Monday, December 30, 2013

20 Questions for Horror Authors: LJ Phillips

LJ Phillips graphic designer and illustrator who has participated in numerous exhibitions and projects, both local and overseas and had three solo exhibitions. He's worked on and off in indie comics since 2009. His print comics, "Ministry and Alpha," have positively reviewed by sites as varied as Altern8, Fanboy Reviews and Comic Alliance.

His work can be found at and his latest comic "Skins" can be read at

1. What do you think makes a good story?
Theme. A good story has to have layers. On one hand, Skins is about a supernatural plague forcing monsters and humans to work together. But on a deeper level, it’s about racial tension and sexual politics. Who the characters sleep with is as important as the horror and mutants.

2. What do you think makes a character a compelling villain or hero?
Motivation. That’s at the heart of every great character, hero or villain. Without his parents’death to drive him, Batman would just be a crazy sadist with a leather fetish.

3. What did you learn from writing your book that you think would help other writers out there with their craft?
Persistence. Many writers want to rush through a story - they treat the characters like puppets and they force them to act a certain way to tell the tale. The result? Stilted characters and poorly paced plots. Better to take your time and let the story and characters develop naturally.

4. Are there any horror books that have influenced your life? If so, what are they?
Stephen King’s "Tommyknockers." I read it when I was a kid. I was struck by the fact that it was the town folks’ choices rather then their gradual mutations that turned them into monsters. Of course, I also enjoy the classic horrors such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde etc.

5. What is the scariest book you ever read, and what was your reaction to it?
The Picture of Dorian Gray. Although it’s not a horror in the traditional sense, the gradual corruption of a man’s soul (as reflected in his portrait) still haunts me. It taught me that monsters aren't born; they’re made.

6. Do you think that writing will be a long-term career goal for you?
Yes. I am a story teller. Some of these stories can be told through comics and others will become short stories or even novels.

7. Who is your favorite author, and what have you taken away from their books? 
Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Angela Carter. Her feminist retelling of fairy tales and rich descriptions inspired me to try reinterpret horror stereotypes in "Skins." I've loved her work since I was a child and my darling sister’s second name (which I chose) is from one of her characters.

8. While this may seem like a given to some people, others may be wondering, why write horror?
Good question. I’ve never thought of my work as horror. Other people started to classify me as a gritty horror writer so I guess that’s what I am. I guess my work reflects some of my own personal demons - after all, the stories we tell are mirrors of our lives.

9. What is it that attracts you to the macabre?
We need to know demons exist. So that we know that we can defeat them. Often in macabre work, the main character faces demons which embody their own fears. And even if they don’t win, they’ve found the courage to face them. Plus I guess I’m just twisted :)

10. Halloween is the biggest holiday for horror lovers. 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?
Definitely. Unlike America, trick-or-treat is not a common occurrence in my country. So I clearly recall the one time I went trick-or-treating as a child. And I saw a spaceship. Nobody believes me but I did. Everything froze. My fellow trick-or-treaters and our parents just stood there. Silent. The whole world was filled with light, I’m not making this up. I swear!

11. What is the one thing that scares you the most?
Clowns. They are deeply, deeply unfunny. I can’t even go to the circus or Macdonald’s without freaking out.

12. How were you introduced to the horror genre?
I used to spend my lunch break in the school library, reading the classic horrors. Frankenstein was my favorites back then. I think I must have read it six or seven times one year.

13. What is your favorite horror movie? (If you're anything like me, you're bound to have more than one)
Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes. Just kidding! Frankenstein (1931), The Wolfman (1941), An American Werewolf In London (1981) and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). All horrors in which the monsters are also victims and often persecuted.

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?
Yes. A relative used to work at mental hospital when I was a child. The concept of institutions and people’s attitudes towards the ill and vulnerable deeply influences my work. In "Skins," a central theme is the way others view and treat the plague victims.

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?
Good ideas are like coffee. You have to let them brew a bit before they’re any good. My original concepts often strike me out of the blue. But it takes research and constant refining to come up with the final product.

16. What is one thing that you'd like people to know about horror writers?
We’re not scary people. And we’re not hacks. A lot of the world’s truths can be told through horror. It’s a genre that can make unpalatable themes - ones as varied as corporate greed to corrupt class systems - accessible.

17. What got you interested in writing, and how long have you been doing it?
I've been writing since I could hold a pencil. Even as a kid, my head was bursting with stories and writing is how I unleash them on the world (cue maniacal laughter.)

18. What, for you, is the hardest part of writing? How do you overcome writer's block?The initial planning. It’s so very tempting to simply dive into writing the main script or story. That’s the fun part. But outlining the plot, themes and setting first - that takes discipline. If I feel blocked, I know I need a change of pace - it can be something as minor as a trip to the aquarium or as major as sparring match at a local dojo.

19. Tell us about your most recent or current novel (or comic) that you've had published.
"Alpha" was my most recently published comic. Sadly, it was discontinued when the publisher went under. It contained many themes and characters that have been further developed in my current work, "Skins."

20. Are you working on your next novel or short story at the moment? If so, what is it about?
"Skins" is my current project. It opens with a young girl entering the small town of Solace. She has no name and no past but she carries a supernatural plague in her blood.

Thanks so much!

And thank you very much :)

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  1. Thank you so much, Cassie. This is wonderful. I'm honored to be featured here.

  2. You're welcome LJ! Thank you again for agreeing to do the interview for me!