Interview with Katie Slivensky for the #17DABash

2017 Debut Authors Bash Banner


Author Katie Slivensky

Katie Slivensky is an educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does presentations with alligators and liquid nitrogen (not usually at the same time), and runs the rooftop observatory program. Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her online at, and follow her on Twitter at @paleopaws.





Before we get to the interview, let me start by saying that I absolutely loved The Countdown Conspiracy. It was a fast-paced, interesting book with a great premise and enough action that I couldn’t look away from it! There are times when you read a MG book, and you just think “Yes, this is going to be big” and that’s the feeling I had about The Countdown Conspiracy. I highly recommend it to everyone reading this! And if you want to win a copy, look for the rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post!

Talking with Katie Slivensky

Sci-Fi & Scary: What do you love most about science fiction?

Katie Slivensky: I like that it gives people a chance to explore what could be possible. It takes where we’re at now in society and technology, and imagines where that could go—for good or for ill. And well done sci-fi remembers that people are at the heart of the story, no matter how exciting the setting or plot might be.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What are your three most favorite science fiction books?

Katie Slivensky: This is such a difficult question! I think I have to include A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, since that book influenced me so much as an elementary school student. My other strong sci-fi influence as a kid was Star Wars, so for my 2nd choice I’ll pick the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole, which I read over and over through middle school. And finally, I’ll pick one of my favorite sci-fi reads of 2017—Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy by Gareth Wronski. Such an incredibly fun and imaginative read!


Sci-Fi & Scary: You’re a science educator at the Museum of Science. I can only imagine how neat that job is. What is your favorite aspect of your job?

Katie Slivensky: My favorite part of my job is getting people of all ages excited about something in science that they may have never encountered or considered before. I teach with things ranging from tiny adorable tree frogs to massive digital, fly-through models of the entire universe. And through all of that, I get to witness the spark of curiosity occur daily. I consider myself truly lucky.


Sci-Fi & Scary: On your site, you have a weekly science video. How do you choose them?

Katie Slivensky: It’s completely by whim! It might be something featured in the news recently, like a new discovery about a planet, or it might be something that I’d been thinking about through the week, like how amazing superconductors are. Sometimes I get a little silly with it, like when I posted a video featuring nightjars because I got that animal as my Patronus on Pottermore. Lately, I’ve been featuring videos from a YouTube channel I adore: Science with Sophie ( It’s science + comedy for kids, and it’s so clever and fun I wish everyone would watch it!


Sci-Fi & Scary: Your profile mentions that you got interested in astronomy when you started working in the museum. Do you remember what exactly it was that hooked you?

Katie Slivensky: I’ve always enjoyed looking up at the night sky. When I started at the Museum and had the opportunity to actually learn the science behind what I was seeing at night, I jumped at it. It was an entirely new realm of knowledge to learn, and I love learning so I soaked it all up like a sponge. I felt so empowered the first time I stepped outside and could point out the location of Jupiter and Mars to my friends. It feels like secret knowledge, but in reality is knowledge anyone can gain! I highly recommend getting into amateur astronomy.


Sci-Fi & Scary: You mentioned in your research that you’ve got to meet a few people involved with NASA, as well as get to have a ‘blast-off’ experience. This all sounds amazing! I have to ask – would you jump at the chance to ride the Vomit Comet if you could?

Katie Slivensky: Absolutely! I’d probably vomit, but it’d be worth it.


Sci-Fi & Scary: When did you first get the idea for The Countdown Conspiracy?

Katie Slivensky: It came from a group of kids who got incredibly excited during one of my astronomy lessons about the idea that their generation would likely be the generation to go to Mars. That got me thinking…could I write a story that captures that excitement?


Sci-Fi & Scary: How long did The Countdown Conspiracy take to write (from start to finish) one you got your first outline and/or draft done?

Katie Slivensky: First draft took just under a year to really come together. From start to finish, the entire process took about 4 years of work before I submitted the final manuscript in 2016. I think it was 12 or 13 full drafts to get to the final version!


Sci-Fi & Scary: How much of you is in The Countdown Conspiracy’s main character Miranda Regent?

Katie Slivensky: Miranda worries that she wasn’t meant to be in this special astronaut program. That she isn’t good enough. I was always pegged as a “smart” kid and put into advanced and honors classes growing up. However, my classmates all seemed to naturally “get it” when it came to our school work, while I didn’t. So I had to work super hard to keep up and constantly felt like I was an idiot and didn’t belong. But in the end, the fact that I was a hard worker is what has gotten me to where I am in life more than anything else, so I wanted to emphasize that with Miranda…and hopefully demonstrate it to other young overachievers.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Where you connected with Curiosity, I fell in love with Spirit and Opportunity. I loved Ruby.  Ruby feels like an ode to all of them. I have to admit that her part in the story (I don’t want to say more in case people haven’t read the book!) made me tear up.  Did you know from early on that she was going to end up playing such an important role, or did her part take on a life of its own?

Katie Slivensky: To avoid spoilers, I’ll simply say Spirit and Opportunity did indeed inspire a lot of Ruby’s story arc in addition to Curiosity. I love those rovers, too—seeing as I first got into astronomy in the 2009-2010 era, their influence is undeniable. 😉 However, when I first started writing this book in 2012, Miranda didn’t have a robot. Then, a couple weeks before Curiosity landed on Mars, I woke up one day and it all just hit me out of the blue: Miranda is a roboticist. She has a robot she built named Ruby. And I knew right then and there what role Ruby would play. So even though Ruby wasn’t originally in the story, the moment she was conceived her whole arc burst into existence with her.


Sci-Fi & Scary: I have to ask – with the way The Countdown Conspiracy ended – are you planning on writing a follow-up to it at some point?

Katie Slivensky: Never say never! But at this moment, there are no plans for sequels. It’s all in the hands of my readers now to decide what happens next.


Sci-Fi & Scary: On Goodreads, there’s another book listed from you – The Seismic Seven  – with a release date of June 2018. The synopsis of it is up on your website, but not Goodreads yet. Will this be similar in general feel to The Countdown Conspiracy? (emphasis on teamwork, not giving up, etc)

Katie Slivensky: In many ways, yes! The themes of working together and not giving up despite facing incredible odds are strong throughout THE SEISMIC SEVEN, as is the purposeful weaving of factual science throughout the story. There are some differences in other parts, though. I think SEISMIC focuses more on taking responsibility and wrestling with faith in humanity to a higher degree than COUNTDOWN. It’s also, in general, more unapologetically an action-adventure movie in the form of a book. 🙂 After all, the tagline is: Seven kids. One supervolcano. One chance to save the world.         

Thank you so much for hosting me on Sci-Fi and Scary! I hope everyone has a great holiday season!



Book cover for The Countdown ConspiracyTitle: THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s

Release date: August 1st, 2017

Blurb: Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

****A Junior Library Guild Selection: Fall 2017****




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Book cover for Seismic SevenTitle: THE SEISMIC SEVEN

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s

Release date: June 5th, 2018

Blurb: Brianna Dobson didn’t plan to spend her summer saving the planet from total destruction. But what starts as an educational experience shadowing geologist Dr. Samantha Grier in Yellowstone National Park quickly becomes a race to stop a massive volcanic eruption the likes of which the humanity has never seen.

Seven kids. One supervolcano. One chance to save the world.



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Indie Zone: Talking with Anthony Vicino

Interview with Anthony Vicino Banner

Picture of Anthony VicinoAnthony Vicino writes the sort of whizz, bang, boom Science Fiction and Fantasy that features characters getting themselves into (and then usually out of) death-defying scenarios with an over-abundance of snark and questionable decision making. In addition to writing fiction, Anthony reviews books, interviews some of the hottest SFF authors around, and gives general writing advice over at



Talking with Anthony Vicino

Sci-Fi & Scary: Mind Breach is the second book in your Firstborn Saga. Please tell our readers a little about the series! Who is the optimal audience? How many books are planned for the series? Could Mind Breach be read as a standalone or must you read the first book?

Anthony Vicino: The Firstborn Saga is a future-flung cyberpunk adventure set in a technologically sophisticated world pulling itself back together after a near-extinction level war. Book one  (Time Heist) follows a former-Detective on one last mission to find his wife’s murderer. Along the way, he uncovers a secret that threatens to disrupt the delicate balance upon which their civilization is poised. Book two (Mind Breach) picks up with what happens when that secret gets out.

The Firstborn Saga is for anybody who loves lightning fast action, gritty heroes, and dark wit. If Blade Runner meets Die Hard perks your literary interest, than this might be the series for you.

Readers would definitely be best served by jumping into Time Heist first.


Sci-Fi & Scary: How much of you is in your main characters?

Anthony Vicino: Besides the crippling drug addiction, I wish I was more like the main character (Tom Mandel) from Time Heist. He’s everything I’m not… except snarky. We’re both pretty damn snarky.

Sci-Fi & Scary: You mention on your website that your dad use to pay you 10 cents a word for your short stories, and that you quickly became a friend of adverbs. The tone of the preceding text makes me think you’ve left that compulsion behind, but, just in case, how would you describe your current writing style?

Anthony Vicino:  Adverby. Super adverby.

Wait, no… I mean, not adverby. Definitely not adverby.

These days I strive hard for ‘invisible prose’. Meaning the writing should never draw the reader’s attention. Some writers fire off round after round of beautiful, provocative prose (which is great), but that’s not me. I want the reader immersed in the story. I’m light on description and expositional chunks which means my stories tend to read quite quick.


Sci-Fi & Scary: When did you first get the idea for the Firstborn Saga? How long did it take you from there to actually writing it? And how long did it take you to finish the first book?

Anthony Vicino: The Firstborn Saga started as a short story originally called Time Snatch (a horrible name my fans have given me endless crap for over the years), which revolved entirely around a singular scene of badassery. At the time I was actually working on an Epic Fantasy series called Gods and Children, but fans were so psyched on Time Snatch and wanting more of that world that I took a step back and said, “Well, okay… is there more story here to tell?” As it turned out…there was. There was lots and lots more.

Sci-Fi & Scary: I am very, very glad you listened to your fans about the name!

Sci-Fi & Scary: Was Mind Breach harder or easier to write than Time Heist?

Anthony Vicino: Mind Breach was significantly harder to write.  I birthed Time Heist before fully fleshing out the long-term story arc of the Firstborn Saga. This was a classic case of getting too far ahead of myself. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did mean the plotting of Mind Breach had to be  dead on. Complicating things was the fact that Mind Breach follows from the perspective of four different characters (whereas Time Heist follows only one) which makes for a narratively more complex tale.

Oh, also… Mind Breach came with hefty fan expectations, which can either be crushing or uplifting (sometimes both at the same time).


Sci-Fi & Scary: You also mentioned you loved books like Neuromancer and Snow Crash. What is it about the cyberpunk genre that draws you?

Anthony Vicino: Science Fiction is my favorite genre because it handles the question “What if?” in ways no other genre can. Cyberpunk in particular draws my eye because the ‘what if’ questions it asks are right around the corner, if not here already.

William Gibson once said, “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.”

And so it is the case with cyberpunk that, in a lot of ways, we are already living in the future we’re writing about. A lot of the concepts introduced by Gibson and friends in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, when cyberpunk was really booming, are already here.

Cyberpunk as a genre has idled in popularity in recent decades and I think a lot of that is born from the fact that it’s a little too relevant for comfort.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What do you think is the worst book-to-film adaptation of a science fiction novel? Why?

Anthony Vicino: That’s a toss-up these days between Dune and Ghost in the Shell. I think both movies failed to live up to their source material for very different reasons. Dune is too big of a story to tell in 2 ½ hours. Ghost in the Shell fell prey to Hollywood cash-grabbing. They went all in on pretty visuals and action, while completely abandoning the original storyline.

On the plus side, sounds like Dennis Villenueve is coming off his success with Blade Runner 2049 to take a run at Dune. That could be staggeringly good. We’ll have to wait and see.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s the best science fiction novel you’ve read in the past 3 years?

Anthony Vicino: That might be a toss-up between Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Sci-Fi & Scary: Who, in your opinion, is the best female sci-fi character you’ve ever read or watched? Why?

Anthony Vicino: Ooh, I love this question!  There are so many it’s hard to peg just one. Recently I really dug Riko from K.C. Alexander’s Necrotech. She’s a foul-mouthed, bad-ass mercenary with a mechanical arm.

Also quite amazing are Alana from Saga and Zoe Washburne from Firefly. Also, not sure it counts as Sci-Fi, but I want to be half as cool as Eleven from Stranger Things when I grow up.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Great choices! I worship Zoe, and I adore Kaylee, Inara, and River. 


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your support structure like?

Anthony Vicino: I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounding by a supportive network of friends and other authors who never cease to amaze me in their capacity to give, give, give. Also, my dad is probably better than your dad.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What project do you have in the works now?

Anthony Vicino: It’s time to go back into the word-mine and start digging up some words for Soul State the (hopefully epic) conclusion to Firstborn Saga. Before that drops next winter, however, I’ll be releasing a couple novellas set in the Firstborn universe called Infinity Lost and Hero Rising (two stories that give us a glimpse into the lives of two of Mind Breach’s most interesting characters).

Sci-Fi & Scary: Final Comments?

Anthony Vicino: Thanks for taking the time to chat! This was a lot of fun. If people want to connect with me online, they can track me down at, @anthonyvicino on Twitter, and @advicino on Facebook.

Book cover for Mind Breach Mind Breach

A Mind Divided Cannot Stand

Tom Mandel is either a villain or a saint, depending on who you ask. He’s already died once in the fight for Unity. He’ll do it again if needed, but he’d rather it didn’t come to that. In the battle to come, however, he might not have much of a choice.

A mysterious imprint, grafted onto the mind of Division Agent Mika Frost, holds the key to stopping Tom Mandel and his terrorist cell, Castle. Survival means uncovering the secret hidden inside her own mind, before it’s too late. If she fails, Unity will fall. She won’t let that happen.

Unity sold a piece of its soul to survive the Dissolution. To survive what comes next, they’ll have to sell the rest.

Buy link: Amazon


Indie Zone: Talking with Anthony Avina

Interview with Anthony Avina banner

Anthony Avina Bio: Author Anthony Avina is the fusion of intense and visual-inducing horror, optimism and hopeful enthusiasm. As an indie author who has spent the last seven years creating unique and original horror stories that highlight the fact that both good and evil can reside in anyone or anything, the creative horror writer hopes to craft entertaining tales that take the reader into unimaginable worlds.

With three successful series and a string of popular stand-alone novels and novellas, author Anthony Avina is a must watch indie author that is always working on the next great story to share with the world. Anthony Avina’s latest novel “I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered”, is the collective work of the of the Evil Teenager novella series. Featuring the novellas “I Was a Teenage Killer”, “I Was a Teenage Zombie”, and “I Was a Teenage Demon”.


“I Was an Evil Teenager” Novella Trilogy Synopsis:

“The story follows the exploits of Lisa Etron, an innocent looking teenage girl that everyone in her small hometown loves. Yet a sinister presence resides behind the mask that is Lisa Etron, and the terror she brings will affect the lives of those closest to her in dark and terrible ways. This is the story of the evolution of evil and whether or not true evil can ever truly die. It’s also the story of hope and overcoming that evil with the love and support of family and friends and how that hope can bring out the strength people never know they truly have. Good versus Evil come to life in this series in new and terrifying ways, and only by reading this completely remastered version of the stories can you find out what makes Lisa Etron a truly evil teenager…”

Contact info:


YouTube channel


Talking with Anthony Avina

Sci-Fi & Scary: It looks like most of your works are in the Young Adult subgenre. If this is accurate what draws you to it?

Anthony Avina: I have done a lot of work in the past few years in the Young Adult subgenre. My early works were more adult horror themed but I’ve recently gotten into the YA storytelling. I find it fascinating to write in the YA subgenre because I think most people, whether they are adults ir young adults themselves, can relate to these characters. Everyone was a young adult at one point or another. We all had to deal with the pressure of high school, the social hierarchy that normally rules over us and I think it’s interesting to explore how a young adult would deal with something like a teenage killer or some supernatural event. At that age we’re usually discovering who we are and what kind of life we want to lead, and seeing the inner turmoil and struggle of a young adult as they wrestle with the plot of the story and their personal lives makes for gripping storytelling.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Was it difficult to write from the point of view of a teenage girl for your “I Was an Evil Teenager” collection? 

Anthony Avina: The first novella in the book for sure was difficult to get into that mindset. I was 20 years old when i first wrote it, and although I’d only left high school a couple years before, I’ve always had the personality of an older person. The thing that helped me when trying to write from the point of view of a teenage girl was not only did I have a teenage sister to help me with my character development, but I grew up spending a lot of time with my mom and sister, and later had female friends in both middle school and high school that helped me gain a better understanding of that mindset.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Did you have any teenage girls read it and tell you what they thought of how you portrayed one?

Anthony Avina: I did have some great support for this book. I have a younger sister who was in high school during the time I first wrote this, and I had the help of not only my sister but her friends as well to help me get a sense of what kind of social interactions they had with one another and what drove their choices and personalities in those important high school years.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What was the hardest scene to write in the “I Was an Evil Teenager” novellas?

Anthony Avina: That’s a difficult one. There were a lot of scenes that were a struggle for me, but while I don’t want to spoil anything for the readers out there before they’ve gotten a chance to read it, there is a shocking scene in the first novella that will stick with you after you read it. It was so difficult to write because I had to imagine how it would impact one of my main characters in the book and how it would affect their personality going forward in the series. It was an important and driving plot point to be sure, but it was difficult to get into the mind of the character in that scene. It’s towards the end of the first novella, and fans will definitely recognize it.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Which novella in “I Was an Evil Teenager” took you longest to write?

Anthony Avina: Definitely the first one. It took a long time to get into the right mindset and do the research I needed to bring Lisa Etron to life and to imagine how her actions would affect the people who cared and loved her. When someone like that enters your life, their actions can have devastating consequences on how you live your life afterwards.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Was there one in particular that you enjoyed writing the most?

Anthony Avina: While I’ll always have a special place in my heart for “I Was A Teenage Killer”, I actually loved writing “I Was A Teenage Demon”. I enjoyed it because it was the final battle between good and evil, and it allowed me to bring closure to my main characters. I got to explore the growth of my two favorite heroes in the story, Dave and Aly Trent. Seeing their journey and watching them both grow and overcome the events of the previous books was so satisfying to write and felt like I had grown as both a person and a writer as well.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Was there a reason you wanted to do a ‘Remastered’ version of your stories?

Anthony Avina: I wrote this series starting in 2010 and finished in 2012. I was still a fairly young and new writer, and something I’ve always believed is no matter how seasoned a writer you are, there is always room to improve and new things to learn about the craft. After writing, editing and publishing for over seven years now, I’ve learned a lot in the ways of writing and editing, and I knew there were things I could improve in this series to make it better and help make it a more well rounded story.

Sci-Fi & Scary:  You mention in the blurb for the book that it updates the story. Is it changed enough that you would recommend previous readers give it another go?

Anthony Avino: Yes for sure. I changed a big plot point in the first story that differs from the original and is much scarier and much more satisfying for the audience. I also updated some of the character’s relationships within the series and helped establish more depth for the characters themselves, so I would highly recommend previous readers of the series to get this remastered version.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Can you tell us a bit about your YouTube channel and your podcast?

Anthony Avino: My YouTube channel started as a way to communicate to potential readers about my books, but it’s become so much more. I’ve always been a shy person, and something I struggle with daily is social anxiety. While I still struggle with it, my YouTube channel has become a means to express myself and put myself out there for people to see and get to know. I vlog, (or life-cast, where I film my day to day life), I film book reviews and I film writing and publishing based videos. I have a podcast series I call “The Writers Corner” podcast, where I discuss book and writing related topics, from book readings to writing tips and more. It’s allowed me not only to share what I know about the craft, but I’ve been able to learn more as a result of my researching topics and talking with fellow authors on YouTube and online. The podcast was on a hiatus for a while but I am planning to bring it back soon.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Have you always been interested in the horror genre? Who are some of your influences?

Anthony Avino: The horror genre is my favorite genre to write in. I grew up with a passion for the genre. I can remember spending days with my grandparents and sitting in their living room, watching old horror movies or cheesy SyFy movies with my grandfather. He loved horror movies and read Stephen King regularly, which inspired a love for both horror and Stephen King in my mother. She in turn shared that with me and the rest is history. Stephen King is definitely my biggest influence on my writing, as is the late Wes Craven. My mother and my late grandfather are actually my biggest influences in my passion for the horror genre, and without them I might not have gotten the idea or this series.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What project are you currently working on?

Anthony Avino: I am about to start working on my NaNoWriMo project for 2017, which is a sequel to the first drama novel I ever wrote, which was called VOID. After I finish the month long writing project, I’m going to focus on the fourth book in my action/horror series, Nightmare Wars.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What is the best horror movie you’ve seen in the past 5 years? What was the worst?

Anthony Avino: Actually I recently saw Stephen King’s IT in theaters, and I have to say that was such a brilliant film. Not only did I jump several times, but it was incredibly faithful to the original book and it had such an incredible story. A good horror movie isn’t just scary for me, but it’s also full of heart, emotion and great characters, and IT had all of these. I think Pennywise the Clown is going to be an iconic horror movie monster for generations to come.

The worst horror movie I’ve seen in years is a difficult one. Discounting some of the cheesy SyFy movies I’ve seen in the past, I’d have to say The Witch was one of the worst horror movies. It’s not that it was a bad movie overall, I just don’t think it should have been classified as a  horror movie. It was more of a psychological thriller kind of movie, showing the deterioration of this family. I was never scared at any point in the film and while the film was well acted and well shot, the overall story wasn’t really a horror movie to me and the trailer was very misleading.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Final comments?

Anthony Avino: This was actually one of the more creative and well developed interviews I’ve done. Thank you so much for your time and for having me on your blog. It was a pleasure to talk with you and I hope you guys will enjoy my book.

I Was an Evil Teenager

Killer. Zombie. Demon.

Evil comes in many forms, and Lisa Etron embodies them all in I Was An Evil Teenager, the three novella series that explores evil and the ways in which it appears. Author Anthony Avina brings a unique look at the work of Lisa Etron, a seemingly normal teenage girl who harbors a dark secret that threatens to tear apart not only those closest to her, but an entire town as well.

Lisa Etron is the girl next door. Lisa Etron is the most beautiful and popular girl in her school. Lisa Etron is the girl of Dave Trent’s dreams. Lisa Etron is a demented killer, hellbent on chaos and murder, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve those two goals. While a seasoned detective works to solve the mystery of a series of brutal murders, Lisa plans a deadly killing spree that threatens to destroy those who have made the mistake of loving her.

This remastered edition of the book updates the story and brings a deep dive into the battle between good and evil. Showing the lengths in which evil is willing to go to to tear people down, and the way in which people use hope and love to overcome that evil, this novel features the combined novellas of I Was A Teenage Killer, I Was A Teenage Zombie and I Was A Teenage Demon.

A twisted horror saga like no other, this series follows one group of people who must survive the twisted mind of a killer who refuses to go away and let them live happy lives. In this one of a kind novel, discover whether or not evil ever truly dies…

Buy Link: Amazon


Indie Zone: Interview with Michael Kamp, Award-Winning Danish Horror Author

Interview with Michael Kamp Banner

Michael Kamp Bio: Michael was born and raised in the frozen wasteland of Denmark. After wrestling a polar bear in the traditional Danish coming-of-age ritual he chose the path of the storyteller. Several novels and a few awards later, the time has come to go beyond his native tongue and take a shot at the English markets. He is co-founder of the Danish Horror Society – a society of Danish horror authors dedicated to promote the genre as literature for adults. He works the nightshift, writes out his nightmares and hope to someday create a story so frightening readers won’t dare to finish it. He lives in Kirke Hyllinge with his wife, sons, and a pet troll.

You can see more about Michael on his website:

Talking with Michael Kamp

Sci-Fi & Scary: Clowns was an interesting book, and very well timed, considering IT has just recently been released in theaters. Did Pennywise / IT itself have any influence on your story?

Michael Kamp: Indirectly, yes. I was reading the paper about a year ago when the Creepy Clown craze raged and suddenly realized that it was almost a horror story in itself. What if Creepy Clowns were not people in costumes? What if they were real? I called up my publisher and asked if they would go for it, and they green-lit it immediately.

Took me about a month to write it.

Only later did it occur to me that the date of publication would be fairly close to the premiere of IT, so I got my publisher to move the date ahead. We missed it with a few weeks, but I hope the interest in clowns are still strong.

Sci-Fi & Scary:  You know we have to ask this one… Are you afraid of clowns, yourself?

Michael Kamp: No. I understand why they are scary, but I’m not really affected by it myself. I do have a real phobia for watery depths. Thalassophobia.

It got triggered when I sneaked in to watch Jaws behind a couch in the living room, being WAY too young for that movie. To this day I have a really hard time swimming where I can’t see the bottom. Which in Denmark means everywhere.  Our seas are greenish-black.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Working night shift in an institution for the mentally ill is pretty much the perfect job for someone who writes horror! Has anything you ever witnessed or heard there turned into a story idea for you?

Michael Kamp: Oh, several times. Walking around at night in that place tend to trigger the imagination. One time I opened a door to one of the kitchens and got spooked, almost dropping some stuff I was carrying.  But there was nothing there. Nothing to spook me. I wondered why I had that reaction and told the morning shift. They in turn told me that the former night shift had talked about seeing a woman in that particular kitchen and was certain it was haunted.

That’s good stuff.

At one time we had a resident who would walk around at night without turning the lights on. You could get a pretty good scare when he was suddenly standing there in the dark.

He was the nicest man I ever met, so it was never uncomfortable, but you’d get a bit of a jump scare every time.


Sci-Fi & Scary:  We had an interesting discussion earlier about cultural differences, as Clowns is more of a Young Adult horror novel than a kids’ horror book, which is what you had originally submitted it to me as. In part, that’s due to the language used. (Parental Advisory, folks!) You also have an author’s note in the back about some of the differences between Danish and American cultures. That got me to thinking. How closely does Clowns translate from the version written in your first language? Did you have any trouble making the switch over? 

Michael Kamp: Clowns is a very close translation of Klovn, but it’s a bit more tight since you usually cut away in translation instead of adding. Early on I had to decide if I was keeping the story in Denmark or should rewrite it to small town USA. I ended up keeping it here and risked alienating the readers. It would seem bland to repack it, since I would not be able to use my own experiences in the story.

It did pose some challenges, since the cultural differences really start to show when you translate stories.

There was a lot of uncertainty. In Denmark I’m pretty well known in horror, so it’s been years since I doubted myself, but suddenly I’m removed from the audience both linguistic and culturally. Would a US audience appreciate my way of writing? Was it too visceral? Did it hit the target age or would the cultural difference mess with what is considered appropriate?

As we talked about there is some swearing and that is a typical blind spot. It never occurred to me that swearing is taken seriously in the US, whereas we Danes tend to swear like sailors on an everyday basis.

Sci-Fi & Scary: You are co-founder of the Danish Horror Society. When was it founded and what’s your membership (population) like? Do you have Cons/ meetups?

Michael Kamp: The Danish Horror Society was founded September 4th 2011 by eleven horror writers and one publisher. We aim to introduce horror as an adult genre to the public, since horror is usually considered to be YA literature here in Denmark.

Picture of the founding members of the Danish Horror Society
Founding members let-to-right: Patrick Leis, Nikolaj Højberg, Christian Reslow, Helle Tietgen Tofft, Henrik Sandbeck Harksen, Jacob Hedegaard Pedersen, Jonas Wilmann, Steen Langstrup and Michael Kamp.

Currently we are around 35 members which includes writers, publishers, journalists, librarians and film makers. Everyone who is working with horror as a genre in one capacity or another. As a small genre in a small nation, we are fewer than our sister societies in other nations.

We arrange events and have a yearly award we give out in the spring to the best Danish title in the horror genre.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What have been your most popular Danish novels to date? Do you intend on bringing them over to the English market?

 Michael Kamp: It depends on your criteria for success 🙂

The most sold title is probably Fordærv (Decay) which is another long fiction, a bit shorter than Clowns. It basically follow a class in the seventh grade that slowly gets turned into zombies, but everyone involved are handling it like any other school-related issue. They are not alarmed at the sight of zombies, but concerned as to how this will affect the class and future school events. This one will certainly make the jump to English.Moln by Michael Kamp

The best received is the Moln. Moln is the name of a small fictitious village in Denmark with a serious haunting problem. Kids go missing and everyone are pretending that nothing is wrong.

I intend to bring all of the popular ones to English, but I keep hitting that cultural barrier challenge, where key portions of the stories might not be that accessible to a US audience.

Both Moln and Decay are centered around schools, and Danish schools are much different from US schools.

Bunker 137 is Lovecraftian horror set during WWII, but the main characters are full blown Waffen SS members and I’m not sure how effective that translates. It basically puts the reader in a dilemma – if you have to choose between the cruel and the inhuman, how does it turn out?  I’m just not sure if the US audience would appreciate a story told from the eyes of an enemy.

I have 16 titles in Danish, and 10 of them could probably make the jump to English. We’ll see. It takes a lot of time and effort.


Sci-Fi & Scary:  You mention in your biography that you’ve won three awards for your writing. Tell us about them!

Michael Kamp: Gladly.

In 2011 I won the tongue twister Kulturministeriet og Ministeriet for Børn og Undervisnings Drengelitteraturpris 2011 (The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Children and Education’s New Literature for Boys Award 2011), and was handed the award by the Danish Minister of Education. A horror short story centered on a cellphone called Prank Call.  This is actually out in English as a stand alone short story on Amazon.

The story behind it is fun, since I had given up on meeting the deadline. The day before the deadline, I decided to give it a shot anyway, and since it had a 2000 word limit, I wrote it in a single sitting.

My wife read it and hated the ending, so I made a few adjustments and scrapped the ending, before sending it in. Didn’t expect anything, but it won.
I learned two important lessons. Sometimes desperation is drug fueling creativity, and you should never underestimate the importance of good beta-readers.

Later the same year I won the Niels Klim Award for Best Danish Science Fiction Short Story. A horror/scifi short story called Homo Arachnida took home the award.
Homo Arachnida is a dystopian mystery, where the reader instantly knows something is very wrong with the world, but the back story slowly unfolds through seemingly mundane observations.

This too is out in English in the anthology “Lore: Vol. 2, No. 3“. Which nobody read.

Four years on the market and it did not get a single review.  Lesson learned – check out publishers before you submit.

Best Horror of the Year 2015

Finally I won the big one in 2015. Best Horror of the Year.

It’s basically the Danish version of the Bram Stoker Awards and you can’t really get any more credit in the genre than this.

It was the novel Samlerne (The Collectors) which won the award in which a man is loosing both himself and his family when an evil force invades their home. It plays around with our concepts of reality and how sufficiently advanced creatures might treat us with the same indifference we treat ants and bugs.

It’s highly doubtful that this title will ever be translated. Despite the award and the hype, I have never produced a title which sold so few copies. I suspect the audience found it too experimental and it didn’t really connect.



Sci-Fi & ScaryWho are your favorite authors? Danish and English if they differ!

Michael Kamp: My favorite author in English is Terry Pratchett. The way he combines silly stories with very serious social commentary is masterful. His Discworld novels are amazing and the way he weaves a tale filled with slapstick humor and then suddenly make a real point about racism … That’s what I aspire to.
I tend to use social commentary in my stories too, although discretely, and Terry Pratchett has set a very high standard for how it’s done. I was really sad when he died.

In Danish it must be Dennis Jürgensen. I was practically raised on his books and he cover the range from slapstick comedy to real, nail biting horror with such ease it’s an inspiration. It was a very odd experience to suddenly be his colleague and  getting together behind the scenes at cons and events. One of the friendliest and most humble authors I have met.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What is your favorite scary movie?

Michael Kamp: Dawn of the Dead (2004 version). A tour de force zombie flick that is massively entertaining and has one heck of a start sequence. The only movie I ever remember seeing twice in a row. I literally sat in silence for five minutes after seeing it, and then started over.  Shout outs to The Descent (2005) or teaching me the taste of claustrophobia, Hellraiser II (1988) for making Hell a nauseous place and the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series which I saw in a single sitting during one long night as a teen. Awesome.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What is your most hated horror movie or book cliche?

Michael Kamp: Idiots. I simply cant stand idiot characters who get killed because they are dumb as a sack of potatoes. People in horror stories needs to be credible and most people are (surprisingly) not idiots. They tend to be fairly careful.

If I hear a strange noise from the basement at night, I’m not going down there with only a lit candle to check it out. I’m bringing a crowbar and a flashlight. Having characters act stupid is often lazy writing. Something needs to happen to drive the plot forward, and the writer decides to just push it through instead of setting it up in a believable manner.

Clowns Book Cover Clowns

The creepy clown epidemic began when I was 12 years old.
Creepy clowns roamed neighborhoods at night, terrifying the population. At first it was only in the U.S.
Soon it spread, turning into a global craze.
The wave of clown sightings even reached all the way to Denmark.
Every day, the papers ran stories about clowns scaring people.
Of course, the vast majority of creepy clowns were just pranksters in costumes.
But not all of them.
Not in Ullerup.

Buy Link: Amazon


Interview with Jonathan Ballagh, Author of the Quantum Worlds Series

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Author Profile Pic of Jonathan Ballagh

Jonathan Ballagh is the author of the middle-grade science-fiction series, The Quantum Worlds. He has been writing software since he was five, created his first online game at fourteen, and has a deep love of all things A.I. and robotics. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three kids. Visit his website or email him at





Talking with Jonathan Ballagh



Sci-Fi & Scary: Where did you get the inspiration for your Quantum Worlds series?

Jonathan Ballagh: Quantum Worlds is a fusion of childhood experiences that captured my imagination in one way or another. When I started writing The Quantum Door, I described the plot to a friend of mine, and he said it sounded like a cross between The Magician’s Nephew, The Iron Giant, and Blade Runner. There’s no doubt these works, along with a slew of books and 80s science fiction films roiling around my subconscious all these years served as the inspiration. Plus, an unhealthy dose of Transformers cartoons.


Sci-Fi & Scary: How closely did you work with the illustrator for books? (The illustrations in Quantum Ghost were amazing!)

Jonathan Ballagh: Thank you! Ben Adams ( is the genius behind the covers and illustrations for both books, and having the opportunity to work with him is one of my favorite parts of self-publishing. Days when he sends over proofs are always good days.

Ben is quite detail oriented—you’ll always find something deeper in his art. He works with you to understand the mood, style, and overall narrative before diving in. It took me a long time to find an artist who could capture what I was going for, and he managed to hit it out of the park with a style that is entirely unique.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Ben, especially for his work on the Quantum Door cover. It was my first book, I was a complete unknown, and I think it really helped the story gain traction.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Did the experience writing Quantum Ghost differ in any way from writing Quantum Door?

Jonathan Ballagh: Way different. I would have thought Quantum Ghost would be easier to write, but I had a much harder time with it. I felt encumbered by some perceived mistakes I made the first time out, writing lessons I should have known before writing the Quantum Door. There were a bunch of things I wanted to get right the second time around, and this made me more self-conscious throughout the process.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What is the hardest part about writing for you?


Jonathan Ballagh: I struggle with a few things. One is the problem of finding the time to write, which I often do late at night or very early in the morning. The second is focusing on a single idea. I’ll start down one path, think of another idea, and wander off on a tangent. Usually I’ll get pulled by multiple threads until I’m far enough along with something that I’m forced to commit. My hard drive is full of unfinished projects languishing in dusty bytes.


Sci-Fi & Scary: In our conversations, you mentioned that you appreciated constructive criticism. What’s the best piece of constructive criticism you’ve ever been given?

Jonathan Ballagh: I’m grateful when anyone is willing to give one of my stories a try. Even more so when they take the time to send feedback. I’m not that thick skinned creatively, but so far, it’s always come from a positive place, and I appreciate that people care enough to help. It would be far easier to dismiss it and move on.

I received a lot of constructive criticism after I released Quantum Door, and did my best to keep it all in mind while writing Quantum Ghost. I stuck with limited 3rd person POV, tried to keep the narrative tighter, and hopefully did a better job with pacing. It took longer to write, but I think Quantum Ghost is stronger as a result.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Can you give us any hints about the next book you have planned in the Quantum World series? Have you already got it written?

Jonathan Ballagh:  I wish I was that prolific! I’m still working on the outline—hoping to bring Remi together with Felix, and Brady, with much of the book centering on a major event that happens in their home reality.


Sci-Fi & Scary: How much of yourself is in your characters in the Quantum World series?

Jonathan Ballagh: I tend to worry and overthink stuff, and I wrote Brady (one of the brothers from Quantum Door) with a similar mindset. But then I worried that he came off kind of irritating, so I ended up switching protagonists to someone more removed. I think it’s unavoidable, though, that a bit of the author works its way into every character.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your coffee mug say about you?

Jonathan Ballagh:  Hmm. My mug is a blank slate… I don’t know what it says about me that I like to stare at an empty cup. It’s probably the closest I’ll get to Zen.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Do you ever see yourself writing ‘adult’ fiction, or are you happy with the genre you’re writing in now?

Jonathan Ballagh: Absolutely. I published a short science-fiction story a year back called Stone & Iris, and it’s written for an older audience. And I’ll probably work on a few other short stories, most likely adult fiction, before revisiting The Quantum Worlds series.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your support system like?

Jonathan Ballagh: My family is an endless source of encouragement (and a captive audience). Making friends with other authors and reviewers in the Indie community has a been another highlight of self-publishing. Knowing other folks who are going through the same roller coaster ride, and sharing experiences with them, really helps keep me motivated.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What is your favorite book, personally? Do you have a go-to book that you’ve read several times?

Jonathan Ballagh: Picking one would be impossible, but there are a few books I like to revisit. Most of these are books I read when I was much younger. Not classics, just books that made a serious impression—the right book at the right time. One of my favorites is a lesser known, coming of age horror story, Shadowland, by Peter Straub. I read this the first time when I was fourteen, and its heavy doses of creepy surrealism stuck with me. I went back to it a short while ago, and really enjoyed some of the nuances I missed (I missed most of them). What’s great about letting a few years pass between reads is that you’ll get something different out of it each time through. You change and the book changes with you.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your favorite science fiction movie?

Jonathan Ballagh: This is even harder than the favorite book question! Robocop is up there for me, but my answer will change depending on the day. Three current science fiction films I’ve really enjoyed are Predestination, Coherence, and The Machine.

The Quantum Ghost

On a cold autumn night, twelve-year-old Remi Cobb makes a startling discovery—a mysterious object floating on the pond in her backyard. With no idea where it came from, or how it got there, Remi is compelled to unravel its secrets. Her quest for answers takes her on a perilous journey across realities, where she finds a crumbling world—and the dark forces behind its ruin. Here she learns the truth about her connection with the strange object, and of those that will stop at nothing to destroy them both.

But even if she can find a way to survive, can she find a way home?

Purchase on Amazon.

Read our review of The Quantum Ghost.

Interview with C.A. Verstraete

Author Christine (CA) Verstraete

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete enjoys putting a little “scare” in her writing. Her latest book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, offers a twist on the Lizzie Borden murders. She also is author of a young adult book, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, and books on dollhouse collecting and crafting, including Dollhouse Decor & More  and In Miniature Style II.

Christine’s short stories have appeared in various anthologies including: Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime, Mystery WeeklyYoung Adventurers: Heroes, Explorers and SwashbucklersAthena’s Daughters, Silence in the Library; Feast of the Dead: Hors D’Oeuvres; Darlings of Decay100 Doors to Madness; Timeshares, Steampunk’d, and Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, DAW Books; and The Corner Cafe: A Tasty Collection of Short Stories.

She is an award-winning journalist with stories published in daily to weekly newspapers and in various magazines. Her stories have received awards from local and national newspaper associations, and the Dog Writer’s Association of America. 


Interview with C.A. Verstraete



Sci-Fi & Scary: What is it about zombies that appeals to you?

C.A. Verstraete: It might be the sheer horror of something wanting you for dinner. I think as humans we’re used to being in control of the food chain, not on it! Plus it’s the sheer horror “no it can’t happen” aspect.


Sci-Fi & Scary: You are one of the bloggers on How did that site come about? What do you like most about it?

C.A. Verstraete: I started the site as a way to get female zombie authors involved and promote not only my own zombie books, but horror and other books. It’s been fun and I’ve met a lot of authors through it. I’m a reader, too, so I love finding new books!


Sci-Fi & Scary: First there was Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies, then there was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and of course the tons of fairytale remakes out there like Christina Henry’s Alice. Now we have your work, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. What do you think inspires the re-imaginings in general? And specifically, what inspired yours?

C.A. Verstraete: Having read some of the other books, I think it’s fun to take history in a different direction, even if some may consider it sacrilegious. But it’s fiction! Some view zombies as an analogy of society’s wrongs. Every generation has its monsters, and zombies are this century’s version of horror or what’s wrong with the world, I guess. I’ve always been interested in true crimes so once I read the autopsy reports and other information on the Borden murders, it made perfect sense to me that the crimes could be “solved” in a different way. I was surprised no one else had thought of it.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Your website contains a good bit of information on Lizzie Borden. How long did you spend researching her, the trial, and all of that?

C.A. Verstraete: Lizzie Borden is actually a pretty popular topic, so it wasn’t too hard to find background material on her. I formed the story around the real-life murder and the trial after reading the inquest and trial transcripts. Of course, I had to change some events to fit my own scenario but I did base it on the real-life events. History can be fascinating. You wonder what drives people to commit such terrible acts. Even more, you wonder how they can go through with them. This is pretty gruesome stuff.

Sci-Fi & Scary: How long did it take you to write Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter?

C.A. Verstraete: It took about two years to write the book, research, and re-write.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What was the most difficult part of writing the book?

C.A. Verstraete: Getting it how I wanted. I actually had two different versions of the book.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What kind of zombies are your zombies? Are we talking the slow, plodding Braiiiiiins kind or the 28 Days Later rage virus kind?

C.A. Verstraete: I used the slower, hungry zombies. I think the slower ones are horrifying enough and fit the time period more. Life overall was slower-paced back then. Having zombies appear, something the characters describe as “something from Miss Shelley’s Frankenstein come to life,” was enough for them to digest. My favorite scene in Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is one toward the end where an older couple is simply petrified at what they’re seeing and Lizzie has to rescue them.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Do you have any more historical figure – zombie hunter (or other) books planned?

C.A. Verstraete: I am working on Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2. Next, I’ll have a supernatural-flavored mystery novella coming out (it may be in pre-order by the time of this interview) told from the point-of-view of Lizzie’s doctor and neighbor. The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie Borden’s Fall River doesn’t have zombies, but it’s rather spooky. It answers my own questions about how he could have felt after coming on that horrific murder scene and what could be haunting the town to have such gruesome murders occur there.


Sci-Fi & Scary: I know you’ve written a lot of shorter stories for anthologies. What is the most popular anthology that readers might find your work in?

C.A. Verstraete: I have fun writing creepy little short stories. Some are strange, some are little gory… I’ve written a couple for the free Siren’s Call magazine and for different anthologies. It’s hard to pick just one, though one of my favorite flash stories, Grandma’s Green Thumb, was in the 100 Doors to Madness anthology. Links are on my website fiction page. I am thinking of putting some of my creepy short stories together in a collection, too.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your favorite zombie book and zombie movie?

C.A. Verstraete: If I had to pick a recent movie it would be Maggie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and mood in that. The first, and probably my favorite, zombie book I read was Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your favorite NON-zombie horror book or movie?

C.A. Verstraete: I love old movies and love to re-watch Whatever Happened to Baby Jane with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis whenever I can. I also like Gone with the Wind. I like a wide variety of movies and books.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What advice would you give to female horror authors trying to get established?

C.A. Vestraete: Take your time, do your homework and hone your writing skills. It doesn’t pay to rush things.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your writing style? Do you have a routine and focus on getting out a certain amount of words, or are you a “When inspiration hits”?

C.A. Verstraete: If I’m really pushing to get a project done, I will try to get in a certain number of words per week. But being a journalist by profession, I’m used to writing every day, so writing something usually isn’t a problem. I just have to push to get the project done between other writing.


Sci-Fi & Scary: How many of your stories come from nightmares or dreams that you’ve had?

C.A. Verstraete: Actually, the ending of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter came to me in a dream. I was still following some of the real-life events in Lizzie’s life, so the ending was part of my way in explaining the rift the sisters actually had. Emma moved out of their house and supposedly they never spoke again.


Sci-Fi & Scary: Do you think the zombie sub-genre is nearing saturation point? Or is that not possible?

C.A. Verstraete: It’s possible. So many books are coming out, it’s like a flood. Sadly, there are a lot of badly written and amateurish books (in all genres) that it gets harder to find the good stuff.


Sci-Fi & Scary: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

C.A. Verstraete: I collect dollhouses, I love my dog, and I like working on miniature projects. I love to create! (I do share photos of my work on the website or link to my other blog.)


Thanks again for hosting me! It was fun visiting with you and your readers!

Book cover for Lizzie Borden Zombie HunterLizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter

Every family has its secrets…

One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become zombies?

Thrust into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond, Lizzie battles to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown from nightmarish ghouls and the evil forces controlling them.

Buy Links: 

Indie Zone: Talking with Todd Allen

No Greater Agony Tour Banner

Todd Allen - Headshot - No greater Agony

Author Bio: Allen lives on the East Coast of Canada with two beautiful ladies—his wife Michelle, and daughter, Maya. A lifelong fan of all things horror, Allen released his debut novel, Sacra Obscurum, in 2015. Allen’s second novel, No Greater Agony, was published in 2017. Influenced by the genre greats, M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft, and raised on Stephen King and Peter Straub, Allen aims to deliver his own brand of creeping, cerebral thrillers.


Interview with Todd Allen – Author of No Greater Agony

1. Your first book, Sacra Obscurum, was (in part) about finding a book. And now No Greater Agony is about writing a book. Was it a coincidence that both your novels revolve around books?

Todd Allen: No, I like the idea of dangerous books. Both stories feature books that end up causing a lot of harm. Most households have a shelf full of books or at least a few books kicking around. They’re such a benign presence in our everyday lives. I like the idea of something sinister waiting in our bookcases without us knowing.

2. There’s a little bit of fun in the fact that your second novel is about an author having trouble following up on the success of his debut novel. Did you have a few sleepless nights yourself or was No Greater Agony already in your mind for writing for a while?

Todd Allen: I assure you, my character had a lot more success with his debut than I did! When my first book was published, I decided to devote more time to writing. It can be difficult to strike a balance between time spent writing and time spent with family and friends and on other pursuits. But, you really need to find that healthy balance if you’re going to be the best version of yourself. The main character in No Greater Agony had that same difficulty. He never found that balance and suffered for it.

3. You say that you’re influenced by “the genre greats, M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft”. Where/how/will readers see this influence in your work?

Todd Allen: I believe, if you write horror, you’re influenced by those two whether you know it or not. They are the godfathers of the genre. James’ influence likely shows up more in my published work to date. His stories often feature scholarly men on some quest for riches or knowledge. They inevitably come to a point of no return and when they decide to forge ahead are met with danger. Many of his tales are cautionary and warn of overstepping or taking things too

4. Do you have another novel in the works yet?

Todd Allen: Oh yes. One in the works. One already complete. I’m writing a lot these days.

5. Tell us a little bit about Wabasso, the location of No Greater Agony. Is it based on a real location? 

Todd Allen: A real place inspired the story. I visited there many years ago and the place just kind of stuck with me. The fictional place I wrote about is quite different, though. Both places are beautiful and peaceful and have a bit of a wild vibe, but that is the extent of the similarities. Nothing supernatural ever happened at the real-life place—not to me, anyway.

6. What was the most difficult part of writing No Greater Agony?

Todd Allen: I didn’t really have difficulty writing this book per se. But, I did have some difficulty writing in general. I was supporting my first novel at the time, doing book fairs and literary festivals and launch events. You could say I was entering the writer’s community. I met a lot of writers. I met a lot of readers. I heard a lot of opinions. That was kind of the problem. For a time, I began writing to please other people. I lost sight of why I wanted to write in the first place. The work suffered. Ultimately, I learned to ignore those outside influences. And a lot of pages went in the trash, I am happy to say.

7. What’s your favorite horror movie (or book if you don’t movies) scene?

Todd Allen: Easy. The shower scene from Psycho. It’s fifty-some years-old and still one of the most terrifying scenes on film.

8. What, in your opinion, is the best horror novel to be released in the past 5 years. (And no, you can’t vote for yourself. 🙂 )

Todd Allen: The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker. I read the first hundred pages or so before bed and had nightmares about Pinhead. That never happens to me. And it just seems like Barker has a lot of fun when he writes. He sure a s hell makes it fun to read.

9. What is it about horror that attracts you?

Todd Allen: People frequently experience fear in one form or another. It’s an unavoidable part of the human condition. I have fears. I fear economic collapse. I fear North Korea and ISIS and Russia. These are everyday fears. When I pick up a horror novel, or watch a movie, I get to express that fear all at once. I can let it go for a time. It’s kind of like a reset for me. It’s therapeutic. Also, it’s just plain fun.

10. Given that you were ‘raised on Stephen King’, what do you think of Hollywood remaking It? Did you like the book? The first movie?

Todd Allen: I cringe a little when Hollywood tampers with any novel, but I have a bit of a soft spot for those old Stephen King movies, It especially. I really like Tim Curry. He was fantastic in the role of Pennywise. Bill Skarsgard will have some giant shoes to fill in the new movie. Pardon the pun.

11. Are you going to try to get an audio version made of No Greater Agony?

Todd Allen: I confess I hadn’t thought about it. It’s a great idea though, so long as I’m not the one reading it. I have a terrible reading voice.

12. What would your coffee cup say about you?

Todd Allen: My coffee cup should bear a warning label: If this mug is running low, duck and cover!

Todd Allen - No Greater Agony - Cover jpg No Greater Agony: Jack Bishop always dreamed of becoming a writer.

That ambition finally became reality with his critically acclaimed debut novel, but following up on that success has proved difficult. For over a year, he has failed to produce a new bestseller and his publisher is losing patience. In a last ditch effort to save his floundering career, Jack is sent to the renowned writer’s retreat, Wabasso Lake, with orders to finish his manuscript in record time.

Jack’s first impression of Wabasso is that of an idyllic place to work, but despite being surrounded by awe inspiring nature and the lovely Kate, a fellow author, he continues to be plagued by self doubt. It is with the discovery of a hidden manuscript that Jack begins to scratch the surface of the retreat’s sinister purpose. As visions of fictional characters inundate Jack’s waking life, he is driven to the brink of madness.

A diabolical intelligence has stirred. Wabasso wants something from Jack, but is he willing to pay that price to achieve his greatest desire?

Buy No Greater Agony now on Amazon.

Indie Zone: Talking with Frank Cavallo

Frank CavalloFrank was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has been a criminal defense attorney for fifteen

His latest novel, the dark fantasy “Eye of the Storm” has just been released from Ravenswood Publishing. He is also the author of “The Lucifer Messiah” and the weird western “The Hand of Osiris.”

His short fiction has appeared in venues such as Another Realm, Ray Gun Revival, Every Day Fiction and Lost Souls. He has worked in the Warhammer universe, penning the novella “Into the Valley of Death” included in the “Gotrek & Felix: Lost Tales” collection as well as a number of short stories available as part of Black Library’s “the Best of Hammer and Bolter: Volume 2.”

You can see more about him at


Continue reading “Indie Zone: Talking with Frank Cavallo”

Indie Zone: Talking with Michaelbrent Collings

Michaedlbrent Collings

Michaedlbrent CollingsMichaelbrent Collings is an internationally-bestselling novelist, multiple Bram Stoker Award nominee, produced screenwriter, and one of the top indie horror writers in the United States. He is one of the most successful indie horror writers in the United States, as well as a produced screenwriter and member of the WGA, HWA, and several other writing groups with cool-sounding letters. He’s also a martial artist, and cooks awesome waffles (’cause he’s macho like that).

Find him here:

Talking with Michaelbrent Collings

S&S: I have to say, The Longest Con is the first book I’ve ever read where the premise revolved around ‘Cons, specifically. What got the idea for it percolating in your brain?

Mb C: Honestly, I just thought that writing a book with me as the “hero” would add some verisimilitude and another layer of suspension of disbelief that my audience might enjoy. And since a) I do a lot of cons, and b) my audience has a high “nerd ratio,” I thought this would be a fun way to do it. The really smart part was adding other authors in as characters, both to pay homage to friends and peers, and to mooch off their audience base. Ha!

S&S:What was the hardest part of writing this book for you?

Mb C: Trying to pretend that “Michaelbrent Collings” is a badass. Who ever knows what he’s doing.

S&S:How much of you is in the you that’s the main character of this book?

Mb C: Well, obviously the monster bits aren’t real (probably!), but nearly everything strictly about me and/or my family is real. I really do have back problems, I really do know a lot of martial arts, I really do adore my family. The stuff that reads like autobiography – sans monsters – probably is autobiography.

S&S:If you only had 2 sentences (run-ons don’t count!) to get someone excited to read The Longest Con, what would you say?

Mb C:. You know that thousands of people go to comic cons dressed up as monsters… but did you know that thousands of monsters go dressed up as people? My name is Michaelbrent Collings, and it’s my job to stop the monsters from killing you.

S&S:Favorite Supervillain or Monster?

Mb C: Gah! I love the monster I wrote in The Loon – just a fun, oogy monster with loads of nastiness. Supervillain… a toss-up between Lex Luthor (NOT the coked-up ferret version Jesse Eisenberg did – the bald uber-smart baddie… because BALD, right?), and a guy I wrote in This Darkness Light. He’s named Melville and is the world’s most dangerous psychopathic hitman. He will murder and torture you while singing songs from Disney animated movies.

S&S:What’s been the high point in your career as a horror writer?

Mb C: Actually HAVING a career as a horror writer! Seriously, there’s no one “perfect moment,” but the closest might be when my dad was voted the World Horror Convention Grand Master. Why was that a big deal in my career? Well, because I do okay as a horror guy I got to be on stage with him and got some really good pictures.

S&S: What genre do you think it would be a challenge for you to write in? Why?

Mb C: Two genres I refuse to write in: romance and porn. I won’t write porn because I think pornography is a terrible blight on the world that leads to women and children being harmed and trafficked. I won’t write romance because, to be perfectly frank, I have a perfect romance. Not an “easy” one, but my wife is my best friend, my best love. I can’t think of a book I could write that would top my reality, so I don’t even want to try.

S&S:Who is the most under-rated Superhero in your opinion?

Mb C: SUPERMAN. Wait. Lemme ‘splain.
Superman has been lost in a lot of “updating.” But what made him great was that he was so old-fashioned. He stood for good, pure, noble things. For virtue in personal and “professional” life. He was often conflicted – but only in that he had to figure out what the right thing was. And then he did it. Even though sometimes he didn’t know if he’d made the right choice, he did the best he could, and he did it with unwavering faith and a sense of pride that’s been utterly lost in recent years. In fact, I’ve started saying that the recent Captain America movies have the best portrayal of Superman in 30 years… he’s just pretending to be Captain America.

S&S:Have you already started work on your next novel?

Mb C: Right now I’m working on a screen version of my book Mr. Gray. It’s SO challenging because of the story in that book – probably the most complex thing I’ve ever written in some ways – but I’m having fun! Actually that’s a lie. It sucks and it’s a grind. But it’s good work and hopefully it’ll feed my family, so onward!

S&S: What horror book would you like to see brought to the big screen next? (and Stephen King’s works don’t count!)

Mb C: I would like to see a really good Dean Koontz adaptation done. Maybe Intensity, since that would lend itself well to film. DK has never had a really good horror/thriller adaptation – they’ve all been stinkers. The Odd Thomas book starring Anton Yelchin (rest in peace!) was good, but it was a supernatural comedy, so it doesn’t count.

S&S: Do you intend to write a sequel to The Longest Con?

Mb C: It always depends on how the audience responds. Meaning: if it makes money. I am the sole breadwinner in my family, which means that if my books don’t make enough money, my wife and kids suffer. So the choices about which books get sequels, what genres I will continue to write in, and what my publishing schedule is are determined by answering this one question: “How can I best support my family?”

All this to say: I love writing, and I wish that I could write book after book of your favorite characters. But if you do have a book or a character you want more of, then buy the book, get others to buy it, and then review that book and encourage others to do the same.

Bonus Question: How do you remain so virile, happy, rich and attractive, even though you are well over a hundred years old?
Answer: It’s a secret.
Obviously, this is more a question I HOPE I can answer someday. Hope springs eternal. Though, with my back problems (see The Longest Con – on sale today!), it’s probably going to be “Can you roll over so we can change your bedpan?”
We take what we can get.

The Longest Con - Michaelbrent CollingsThe Longest Con Synopsis

Larry Correia. Kevin J. Anderson. D.J. Butler. Orson Scott Card. Mercedes Yardley.

Would you like to know – I mean, REALLY know – what they’re doing when they go to those fancy comic-cons? Because it ain’t just writing.

See, every year, thousands of people attend comic-cons dressed as monsters.
Of course, you probably already knew that.
But did you ALSO know that…
every year, thousands of MONSTERS attend comic-cons dressed as PEOPLE.

Sure. Nothing could POSSIBLY go wrong there.

Luckily, the con organizers have placed Wardens throughout the conventions. These undercover supernatural troubleshooters are tasked with stopping mayhem before it starts . . . or solving the murders after they happen.

I’M MICHAELBRENT COLLINGS: author of this book, and one of the Wardens. My job is to go to the cons, where I sell books, make fans, and kill the occasional monster.

It’s not just me, either. Those authors I told you about, and even more . . . you’d never guess what many of your favorite authors are REALLY up to at the conventions.

Luckily, though, you don’t have to guess.


And get ready to have . . . your . . . mind . . . BLOWN.*

* Disclaimer: your mind may or may not be blown.

Check out The Longest Con now on Amazon.

Author Interview: John Ripslinger

A Frayed Web


Interview with A Frayed Web Author: John Ripslinger

S&S: What drew you to writing thrillers? If it was a particular book, what was it?

JR: I started out writing YA romance. In fact the first book I sold was titled Triangle, the story of two boys in love with the same girl. But it was a real event that led me to the thriller genre. In my hometown of Davenport, Iowa, a doctor killed his wife, sawed her into pieces, and threw them into the Mississippi River. I used those events for my first mystery/thriller. Titled Missing Pieces, the book easily found a publisher. Turns out, I loved creating a mystery surrounding a strong hero and an evil villain. I loved planting red herrings and pointing the story to a dramatic conclusion. I also loved including an element of romance. I’ve included the formula in A Frayed Web and several other books: Last Kiss, Derailed, and The Weight of Guilt.


S&S: What was the most difficult part of writing this book for you?

JR: Writing the first draft of a novel is always the most difficult part for me. I write from the seat of my pants, no outline. I let the characters take me through the story to the end. For me, this technique requires tons of rewriting, but I simply cannot make myself sit down and write an outline. Yet writing the rough draft is also an exciting time because I don’t always know exactly what’s going to happen next, and lots of times I’m pleased and surprised at where the characters take me. On good days, after three or four hours of work at the computer, I might write two or three pages. On rare days, four or five pages. I look forward to sitting at the computer every morning and facing the challenge. But I’m telling anyone who is thinking of writing a first novel that constructing an outline would make writing the rough draft much easier.


S&S: From start to final draft how long did it take you to write this one?

JR: Writing the first draft took seven months, which is normal for me. Then I spent nearly three months rewriting, setting the book aside and rewriting again and again until I finally felt I had it right. I titled the book Trapped and had it professionally critiqued. Then I sent it out for the first time on 3/6/13. Red Adept Publishing offered me a contract on 6/24/15. Now titled A Frayed Web, the book hit the market on 6/7/16. So the entire process took roughly four years. A writer needs a great deal of patience.


S&S:  Has your writing style changed over time or have or have you just refined your original style?

JR: I haven’t changed my style. I’ve always admired Ernest Hemmingway’s style. I like short sentences, short paragraphs—lots of white space on the page—and I always use the simplest word. I like quick exchanges in dialogue and try hard to avoid long speeches. I avoid passive sentence construction and an excess of adjectives and adverbs. I search for the right action verb, and refuse to start a sentence with it or there—totally weak words for a sentence beginning. My goal has always been to get into the heads of my characters and tell a realistic story as simply as possible in an easy-to-read style.


S&S: If you could partner with a famous author in your genre for a collaborative work, who would it be and why?

JR: Judy Blume, no doubt. Years ago, I happened to read Judy Blume’s Forever. It’s the story of a teen girl who feels it’s okay to enjoy sex with her boyfriend because she believes their love will last forever. But when she goes away to a summer camp as a tennis instructor, she becomes involved with one of the other instructors and has sex—proving that first love is not always forever. I loved the book, the writer’s style, the realistic handling of the boy-girl relationships, and the story’s theme. I thought to myself Man, I can write a book like that! I know about teens. I’ve been working with kids for years. I’m a high school English teacher. I can write sentences and paragraphs. I can punctuate. So, if I could collaborate with a famous author in my genre, it would be Judy Blume. She’s my inspiration, and we seem to be on the same page. I’d like to sit down with her and write a modern day Catcher in the Rye with a murder mystery in the plot.


S&S:  Are there any triggering events in your book that potential readers should know about?

JR: I hesitate going into detail about triggering events in the book because I don’t want to spoil what’s coming next for the reader. I will only say the Adam Kingsley and his daughter Kristi have intriguing backgrounds that trigger all their most troubling actions throughout the plot.


S&S: How much of you is in your main character?

JR: In A Frayed Web, Walter’s dad dies when Walter is ten. Seven years later he must welcome a potential stepfather into his home. Walter is suspicious of Adam Kingsley. He feels uncomfortable around the man. He doesn’t want to share his mom with a stranger. My father died when I was nine, and I felt much the same way Walter does when my mom married two years after my dad’s death. My dad’s dying and my reaction to the arrival of a stepdad sparked the idea for this story—how does a kid who is close to his mom deal with a stepdad—a stranger—entering his life? But let me point this out emphatically: My stepdad was in no way a dangerous person. He was not a criminal. Adam Kingsley is purely fictional. I added the mysterious Adam Kingsley to the story for dramatic purposes only. I might add that as I grew up to be a teen I still resented my stepdad’s presence and didn’t fully accept him until I spent four years in the US Navy and came home a more mature and understanding person. That’s when we became friends.


S&S: Have any of your stories ever been inspired by a dream or nightmare that you had?

JR: Dreams and nightmares have played no inspirational part in the nine YA novels I’ve written. My ideas have come from personal experiences or unusual events I’ve heard about or read about in magazines or newspapers.

S&S: What was the most constructive criticism you’ve ever been given?

JR: The most constructive criticism I’ve been given is: Don’t Write about Wimps. Interesting characters are active. They’re goal oriented. They’re risk takers. They’re troublemakers. They’re fighters. They create conflict; conflict hooks readers. Hooked readers buy your next book. Walter Bohannon suspects his soon-to-be stepdad might be a shady person, a criminal even. Walter is not passive. He doesn’t sit around and wait for things to happen. He takes action. He probes. He investigates. He risks his life to uncover the truth about Adam Kingsley, whatever it might be.


S&S:  How much research did you have to do before writing this novel?

JR: None. I live in Iowa. I’ve experienced all of its sights, sounds, and smells. I’ve been part of its activities, like a street festival—an important scene in the book. I took Adam Kingsley’s backstory from an Iowa newspaper clipping I’d saved in a folder of other interesting clippings. So that part of writing the story was easy: no research.


S&S: Did you base the villain of your book off anyone you’ve interacted with in your past?

JR: No. All the characters in the book are purely the creation of my imagination.


S&S: What does your coffee/drinking mug say about you?

JR: I don’t drink coffee. But I drink beer. My mug says, In Heaven There Is No Beer! That’s Why We Drink It Here. And that says I believe life is short. Make the best of it.


S&S: Any weird habits when you write?

JR: I write with classical music playing in the background. When I write dialogue, I mouth he words to myself, moving my lips. In front of the computer, I often make the same facial expressions my characters are making: I scowl, frown, glare, smile. I often make the same gestures: I rub my forehead, scratch the back of my head, wave a hand, and stomp a foot. I am my characters.

A Frayed Web Cover

A Frayed Web
By Jon Ripslinger
Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Walter Bohannon fears love has blinded his mom. After his dad’s death, she reconnected
with an old sweetheart, but Adam Kingsley may not be the same person she dated in high
school. Even his teenage daughter doesn’t seem to know him very well.

Probing into Kingsley’s background, Walter discovers some disturbing things about his soon-to- be stepdad. Kingsley has secrets, and he might be willing to kill to protect them.

Can Walter convince his mother of the danger before it’s too late?