Sunday, May 18, 2014

20 Questions for Horror Authors: Michelle Lowe

Michelle Lowe writes horror, children's fantasy adventure books, psychological thrillers and historical fiction. This California based writer has her hands full, with being a ghost writer, and a mother of two She lives with her daughters and husband in California. Lowe writes everything from paranormal fiction set in the Bermuda Triangle, to historical fiction set in the 17th Century in Britain.

Lowe has some of the most interesting, and thoughtful answers to my questions to date. If you love horror, you need to read what she has to say below!

1. What do you think makes a good story?
There are three vital elements to a successful story, a strong storyline, memorable characters, and believe it or not, humor. Whatever genre you write it has to have some light moments sprinkled throughout the story. People love to laugh even while being scared. Also a good story comes from how much heart a writer puts into their first draft. Genuine feelings generate greatly toward putting depth into characters and in creating an interesting storyline. It takes brains to revise, but in the very genesis, a writer needs to put pure rawness in their story.

2. What do you think makes a character a compelling villain or hero?

The hero ought to have an edge to him or her and not be completely good or humorless. There’s nothing more dull and stale than having the hero be a complete straight-laced individual with no real personality to them. Unless that said hero starts off as such and transforms into a completely different character as the story progresses. And the best villains are the ones you both love and hate. I love a good villain, especially a psychopath that is smart, funny, and just a flat out a bad person. Of course, if your villain is some kind of a ghost taunting your character(s), you don’t want to have it jump out and start telling knock, knock jokes or anything, but a real good villain is the one you want to see fail as well as succeed.

3. What did you learn from writing your book that you think would help other writers out there with their craft?

That outlines help plenty! Some writers can do without one, of course, but for me I need a compass, even if the bar needle wavers a bit, meaning that outlines aren't a barbwire fence holding in the story. Outlines can change if need be, but it's nice to have something holding vital information in, guiding you where you want the story to go. When writing "Atlantic Pyramid," I was flying blind and although I was able to sort it out and get that first draft done, it was very frustrating and it nearly caused me to give up on the book completely. Outlines can keep a writer from overloading themselves with trying to figure out their next move and just simply write the next move.

I'm proud to say that I'm the one that suggested making the triangle on the cover red, and putting a skull in it! I think that the cover for "Atlantic Pyramid" turned out great!  - Cassie Carnage

4. Are there any horror books that have influenced your life? If so, what are they?

I’ve read a lot Dean Koontz, though most of his books are suspense thrillers, but his style of storytelling and the way he carves his words onto paper, taught me ways to build dynamic moments in my own stories. Some of my favorite works by him are the Frankenstein series and the Odd Thomas novels.

5. What is the scariest book you ever read, and what was your reaction to it?

"What to Expect When You're Expecting." Just kidding! "Heart Shaped Box" by Joe Hill was a nailbiter for me. My reaction was that it was a very well written novel that left me feeling like something was crawling beneath my skin.

6. Do you think that writing will be a long-term career goal for you?

I would like it to be. Since 1998, I've been toiling away, learning the art of writing while carrying around a dream that writing will become my one and only career.

7. Who is your favorite author, and what have you taken away from their books? 

Neil Gaiman. I fell head over heels in love with his storytelling when I was fifteen, reading The Sandman graphic novels. Not only is his stories intriguing and magical, but he has this beautiful way of describing his fantasy worlds and make you believe that they are actual places you can go to. It’s a skill I hope I have accomplished in my own novels.

8. While this may seem like a given to some people, others may be wondering; Why write horror?

All writers want to tap into a certain feeling in their readers. Romance authors want to bring out our lustful delights, while fantasy writers want us to explore our adventurous fantasies. Horror writers crave our fear. Before haunted houses became commercialized, people who built them did so for the sheer love of a good fright. For horror writers it's no different. I also think another reason is because it can be a mental challenge to write horror. I mean, it takes a lot of creepy creative to produce fright. Horror isn't just about blood and guts and gore, it's something that hides deep within the soul. Psychological fear is more terrifying than a severed limb. The monster doesn't even need to show up, just the insinuation that it’s out there somewhere, stalking its prey and biding its time before it pounces. Horror writers write horror for the same reason as any other writer of a different genre, it's their passion.

9. What is it that attracts you to the macabre?

That’s kind of a hard question to answer. I mean, why do we itch to put graveyards and body parts on our lawns in October, or get our kicks dressing up like decaying flesh-eating zombies? I think it’s a fascination of sorts to venture into that dark side of ourselves. We all have a morbid side, some more than others, but we all have it. I can't explain why I like spooky things and to tell the truth, I don't think I want to know.

10. Halloween is the biggest holiday for horror lovers.  Have you ever had any interesting, spooky, or fun experiences during the best holiday of the year that you'd like to share with your readers?

My mom used to sell glow sticks at haunted houses, and when I was fourteen or so, I went with her to a small local haunted house where they let me go through it anytime I wanted. Mom was there for hours, so I ended up going through the place several times just out of boredom. After a few times in I knew the lay of the land (so to say) and decided to mess with the customers. There was a maze where the walls were inches off the ground and I would grab at people's feet as they walked by. I found a dark, vacant corner where no one could see me and made scary sounds. It was fun.

11. What is the one thing that scares you the most?

Being trapped inside a delayed airplane on the runway. Again, kidding! Seriously, something that scares me to no end is cannibalism. Not only is it freakin' icky, it's just flat out wrong! Unless it's a survival thing, when I think of a human—not zombies—but actual humans eating other humans, I just shiver uncontrollably.

12. How were you introduced to the horror genre?

Horror movies played a big role. Also, my brother read a lot of Stephen King novels and he would get so damn scared over them. I thought that was so hilarious seeing my big brother frightened like that. I thought it would be fun to write a horror story someday that would have the same affect on people.

13. What is your favorite horror movie? (If you're anything like me, you’re bound to have more than one)

I do have a list of horror movies I enjoy, such as "Evil Dead," "The Return of the Living Dead," "Grindhouse," and "Pet Sematary," just to name a few. The one that truly scared me was "The Blair Witch Project." It was a simple and yet ingenious way to scare [people]. It's that deep psychological fear I mentioned before; letting your imagination wonder what the hell was out there in those dark woods. I hadn't been terrified by a horror film like that since watching "Nightmare on Elm Street" at the age of seven.

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?

It's said that fact is scarier than fiction. Some of the most frightening moments in books and movies are the ones that writers have integrated from their own personal fears. I did so with my short story collection, "Spine Shivering Stories." With any book I write there is always a piece of my own experiences whether it came from my childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. Every writer should put their own experiences (good or bad) into their work. It puts more truth into the story, and the truth can be far more frightening than anything that can be conjured up.

15. Does your creative process (the one where you come up with the concept for a horror story) involve daydreaming; brainstorming; ripping stories from headlines; or using terrific fantasies that you've had?

It's a mixture of all of the above. In "Atlantic Pyramid," the story takes place inside the Bermuda Triangle. We all know the Bermuda Triangle is a real area, but the setting also leaves plenty of room for a writer to incorporate fantasy from its myths and legends. Using something real, whether it's a place or occurrence can allow the reader to relate to the story; especially in thrillers, crime, and horror fiction, because the fact that it could or did happen makes it all the more frightening.

16. What is one thing that you'd like people to know about horror writers?

As I mentioned before, horror isn't only about blood and dismembered bodies, or a sudden loud sound, it's being able to bring true fear out in people. True fear is the one that leaves a mark and lingers long after the last page is read. You want your reader to check behind their doors or sleep with the light on for fear of the UNKNOWN. It’s the suspense of when the monster will appear but always the KNOWING that it’s there, somewhere, and that eventually it will get you.

17. What got you interested in writing, and how long have you been doing it?

I've always enjoyed writing stories years before I discovered I wanted to actually be an author, but I've been serious about it for about fifteen years now. Pretty much everything about writing interests me such as creating different places and inventing people as well as challenging myself to come up with a storyline worth writing about.

18. What, for you, is the hardest part of writing? How do you overcome writer’s block?

Editing is the hardest for me. Not solely because of the daunting task of going through every sentence, carefully eyeing every word, but coming across a section, sometimes a very large section, that would be best left out. I once cut an entire chapter out that I spent a good amount of time on, simply because it was dead weight on the story. If you have to do this, do so, for it will make you a true writer. I don't get writer's block often, but when I get snagged on what should come next, I generally treat it like a bar fight and walk away. By keeping my mind off the story, eventually the idea comes to me. It can be like trying to bleed blood from a stone to force an idea to magically appear, sometimes it's best to just take a step back and allow your imagination to relax before throwing its next pitch at you.

19. Tell us about your most recent or current novel that you've had published.

In the spirit of Halloween, I've written and illustrated a children's Halloween history book titled, "Poe's Haunted House Tour," available at

20. Are you working on your next novel or short story at the moment? If so, what is it about?

My next book "Cherished Thief"- a story about Britain’s most infamous highwayman, Claude DuVall- will be released soon, however, I am not writing anything new at the moment. The reason being is because I'm about to start my own ghostwriting business, Ghost 2 Quill. I will be jotting down outlines, though, and be prepared for when I'm ready to start that new novel.

Those were really great answers! Thanks Michelle! 

You can learn more about Michelle Lowe at her website, or head on over to her page here to find a list of her published books.

You can also find Michelle Lowe on Facebook, Twitter @MichelleLowe_7 and Google+: +Michelle Lowe  

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