Welcome back, boils and ghouls! That greeting seems appropriate, doesn’t it? This blog–although open to all genres–tends to attract authors of a dark and disturbing nature. Then again… maybe it’s the other way ’round. Maybe I am drawn to them, like a moth to flame, like a child to a ghost story before lights out.
Today we have another dark author in our midst, but before we get acquainted, let’s handle the latest contest winner announcement! After I posted the interview with author Brett Williams, he decided to offer up a free copy of his novella High Octane Damnation. If you liked or commented ANY of the various Facebook posts, favorited/ retweeted on Twitter, or liked/commented the blog, your name was entered to win. There were several entrants, but our lucky winner is *drum roll* ALEX LAYBOURNE. Congrats!
Now onto the highlight of this blog entry…
How long have you been writing?
All my life, but before 2005, it was a hobby – something I did when the mood struck, which was pretty often. That year though, I kind of sat myself down and started asking the hard questions. I was 27 and I was really feeling the passage of time. I figured out I wasn’t going to live forever, and decided I could either continue to coast as I had been, or I could dig around and try to find a deeper, more meaningful layer of my life. After some heavy soul-searching, I concluded that writing was the thing that utilizes every detail of who I am… and that it is something I love enough to fight for. I realized that even if I was a failed writer, I’d be a happy failed writer, and that made it easy to decide to go forward with it professionally.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I remember writing all kinds of stories as a kid, but I really don’t know what the first thing was. Whatever it was, I’m certain it was bloody and twisted, though, and probably involved talking cats. I loved the Bunnicula series by James Howe, and quickly developed an odd fondness for humanized housecats and bloodthirsty bunnies. When I first got published, my best childhood friend said to me, “Finally… an explanation for all those… intriguing cat stories you used to write…” It was a proud moment…
Your novel, Beautiful Monster, was co-authored with Mimi A. Williams and released through Damnation Books in 2012. It’s been described as an “erotic thriller” and has received raving reviews. Can you tell us about this book?
I’m very proud of Beautiful Monster. It’s about a heartbroken college student who meets the man of her dreams and discovers first-hand that evil things often wear the most beautiful masks. It was written in the first-person from alternating points of view between the predator and the prey. We did this because, as we all know, every story has two sides… and I thought it would be wonderful for people to get an intimate look into the opposing mindsets of two very different people with two very different sets of motives. I’d never before read a book that did this and I knew it was going to be great fun. I was in full charge of Sterling, the predator, so this was an experience that really strengthened me as a writer. Writing him required lengthy research on some very unpleasant topics, and getting into his mind was not always a whole lot of fun, but this pushed me and shaped me, and gave me a profound and irrevocable appreciation for the work that goes into writing a book.
You co-wrote Beautiful Monster under the pseudonym Jared S. Anderson. When/ why did you decide to use this pen name? A la Shakespeare, I guess I’m wondering “What’s in a name?” Does it have any effect on your writing style, or perhaps–vice versa–does the finished story decide the name?
I wish there was a very interesting story behind this, and to be honest, I’ve even contemplated making one up. But, as is so often the case, the truth just isn’t very interesting. I suspected I needed a name change shortly after the release of Beautiful Monster when I suddenly realized how many other Jared S. Andersons were running around doing notable things. And when I began receiving letters from readers for books I didn’t write, I knew those suspicions had been correct. So I chose another name.
The last name, Cross, came first, and I had no doubt that it was the ‘right’ one. A good first name came harder though. I considered Anthony (taken), Julian (too flowery) and a slew of others that, for one reason or another, didn’t work.
Meanwhile, I’d been having a hard time finding the right name for a character in a book I was working on. I’d finally settled on Alistair, and I liked it, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that Alistair was someone else. Then one day, as I was hard at work, my mind suddenly put those two names together – Alistair… and Cross. I said it out loud. Alistair Cross. And I knew that was my name.
Unfortunately, however, the character in my work-in-progress has once again been robbed of a suitable identity and immediately threatened to press charges against me. After a few weeks of dithering about and wringing my hands ineffectively over this, I decided to take a stand. I calmly explained to him that I would kill him – and slowly – if he didn’t drop the case. He has since had a change of heart… and whenever he acts up now, I stare at the computer monitor pointedly and let my index finger just kind of hover over the backspace button. That shuts him up fast.
What genre do you most like to read?
I love everything. I am not a picky reader. If it’s in front of me, I will read it and probably love it… although I haven’t read much in the Sci-Fi or Western genres. Horror, of course, is a favorite, and I also like reading non-fiction.
The biography on your website lists “offensive books” among your likes. Does this apply to your own writing as well? Have you ever consciously pushed the boundaries and written something you know some readers will find offensive? If so, was it essential to the plot, or were you simply aiming to shock?
My tastes have always been extreme, and I wasn’t very old before I started getting the feeling that most of the things I really liked seemed to be things that made people uncomfortable. Horror movies; loud music; profanity; gore and sex. I’ve always felt that people take offense too easily, generally speaking, and I’ve never understood the appeal in this. Most things affect us about as much as we decide to be affected by them, so by “offensive books,” what I mean is books with an edge. I like anything with an edge. That being said, I’m certain I’ve written things that have offended people, yes – but no, I have never written anything for the sake of shock. Shock value isn’t strong enough to stand alone. It’s too easy. If you’re going to drop jaws, you had better have a point.
Do events from your past play a role in your fiction?
Do you try to put messages and morals into your stories, or do you write purely to entertain the reader?
Entertainment is important, of course, but it isn’t quite enough. I think you have to go real easy with the teaching, though. If people feel like you’re trying to educate them on some invaluable life lesson, they’re going to fade. People don’t generally pick up horror novels to get a sermon… but yes, I think there is a definite responsibility on the part of any writer to not only entertain the reader, but also to try to bring him or her a new perspective on something, or a closer look at some dark corner of the heart, the mind, or the world.
You are currently working with acclaimed horror novelist Tamara Thorne. Can you tell us anything about this project?
It’s called Grandma’s Rack, and it’s due in spring of this year. It’s an equally humorous and horrific new approach to the world of witchcraft, magic and mayhem. It centers on a young boy, Joey, who is slowly uncovering the secrets of his own bloodline with the help of his grandmother, who has come under attack by a faction of practitioners with very different motives from her own. Joey is approaching an age when his power will come into full effect, and this thrusts him front and center of the scandal.
I’ve been a fan of Tamara Thorne’s since the 90s, before I ever dreamed of being a writer, so this makes me the luckiest man alive, and I don’t take it for granted. There’s an almost mystical element to the whole thing, really. Shortly after we met, we just started collaborating… before we even realized we were doing it. I muse over this sometimes and, as Tamara tells me, “It’s just what we’re supposed to do.” And I know it’s true.
We’ve developed a firm relationship, both personally and professionally. Our sensibilities are eerily similar and our egos are such that we can work together productively. Our styles mesh well, and we have a lot of fun doing this. Grandma’s Rack is the most fun I have ever had writing and I think it shows. As an added bonus, I’m learning from one of the greats, and I’m meeting people I never dreamed I would. Tamara and I have several future projects on the horizon and I’m eager to give them wings.
If you could invite any five authors from any time period to dinner, who would they be?
Edgar Allan Poe, because, hey… who doesn’t want to meet Poe? Maeve Binchy because she was very sweet, and although I only knew her very fleetingly, I would have loved to have gotten to know her more. Agatha Christie, because I’d love to fake my own death at dinner and see who she pinned the murder on. Christopher Moore, because if anyone could break that tension, he could… and Tamara Thorne, because she would assist me in the testing of Agatha’s crime-solving (prowess) wherewithal, and because she and I could then take turns trying to bring a smile to the ever-brooding Edgar.
What has been the hardest part of becoming a published author?
People have an idea of what writers are: crazy; intellectual; moody; slightly more interesting than other people. Sometimes you just have to throw a chair, set something on fire, let loose with a random string of profanities, (or at least wear an obnoxious hat) just so they don’t feel cheated.
The best part?
Getting paid to do what I love to do.
Where can we find you on the web?