An Interview with Horror Novelist Alistair Cross

“The idea for this book hit me hard and fast, and the characters came at me full-force, demanding that their stories be told.”

–Alistair Cross on writing Sleep, Savannah, Sleep

Q: Tell me about Haunted Nights LIVE and what inspired you to start this radio show? How can people listen in?

Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! came about when the show’s producer, Pam Stack, approached me via Facebook, asking if my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I would be interested in hosting a weekly horror-themed show. Haunted Nights LIVE! is part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network which has more than 3 million listeners worldwide…so naturally, I said y

es without hesitation.

Through Haunted Nights LIVE! I’ve met some of the most fascinating people alive today and I don’t take that for granted. Many of the guests we talk to each week are authors I grew up reading and loving, the ones who inspired me to become a writer. And I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a part of this show because it allows me to spend time with many of the writers who will be remembered hundreds of years from now.

Listeners can check out the show at our Facebook page: Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights Live! Or at the guest page on my website: Allistaircross.com.

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Q: What would you say is the best thing about hosting Haunted Nights LIVE?

Meeting my heroes. Through Haunted Nights LIVE!, I’ve met folks like Laurell K. Hamilton, Andrew Neiderman (V.C. Andrews), John Saul, Charlaine Harris, Preston & Child, Kim Harrison, Christopher Rice, and The Walking Dead author, Jay Bonansinga, just to name a few. Getting to know these great writers is a pleasure beyond anything I could have imagined.

SavannahCoverQ: So, Sleep, Savannah, Sleep is your latest novel. What inspired you to write this book? What do you want your readers to take away from reading your work?

The inspiration for Sleep, Savannah, Sleep came from no place I can identify. It was one of those ideas that struck late one night as I was trying to fall asleep. I just began wondering, “What if,” and as these things often go, I was up for the rest of the night plotting it out, and by the time the sun was rising, I had the book mapped out in its entirety–which has never happened before. Usually, plotting happens as I go along, but this time, it came to me all at once, fully-formed.

The main thing I want readers to get from my work is entertainment. I want them to enjoy spending time in the world I’ve created, with the characters I’ve come to love so much myself. My only real goal as a writer is to pull readers into the story and make them a part of it.

Q: How long did it take to finish writing, Sleep, Savannah, Sleep?

Unlike my previous works, which often take between nine and fifteen months to complete, the first draft of Sleep, Savannah, Sleep was written in just 25 days! The idea for this book hit me hard and fast, and the characters came at me full-force, demanding that their stories be told. As a result, I pulled many, many all-nighters, sometimes writing well into morning the next day. This, of course, created a strong need for serious revisions later, but it’s very first telling came out in under a month.

Q: Did you do any special research or take any literary trips to finish Sleep, Savannah, Sleep?

While I often end up doing some minor traveling for research, Sleep, Savannah, Sleep did not require me to leave my writing studio. But I did have many conversations with a massage therapist, an attorney, and someone in the cemetery business, all of whom were instrumental in helping me get my facts straight–and all of whom were incredibly generous with their time and very kind to me.

Q: Did you consider any alternate endings for Sleep, Savannah, Sleep?

No, because the ending was the first thing I knew when I began plotting out this book. For me, it couldn’t have ended in any other way–which is not to say that at certain times along the way, I didn’t wish I could change things. Sometimes, the villains grow on you and you want to absolve them of guilt…but no, there was no way Sleep, Savannah, Sleep could have taken a different turn. I think the difference with this book is that it’s a whodunit–and that requires knowing the ending from the very beginning.

“The characters know themselves–and the story–better than I, and it’s only when I set them free that the narrative comes to full life.”

Q: What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Without question, the absolute worst advice I was ever given was to never allow my characters to take full control of the story. I was told to “keep them on a tight leash,” and always “insist they do my bidding.” I have since learned otherwise. The characters know themselves–and the story–better than I, and it’s only when I set them free that the narrative comes to full life.

Q: What does your “writer’s studio” look like or where do you feel most inspired to write?

My “writer’s studio” is a tall corner desk in a bedroom surrounded by plants, my favorite framed paintings, and all the books I love the most. As for feeling inspired to write, I don’t believe in waiting for that. I don’t want to be at the mercy of such a fickle emotion as inspiration, and instead, I set writing hours and am militant about spending that time writing and I protect that time fiercely.

Q: When you’re not writing, what do you do? How do you spend your spare time?

The truth is that I really don’t have much spare time at all, but when I do, I like to go driving aimlessly, stereo blaring, the open road ahead. There are also a few shows on Netflix I enjoy watching.

Q: How do you choose names for your characters?

The very weird–but very real–truth of it is, I don’t. The characters tell me their names, and if I try to change them, the characters simply stop working for me. It’s a strange phenomenon, but until I “know” their names, the story just doesn’t work–and, apparently, it isn’t for me to decide what they should be named.

Q: In your opinion, which is the greatest book ever written and if you could choose to, would you live it out?

Violin by Anne Rice. And no, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I don’t have that much guts.

Q: Of all the characters you’ve created, which would you say is your favorite?

I will always have a particular fondness for Gretchen VanTreese, the four-foot-eleven, blonde-haired villain in my vampire novel, The Crimson Corset. She’s wicked in delicious ways and I can’t wait to get back to her.

Q: If you could turn one of your books into a movie, which would it be and who would play the leading character?

I think The Angel Alejandro would make a good movie because it would have to be pretty visually stimulating. And I’d like to see all those quirky townspeople committing their many nefarious little crimes in the flesh. But as for who would play any of them, I wouldn’t dare say. Books and movies are such different entities that I feel it’s best to leave casting to the casting directors, who have a far better idea of what they’re doing than I would.

Q: Where do you think the publishing industry will be in 5 years? What would you change if you could?

I have no idea, but I firmly believe in changing with the times, so wherever it may end up, I’ll be there.

Q: How can readers stay connected with you and stay up-to-date on what you’re working on?

The best way to stay up-to-date on my upcoming work is to join the Thorne & Cross monthly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/ckaBrr.

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Stay updated on Alistair’s work by going to his website: alistaircross.com. Need something chilling? Tune in to Haunted Nights Live!

-E

Your Halloween Read: Satan’s Fan Club by Mark Kirkbride

I’d like to start by saying that I had a lot of fun reading this book! Five big fat stars !

5

If you’re looking for a Halloween read, this is a great choice. This would definitely be a good book club pick because there’s plenty to talk about and when you learn about a few secrets, you’re going to want to talk to a friend.I even got on Twitter to see if anyone else was reading it because I wanted to share about the part I had just gotten to but wasn’t successful.

The way Kirkbride wrote the transitioning scenes kept me turning pages; I was dying to know what would happen to the characters next!  This would also be a great pick for someone looking to write a screen play. Maybe Kirkbride will be open to it.  Kirkbride has drama peppered all over the place, outside of the fact that the devil is hanging around town inviting people into his group/club and people are being picked off by a serial killer.

I think the most scandalous part of the story is the fact that the sinners in this book should be the saints.There’s forbidden love, dancing with the devil (literally), hypocrisy, and family secrets. Now, as with my other reviews, if you want the grand experience, read the book yourself! Don’t count on me for spoilers.  I will say a few things though. When you find out what’s going on beneath the layers of that family–a family that outwardly shines with Christian Doomsday light–your jaw will drop. Or maybe you’ll be a little sad like I was. I actually felt bad for the father in the story sometimes because his son, James, could be a plain jerk.  The scene where the high-ranking police officer comes to their house for a meal will make you want to slap James for being so rude. Sure, it’s natural to have a separate mainstream opinion and no one likes hypocrites, but did he have to embarrass his dad like that? The whole scene I was screaming, “oh my god, shut up James! Stop airing out that dirty laundry!” in my head. The little sister, Harriet, is pretty isolated, too. Everyone is so busy shacking up where they shouldn’t or putting on a face to hide what they’re doing, no wonder Harriet starts talking to mysterious shadow figures in her room instead of flipping out like a normal person. She has to talk to someone and since no one else really pays her any attention, she finds someone who will. When you find out who she’s really talking to, you’re going to be repulsed. I was caught off guard and I was disgusted.

The overarching question in this book is very deep: what are you willing to do to be happy and at what price? I actually thought about it for a while after reading Satan’s Fan Club. I’m still processing it. If I were put in James and Louise’s situation, what would I have chosen? First of all, if Nick kept popping up on me like that at the club (he pops up like a ghost) I wouldn’t have stayed long enough to even get an offer, but let’s pretend for a second that the question applies to me (hahaha). James and Louise are put in an impossible, unnatural situation but is it worth doing what Nick/Satan asks of them? This time, the “no chance in hell” idiom doesn’t apply, because there is a chance in hell. Who’s to say?

Buy a copy hereLearn more about Mark Kirkbride by visiting his website at http://markkirkbride.com/ and follow him on Twitter @markkirkbride! If you enjoyed this book, he’s writing another story about the apocalypse, coming out TBD. Check out his interview with me.

– E

An Interview With Mark Kirkbride, Expert Writer of Scary Stories


Mark Kirkbride had me entranced early in his book, Satan’s Fan Club. After a few pages into a Kindle sample of his book, I knew I had to get in touch with him. Disturbing, dark, entertaining, and exceptionally well-written, Kirkbride is ready to take you into his personal nightmare.

“The man’s pajamas and woman’s nightdress are damp. The bed likewise. That is sopping. Because, visible through the slashed covers, the bone-deep wounds that criss-cross the couple’s bodies pump blood. Some of the flaps of skin resulting from glancing blows are like gills, breathing. Yet even as the cries die away, he carries on. Chop. Chop. Chop“.

If you thought that excerpt was disturbing and twisted, there’s plenty more in Satan’s Fan Club! I’m not surprised that it’s hit #187 in its genre for Kindle books. Trust me, you can afford the less than $5 to get a Kindle copy! It’s available here.

markkirkbride2Q: What inspired you to write this book? 

The inspiration for the book was someone telling me she’d met a person who could get people to do whatever he wanted, which provided me with the idea for the Devil character the twins meet at a nightclub. The title (originally The Devil’s Fan Club) provided the rest of the impetus for the book and then I was off and running. What would such a club be like? What could the name mean?

Q: What challenges did you have while writing it?

I wasn’t particularly trying to write fantasy but some of the situations and characters did tend in that direction, so probably the greatest challenge was grounding it all in reality–judging just the right degree of ballast to keep and how much to jettison.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from reading your book(s)?

Without wanting to give too much away, this book probably demonstrates the importance of thinking for oneself and not necessarily taking things on trust.

Q: If you could live in the story of a book, which one would you live in? 

I’d quite like to live in a Philip K. Dick novel with the future coming at me and questioning everything.

Q:  When you’re not writing what do you do?

I have a day job. I like anything to do with the arts, which usually involves heading into the city, but I also like getting out into the countryside, which means heading the other way again. I’ve also got a serious reading habit.

Q: What else have you written? What else do you write? 

I wrote a couple of novels before this one along with a children’s book. I also write short stories and poetry. At the moment I’m working on a novel about the end of the world, set next Tuesday.

Q: What’s your “writer studio” like or where do you feel inspired to write?

We used to live in a studio flat and I used to write with the television on in the background but since moving a few years ago I’ve had my own office. It’s very small and mostly contains books but it’s good to have a dedicated writing space.

Q: Of all the characters you have written, do you have a favorite?

I quite like Nick, the Devil character in Satan’s Fan Club, and I’m also very fond of the twins, despite what they get up to. As Hemingway said, “All things truly wicked start from innocence.”

Q: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer and how long have you been writing professionally?

I knew that I wanted to be a writer when I was at school. It started off with song lyrics, moved on to poetry and then burgeoned into novels but it’s all been a very gradual process with many years of apprenticeship. I’d already had poetry and shorter work published but Satan’s Fan Club was my first published novel.

Q: Where do you think book publishing will be in 10 years from now?

The full effects of the digital revolution’s shake-up of the publishing industry should all be clear by then. Hopefully publishing will survive in its present forms, perhaps with a few new ones. I would be extremely sad to see print fade away, yet I don’t really believe that it will.


Learn more about Mark Kirkbride by visiting his website at http://markkirkbride.com/ and follow him on Twitter @markkirkbride!

Thanks to Mark for providing a picture. With that being said, no one’s allowed to use it without permission. Stay tuned for his next book about the end of the world, I know I will!

-E