Paranormal Headliner: Tunku Halim

Today I’m bring some international flair to the Paranormal Book Beat in the form on my latest Paranormal Headliner, Tunku Halim.

Tunku has published two novels and five collections of short stories, the latest being 44 Cemetery Road and Gravedigger’s Kiss. His novel, Dark Demon Rising, was nominated for the 1999 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award while his second novel. Vermillion Eye, was a study text at The National University of Singapore.

Welcome Tunku!

A Little Bit about Tunku

Tunku lives in Australia but is a frequent visitor to his country of birth, Malaysia. He is a lawyer turned writer. He is interested in real estate design and development.

Recently his stories “Biggest Baddest Bomoh” and “Keramat” have respectively appeared in The Apex Book of World SF (Apex Publications) and Exotic Gothic 3 (Ash-Tree Press) whilst his essay on Margot Livesey’s Eva Moves the Furniture was published in Twenty-First-Century Gothic: Great Gothic Novels Since 2000 (The Scarecrow Press). His latest tale “In the Village of Setang” is soon to be published in Exotic Gothic 4 (PS Publishing).

He also writes non-fiction, including A Children’s History of Malaysia and History of Malaysia – A Children’s Encyclopedia.

You are my first international Paranormal Headliner! Can you tell us a bit about the places that you’ve lived and what you liked best about them?

Tunku: I was born in Malaysia but was sent off to a boarding school in England at 13. I’ve been living in Australia for almost 20 years, 10 in Sydney and 10 in Hobart, Tasmania. I love the gothic atmosphere in so many English towns and villages. The natural scenery in Australia, especially Tasmania, is stunning. The social scene in Malaysia is great. Good food and lots of friends and relatives who love discussing about ghosts and ghouls!

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Tunku: I used to be into Karate, but now I do Yoga. I recently have taken up oil painting and drawing.

Tunku on Writing

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

Tunku: I suppose there’s a yearning to share something, to tell a tale, to explore an idea and to create something.

What were the key influences for your books?

Tunku: Being born in Malaysia, its myths and legends are very important. I also like to think that there’s a hidden world behind our day-to-day one, this is what’s drawn out in my writing. Of course, I love Stephen King too!

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your books things you’ve encountered in real life?

Tunku: Yes and yes. But I wouldn’t want to go into any details. Trade secret …

What is your writing process- do you plot/plan or do you write from the seat of your pants?

Tunku: I write organically. I start out with a scene, a character or an idea and I see where that takes me. Staring out with a well-formed plot would be too uninteresting for me and removes the pleasure of the unknown journey before me.

How much research do you do for each of your projects?

Tunku: Very little. Most of the research is in the head!

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Tunku: Getting started on a story.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Tunku: Write as much as possible. Don’t worry about the quality of what you’re written. Find out about the writer’s craft from books and courses. Writing is like playing the piano, the more you write the better you get at it.

What are you current working on?

Tunku: A short story for an anthology called “Exotic Gothic 5” (edited by Danel Olson).

Tunku’s Paranormal Perspectives

Do you identify more with the horror genre or the paranormal (or both)?

Tunku: I started off as a horror writer but gradually the desire to strike fear into the heart of the reader became less and less important. I certainly use elements of horror but without the blood and gore. I wrote what can be called a paranormal romance novella several years back called “Juriah’s Song” but it was well before the Twilight novels
became such a hit. I think I’m more comfortable with the phrase “Gothic fiction” or “dark fantasy”. It allows me to soar anywhere on these old bat wings.

How you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

Tunku: There’s too much of it and this will lead to its eventual demise. This is what happened to the horror boom in the 1980s. Good fiction will always stay with us though.

What scares you?

Tunku: Horror movies. Humanity’s stupidity.

What do you think draws people to this type of fiction?

Tunku: We all believe that if we find the perfect man/woman then we’ll finally be happy. I don’t believe anyone has found that perfect person. So many romances have been crushed. The paranormal romance novel implicitly recognizes this and so takes it to one extreme. The perfect partner has to “super human”, a vampire, a werewolf … but with a heart of gold.

Connect with Tunku:

http://tunkuhalim.com
http://tunkuhalim.wordpress.com

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Paranormal Headliner: Matt Posner

Today I’m welcoming the author and Dean of the School of the Ages– “America’s Greatest School of Magic”! This delightful YA series is being released in five parts through 2015. Matt also writes poetry, literary and genre fiction, and is gearing up to release a non-fiction book geared toward teens in May. Welcome Matt!

A Little About Matt

Matt Posner is a writer and public school teacher from New York City. Originally from Miami, Florida, he has been happily married to Julie for twelve years.

You currently live in NYC.  What’s your favorite thing about the city?

Matt: New York City is a multicultural place. The mix of nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures makes it more complex and more in the spirit of America than any other place I have lived. I like other places where I’ve been for other reasons – I like small-town life also – but if I’m going to live in a big city, then let it be one where there are many different types of people to meet, all blended together.

Also, NYC is full of museums and restaurants. I like to see great art and to tell my students to see it; and I appreciate the variety of restaurants. You can find me at Museum of Modern Art especially.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Matt: I decided when I was twelve to be a writer. I started writing fiction then. I figured, sort of vaguely, that I would be a teacher also, because I liked to impart knowledge.  Alas, I didn’t have the expectation then, because my generation had a different energy, that teaching would be so substantially about disciplining and controlling kids who would so fiercely resist being taught. Overall my plan from about age twelve was to be a full-time novelist. I haven’t reached that one as yet, and so long as I have a union job, I don’t think I will leave teaching. You just don’t leave union jobs – we trade-unionists are beacons of hope for Americans, demonstrating as we do how working lives in the United States should really be. The American worker is always getting screwed by the employer. Not as easy to mess up union workers through no fault of their own.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Matt: My wife and I watch movies and TV. A lot of cooking channel, mainly competitions (Chopped, Sweet Genius, Top Chef, Next Iron Chef, etc.) and fix-the-restaurant shows (Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant: Impossible, Restaurant Stakeout) and sci-fi/fantasy (Star Trek, Doctor Who, Warehouse 13, Eureka) and paranormal shows (currently Paranormal State). We also like foreign movies. I read, of course, but a lot of that is work these days, since I accept for review far more books than I can keep up with.

I used to be an active gamer, involved daily with role-playing and collectible card games, but those days are over, although I still think about my amazing former hobbies.

Share one thing about yourself that not a lot of people know about you.

Matt: I was a high school wrestler. I wasn’t very good, but I spent two years hanging with the team and wrestling JV in order to prove to myself that I could be more than just a bookworm. I never have been athletic, but I took on the toughest challenge imaginable in amateur sports because I was attracted to it and I wanted to be a more complex and capable person.

You’ve mentioned that you are also a musician. What instruments do you play (or have played)?  

Matt: I’m a percussionist, one hundred percent self-taught. My parents are musicians, and I inherited musical talent from them. I’ve never had a percussion lesson, and as a result I don’t have the skills to work a drum kit, but I have good musical impulses and I use them in performing. In my group I am also a voice performer, which means that I offer expressive renditions of poetry I have written. For music, I also now use the iPad with good musical apps such as ThumbJam and Animoog.

Matt on Writing

I’m going to ask you a very obvious question. Reading your reviews, I saw the name “Harry Potter” come up a lot. What makes your books different from that series?

Matt: If I had the last many years to do over, I would not start a series I would then have to defend from the accusation of being like Harry Potter. I was writing about wizards and magicians long before J.K. Rowling did; she just got into print first. The similarities are that I am writing about a magic boarding school, and that there is a British girl in the book. But half that boarding school is Chasidic Jews direct from Brooklyn! My books are American in flavor, multicultural, with real history, beliefs, and religion included. The first book, The Ghost in the Crystal, deals extensively with Jewish themes. Although these don’t go away, I explore other cultures and other aspects of history as the series continues, with strong interest in Asian India.  I use real places in New York, and in later books, real places in other parts of the world.

My magic system is much more like the real-world paranormal. Most of the magic is mental, and the kids get their powers through meditation and through knowledge of the European tradition of Hermeticism/Occultism. Their powers look a lot like powers attributed to historical mystics and magicians, ranging from John Dee to Gurdjieff. Ghosts (I have lots of ghosts) behave a little more like ghosts than Rowling’s, who behave like Disney cartoons.

I think J.K. Rowling’s message is primarily about sacrifice and is fundamentally a Christian message. Her books constitute a giant Church of England version of C.S. Lewis, it could be argued, with Harry dying and being reborn in the same fashion as Jesus, sacrificing himself out of Love to protect others. I find this a relatively rancid theme. “Good people must sacrifice themselves to fight against evil; courage is the greatest virtue.”  Yeah, yeah. After all that inventiveness and all that world-building she did, and her ultimate inability to sort it out properly so that she just dumps all her characters into the climax because she can’t bear to part with them, and kills some of them off meaninglessly just because it would be unrealistic not to… After all that, we get in the end the same old message of Christian virtue that may have been drilled into her in church hymns when she was an impressionable youth.

Something more sophisticated is needed now. We are living in a global culture, and we must reach for universal themes. What is common to all humanity? What is a view of reality that crosses national, ethnic, religious boundaries? How can we empower young people to solve problems rather than saddle them with another batch of stiff-upper-lip twaddle about responsibilities imposed upon them by an obsolescent social framework? I do believe in social responsibility, of course; I’m a teacher, after all. But I don’t think kids are inspired to it by Rowling’s message. Sacrificing yourself for others is admirable, of course; it’s her heavy-handedness I’m complaining about.

You’ve written in a few different genres over the years. What do you like (or not like) about each of them?

Matt: I will write in any genre that appeals to me and that I think I can handle. My goal is to build myself as a brand and I don’t think I need to limit myself to one category of output in order to do that. Young adult fantasy is my primary genre now because I’m moved by it and I enjoy writing it. I like the ability to combine the world I live in with mythical and paranormal elements. In a sense I’m writing about the world I’d like to live in. I’d like to live in a world full of ghosts and psychic powers and time slips and UFOs and cryptids. I can’t dwell there, since my actual world is full of curriculum mapping and counseling memos and teen pregnancy and traffic jams, but my characters can live in that wonderful world that I long for. Like most writers, I write what I want to read.

My next book, Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships, coming in May and co-authored with Jess C. Scott, is my first published nonfiction, but imparting nonfictional content is what I do daily as a teacher, so it’s far from new territory. Jess and I (she’s a wonderful, cool, nonconformist author who specializes in relationship-based erotica) give advice to teens about sexuality and emotions, speaking like older, caring, experienced friends. Our beta readers like it so far; I think kids will as well.

I did a poetry/photography book, Vampire Poet, because poetry and photography are hobbies and I wanted to share what I had done with them. Poetry is not a commercially viable form, but it appeals to me because of the ability to pack a lot of power into a small and digestible unit.

I have written literary fiction, which you can find in some of my anthologies (With Love; With Love: After Dark; and of course the top-selling Kindle All-Stars:  Resistance Front) but genre fiction is more natural for me. Epic fantasy was my genre of choice as a young man, and I will return to it eventually, perhaps once School of the Ages has run its course. In a recent anthology, The Evil Within, I took on genre horror, and I plan to write some more of it also. I read Stephen King’s book Danse Macabre as a teenager, which describes how to do it, and I essentially will write horror the way King describes there. Blood and mutilation aren’t a natural form of expression for me, but I can do them, I figure.

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

Matt: The story isn’t finished yet. The characters haven’t been brought to the place where I can leave them alone. They haven’t been explored to their inner reaches, their hearts bared entirely. They haven’t settled their conflicts. That just has to be done if it can be done.

How do you decide on the titles of your books?

Matt: My book titles are full of expressive powerful nouns, and they carry a certain amount of mystery. The Ghost in the Crystal as a title is like Tolkien’s The Two Towers; it can be explained more than one way. There is a crystal, but who is the ghost? It seems to be the villainous dead heretic who gets young apprentice Simon in trouble, but by the end, you will see that title in a new light. Level Three’s Dream, my second novel, has the word ‘dream’, which has been proven mighty by Neil Gaiman and others before, and again there is more than one meaning, since we have dreams both when awake and when asleep. Is the dream of Level Three (who is an autistic teen) the hundred-page Alice in Wonderland fantasy realm that occupies the later part of the story? Or is it something he aches for every day of his life? Book three, coming this summer, is The War Against Love. War? Love? Obviously, that’s a winning combination!

My titles are all written intuitively; usually they just emerge in my mind, with only slight tweaks to follow. However, these are the qualities that I find in my titles after I make them.

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your books things you’ve encountered in real life?

Matt: All my characters are aspects of me, even the villains. They are of course inspired, are of course sometimes riffs on people and characters I’ve loved before, but I can only fill out their emotional and intellectual profiles with content from my own personality. I use real-life places a lot, in New York and elsewhere, and as the series progresses, I will increasingly convert a lot of my European vacation spots into sites for the teen wizards to have adventures. Book four has big chunks in India, too, where I have been once and will go again soon.

What is your writing process- do you plot/plan or do you write from the seat of your pants?

Matt: I work from notes. I write outlines but I violate them when I get better ideas. I write scenes in the order I feel like, not in the order they will appear in the book. I always write multiple projects at once, and in the past I have written multiple books in my series at once. In doing this, I recall the strategy of Isaac Asimov, who wrote a novel and a nonfiction book at the same time, switching whenever he felt stuck.  But Asimov was a full-time writer; I’m part-time, so things develop relatively slowly. I have long gaps between sessions of writing on a novel while doing other projects. I sometimes get jealous of my more prolific buddies in the business. My projects percolate a lot, and my job leaches away my writing time.

How much research do you do for each of your projects?

Matt: My research is ongoing. I read nonfiction a lot to keep on top of ideas and events, principally The New Yorker magazine which has a broad range of subjects. I always draw on my background knowledge, which has been enlarged by years of being scholarly by nature, and I look stuff up online, often mid-sentence, as it comes up. When I write in my notebook, I leave gaps or notes to look things up later, and I do that research when I’m typing up my notebook. Sometimes though I may lose track of where I got my information. In The Ghost in the Crystal, Leah Ritz uses an Aramaic magic formula “Havaya tseva-ot” to fight against evil spirits. I couldn’t now tell you where I got that from, or how much, if at all, I changed the wording.

I also research by travelling. All my vacations are working vacations as I gather knowledge of places I can put my characters in. I’m going on vacation in April to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague, and I’m sure I will use all three locations in the future. Prague is already in The War Against Love.

What do you think it is about your writing or your stories that resonates with your readers?

Matt: My readers relate to my teenagers who feel like real teenagers to them. They aren’t digital natives like the kids I see in the classroom – they are more like the teenagers I grew up with – but they have strong feelings, tender hearts, insecurities, mixtures of bravado and anxiety, things you expect in good kids who are trying to find themselves.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Matt: I spent seven years blocked, largely because I was going through a bad time in life, but now I’m not blocked anymore, and I can write any time I have time to write. The hardest part of writing for me now is clock time:  carving out enough hours in the day to expand myself mentally and emotionally so that I can be creative. I so often have to shift to being practical that the practical and creative are always in opposition, and I often feel guilty being creative. “How am I supposed to write when I didn’t deal with that call I was supposed to make?” I do a lot of thinking while commuting, and that’s productive, but thinking is only one stage of the process and I need to spend more time on the other stages.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

1)    Get a well-paid career to sustain you while you write. Financial services looks good.

2)    Learn these skills:  digital book formatting, social networking, marketing, investing.

3)    Fuck literary agents.

What is your favorite supernatural character to write?

Matt: I like to write about magicians/wizards and I like to write about ghosts/spirits. I love elementals also. I have a vampire in Level Three’s Dream, but he is an energy vampire, not an undead vampire, and primarily he’s a magician.

Separate from School of the Ages, I have some work about zombies I am presently niggling at, inspired by my love for the Resident Evil movies and the work of some great zombie authors I’ve met, such as Mainak Dhar. I am not presently drawn to write about undead vampires, werewolves, shifters, or fairies. When I do, though, I will do my damnedest to make it different than anyone has ever read before.

What are you current working on?

Matt: Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships, with Jess C. Scott, is going into final drafting next month. Jess and I are talking about writing two other books together after this one is done. My next solo book is The War Against Love, the third book of School of the Ages, coming out this summer. I will be publishing some short stories this year. I’m working on a School of the Ages story now which I will publish as a teaser for War Against Love and probably give away through amazon prime. The working title is “Sara Ghost.”

Matt’s Paranormal Perspectives

How would you define the paranormal genre?

Matt: There exist many traditions of storytelling that react to human experience by creating mirrors of it full of events and experiences that aren’t replicated in daily life. You look in the mirror and you see a vampire, a reflection of your emotional life but not your physical life. You read a book about a vampire or a person who deals with vampires, and on a deep level, you feel the echoes of that non-daily experience as ways to clarify, by allegory or analogy, that turmoil and those traumas with which you must actually deal.

How you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

Matt: I’m going to sound like a teacher and a scholar as I answer this.

Popular culture trends in horror and supernatural fiction are reactions to popular fear. The paranormal genre puts a more comfortable face on darkness. It is partly psychotherapy, but mainly escapism. The darkness we actually face in the world is a darkness of purely human sickness, ranging from religious fanaticism (terrorists and Taliban, the Republican war on women) to economic ruin (epidemic of foreclosure, income gap, the corporate takeover of the American government). I’d much rather think about a vampire or a werewolf, even a really nasty one, then think about Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or Rick Santorum.

Why do young adults in particular like the paranormal? I think most teens feel that they are somehow different from the ordinary, or fear that they are. These feelings can harmlessly be managed by the creation of paranormal alter-egos. For me, when I was growing up, it was wizard characters, like Belgarion in the work of David Eddings, who grew up and grew to power, as my own Simon, Goldberry, and Mermelstein are doing in School of the Ages. For teens today, it’s Edward and Bella or it’s Sookie Stackhouse. I would have been into them if I were the right age. Similarly, dystopian fiction like Hunger Games is an exaggerated version of the dismal disempowered cultural landscape today’s kids find themselves in.

What scares you?

Matt: Poverty scares me. I don’t want to be poor. There is so little humanity in being poor, and so little fairness in it.

What is your favorite paranormal book?

Matt: The Occult by Colin Wilson, along with its sequels, has profoundly shaped my world-view. Mysteries, Poltergeist!, Beyond the Occult – Wilson’s nonfiction books about the paranormal are just incredible.

What is your favorite paranormal movie?

Matt: As soon as I answer this, I will think of another one I should have listed. Let’s go with The Mothman Prophecies for today. As far as TV paranormal, I really like the first and third seasons of True Blood although I find the sex a little overstated. For a lighter touch, how about Beetlejuice?

Connect With Matt/School of the Ages

Website: http://schooloftheages.webs.com/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/schooloftheages

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Paranormal Headliner: G.R. Yeates

Do I have a treat for you all today! G.R. Yeates is joining us for a little sit-down, and he writes….Horror.  With a capital H. Sure you’ll find some flavors of the paranormal in his books, but G.R. is going after the dark with gusto- which I think is awesome. (You are all familiar with my weakness for B-rated horror flicks, right?)  So without further ado, let’s hear from the man himself.

A Little About G.R.

G.R. Yeates has been published in the Dark Continents anthology, Phobophobia and has been accepted into the Horror for Good anthology coming soon from Cutting Block Press. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed Vetala Cycle, a trilogy of vampiric horror novels set in World War I. The first two volumes, The Eyes of the Dead and Shapes in the Mist, are available now and the third and final installment, Hell’s Teeth, was just released in March. Expect more, much more, from this writer in 2012.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

G.R.: As a child, I wanted to be a painter but I never developed a talent for it so I decided, and I remember this very clearly, that I wanted to learn how to paint with words – and that’s how my path to becoming a writer began.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

G.R.: I’m not good at either to be honest – recently I would actually say writing short stories. After six years of writing and revising novel-length manuscripts, writing self-contained pieces of a few thousand words feels like a break.

G.R. on Writing

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

G.R.: It started out being something I enjoyed and then became a means of catharsis when I was a teenager and in a number of situations where there was no real way for me to express and feel better about certain things. In that respect, my writing has become like a diary, journal and even a form of confession for me.

How did you come up with the title for your books?

G.R.: The titles always come first, otherwise I don’t know what I’ll be writing about. As to where the titles come from, I don’t know, they occur at the right time, they come to me when I need them.

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your book things you’ve encountered in real life?

G.R.: I think they are all amalgamations. A writer can only capture so much of reality when they set a story down and even then it is filtered through their own perception of people and events so what you get a reflection and a distorted one at that.

Your vampire trilogy set in WWI looks amazing!  What drew you to wanting to write a series of stories in that time period?

G.R.: I developed an interest in the First World War as a teenager after reading Wilfred Owen’s poem, Dulce et Decorum est. It just presented itself as something else that would make my first books stand out when I decided I wanted to write horror and place vampires in a more unique setting. To date, I’m only aware of a couple of horror films set during this era, The Awakening and Deathwatch, as well as a few stories, Minos or Rhadamanthus by Reggie Oliver and A Question of Obeying Orders by Mark Samuels. All of which I recommend, by the way.

How much research do you find yourself doing for each of your novels?

G.R.: I overdid it with the research for The Eyes of the Dead, six months of reading I did for that one, but it paid off as I was then able to just do quick skims for the next two books. I’ve been complimented on the thorough detail of my books, which has pleased me a great deal because as much hard work as writing is, spending all those months researching would feel like a waste if people didn’t pick up on it.

You have a lengthy list of upcoming titles- how do you keep all of those stories straight as you plan your next novel?

G.R.: Fairly easily because most of them have been written and planned out to one extent or another. I started researching The Eyes of the Dead in 2006 and in 2008, I signed with an agent and up until we parted ways in early 2011, I just kept on writing. The three novellas that I will be releasing in the next few months are all derived from novel-length manuscripts that I drafted whilst I was waiting for that traditional publishing break that never came.

Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter”?

G.R.: A pantser – I use minimal notes and guidelines and just follow my muse. I probably hit more blind corners and dirty curves than those who plan extensively but I still get there in the end.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

G.R.: The midway slog – being halfway through a novel and knowing you have another half to go. At those times, it’s just a case of exercising discipline and keeping on with the writing until you reach that point where you feel all the threads of the story drawing together and tying up for the climax and coda.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

G.R.: Work as hard at what you do as much as you love it. Make sure you get a great editor and proofreaders if you can. Get a great cover artist who can realise the concepts you have in your head. And never be over-awed by anyone – respect is something earned and that goes for those you meet and work with as much as it does for you.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

G.R.: To be honest, I’m not sure. I tend to just sit down and write and write until I’m done. I don’t have any quirky rituals – unless you count ensuring I have something caffeine-rich to drink near at hand.

What is your favorite supernatural creature to write and why?

G.R.: Well, I would say it’s creatures that are truly alien to us. Writers like Lovecraft are a big influence on me because they were able to come up with creatures that were beyond our world and what we understand. That sense of the alien, the cosmic and the illimitable has always fascinated me far more than more conventional ‘evil’ monsters and I hope I’ve managed to tap some of that into the Vetala.

G.R.’s Paranormal Perspectives

Do you identify more with the horror genre or the paranormal (or both)?

G.R.: I would say horror, without a doubt. One of the reasons I decided to self-publish was so that I could call my work horror rather than labelling it as paranormal thriller or dark urban fantasy, for example. None of these definitions sum up what I write, for me, as effectively as the H-word.

How do you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

G.R.: One of the writers who I really admire is Alexandra Sokoloff – her stories walk the dividing line between paranormal and horror very adeptly and she has a knack for unsettling nightmarish imagery, particularly certain scenes in her novel, The Price. I would also recommend any writer who is struggling with structure and planning to read Alex’s blog, the Dark Salon. It’s a great source of information.

What scares you?

G.R.: An abstract sense of abandonment – that’s just based on the last panic attack I had where I thought I was trapped in a waking nightmare and about to die.

What is your favorite paranormal book?

G.R.: I would say, at the moment, it is Thomas Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco. A collection of short stories that radically rewrote what I considered horror to be and what I could and should look to achieve in the genre as a writer. It was the most revolutionary thing I had read since H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider when I was a teenager.

What is your favorite paranormal movie?

G.R.: This one changes but it is usually only a change between a handful of films – these being Ridley Scott’s Alien, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Actually, I will include Werner Herzog’s remake of Nosferatu in there as well – a beautiful homage to my favourite era of cinema, German Expressionism.

What do you think draws people to this type of fiction?

G.R.: I think on the most basic level, people enjoy a good scare and to be entertained by something that is of the darkness rather than the light. On more complex levels, you get into the different aspects the genre has and how it unsettles us through gore, ghosts, psychological aberrance and cosmic horror, where we see our true insignificance in comparison to the stars that will burn and the black holes that will continue to yawn millennia after we are gone.

Connect with G.R.:

Website: http://www.gryeates.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gryeates666

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/_gryeates_

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4874291.G_R_Yeates

Librarything: http://www.librarything.com/profile/gryeates

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/gryeates666/

Thanks for visiting G.R.! 

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Paranormal Headliner: Mia Darien

Today I am welcoming Mia Darien, author of Cameron’s Law and When Forever Died, as my first ever Paranormal Headliner!  I’m introducing this series as a way to highlight other authors writing in the paranormal realm. One thing that intrigues me about Mia’s books is that she is writing a whole series of standalone books that share a common setting: the town of Adelheid, CT. It looks like there is quite a bit of paranormal adventure going on in Adelheid! So grab a cup of your favorite beverage and settle in as we get to know Mia better.

A Little About Mia

Mia Darien has lived in New England all of her life and knows that no matter where she goes from here, New England is always going to live in her. Presently, she still lives in the land of snow and fast talkers, with her husband, her son and her pets. She writes a bit of everything genre fiction (horror, romance, mystery, fantasy and science fiction) and thinks it sounds like an odd joke: a unicorn, a space monster, and a pair of zombie lovers walk into a murder investigation…

You mention that you hail from New England, and you seem to have a strong affinity for it. For someone who has never visited there, what things make you love it the way that you do?

Mia: It may just be sentimentality. I was born here, I’ve grown up here. I lived in the same town my entire life. But it is more than that. New England is beautiful. I’m not good at describing scenery (my books are proof of that) but it’s green and full of hills and every autumn, the trees look like they’re on fire. I live in a rural area, farm country, where it’s quiet and peaceful. That suits me very well. I can walk down my dirt road, after it stops being a road, and see history from two hundred years ago where stone walls used to wall off pastures but are now full of trees and wetlands, and how it used to be the main road from my town to the neighboring town. It’s just full of history and personality. My husband, who was born and raised in the South, sometimes says it’s not always a *nice* personality, but I say we’re at least always honest. 😉

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Mia: Oh, all kinds of things! For a while, my best friend and I were going to open up a veterinarian’s office. At another time, I wanted to be a police sketch artist. When I was fourteen, I got hit by the writing bug and wanted to be a published author, and I’ve stuck with that since.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Mia: My husband would say I don’t do either very well! It’s true, I always feel like I should be doing something productive. I guess when I need to chill out, I like to read. I write as a hobby as well as for publication, so that unwinds me and I’m working on fitting time for World of Warcraft back into my schedule.

Mia On Writing

What is it about writing that brings you back to the page for more?

Mia: I can’t stop. In fact, I’ve tried. There were a few years when life was too insane and I just couldn’t write. Times when I felt like it was too much and I should stop, but the ideas wouldn’t go away. I kept coming up with characters and story lines that wanted to be written, so I kept writing them down and leaving them for later. Now I have more stories than time to write them, and the knowledge that I just can’t stop. I have to keep writing, or my head really might explode.

How did you come up with the title for your books?

Mia: “Cameron’s Law” is fairly self explanatory when you read the book. My entire premise is that there is a law that makes preternatural creatures legal. It is officially the Preternatural Rights Act of 2010, but is named informally after the man (werewolf, Harvard Law student) who began the process, Cameron St John, hence Cameron’s Law. “When Forever Died” is actually a line from the story, when one character is explaining something to another. To say any more would give away a plot point!

Are any of your characters based on people that you’ve known, or situations in your book things you’ve encountered in real life?

Mia: Yes, actually. Have you ever seen that t-shirt in catalogs: “Careful or you’ll end up in my novel”? Well, in my case, I only make characters after people I like. Sadie and Dakota are both a little bit of me. Sadie Stanton’s name comes from family names. Vance Johnston is a little bit of my husband. Sarah Beaumont is after a friend of mine. My family and friends always sneak in there in parts, even if it wasn’t a conscious choice. As for situations, not specifically. But everything I see, everything I feel, read, watch, learn about, all eventually goes into the mix and comes out into a story in some way or another.

It looks like you have a lot of work planned for the future of your series (6+ more books- WOW!). What has been the thing that has surprised you the most in crafting storylines that all converge in the same town/same place?

Mia: I’m not sure if anything has surprised me about the whole thing, or the town, but the characters like to surprise me. I recently – in the book I’m writing now – had what was supposed to be an innocuous conversation turn into something I had to adjust my plot outline for. Sneaky vampires. It’s always the characters that surprise me the most, saying or doing things I didn’t see coming. But that’s the fun part, too.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Mia: There are a lot of hard parts to writing. Just getting it done, for starters. Making sure it’s a story that doesn’t suck, is consistent and well written. Then the inherent anxiety that comes with releasing it to the public: oh no, are they going to like it, is anyone going to read it, are they going to pan it… and so on.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Mia: Keep at it. It’s hard and takes a lot of work, you’ll want to throw yourself out a window at some point, but you just have to stick with it if you want to move forward. Listen to advice, but not all of it ’cause your head will explode. Read, read, read.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Mia: Oh, my. That’s a tough one. It’s hard for me to know what my “quirks” are, but one thing that I have found that differentiates me as a little odd, compared to other writers: I hear about a lot of authors that write to music, and what music inspires them. I listen to television shows and movies while I write. You would think it would get in the way, but it doesn’t. I think it’s something about hearing dialog and ongoing stories that inspires me more than music.

What is your favorite supernatural creature to write and why?

Mia: I don’t know that I have a favorite creature, actually. Vampires are fun because I love making dead jokes. (I write in First Person and all my character have a hint or more of sarcasm in their wit.) So, they’re great for the lack of a heart beat jokes and such. But Dakota and her unique nature are an absolute blast. And I have some other unique creatures in the pipeline that I bet will be as much fun, so I don’t think I can actually pick a favorite.

Mia’s Paranormal Perspectives

What’s your definition of the paranormal genre?

Mia: I’m pretty broad about this. Paranormal is defined as anything “extra” normal, and that’s how I view it. If it has vampires, werewolves, faerie folk, witches and what not, I would define that as paranormal. Though I suppose I’d have to further define it as these creatures in our world, at any time. If it’s another world then it’s sci-fi/fantasy.

How do you feel about the boom of paranormal fiction recently?

Mia: It worries me, to be honest. I love that it’s popular. It’s “okay” now to be a vampire freak. But at the same time, I worry about the genre I love being flooded with substandard story-telling. People writing paranormal *just* because it’s popular and sells well, not because they love it, and there by weakening the whole thing.

Is there a specific paranormal sub-genre interests you the most?

Mia: You know, I don’t think there is. I just like good stories. It’s all about the story.

What scares you?

Mia: All manner of things! I’m anxious by nature, and neuro-chemistry, so real life can be pretty frightening. 😉 But seriously, reading books and what not, I can get spooked by things that strike too close to home, like zombie fiction that’s more realistic than outrageous can give me the creeps. Or mysteries with particularly realistic killer perspectives.

What is your favorite paranormal book?

Mia: The first Vampire Files book by P. N. Elrod, because it’s the first in a whole series I love a great deal and highly admire. If you want to put modern definition on classics, then I’d go with “Dracula.” I have an audio version that is so fantastic that I’ve listened to it repeatedly.

What is your favorite paranormal movie?

Mia: You know, I really don’t know. I’ve liked a lot of the blockbuster paranormal films, despite some defects. (Underworld, Blade) But there was a low budget indie time film called Demon Under Glass that was fascinating. I’m still waiting for someone to get “Dracula” right.

What do you think draws people to paranormal novels?

Mia: I think it’s just something in the nature of humanity that’s always been there. I watched “Ghost Hunters” for a while and that, by nature, proves my point but beyond that, I had considered doing a ghost hunting story. Still may, but it’s down the line. I was researching ghost hunter sites and read a fascinating article, which had a part that I’ve always remembered. If you look back in old lore and read stories of the faeries, the wee folk, and how they used to kidnap babies and so forth, the descriptions of many of those stories sound a lot like people’s descriptions of aliens in more recent time. From mythological to science, it’s the same thing. People have always had these fascinations with things beyond themselves. Vampires and shifters in particular are so much like humans but not that it’s easier to imagine, I guess.

Do you ever research real events, legends, or myths to get ideas?

Mia: I wouldn’t say I research to get the ideas. I just research and read about these things because it interests me, and ideas may or may not come. Like, I’ve written a historical romance focused during the time of the Beast of Gevaudan. I don’t qualify it as paranormal, but I did read about the Beast for the first time in the Werewolf Encyclopedia. (Fun book.) The French film ‘Le Pacte des Loups’ is also about the Beast. I was obsessed with Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Norse mythology in middle school and onward. Norse mythos has made its way into my story “When Forever Died.”

I particularly enjoy regional stuff. I have two books on regional vampire stories, one in New England and one from the South, and then two books of ghost stories, same regions since I have ties there obviously. So, I can’t say I go to this stuff to get the ideas, but it definitely gives me ideas when I read it. And even if it didn’t, I’d read it anywhere because it’s just fun and fascinating.

Connect With Mia

http://www.miadarien.com – Site & Blog

http://www.twitter.com/MiaDarien

http://www.facebook.com/author.miadarien

http://www.goodreads.com/mia_darien

Thanks so much for chat, Mia!

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