Thursday, August 21, 2014

20 Questions for Horror Authors: Carole Gill

Carole Gill writes all sorts of horror, everything from Gothic vampires to murderous midgets and demon clowns. She is widely published in horror anthologies. Her four novel series, The Blackstone Vampires is out now. Book One in the Blood and Passion Series is about to be released. You can stay caught up with Carole here:

1. What do you think makes a good story?

The characters and their motivation. That to me gives an author the best story possible. That is at the core of all drama, be it romance, horror, suspense—etc.

When I write I become my characters. I do not start writing until I have a full sense of who and what they are, what they want, where they came from, where they want to go. And this, may I say, goes for monstrous beings as well as those of the human variety be they good or not.

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

There must be the sense that these characters are real. When I write about vampires or murderous midgets, demonic clowns and various other monstrous beings as I am doing in my Circus of Horrors book I’m nearly finished with, I make certain they have depth. They have come from some place—they have experiences that have shaped what they are. Even something demonic has a personality of some kind. This is what I find so fascinating about writing. I create the world I write about and fill it with my creations!

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

I learned from each book I wrote. I have five novels I have completed. The fifth goes on sale soon and the sixth after that. That one I have just begun. And here’s an interesting tidbit: I also have an anthology of horror stories called House of Horrors! I love the title of your blog, Cassie (wink)!

A writer does learn from each book. You learn ‘how to write a book’ after you write a book. And as this writing biz is an ongoing learning experience, the learning never stops. There is always something more to learn. I have often been surprised at what I have learned.

I picture myself walking down a road. There are signs saying ‘go here,’ ‘try this’ –

Fair enough, I say. Try whatever you feel as a writer. See where it takes you. The unknown for a writer can be hugely challenging and exciting. Not everything may work, but you learn that along the way and then you can (I have) adapted it in some way so it is for you.

We are different and we will find different ways of telling our stories.

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

"Interview with a Vampire" did. I think that one novel had a huge impact on my writing. Vampires had feelings and memories; they were capable of love, regret, hatred. They didn’t just sit up out of coffins and snarl showing their fangs.

I’d also say so "Dead Zone" and "Misery"—by Stephen King. I liked them because the characters were superb. The man who can see the truth in others, that’s his curse—his own crucifix to carry and Annie Wilkes—this lunatic living amongst ‘us’.

The idea of monsters and lunatics living alongside the rest of us has always fascinated me. I’ve written my fiction about that sort of thing.

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

"Salem’s Lot!" It was the first Stephen King novel I ever read and I found it scary as hell! He brought vampires to us. No carriages heading for gothic castles, no! They were there in our town. I think I never looked at an antique store owner the same way after reading it.

A boy floating outside a window entreating his brother to let him—that pushed all of my scare buttons. I have always looked for the ultimate scare, I still do. But I’d say this novel did it for me in a big way,

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

It’s all I do now. It is all I want to do now. My husband has always been supportive and I am so grateful. Whatever a writer’s position, if the desire to write is there—it takes over eventually. Whether you work or not, you will write. You will find time—even if it is an hour a day. If writing becomes your life and it can easily—you live the rest of your life around it.

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

I have a few favorite authors. Let me see, if I had to name one? I suppose I’d say Anne Rice. Anne Rice’s fiction opened a world for me I hadn’t thought of before. There were storylines and characters that spoke to me and in so doing touched my soul.

Her research is impeccable and as I love history, setting her stories in historical settings appealed greatly to me. I write historically based horror because of it.

Having said that I also write very dark horror about beings that are misfits and though they are monstrous, they are sympathetic too. I think Stephen King’s It got me started on that. Pennywise was scary as hell! I think that gave me the idea initially to write my own fiction about monstrous clowns. More about that later as I have read the next questions!

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

How can we not write horror what with holocausts, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, war, serial killers? There is infanticide, matricide, patricide and all sorts of homicide. We’d have to not read the news or watch it on TV to escape from all the horrors in the world, and those may I say are real.

There are no demonic clowns—of course there was serial killer, John Wayne Gacy who entertained children in hospitals dressed as a clown. He was evil, but he wasn’t supernaturally evil. He was a human bogeyman.

Look back on history—the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, you’d have a hard time finding a time when there was no horror in the world.

Horror can exist in our own homes with abusive partners, children—neighbors as well.

Horror is there, it always has been and because it is, it is felt and because it is felt, the desire to want to deal with it in some way—has given us horror in film and in fiction. It’s our way of dealing with it. It’s like the death cults in countries that have high infant mortality. If we see our greatest fears, we become used to seeing them and we fear them less.

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

I think the macabre can be stylish and interesting as Tim Burton’s work is. I’ve loved all he has done. He has created worlds beyond our own reality that we can look into. It’s an escape from the real macabre world that does exist within our own world and our own experience. I’ve written very macabre, gothic pieces in my fiction, I’ve depicted the dead feeling compassion and pity.

I have endeavored to make them sympathetic too. They appear in anthologies like "House of Horrors."

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?

Well, I was the kind of child that always took up a dare. ALWAYS. I remember creeping down to go into a crawl space under a house everyone was scared of. It was dusty and strange down there and I was frightened. But I stayed for however long I was supposed to.

I can also remember ringing doorbells and hiding, being the idiot kid to go to the neighbor deemed the bogeyman (or woman) of the neighborhood.

I am glad it was a simpler world then, I certainly wouldn’t advise any child to do this nowadays!

I do think it is what always moved me to action: I wanted to experience the ultimate scare!

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

THE UKNOWN. Applying that to strangers as well as strange places I find scary as anything. The unknown is just that. It can turn out to be anything. Picture walking up to Ed Gein’s house in Plainfield Wisconsin. Your car broke down…

There are a lot of people as dangerous as Gein that exist. Not all murderers are caught. Some just go on! How do you know who lives near you or knocks on your door?

12. How were you introduced to the horror genre?

Edgar Allan Poe wrote me a letter an invited me to read his stories. No, I’m not that old—perhaps nearly but not quite.

Seriously it was Poe. Although I discovered his work when I was quite young. My parents had his works. When I was a toddler I used to like ‘the pink books’ they had and I’d play with them. When I was able to read, I discovered those pink books were Poe’s work. That started me off.

From there I watched horror film after horror film. I found I loved horror but that was because I loved to be scared. I also discovered through fiction and film, what really frightened me and found dolls did! I have written about evil dolls, too. Love that. In fact, I have toys that are possessed by evil in my new novel, "Circus of Horror."

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

At the moment "Case 39" is. It’s great, I love its originality. It is about a social worker who finds herself battling for the well-being of a child, but it’s a lot more than that!

Here are some others:

"Orphan," "Night of the Demon" (1957), "Carrie" (1976), "The Shining" (1980) …just a few!

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?

Childhood experiences—I suppose running past an empty room in my Gran’s house was one. What was in that room in the dark? Something was, I was certain of it! I have based a number of stories on that fear.

Phobias—yes! I hate creepy crawlies and happened to write a story based on that fear which is in my anthology! It’s about a couple who stay at a certain hotel that turns out to be their worst nightmare. It is also in my horror anthology.

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?

Every experience inspires. The world around me does. What I see on television, what I read. My imagination is all over the place. Yes, fantasy and imagining my worst fears do stimulate me and get me writing scary fiction. Day-dreaming and fantasy are connected too. And it got me into trouble in school, now that I write it gives me stories!

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

We are reflecting the world we all live in. If we scare you we are doing it to make you aware. We don’t wish to make you crazy or send you into therapy, what we want to do is to tell you the world has dangers, being aware of danger is vital to surviving. The best example I can quote is a reference to what Walt Disney said—when asked why he had frightening elements in his cartoons he said he wanted children to know there was evil in the world (as a protection). I’d say remember: Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt as Mark Twain said.

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

I have no idea what inspired me. Perhaps my parents’ love of science fiction. I say that because I wrote my very first story at age eight. It was about an invasion by Martians to steal earth’s children to bring back to Mars. I wrote another story after it—same year about a child falling into a huge globe in a library and found inside was outer space. From there I just continued on and with the Poe interest I wrote very, very depressing prose! So it’s been a long time I’ve been writing.

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

The hardest part is the commitment because it takes real commitment. The best advice I ever got was to consider writing my full time job (even though I was employed outside the home then). As a job you have to show up or they get rid of you. No time to write? You make time. If it’s twenty minutes or thirty—if you do it on a regular basis and stay with it (not flying from one thing to another, that teaches you nothing) – then you get something done. Something finished.

Yes, you can work on more than one project but that happens when you have jumped that first hurtle I believe.

As for block—there is no such thing. I had what I thought was block for two years, what I found was I was writing in the wrong genre! When I discovered that the block vanished.

There are situations when it isn’t genre difficulties. When that happens (and it has happened to me plenty) I stop and think about what I am writing. It has happened to me while writing novels that I have finished as I do not use an outline.

I find it is my brain’s way of saying ‘are you sure about his? You’re backing yourself into a wall here. Perhaps you should…’

If you consider the ‘block’ in that way—you will see it’s not a block at all. You have to just think about where you want to go, etc.

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

"The Fourth Bride" (of Dracula) is my most recent. It ends The Blackstone Vampires Series. I researched Dracula carefully and gave him a fourth bride. Dia was cursed by him as a toddler to become wifey four.

Summoned to his castle, she finds a lot is expected of her. This is Dracula remember. He is decadent and a monster’s monster. When Dia is turned by him she becomes wanton and capable of just about anything.

This was a work of love because I was intent on not trivializing anything Stoker wrote. There is graphic sex and violence in this one—well these are wanton vampires! I pictured the wives and Dracula getting up to all sorts of things and so I have depicted it!

BTW I was inspired to write this novel because of Coppola’s "Dracula" film (1992)

There is a lot of dark romantic sex and twisted love in this--!

All my fiction is recommended for mature readers!

Also, please note: I have a new novel just about to be released, entitled "Justine: Into the Blood" which begins my Blood and Passion Series.

Justine Bodeau was born in pre-Revolutionary France, orphaned as a child she is taken in by a family friend who employs her as a seamstress—eventually; she winds up as a seamstress to the court of Queen Marie Antoinette.

She is strong willed and a survivor. Defeat does not occur to her. When she fights off an attack by an aristocrat and kills him, she is given refuge but is soon betrayed and winds up on the streets of Paris—where she is attacked and killed by rogue vampires. But for whatever reason, love will not let her die and the rest of the novel enlarges upon that.

Having been attacked and raised up as a vampire, she goes from wishing to be destroyed, to wanting to survive. This, when she feels passion for the one who brought her back, Gascoyne—the one they call the Vampire Prince of Paris.

When her reason to exist is taken from her—she finds love in the most unlikely of places with another—yet there is hardship and horror too. Still, something in her drives her on, no matter how little reason there seems to be for her to wish to go on.

There is a lot of steamy romance in this one. I had fun writing it and I hope readers enjoy reading it. It’s far less dark than my previous series although it is for readers over 18 years of age.

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

I am writing "Circus of Horrors" which has been inspired by the House of Horrors Anthology and some of the characters that appear in stories in it.

It’s about a lunatic circus troupe. Side show performers who are monstrous themselves but have reason to be.

I hope to have the book finished by next month. My publisher will release it after that. There are lunatic cannibal clowns, a fat lady with peculiar tastes and murderous midgets. Still, I have given them reasons for how they are. There are also some other very strange beings not to mention a succubus or two and some beings from hell!

Here’s a very recent blog post I did about it:

Well, whew! Thank you for having me and may I say I loved your questions!

~Carole Gill

Thanks Carole! Your answers were fantastic! 

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  1. wow! thank you!
    your questions were! :)

  2. Great interview. Loved reading about bits of you I didn't know before Carole.