Tuesday, October 1, 2013

20 Questions for Horror Authors: Sean Davis

Sean M Davis wields a DeWalt drill by day and writes scary stories by night. Clean Freak is his debut novel, released in August 2013 by Black Bed Sheet Books. His short fiction, poetry and nonfiction has been published in Bête Noire, Fangoria.com, the Wayne Literary Review, and the Best of Dark Eclipse. He works as a freelance editor. You can follow his blog at http://seanmdavis.wordpress.com/ and contact him at chimericaldark@hotmail.com.

1. What do you think makes a good story?
Definitely the characters. If I don't care about the characters, then I don't care how good the plot is, period. However, you need a plot too. Something needs to happen to characters I care about that forces them to deal with it in some way. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

2. What makes a character a compelling villain or hero?
A contradictory mix of being able to understand and empathize with their motivations and having something only implied about the character that I can wonder about after I put the book down.

3. What did you learn from writing your book that you think would help other writers out there with their craft?
I ran into a block at one point that I wasn't able to hurdle or break for a while. In talking through the problem with my girlfriend, I realized that I was blocked because what I wanted to happen was completely illogical for the character. So I figured out what was logical for the character and went back to the point when it started getting hard. I became blocked because I was writing according to the plot points in my notebook instead of letting the characters live the story.

It also helps to have someone that you can talk to, that will challenge you and offer a new perspective. Sometimes you can get so immured in a story that you can't see the forest for the trees anymore.

4. Are there any horror books that have influenced your life? If so, what are they?
"Thinner" by Stephen King. It was the first "horror" book I'd ever read, even though I grew up with R.L. Stine, Scary Stories, etc. Until reading "Thinner," the heroes had always won. It was a jarring concept, a very adult concept to read about a guy who goes through so much and still doesn't "win."
Oh--spoiler alert!

5. What is the scariest book you ever read, and what was your reaction to it? 
Probably "Pet Sematary" by King. There was just so much about that story that freaked me out. There have been others, but the reason why Pet Sematary sticks out in my mind is because one day I was reading it, getting really into it, bringing the book closer and closer to my face even as I cringed further back into the chair and out of nowhere, my cat hopped up into my lap. I may or may not have screamed.

6. Do you think that writing will be a long-term career goal for you?
I hope so. I love writing, the feeling I get when I know I'm telling a good story--and to make a living at it? That's the American Dream.

7. Who is your favorite author, and what have you taken away from their books? 
I love Edgar Allan Poe. I use "The Raven" for sound checks at my day job. But I don't know if I can draw a one-to-one correlation between the authors I've read and how they've influenced my writing style. Everything I've ever read influences me, whether it's good, bad or mediocre.

However, I can say without hyperbole that R.J. Cavender made me a better writer. He's a professional editor I've hired a couple times to edit my stories and he's just so thorough and dead-on right about everything. Of course, when you make the same corrections over and over again, you start catching those mistakes while you write, which makes the first draft better, so the finished product is just that much. Reading widely is necessary to becoming a good writer. Being edited is absolutely necessary to becoming a better writer.

8. While this may seem like a given to some people, others may be wondering, why write horror? What is it that attracts you to the macabre?
It just seems to be how my mind has always worked. When I was a kid, I wrote this story called "The Killer Morning." It was just about a kid getting ready for school, but all this stuff happened, like the water was so cold when he tried washing his face that the washcloth froze to his face. That wasn't weird to me. It wasn't bizarre. It just was. But I think that when I read "Thinner," it was so different from anything else I'd ever read, it rocked me. I decided that I wanted to be that kind of writer and horror seemed to be the genre to do it.

10. Halloween is just around the corner. Have you ever had any interesting/spooky/fun experiences during the best holiday of the year that you'd like to share with your readers?
The last couple years, my girlfriend and I have been doing couples costumes, which has been fun. Two years ago, we were the little girl from Pan's Labyrinth and the monster with the eyes in its hands. Last year, we were Beetlejuice and Lydia. We're kicking around a few ideas for this year, but we haven't settled on anything yet.

11. What is the one thing that scares you the most?
Being alone. Not romantically, that's not what I mean. I worked the midnight shift for six months and it was the worst experience of my life. You see the few people you work with, but everyone else is always sleeping when you're awake, awake when you're sleeping. I felt like I was the only person alive and it was the loneliest I'd ever been in my life.
And clowns. I f-----g hate clowns.

12. How were you introduced to the horror genre? 
I don't remember how old I was--which I usually take to mean that I was too young--when I saw "Slaughter High" at a neighbor's house. It scared the bejesus out of me. I couldn't sleep that night until I turned on a Gospel radio channel and fell asleep to choir music. After that, I saw a lot of movies at a lot of neighbors' houses. I was watching movies long before I read any books.

13. What is your favorite horror movie? (If you're anything like me, you're bound to have more than one) 
I'm a sucker for the classics, so "Psycho," "The Birds," "The Exorcist," and "Rosemary's Baby." I also like the old slasher flicks of the 70s and 80s like "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," and "Nightmare on Elm Street." 

My favorite subgenre is psychological horror, so I love "Silence of the Lambs," "The Number 23," and "One-Hour Photo." The best I've seen recently was "Cabin the Woods" though. After the first couple minutes, I actually stopped playback on Amazon and reloaded it because I didn't believe I was watching the right movie. But it was awesome.

14. Do you use childhood experiences and your own nightmares as inspiration? Have you ever used some of your own personal phobias in your writing? 
Any writer that tells you that they don't is a f----g liar. Of course I use aspects of my own life and dreams in my fiction. For a concrete example, my neighbor had a barking dog that pissed me off, so I wrote "That Neighbor Dog" about a guy who goes to his next door neighbor's house to chew him out and--sorry, no more spoilers. The story appeared in Bete Noire #10 if you're interested.

15. Does your creative process, the one where you originally come up with the concept for a horror story, involve daydreaming, brainstorming, ripping stories from headlines, research into legends and myths, or just using plain old terrific fantasies that you've had?
When I conceived the idea for Clean Freak, I was cleaning my shower and out of nowhere I thought, "What would I do if a voice started speaking to me from the drain right now?" By the time I'd finished cleaning, I had the basic outline for the story, which I wrote down and started working on that night.

16. What is one thing that you'd like people to know about horror writers?
We're probably the nicest people you could ever meet. I've been to the World Horror Convention three times now, and I've met one asshole. Everyone else has been just great.

17. What got you interested in writing, and how long have you been doing it?
I've been writing ever since I've been able to write. In high school, I started writing poetry, then short fiction. I took a few stabs at writing a novel, but couldn't get through the long haul at that point. I finished my first novel at 20, my second novel at 26, and my third at 30, which was just published by Black Bed Sheet Books. I've continued writing poetry, short fiction, nonfiction and dramatic writing that whole time.

18. What, for you, is the hardest part of writing? How do you overcome writer's block?
Getting back in the chair after not being there for a while. I'm a big believer in Newton's First Law of Motion as it relates to writing. An object in motion, unless influenced by an outside force, maintains a constant speed and direction. Simply put, if I take a break, it's hard work to get back into it.

I also believe that writer's block happens when you're trying to make your character do something that doesn't make any sense for that character. Bad writing happens when you force your way through the block. When I find myself blocked, I take it back to when it started getting difficult, then take the story in a different direction. Works every time.

19. Tell us about your current novel.
"Clean Freak" is about Clarence, a guy who suffers from extreme Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder about his own germs, and Lucy, the ghost of a little girl who lives in his shower drain. 

Here's the summary from the back of the book:

Meet Clarence. He’s the introverted, nerdy, obsessive-compulsive-disorder-stricken evening shift janitor for the Haimes office building in Southfield, Michigan. A homely misfit, he cleans everywhere he goes, feverishly fearful of the unseen germs festering everywhere all around him, the lines between sanitization and sanity broken and blurred. One night, after a long shift of scrubbing and dusting and mopping, only to arrive home and scrub some more, he hears the voice of a little girl coming from his shower drain. Her name is Lucy. She’s crying, she’s lonely, she needs a friend. It is not long afterwards that Clarence’s obsession twists and delves down a violent path of madness…..

20. Are you working on your next novel or short story at the moment? If so, what is it about?
I have a few story ideas that I think would take a novel to tell. The one I'm most focused on I've tentatively titled "Bad Blood." I'm taking the first couple chapters to Borderlands Press Writers' Boot Camp, which I'm pretty excited to be attending. However, I'd rather not go into details about it until I get some chapters down and start shopping it around.

Sean Davis' book "Clean Freak" is available in softcover and eBook formats. It can be purchased at the Black Bed Sheet Books Store, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.  

Pin It


  1. Met Sean yesterday at Penguicon. He's an interesting author for sure. Thanks Sean!

  2. Cool! Sean's a good personal friend of mine. We met a decade ago at a mutual friend's party. It's been fun, to say the least. :)