Whoa! Starred review of SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION in Publishers Weekly!
A short interview with Mercedes, a good friend, and an amazing author.
Hillary: What is the most magical/terrifying place you’ve visited?
Mercedes: Goblin Valley in Utah is an absolutely beautiful, twisted landscape. They used it for an alien planet in the movie Galaxy Quest. It’s gorgeous red rock and it truly looks otherworldly. When we were children, my father would take us to Goblin Valley during a full moon. He’d park at the top of the park and turn the headlights on so we always had a point of reference. My brother and I would take flashlights and scramble down to play among the rocks. We’d stay out all night. It’s one of my favorite memories.
Hillary: How does place generally fit into your writing?
Mercedes: My work is firmly rooted in the concept of place. It’s one of my major themes, and I really like to play with the idea of place being cognizant. In my…
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We’re giving way TEN ARCs of my short story collection, Spontaneous Human Combustion! Click over to Goodreads now to enter.
My novel in a year class is sold out for 2022, but I have openings in my other classes. SO, I’m going to run a special offer until the end of the year. You can save 10-20% on my other classes—Contemporary Dark Fiction and my Advanced Creative Writing Workshops. Sign up today to secure your spot.
If you’re a past student, see my post in our secret Facebook group for a code that will grant you an ADDITIONAL 10% off my classes.
Today is the release day for the LIMINAL SPACES anthology, which includes my new story, “Rotten to the Core.” What an excellent TOC. Pick up your copy today.
Featuring the work of Bob Ford, Jessica McHugh, Joanna Koch, Mark Allan Gunnells, Joshua B. Palmatier, Anthony Rapino, Michael Wehunt, Gwendolyn Kiste, Kristi DeMeester, Todd Keisling, Kelli Owen, Norman Prentiss, Chad Lutzke, and myself. Published by Cemetery Gates Media.
Whitesands is an amazing book, which I’ve blurbed (see art above). Johann stops by to answer ten questions, so take a peek and then pick up a copy today!
ONE: Tell me about your book—a brief synopsis, genre/s, and tone.
ANSWER: Whitesands is a paranormal thriller. It is about Detective John Dark, whose daughter has been missing for two years. In his search for her he overreached and went all-out with his resources as a policeman, until being reprimanded and demoted. Now, he is put back into the homicide department on a case that is stranger than it appears at first.
The tone is dark and the story is written almost like a police procedural (though I don’t have any insight into the workings of the police so a lot of blanks have been filled in) but with an added paranormal slant. Maybe like a mix of Tana French’s In The Woods and Seven, with ghosts.
If any of that sounds like your bag, please get yourself a copy of Whitesands.
TWO: Where did the idea for this come from?
ANSWER: From Daniel Hecht’s excellent novel Skull Session. It features a protagonist who has Tourette’s. There is also a family history of superhuman strength so it is the novel of a man grappling with an illness for which the cure is little better. For some reason it inspired in my the idea of a schizophrenic man who saw ghosts when he was off his meds. But of course no one believed him, least of all the police he was trying to help. From that, Daniel Hope was born.
THREE: Why this book, why now?
ANSWER: It took ten years to write. *counts* No wait, twelve. Is it 2021 already? Anyway, the idea came to me in 2009. It was then I attempted to write something, and started with short stories. As I progessed and got better I began getting acceptances into magazines like Fireside. It was then I started writing the book for real. I abandoned it a number of times thinking I was wasting my time. I then lucked out, getting invited to be the International Writer-in-Residence in Exeter in the summer of 2019. There I managed to beat the book into shape and submit to agents and publisher. And voila! It is out from Headshot Books on September 26th.
FOUR: What do you hope people take away from this book?
ANSWER: My hope is that people take away the enjoyment of a good story, told well. I also want them to at least consider if Emily Dark’s disappearance would have been treated differently had she been white. I also, secretly, hope people pick up on the many easter eggs and nods to other work in the book—like to Ben Winters’ Last Policeman series or Joyce’s The Dead.
FIVE: What are your comps for this book—what authors, titles, and other projects are similar to it, and share the same vibe?
ANSWER: Silence of the Lambs, True Detective, Seven. It’s that, with an added supernatural edge.
SIX: Aside from this book, give us a quick bio, and tell us about your writing career.
ANSWER: I started writing short stories when I was a kid. My English teacher encouraged me and I liked writing but then it sort of went into hiatus for twenty years. Then my wife was pregnant and would just be bone-tired right after dinner. So I needed a quiet activity. I don’t play video games and decided to try writing. I took a course and the teached saw something in me and encouraged me to submit to a journal. I did and got accepted. The journal paid $150 for a short story and I though “I’m in the easy money now!”. Of course, I was spectacularly lucky and wrong.
Many years later and I have a novel out. I am keeping the day job.
SEVEN: What are three books (and/or authors) that have influenced your writing the most, and how did they do that?
ANSWER: Of course, Skull Session by Daniel Hecht is at the top. I would say that Michael Ondaatje is a big inspiration. His style is just so good that when I read him I think, “One day I’ll write something like that.” He is the destination I travel towards with my writing career.
Then, an inspiration in a rather unusual manner is a story that shall remain unnamed. It was in an anthology I liked but this particular story was just so bad that it gave me the kick in the ass I needed—if something like that got published then I can get published. It is the point I set out from, in the direction of Michael Ondaatje.
EIGHT: What are your top three favorite movies of all time, and why?
ANSWER: Seven, Silence of the Lambs, and Primer. Seven opened my eyes to the fact that you can write something totally dark and bleak that is also popular. This is the tone I set out for in Whitesands. Silence of the Lambs is just totally a classic thriller. Fucking iconic.
Primer is a puzzle of a time travel movie made on a tiny budget and it breaks my brain every time.
NINE: What is one bit of advice you’d give a new author on how to find their voice, tell great stories, and succeed in their career?
ANSWER: Seek out harsh critique and avoid excusing or explaining what readers are pointing out for improvement (as is our first reflex) but actually listen and learn from it.
TEN: What’s next? Do you have stories coming out, are you working on another book, is there a collection coming soon? Do tell.
ANSWER: I might just be working on another John Dark novel. I might also be working on a play here in Iceland and I might be writing a screenplay. Mere rumors, all.
But I have abandoned short stories, accept when I am invited to write something for anthologies, so no collection is coming out soon.
I also have a half-written YA horror novel that just will not leave me alone.
The first review of my short story collection, SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION is in, and wow! It’s glowing. Made my day.
“I thought I had some idea of what to expect, but what I didn’t realize was the manner in which his stories would infect me. I held my judgment on the collection until I had finished it, and then I waited a few days to determine if that staying power was there, and what it was that would stay with me. I’ve discovered that I will be haunted by some of these stories for a very long time, perhaps always, as if they have squirreled their way into my DNA.”
I’m giving away FIVE signed ARCs of my fourth short story collection. Click over for more information. https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/02fdfe141/?
The second blurb is in for SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION. Thank you A.C. Wise for the kind words. Out with Turner Publishing on 2/22/22.