Interview: Nicholas Vince (The Chattering Cenobite)

Most days at Ginger Nut Towers are good ones, however every now and then the good days turn into fantastic days.  And this folks is one of those fantastic days, it’s not everyday where you get the chance to interview a horror icon.  Let alone a horror icon from the first film that you snuck into the cinema to watch.  

So it is with a great sense of joy and honour to welcome Nicholas Vince, the man who played The Chattering Cenobite to my humble corner of the internet.  

Hi  Nicholas, first off it is a huge honour and a fan boy’s dream to have the man who played Kinski, and the Chattering Cenobite grace the pages of this blog?  So how are things with you?
They’re good, thank you. I’m busy working on the next volume of short stories, plus some other projects, which are in the very early stages of development. Also, I’m learning how to be a dog owner, as we got Bertie from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home at the beginning of December.
Can you please give the readers a little bit of background information on yourself?
As you mentioned, in the 1980’s I acted in three Clive Barker movies, playing the Chatterer in the first two Hellraiser films and Kinski in Nightbreed. I then wrote comics for Marvel and Epic, contributing to both the Hellraiser and Nightbreed series, I also wrote the Warheads and Mortigan Goth comics.
A couple of short stories appeared in Fear and Skeleton Crew magazines and I created ‘The Luggage in the Crypt’ series of interviews for the latter.
Since then, until May 2012, I earned my living training on computer databases. I also attended a few horror conventions in the USA and wrote a short story for the Hellbound Hearts collection.
Last year, I was also fortunate enough to attend a few screenings of the new ‘Cabal Cut’ of Nightbreed. It’s wonderful to see the movie Clive originally envisioned, thanks to the work of Russell Cherrington.
In August of 2012 I independently published ‘What Monsters Do’, my first collection of short stories. Another story, ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is in The Demonologia Biblica, edited by Dean M Drinkel, which is due out soon from Western Legends Publishing.
Why horror?  What is it about the genre that strikes a chord with you?
For me, the best horror deals with the big issues of life, death,  transformation and  otherness. I think these are things which fascinate us as children and particularly as teenagers, as our bodies and emotions are so mercurial.
Can you remember what first drew you into the genre?
When I got my first junior library ticket, I found an illustrated book on the Greek Myths and Legends. I was fascinated by the heroes, gods and monsters. (I loathed Enid Blyton books.) Once I’d got my adult library ticket, around age 14, then I searched out all the ghost and horror stories I could find. I read a lot of collections edited by Peter Haining.
Is there anything about the genre you dislike?
Years ago, I read a collection of M R James stories and I was very disappointed. They seemed to be the same story retold, i.e. someone disturbs something buried and something evil comes and gets them. The way women are treated as objects in certain movies, also disturbs me.
Before we get to your writing, let’s talk about those two iconic characters you so wonderfully brought to life.   How did you come to get the role of The Chatterer ?
Whilst I was at Mountview Theatre School, I went to a party and met Clive Barker. He asked me to come to his place to do some modelling for him. You can see me holding up a photo of Clive on his illustration for the Books of Blood, volume 1. On volume 4 he’s got my head open with needles dropping into the exposed brain.
I didn’t have to do an interview or audition for Chatterer, Clive just asked me to do the part. That said, I had to get some new publicity shots done, as my usual 10×8’s showed me as being too clean cut. I asked the photographer not to touch up the new photos and to leave the cold sore on my lower lip, as it looked as if I’d been injured in a fight.
So with everyone sort of knowing everyone else, what was the atmosphere on set like?
I knew Simon Bamford from Mountview, and he knew Doug Bradley as they’d both worked in the Dog Company. I got to know Jane Wildgoose (costume designer) and the guys from Image Animation before the shooting started, as we had to have body and head casts done. Once we were filming, we didn’t get to see the other actors very much as the Cenobites had a dressing room of our own.
Difficult for me to tell what the atmosphere was like on the set itself, as I couldn’t hear, speak or see. But in the dressing room we had a great laugh; so much so that I got told off a couple of times for laughing too loudly and spoiling takes.
I read that the basic design for the character came from a story about an operation you had, could you enlighten us a more on this?
You may not want to read this answer over a meal.
I was born with an undershot jaw, which means that my lower teeth closed in front of my upper teeth, rather than the other way round. When I was nineteen, first week of November 1977, they restructured my face. They cut away my top jaw and used pieces of bone from my hip as wedges to move the top jaw forwards. I was in surgery for eight hours and in intensive care for a couple of days afterwards. I also had my jaws wired shut for six weeks, so lived off liquidised food.
There’s a scar on my hip but none on my face; as they did all the surgery through my mouth, cutting their way in through the top gum and peeling the flesh of my face back. During the operation they’d have kept the flesh pulled back with hooks or clamps of some form. That was the story I told Clive.
To be honest, I hadn’t made the connection until Clive pointed it out.
That sounds really painful, how big is the scar on your hip?  I have 12 inch one from a bone graft as well.
Mine’s only 3 inches and as I tend not to wear bikinis, not noticeable. Yours sounds much more painful. Listen to us: two old geezers discussing our scars.
Don’t get me started on my back or my aching knees
At the time of filming, did any of you have any sense that you were making what would be a masterpiece of the genre?
I recently came across a 15 minute making of documentary, where they interviewed Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence and Andrew Robinson. It’s clear they’re genuinely enthusiastic about Clive and the film. So, I think they had a good sense of what was happening. I had my first inkling when I heard the producers had given more money to film effects for Frank’s first appearance.
Apart from Pinhead, Chatterer is the only other Cenobite to appear after the first two films, why do you think this is?
I’m told Chatterer has been voted the most popular Cenobite after Pinhead. There’s definitely something creepy about those chattering teeth and the fact he’s blind, but still able to shove his fingers into Kirsty’s mouth. There’s also the mystery of how a boy became the Chatterer.
At the Monster Mania convention last year, there were a couple of nine year old boys who’re great fans of Chatterer, though they refer to him as ‘Chatter Box’. Women often tell me they find him the most disturbing of the Cenobites, which makes him their favourite.
Also, some talented people have taken the original Chatterer and had fun with the image. I like The Torso in Hellraiser: Inferno as the way it moves is really disturbing and The Chatter Beast in Hellraiser: Bloodline takes Chatterer back to one of Clive’s original ideas. When we discussed the character, Chatterer was going to be a like the family guard dog, and would leap at Kirsty. However, when Clive saw the leather costume it became obvious I wouldn’t be able to move that much.
You only played him once more though in the direct sequel Hellbound, was this because of your decision to switch from acting to writing?
It was more to do with the move of making the movies in the USA rather than the UK. Though once I’d made Nightbreed, I decided to concentrate on writing.
On Hellbound, you acted next to the great Kenneth Cranham, and the fabulous Barbie Wilde.  Were you ever tempted to whistle the theme tune to Shine on Harvey Moon, when Ken entered the room?
I probably did whistle that tune, as I was very fond of that show. As is the way of these things, I didn’t really get to know Ken until we started doing conventions together. Barbie and I became great friends during the making of the movie and we’d often meet up in London for a meal or to go clubbing.
Would you ever consider going back to the role?
If someone asked me, I’d probably say ‘yes’—though I’d have to lose a lot of weight to get into the original costume.
Is Barbie as fabulous as I imagine her to be?
Oh, yes, she is indeed ‘fabulosa’ as they would have said on Round the Horne.
Your acting career continued with another Clive Barker adaptation, Nightbreed, how did you get the role?
Same as the Chatterer, Clive just asked me. The original make up design was different, as in the book, Cabal, he’s described as having two faces melded into one. After the initial make up tests, it was decided that makeup wouldn’t work in close up, so the design was changed to the moon crescent moon you see in the movie. The makeup appears in ‘The Nightbreed Chronicles’ book, as ‘Otis and Clay’.
Much of the old cast and  crew were  back for  this film was it like a family reunion?

In many ways yes, particularly being with the guys from Image Animation, Doug Bradley and Simon Bamford. That said, I remember the sound mixer John Midgley came up to me and introduced himself, and I pointed out we’d already made Hellraiser I and II together. It was understandable as he’d probably never seen me out of make-up.

Like Hellraiser, this has become one of the genre greats; it must give you a warm feeling inside knowing that you were a part of two great films?

I feel very fortunate and I’m also extremely grateful, not only to Clive, but to Nigel Booth, Cliff Wallace and Neil Gorton, who designed the Chatterer and Kinski makeup.

Can you make a huge fan very happy and tell him when The Cabal Cut is being released on DVD?

I’d love to, but I only know what’s on the website. Last I heard was towards the end of this year.

And could you possibly do me a favour and say sorry to my school mate Johnny, he kind of looked like Kinski, and we teased him a lot for that. 

Sorry Johnny. If it’s any consolation, I went through something similar. I mentioned I was born undershot so my chin was prominent too. I was regularly called ‘Chinzano’.
Looking back at the two characters, do you have a favourite out of the two?

Clive mentioned recently, that it was hell for me to wear the Chatterer make up, and that’s true. But it only took an hour to get into costume and make up, so unlike Doug and Barbie I didn’t have to wear the make up all the time. (We’ll ignore the couple of days where I was left in the makeup for eight hours and then didn’t film me.)
Kinski was a five hour make up job and one day I started at 4.00am and finished the following 1.00am; but I could see and speak when wearing it, so from that aspect it’s swings and roundabouts.
As actual characters in the movies, they both have their charms, and I’m very fond of them both.
As mentioned earlier, you decided to give up acting for writing, how difficult was this choice?

It seemed the natural thing to do at the time. I’d been encouraged by Clive to write and I thought I’d done all I wanted as an actor, at that time. Since I’ve returned to writing last year, people have been talking to me about acting again and all being well I should be involved in some very, very cool movies this year.
How would you describe your writing style?
Oh lordy, that’s a tough one. It’s not anything I consciously think about. How about “evolving”?

And what aspects of your writing do you think are the strongest and what do you think are the weakest aspects of your writing?

Oooh. Do I have to? The wonderful, Marie O’Regan, my editor is probably better placed to answer that question. If I think about strengths and weaknesses, then those become a ‘thing’ which I’m conscious of, and when I’m writing I try not to think about the process, as I get distracted. If I feel the writing’s going well, then I’m scared of being too cocky and spending too much time congratulating myself. If it’s going badly, then I’m scared of never being good again.
Writing can be very scary at times. Particularly when you’re writing about scary things.

Let’s talk a bit about the mechanics of your writing.  How do you go about the writing process?  Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow?

I wade through a lot of my boring ideas, until I find one which interests me. Then there will usually be a phrase or character which kicks off the story. The other day it was an image from a 10 second Channel 4 indent. Once I’ve got the opening line, then I just see where it takes me. I like leaving room for a character to surprise me.
It must be every boys dream to write for Marvel Comics, how did this come about?
Pure, unadulterated cheek.
When we were making Nightbreed, Clive invited a whole load of people to be in the audience at The Mean Fiddler, when they filmed a nightclub sequence. This is the song ‘Johnny Get Angry’ which has been restored in The Cabal Cut. I fell to talking with Neil Gaiman and John Bolton about the Hellraiser comics which were being published.
When we wrapped the movie, I visited the USA for the first time, spending a week in New York. I walked into the Marvel offices and asked to see the Hellraiser editor, Dan Chichester. After about thirty minutes an intern came out with Dan’s profuse apologies for keeping me waiting, as he hadn’t recognised my name. I was led through the famous Bull Pen, where there were artists working on Spider Man comics etc and into Dan’s office. I pitched him the story I’d outlined in my head on the plane flight over and he said he’d buy it.
At which point I admitted I’d never seen a comic script and had no idea how to lay it out. He reached into a drawer and threw me one of his to use as a template.
How does writing a comic compare to writing a short story?
OK, it’s a long time since I wrote comics, and since then lettering is no longer done by hand, and neither is colouring, and comics are read on iPads etc. Please regard this answer as a glimpse into a bygone era.
When writing a comic story I had a page count—around 22 pages for a monthly issue, like Warheads or Nightbreed. I think the Hellraiser stories were 12 or 15 pages. On each page, you have a maximum of 6 frames, though I usually aimed for 5 frames a page.
In a monthly comic, you know which pages will face an advert page. Reveals and shock images have to be placed carefully. In other words, you avoid putting the big dramatic image on the right hand page, unless it’s faced by an advert on the left, as the reader will immediately see it when they turn the page.
You can probably fit in only a dozen or so words per frame—maximum 20 words. Those words may well not fit when you get the artwork, before it’s passed to the letterer. So, you have to rewrite the script, by drawing bubbles on a photocopy of the artwork and supplying the words as a script, with a code letter on the page.
You’re working with an artist and so the story will be discussed with them and the editor. You may be writing existing characters, such as Wolverine or Dr. Strange, as I did, so the editor of those titles was also consulted. One piece of advice I remember—
which I think came from a Marvel guide for writers was: “Don’t write “Cowboy’s POV. He sees the entire Sioux nation. Few artists want to draw this. Better to show the reaction in the cowboy’s eyes and use a caption.”
Finally, you have to have a cliff hanger or teaser at the end of each story to bring them back for more.
With a short story, I write words. Lots and lots of words.
Do you have any plans to return to the comic world?
No plans at the moment, I’d probably say ‘yes’ if asked, as I love pictures and comics are a great art form.
Through your comics and one particular short story, you have touched upon the back story to the Chatterer.  Did you consult Clive on any of the details?
From what I remember, when I was writing ‘Look, See’, which appeared in Fear magazine, Clive just let me get on with it. He had other things he was concentrating on.
I do remember discussing with him closely the story line in the last two Nightbreed comics.
Last year saw the publication of your first short story collection What Monsters do.  Are the stories present here new or are they a sample of your writing career to date?
There’s a mixture of stories. The last one, Beast in Beauty is a revised version of a story published in ‘Skeleton Crew’. ‘Green Eyes’ is an unpublished story from the 1980’s and ‘Death is But The Doorway’ is based on an unpublished comic story.
The others were all written for the collection.
Is there a common theme to the collection?
The tag line for the book is, ‘It is not our flesh, but our acts which make us monsters.’
Some of the earliest horror movies I saw were the Universal monster movies. In the films, the supposed monster, such as Frankenstein’s creation, The Phantom of the Opera, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, were all punished unjustly or because of their appearance.
Frankenstein’s monster kills the girl through misunderstanding and ignorance. He helps the blind shepherd and is thrown out by the shepherd’s sighted son.
Of course, I was also influenced by Clive’s Nightbreed, which asks ‘Who are the real monsters? The occupants of Midian, or the naturals intent on slaughtering them?’
Do you believe there is a monster residing in us all, and if so what monster resides in you?
I believe we’re all capable of behaving monstrously when we give in to our greed, anger or stupidity and particularly, our fear. Fortunately, we all have courage, wisdom and compassion to fight those negative forces.
Certainly, I can be arrogant and angry, which leads me to do stupid things.
Being human means dealing with those conflicting forces in ourselves and it’s our actions which show how well we’ve done in that battle.
Some of the stories feature a twist on well used genre tropes such as werewolves, ghosts and a brilliant story involving a sadly underused monster the mummy.  Was it always your intention to try and give a fresh take on these monsters?
In my teens I had some Aurora plastic monster kits of the Frankenstein Monster, Werewolf and Phantom of the Opera. They had glow in the dark hands and heads, and they stood at the end of my bed. So, I wanted to write about them as they formed such a strong part of my youth and the first horror movies I watched.
I particularly liked the way in which the werewolf transform, was there a specific thing that planted the seed for this?
The phrase ‘hairy on the inside’ from The Company of Wolves and the poster, showing the transformation of The Huntsman, played by Micha Bergese; which shows the wolf emerging from his mouth.
Of all the monsters in the book it is perhaps Justinian, who is the most chilling.  Were you ever concerned about writing about such a touchy subject?
I was more concerned about writing one of the crimes committed in ‘Nursery Rhymes’, as I know people who’ve been a victim of it.
When I’m thinking up characters and situations, I’m quite superstitious and don’t use the names of people I know. This is because I read once that James Herbert found real life coincidences, following the publications of his books.
Green Eyes, like many of the stories features a dysfunctional family is there a reason that this setting is one you seem to like?
The theme of dysfunctional families is one a number of people have commented on, but when I was writing the stories, I wasn’t conscious of it. In my mind, I was writing about ordinary people in extraordinary situations and who’ve very difficult choices to make or who’ve been pushed just a little too far.
It’s been a few months since the book was released how well has it been received? (look out for my review of it tomorrow folks)
It’s just received its tenth 5 star review on Amazon sites and had good reviews from Fear magazine and
At the beginning of January, I attended a book club and had a chat with the ladies of The Book and Bottle club. That was a fun evening as we had a really interesting discussion about why there aren’t any female baddies in the stories and what makes a good villainess.
So what does make for a good villainess?
Their view was someone who does horrible things, with an understandable reason. That doesn’t mean they wanted to agree with them or even like the character, as long as she was understandable.
I love the cover of the book, who came up with the concept of it?
That’s all Carlos’s idea.  Indeed, it’s his face in the picture.
Have you or Carlos considered selling it as a print?
No, we haven’t, but I’ll be chatting to him soon, so I’ll pass on that suggestion.
Can you tell us about any future projects?
I’m currently working on ‘Other People’s Darkness and Other Stories’, the next collection of short stories, again edited by Marie O’Regan with a cover by Carlos Castro. That’s due out around the end of February.
I’m also working on an article for ‘Cabal & Other Annotations, by Clive Barker and various’ published by Fiddleblack.
Hopefully, there will be a signing of Demonologia Biblica, as I’d love to meet up with the other authors, who include Barbie Wilde.
Nicholas, this has been both an honour and a pleasure having you over for a chat, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Do you have any final words for the readers?

Cheers Jim, it’s been fun.
I’m giving away a free short story, ‘Why Won’t They Tell Me,’ on

Downloading it means you’ll be notified of when the next collection is out and how to get it free on Kindle.

As mentioned earlier my review of What Monsters Do is forthcoming, however if you fancy reading it, and I highly recommend that you do, then please consider purchasing from the link below. 

News: The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this was up for pre-order over at Amazon.  If you are are fan of horror fiction then you really need to own this book.  
Over the course of two award-winning collections and a critically acclaimed novel, Croning, Laird Barron has arisen as one of the strongest and most original literary voices in modern horror and the dark fantastic. Melding supernatural horror with hardboiled noir, espionage, and a scientific backbone, Barron’s stories have garnered critical acclaim and have been reprinted in numerous year’s best anthologies and nominated for multiple awards, including the Crawford, International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy awards.
Barron returns with his third collection, Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. Collecting interlinking tales of sublime cosmic horror, including “Blackwood’s Baby,” “The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven,” and “The Men from Porlock,” The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All delivers enough spine-chilling horror to satisfy even the most jaded reader.

News: On Writing Full-Time by Brian Keene

You want to be a writer?  Really?  Then you better click the link and read it, digest and then reall ask yourself do you want to be a writer?

Review: Nightsiders by Gary McMahon

The astute amongst you will have noticed that I haven’t got round to reviewing the final instalment of Gary’s excellent Concrete Grove trilogy.  The reason for this is a simple one, I just can’t bring myself to draw a line under what is in my opinion the best horror series published in the last 10 years.   

So until I can  come to terms with the fact that this series has ended we’ll not mention that elephant in the room.  Which brings us to Nightsiders, which is Gary’s début publication with the purveyors of top class horror, Darkfuse. 

Like the best of Gary’s work, this novella worms its way under your skin, where  crawls through your mind and body and sits there attached to base of your skull sending a chilling shiver down your spine.

The plot of Nightsiders, is a very simple one, Londoner Robert Mitchell has had enough of life in the capital city, the final straw coming from an shocking incident that happened to his wife. So they buy  dream house in the country and hope that this move will repair their fractured lives.  However, they find that this picture perfect life has been tainted with the vile prehistoric daubing of the Corbeau family.  What follows is another prime example of why Gary McMahon is oen of the best horror writers working to day. 

Yes the plot is at first glance your typical home invasion narrative, and for the majority of the story it does read like one.  Until Gary pulls back the curtains, and then rips the rug from underneath us, taking this story to an altogether more fantastical place.  

Where excels over the vast majority of horror authors is his characters.  The players that inhabit Gary’s work a  vital part of the story.  These aren’t blank ciphers whose sole purpose is to carry the narrative from start to finish.  When you read Gary’s stories you feel as though you really are reading the characters story.  There is an almost warts and all documentary feel to the his work.  

Another strength of Gary’s writing is the fact the a lot of horror comes not from the supernatural, but from the real life horror of the stories protagonists.  Nightsiders is a prime example of this.  The insiduous way in which the truth about what happened in London is handled perfectly, with the horror coming from both what happened, and how emasculated and weak Robert now feels.  The tension bewtween Robert and his wife in the aftermath of the incident is so tanggible, you could pluck it like a heart string.  

A great home invasion story wouldn’t be complete without a great villian, and with the Corbeau’s Gary has created a splendid over the top set of villians.  These are the vilest people imaginable.  They have no morals, no sense of right and wrong, only a sense of what’s mine is mine, even if it is not mine.  These are the people you have have nightmares about, the people with whom reason is word they don’t understand, the people who can only be dealt with by a fight fire with fire approach.  These are the sort of people that causes me to sleep with a baseball bat next to my bed, and shotgun in the attic.  

There is a point in the story where Nathan Corbeau gives a  fabulous speech where he describes who and why they are what they are.  This speech is so well written it reminded me of the brilliant speech in Kerouac’s On The Road  

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 

Nightsiders, is a prime example of an author at the top of his game.  Gary has taken well used plot, but has delivered a thrilling, chilling and totally unique twist on this most chilling of sub genres.  This may well be my favourite of Gary’s work to date.  This is intelligent and thought provoking horror at it’s best.   It’s certainly his most scary, this book did give me nightmares.  

Interview: 5 Minutes With Ray Garton

Today’s guest is the great Ray Garton. Ray really is one of the masters of the genre. He has written over sixty novels, novellas, short story collections, movie novelizations and TV tie-ins. His 1987 erotic vampire novel Live Girls  was called “artful” by the New York Times and was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. His thriller-comedy Sex and Violence In Hollywood  is in development as a motion picture.  In 2006 was presented with the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award.

<!–[if supportFields]> SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1<![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been writing ever since I learned how to write, and I became hooked on the horror genre when I saw William Castle’s 1960 movie 13 Ghosts on TV at about the age of four.  I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was eight.  My boyhood dream was to be Rob Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Showwhen I grew up, a comedy writer.  The fact that I wanted to be a writer was kind of a problem in my family because we were Seventh-day Adventists, a pseudo-Christian cult that believes, among other things, that fiction is wicked because it’s nothing but lies.  The reaction of my friends and the church to my chosen career has been the source of a lot of pain, sadness, and fear for me, but not writing what I write was never an option.  I sold my first novel in 1984, a couple of years after I dropped out of college, and here I am.  I live in far northern California with my wife Dawn.  We have cats.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
It really doesn’t matter to me.  People can call it whatever they want, as long as people are still reading it.  The word “horror” seems to have fallen out of favor.  I think the New York publishing industry lobbied to pass a law prohibiting the use of the word “horror” within New York city limits.  I keep seeing a commercial for the movie Mama, which is currently in theaters here in the U.S., in which a blurb refers to it as a “supernatural thriller.”  Not only have people backed away from the word “horror,” they give it a very wide berth when they walk by it.  I still use the word, and I’ve found that most of the loyal fans of the genre do, too.  I’ve written a good deal of stuff outside the genre, but once you’re put in a particular box, it’s hard to get out.  I’m not complaining, though.  I’m a horror writer first and I’ve never had a problem with the label.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
There are so many.  Charles Dickens, Sidney Sheldon, Shirley Jackson, John Irving, Charles Beaumont, Anne Tyler, Mel Brooks, Franz Kafka, Peter Straub, Daphne du Muarier, Robert Ludlum, Neil Simon, William Goldman, Dostoevsky, Harold Robbins, Stephen King, Merrill Markoe, Robert Bloch, David Martin — I could go on and on.  That’s just a few off the top of my head, in no order at all.  When it comes to things like writers, books, movies, picking a favorite has always been impossible for me.
What are you reading now?
I’m rereading Next, the last novel Michael Crichton wrote before he died and became a ghostwriter, and I just picked up Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckenridge, which I’ve never read.  It has to be better than the movie.  It has to be.  I’ve had stomach aches that were better than that movie.  And waiting in the wings, I’ve got Darrell Hammond’s memoir God, If You’re Not Up there, I’m Fucked, about his years on Saturday Night Live and his battles with addiction and all the mental and emotional fallout from a horribly abusive childhood.
Which book do you wish you had written?
Psycho comes to mind.  I finally read it for the first time last year.  It’s such a tight, spare, flawless novel, and its influence — not only on writers, but on the entire culture — is immeasurable.  But if I’d written it, of course, it would be a completely different book, and I have no doubt it wouldn’t be as good.  I don’t think Bloch ever got the credit he deserved as a writer.  The difference between Robert Bloch and most other writers is illustrated in this scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark — in which Indiana Jones is Bloch.  He wasted no words, no space on the page, his writing is lean, but it can be jarringly evocative.  He knew exactly what to leave to the reader’s imagination.  You can come away from a Bloch story or novel feeling like you’ve just read something gory and horribly explicit, even though he’s described none of it.  He could imbue a story or novel with wicked humor without being jokey or obvious about it.  And yet, credit for his most influential work usually goes to Alfred Hitchcock, who wasn’t even a writer.
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
Probably Batman.  I’ve been a Batman fan since I was a little kid and I’ve always wanted to write a Batman novel.  It would be intimidating, but fun.
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t think any writing habits are unusual because every writer goes about it differently.  I can’t write in the morning because my brain doesn’t start to function until hours after I’ve gotten up.  I usually start writing in the late afternoon, maybe early evening.  I write more on some days than on others.  People sometimes ask me how many words I write I day.  I have no idea.  When I was younger, especially in the early years of my career, I wrote much faster than I do now.  I’m pickier these days, more concerned with quality than quantity.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Sex and Violence in Hollywood.  It maybe the best writing experience I’ve ever had.  The book just flowed out of me.  And it gave me a chance to write something funny.  It’s not a horror novel, it’s a dark comedy thriller.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
You can’t please everyone.  No matter who you are or how good you are, there will always be people who hate your work.  I don’t mean people who nitpick or are simply indifferent about it, I mean people who genuinely hateyour work, and sometimes, by association, you.  There has never been a writer whose work was loved by everyone.  The sooner you embrace that fact, the easier your life as a writer will be.
What do you like to do to relax?
Read somebody else’s hard work.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last novel was Meds, and it’s been a while.  My wife lost her job in 2010 and was unemployed until December of last year, so I had to scramble and get whatever writing work I could. None of that included a novel.  It’s the longest I’ve gone without writing a novel.  Meds is a thriller about pharmaceutical drugs and the dangerous side effects they can have, which are often concealed for as long as possible by greedy pharmaceutical companies.  I’ve just started work on a new novel, but I can’t discuss it just yet.  I have a new deal with a publisher, but it’s not completely worked out and hasn’t been announced yet, so I don’t want to jump the gun.


ZOMPIRE VIXENS FROM PLUTO! is going into production with a crowdfunding and crowdsourcing campaign on Seed & Spark. Help us bring you the best in Camp, Vamp, and Mayhem and thanks!!!
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Zompire Vixens from Pluto Need You!

Zompire Vixens from Pluto!

Episode 2: The Zompire Strikes Back

After landing on the Brooklyn Bridge, our Zompires light out to complete their mission. If only they could remember exactly what that was…

Finding themselves in front of a Brooklyn watering hole, Elmyra, Roxy, and Trixie feel a bit peckish. Trixie tries to keep her superiors on task to find Dr. Von Tron, but when Elmyra puts her mind to something, nothing but clever misdirection can get in this powerhouse’s way. Happy hour turns into a funeral dirge for the poor humanoids sipping and playing pool inside. Seduction, (lots of) blood, and brainstems leave the Zompires’ first victims (un)dead.

The bored barkeep Oscar remains unaffected by the Zompires’ wily charms. The Vixens put a collar and leash on Oscar and take him as their Brooklyn guide, insisting that he take them to a phone booth. He tries to explain that phone booths have become obsolete, but the Vixens won’t be persuaded. Can he survive the most exciting night of his life?

Hey *|FNAME|*, did you know you can help the Vixens finance without contributing a cent?

No, this isn’t an infomercial or some kind of black magic (motion picture magic only here). Seed & Spark is an especially awesome site for filmmakers because people can loan items instead of actual cash. Do you have a couple of pool cues that you would like to see commemorated on screen? What about a lab coat or forensic technician’s outfit or 4?

We also have some big ticket items like production insurance and locations. If you run or work with a production company that has its own insurance policy, would you consider being an umbrella for the Vixens with an agreement that we pay any deductible or a deposit? Do you have access to a stage where we could build Pluto and possibly a bar for our big massacre scene (good times!)? Discounts work, too! Please be in touch and we’ll see how we can reflect your support in our fundraising campaign.

Click through to our ZOMPIRE VIXENS FROM PLUTO! page and check out our Wishlist. There are items big and small that can help us go into production, and we really appreciate your help! You make all of our dreams come true, and thanks so much!!!

Be Mine

Will you be mine?

The Zompires have very special plans for Valentine’s Day. Will you be all ours?

Our graphics wizard and co-producer Phaedra Strecher is now offering personalized ZOMPIRE VIXENS FROM PLUTO! Valentine’s e-cards! Donate today and let us know who that special someone is. We’ll send it out on Valentine’s Day (right after we’ve fully funded!). And don’t worry. We won’t judge if you send one to yourself. Everyone needs a little love, and these are pretty killer…

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Interview : 5 Minutes with Toby Tate

Today’s guest on the 5 Minutes with series is Toby Tate.  Toby’s latest novel Lilith, has just been published by Dark Fuse.  Lilith is a brilliant mix of action, horror, and science fiction. Toby Tate has been a writer since about the age of 12, when he first began writing short stories and publishing his own movie monster magazine. He is a freelance journalist and writer with dozens of pieces published on sites like as well as in The Pedestal Magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Scary Monsters Magazine and more.
An Air Force brat who never lived in one place more than two years, Toby joined the U.S. Navy soon after high school and ended up on the east coast. Toby has since worked as a cab driver, a pizza delivery man, a phone solicitor, a shipyard technician, a government contractor, a retail music salesman, a bookseller, a cell phone salesman, a recording studio engineer, a graphic designer and a newspaper reporter.
Toby’s first novel, DIABLERO, a supernatural thriller, was published by Nightbird Publishing in Oct. 2010. A songwriter and musician, Toby lives near the Great Dismal Swamp in northeastern North Carolina.

Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

My father was in the military, so I moved around a lot as a kid. When I became an adult, that trend continued until I joined the Navy and came to the east coast of the U.S. I’ve been here ever since. I’ve always loved telling stories, even when I was little. My cousins and I used to try to scare each other with ghost stories. When I was about twelve or so, I started writing my own short stories, mostly horror fiction, and even had my own movie monster magazine at one time. I just always seemed to gravitate towards the dark side for some reason, even though I’m a pretty optimistic and happy person. I guess the psychologists will have to figure that one out! I also grew up in a musical family and play several instruments. I write songs, mainly pop rock, and learned about studio engineering on my own. I have a couple of CDs out that you can find on my web site.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I don’t know that I particularly like any one term. They all have different connotations for me. I think that weird or dark fiction doesn’t always have to be horror, it can be weird fantasy, or dark crime fiction. My publisher, DarkFuse, uses the term “dark fiction” because they publish most any genre, as long as it’s dark, whether it’s crime fiction, thrillers, mysteries or whatever.   
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Stephen King rates up there at the top, though I don’t always agree with his politics. King knows how to bring characters to life on the page and how to tell a story in a way that drags you in and doesn’t let go. Even long, wordy books like The Stand are just mesmerizing to me. The man is a master. He is probably one of my biggest influences as a writer. I also love reading thrillers by Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, James Patterson, James Rollins, Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, Nelson DeMille, and all those guys you see on the bestseller lists, though I know that’s supposed to be passé. I don’t care – they’re good. I love the writers at DarkFuse and have read several of them – Michael McBride, William Meikle, Ronald Malfi, Greg Gifune, Alan Ryker – they have such a great stable of writers over there. I also love older works by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Rod Serling, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and I could go on forever.
What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading The Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. I just finished reading Michael McBride’s Snowblind, an excellent creature thriller.
 Which book do you wish you had written?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I guess it would have to be Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I mean, what a concept – man brings an entire species of extinct creatures back to life in the 20th century and then totally loses control of it. There’s quite a lesson in there for us. I think that book should be considered a classic.
If you could use any other author’s creation in your own work, who or what would you use?
I’d like to do a story where Hunter and Lisa Singleton, the two main protagonists in Lilith, end up meeting Scot Harvath from one of Brad Thor’s books, or maybe Mitch Rapp from one of Vince Flynn’s books. It would be kind of funny, actually, because Hunter is such a smartass, they would get along perfectly. Or they might kill each other. Who knows?
Describe typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I usually get up and get my daughter started with her home school after breakfast, then check my email, check the social media and see what’s going on with my books. Then I look over what I wrote the day before and start plugging away at the next chapter. I wouldn’t say I have any unusual habits, other than the fact my home office is in a closet. It does have a window, though, so I can look out at the world and get inspired. Right now, I’m watching it snow.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
That would probably be my latest novel, LILITH. I did so much research and so many stops and starts on the manuscript, I’m just happy that I actually finished it!
What is the hardest lesson you have learned with regards to your writing?
Probably the fact that there’s no such thing as an overnight success. I wrote for small magazines, websites, blogs, newspapers and everywhere else before I got my first book published by a very small, but awesome publisher called Nightbird. I must have sent out a hundred queries before I finally got my first offer. It can be pretty discouraging. But I decided I wasn’t going to give up until it happened, and eventually, it did.
What do you like to do to relax?
Believe it or not, I usually read! I love spending time with my family, going to the beach, going shopping, to a movie, a museum or whatever. If I’m not doing that, I’m watching a DVD movie or playing music. I rarely watch TV. Except for Sponge Bob.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book, which was also my first, was a story about a married couple who get mixed up with a supernatural being called Diablero, which is also the name of the book. An underwater archaeologist discovers the wreck of an old ship called the Adventure, the command ship of Blackbeard the pirate. What they don’t know is that the bones of Blackbeard himself are resting near the ship, and someone has used an ancient spell to bring them to life. But the bones are also inhabited by a demon, the Diablero, who has plans of his own. He eventually becomes fully human, and has terrifying supernatural powers. For instance, the Diablero, which is an old Sonoran Indian legend, can change itself into an animal. A group of people, including Hunter and Lisa, are trying to stop him from opening the gates to another dimension and releasing all sorts of nasty demons. It’s kind of H.P. Lovecraft-ish, but it’s also an adventure that follows Blackbeard and his pursuers from North Carolina to South Carolina to the Caribbean. It’s a lot of fun.
I just finished writing two books: a horror novella and a young adult sci-fi thriller. The novella is about a lawyer who inherits an ancient prayer rug from his father, who was mysteriously burned to death in his own back yard. Soon, he is having bizarre dreams and visions and the people around him start dying as he begins to realize that there is a dark, malevolent force at work within the carpet. You’ll never look at prayer rugs the same way again! I’m waiting to hear back from DarkFuse on that one.
The sci-fi thriller is about a 16-year-old physics prodigy named Chloe Johansson who is attending MIT when her father, a physicist at the CERN labs in Switzerland, suddenly goes missing. He was one of the scientists who discovered the Higgs boson, also known as the God Particle, and he has invented a device that allows the human brain to tap into the particle itself. It’s a pretty wild ride that goes from Boston to Geneva, Washington D.C., Iran, Israel and back to D.C. There are a lot of bizarre surprises in there that I think people will find pretty cool. I had fun writing that one and it’s set to be published by Crossroad Press, who publishes books by Steven Savile, Tom Piccirlli and other great authors.
If you would like more info on me or my books, just go to my Amazon Page. 
Thanks for the interview, Jim, it has been an honour!
Check out my review of Lilith here, and if you like the sound of it please think about purchasing the book by clicking the link below