Book 25 in the Short Sharp Shocks! is Kevin M. Folliard’s Candy Corn. Prior to publication (26th July) Dean and Kevin sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Kevin, can you tell your readers something about Candy Corn?
KEVIN M. FOLLIARD: I always write a Halloween horror story in October and a Christmas horror story in December. Candy Corn started out as a vague premise and quickly shaped into an image of the title character. The rest of the story kind of fell into place around her as I explored what she was doing and why she was doing it. For me, this story is mostly about how people cope with grief. [The character of] Blake deals with the loss of his father by diving into a fictional show that they shared. That works as a coping mechanism, but it unfortunately also makes him vulnerable to his captor. Mrs Cornfield, as the reader eventually learns, has a different kind of grief for failed expectations from her marriage and family. There’s a kind of desperation in how people cope with loss, and that comes alive for everyone involved in this literal desperate situation too. As a holiday story, it also interested me how Halloween reflected the desires of the characters, how they’re all in some way trying to ‘dress up’ or force alternate identities or alternate realities, and how sinking into those roles can work either for or against them.
DP: I definitely agree with what you say about the characters dealing with their grief (obviously in different ways) and believe you have been very successful in that. Did you face any particular challenges when writing the story?
KMF: First and foremost, Candy Corn ended up being a much longer story that I had set out to write, so that’s always kind of a blessing and a curse. It’s also essentially one long, sustained scene, much like a one-act, one-set theatrical play. While that’s true to the situation Blake is in, as an author, you also have to keep that interesting, so the reader isn’t getting tired of being trapped in a basement the whole time. As the story came together, I found myself taking inspiration from Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which has very strong characters and dialogue that help keep the audience riveted. I tried to think of the story a bit like a play, and ask myself, “Will a reader want to sit through this whole story in one sitting?”
DP: I love Albee’s work! I was lucky to see Patrick Stewart in Woolf – outstanding performance and Eddie Redmayne in The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? He was sublime...is any of Candy Corn based on events in your own life?
KMF: Fortunately, nothing quite like this has happened to me! However, I do identify with some aspects of the characters. I can appreciate Blake’s struggles with loss and being one of the ‘outsider’ kids. I think Blake is a creative kid who tends to dive into amateur film projects and his fan-boy obsessions, which I certainly did a lot of growing up. I can even relate to Mrs Cornfield’s shattered life expectations regarding marriage and family, but luckily, I haven’t gone down quite as dark a path as a result!
DP: For those readers who aren’t yet familiar with your work, would you say you have a specific writing style?
KMF: I think I tend to have more of a lean and direct style of prose, so at times I struggle with knowing when it’s time to slow down and paint a scene, a moment, or an action more vividly. Having test readers is a really important part of my process, because it gets me outside my head and shows me what readers see. I’m lucky to have two excellent writers groups in my community that helped a lot with this story in particular.
DP: That really helps some writers...which authors / books influenced you?
KMF: My favorite book is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. I really admire Tolkien’s world-building and that book’s brisk, adventurous tone. I think Stephen King would probably be my ‘writer mentor.’ King’s ideas on writing really resonate with me. I like his analogy of a story as a “found artifact,” in which the writer is excavating and preserving it in words, but not quite in control of what it is.
DP: I’ve said in other interviews that (sadly) I’m not a MASSIVE fan of King but when I like a book I can’t get enough of it...The Dark Half is definitely my favourite...so, what’s next for you?
KMF: I have a number of projects in development. I’m currently seeking a home for a dark fantasy novella that’s my own twisted take on the Rapunzel ‘maiden in the tower’ story. I also have a sci-fi novel set in my New Pangea world, about a society of raiders who train carnivorous dinosaurs to attack other human settlements.
DP: They definitely sound intriguing, especially the Rapunzel novella – well up my street! With a number of projects on, would you say you suffer from writer’s block?
KMF: Definitely! Perhaps the hardest part about writing is actually forcing yourself to sit down and do it. I always tell people to take the Nike ‘Just Do It’ approach to writing. Nobody else is going to force you to write but you, and you have to accept that it’s almost never going to come out perfect.
DP: So you would outline before you start or just go for it?
KMF: Usually have a combined approach. Outlines can be very helpful, but for fiction writing, you don’t want to box yourself in too much. Part of the fun is exploring where the story can go, and where the characters might take you. For a longer story, I usually have a basic outline in my head, but I try to let it ebb, flow, and adapt. For example, I knew much of what was going to happen in Candy Corn, and I let myself brainstorm and outline chunks of the story, but I was not quite sure how it would end until I got there. The longer the story, the more it helps to have a road map, but you’ve got to let yourself explore surprises along the way.
DP: I think what you said about ‘boxing yourself in’ is so true...do you have a favourite theme or genre?
KMF: I really appreciate horror as a genre, as well as speculative fiction at large, because it lets us safely explore dangerous, terrifying, or bizarre situations or ideas, and then vicariously process the human behaviour and emotion that stem from them. I think for being considered ‘outlandish’ genres, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror have so many relevant insights about human nature, and a lot of people dismiss them as ‘not realistic.’ For me, it’s the ‘unusual’ that heightens the ‘real’ part. From Candy Corn, I learned quite a bit about the inner workings of a fog machine! But more importantly, it was a good chance to dive into the nature of grief and loss, which is a theme that comes up in a lot of my stories.
DP: Having recently worked with a fog machine I have also become somewhat of an expert on the inner workings. Okay, I’m a film producer, pitch me Candy Corn as a movie.
KMF: Lured into sociopathic Candy Cornfield’s Halloween dungeon, 13-year-old Blake must play her strange games and use his imagination to escape--before he becomes just another frozen head in her freezer.
DP: Yeap, I’d greenlight that! If you were writing a synopsis for a newspaper...how would that go?
KMF: On Halloween, 13-year-old outcast Blake is lured into the home of the sociopathic Candy Cornfield and her lobotomized husband Carl. Chained to the wall in the Cornfields' basement dungeon, Blake must act out the role of Candy’s ideal fantasy son, play her strange party games, and use his limited resources to regain his freedom--before he ends up like the frozen head in the freezer.
DP: And finally, can you tell us something surprising about you?
KMF: I really love to travel and recently completed my goal of visiting all fifty US states.
Well done Kevin, thanks for your time and all the best with Candy Corn!
If you would like to connect with Kevin direct:
Author Website: http://www.kevinfolliard.com/
Book 24 in the Short Sharp Shocks! Series is Richard Meldrum’s The Plague. Prior to publication Dean and Richard sat down and chewed the cud...
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Richard, can you tell us a little about The Plague and what was your motivation for writing it.
R.J. MELDRUM: Hi. Sure. The story is set in early 20th century Russia, in a small, isolated rural village. The children in the village are suffering from a mysterious plague and the village doctor and priest set out to investigate. The story is set during what I’ve called a dry winter – a period of unseasonal warmth that occurs once in a blue moon. I had the idea for the dry winter first, then the rest of the story just flowed from that. The Russian setting was something I opted to do, but it seemed to fit. I wanted the village to be completely isolated.
DP: It certainly seemed isolated and reminded me of a recent film shoot where we were in the Highlands of Scotland and I believe the nearest shop was over 17 miles away...no phone signal either anything could have happened (and has provided inspiration for a new story!). What were your challenges when writing The Plague?
RJM: The Russian naming convention was one, but it was interesting to learn about them. The other was not mentioning a certain word and leaving it to the readers’ imaginations to work out the type of creature that was causing the plague.
DP: Indeed, I was aware of that and think you were successful...when you wrote the story were any of the characters based on you or events in your own life?
RJM: My day job is a scientist, so if a story has that type of character (scientist, doctor etc.) I usually end up projecting some of myself into those characters. In this case, the character I feel ‘closest’ to is probably Smirnov, the village doctor. Thankfully, the story isn’t based on my own life.
DP: Thankfully indeed! Would you say you have a specific writing style?
RJM: I’d like to think that I have a distinctive style that is recognisable to readers. I don’t try to write in any particular horror theme, and instead I write about many different dark fiction topics. I find writing enjoyable, even the editing; it’s still a novelty to me that I can develop an idea, write the story and get it accepted and published!
DP: You deserve the accolades...who would you say influenced you...
RJM: Like most dark fiction writers who grew up in the UK in the 70s and 80s, the first books I bought were Stephen King and James Herbert. In recent years, I’ve been collecting stories and books from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I also have an interest in history and that is reflected in some of my writing. In terms of influence, MR James and Basil Copper spring to mind. Copper was a brilliant short story writer and his story The House by the Tarn is one of the best short stories ever written (in my opinion).
DP: And you’re entitled to it! So, what next, can you share any of your current / future projects?
RJM: [2019 is] turning out to be a busy year for me. My stories are appearing in a number of anthologies being published this year and I’ve also just been asked to join The Pen of the Damned group – a group of authors who post stories on The Pen of the Damned website in rotation. And of course, I’m immensely proud and flattered to be part of the SSS! series.
DP: Many thanks...you ever suffer from the dreaded writer’s block?
RJM: Yes, not that frequently, but yes. When it happens, I just ‘walk away’ from the story and let it ferment in my mind. Sometimes a solution presents itself, sometimes not.
DP: So you work from an outline?
RJM: I usually just go for it – I normally know in my mind how the story will work, but I never write an outline.
DP: Fair enough – favourite genre, horror I presume?
RJM: I [actually] don’t have a favourite genre – other than the broad theme of dark fiction, and even then, some of my stories have happy endings.
DP: So, pitch me The Plague if it was going to be a film.
RJM: In an isolated Russian village, children are being affected by a strange disease. The priest and doctor realise they will have to battle a supernatural monster to destroy this curse.
DP: And if someone was writing a synopsis for a magazine...
RJM: In a small, isolated Russian village, nestled in the foothills of the Ural Mountains, children are being struck down with a strange new disease during an unseasonal dry winter. The village priest and local doctor soon discover the cause of this plague and realise they will not only have to battle a supernatural monster, but the villagers themselves, to free the village from the curse.
DP: Brilliant – finally, can you tell me something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
RJM: One of the more unusual aspects of my non-writing life is that my wife and I own a recreational kennel of sled dogs. We currently have 19 Siberian huskies and husky mixes. I compete and participate in a number of sled dog races and events during the winter months, running either a four dog or a six dog team.
WOW! Now that sounds exciting – thank you for your time and all the best for the book.
If readers would like to connect direct with Richard:
Facebook: richard.meldrum.79 (Facebook)
Dean recently compiled / edited an Industrial Horror anthology for Snowbooks - it's out on the 1st August and features brilliant stories by:
Dean M. Drinkel
(with a foreword by Steven Savile)
It's available in both paperback and kindle.
Here's the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Industrial-Horror-Anthology-Edited-Drinkel/dp/1911390716/
What is industrial horror? Is it smoke stacks and gas towers? Is it the metal cranes of the shipyards turned golem? The stuff of our nightmares has been evolving since the industrial revolution and the rise of the machines. Machines aren't our friends. We were told they would bring freedom and leisure time, three day weeks and the like, but what they brought was redundancy, replacement, and the scrap heaps of life. How can you not look for horror in something capable of so much wholesale destruction of hope? And that's what's waiting for you in here, the wholesale destruction of hope at the hands of twisted industrial landscapes, smoke stacks and gas towers and metal golems that have no souls, no spirits, and can so easily drape themselves in our skins and walk in our shoes, doing everything we can do, faster, and with ruthless efficiency, removing the need for us. Thats the world these stories live in, and its a bleak place.
(more about snowbooks can be found at: www.snowbooks.com)
Dean was interviewed recently by Trevor for issue 10 of Phantasmagoria. Here's the blurb (and link!):
"Bumper summer special! Featuring interviews with Richard O'Brien (Rocky Horror and The Crystal Maze), fantasy artist Jim Pitts, writers/publishers David A. Riley, David A. Sutton and Dean M. Drinkel, and Australian film maker Sarah Stephenson. Features on George R.R. Martin, The Twilight Zone, Universal monsters, Planet of the Apes and The Matrix. Original fiction, reviews, Dr. Dave and more!"
Check out Yolanda's website where she talks a little about her upcoming Short Sharp Shocks! Breaking The Habit (Number 27).
Here's the link:
Out on all the Amazons - here's the UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forfeit-Tissue-Short-Sharp-Shocks-ebook/dp/B07VB4QP7W/
Out now on all the Amazons - here's the UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breaking-Habit-Short-Sharp-Shocks-ebook/dp/B07V9ZJGG5/
Available on the Amazons - here's the UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elixir-Short-Sharp-Shocks-Book-ebook/dp/B07VD6RV2C/
Now available on the Amazons for pre-sales. Here's the UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Candy-Corn-Short-Sharp-Shocks-ebook/dp/B07V9H5LSD/
Now available on Amazon for pre-sales. Here's the UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Plague-Short-Sharp-Shocks-Book-ebook/dp/B07V9VZGB1
And only 99p!