dead is acute. He fears nothing, having grown up on the mean streets, but on the night Barbara visits him that is about to change.
Who is this mysterious woman and what does she want so badly that she'll destroy anyone and anything that gets in her way? Can she bring two men from different backgrounds together for her bidding? How many people will have to die, and how many will wish death was the end?