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


Keep Reading!

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?

Indie Zone: Talking with C.M. Saunders

Profile Pic  for Author Interview with CM Saunders

New Tredegar-born C.M. Saunders began writing in 1997, his early fiction appearing in several small-press titles. Following the publication of his first book, Into the Dragon’s Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales (2003), he worked extensively in the freelance market, contributing to over 50 international publications including Fortean Times, Loaded, Record Collector, Forever Sports and Nuts. In addition, he has written several novellas and had over thirty short stories published in various magazines, ezines and anthologies. He taught English and creative writing in China for five years, before settling in London where he works as a writer and editor in the sport, fitness and men’s lifestyle sectors. His latest release is Sker House on DeadPixel Publications.

Author Interview with C.M. Saunders

S&S: So…why did you choose Sker House? Was it just a matter of it being a place you were familiar with because of it being in Wales too, or was there something in particular that attracted you to it?

CMS: It was a combination of all those things, really. When I was little we used to go on family holidays to a seaside town called Porthcawl, which is very close to Sker, and we often went on walks to Sker Beach. The house was in ruins then, and even as a child I could tell it was a very atmospheric, eerie place. There are lots of ghost stories and legends attached to the house, most famously that of Elizabeth, Maid of Sker. She was the daughter of the house’s owner, a very dubious character called Isaac Williams who was involved in all kinds of sketchiness. Elizabeth fell in love with a local harpist, but her father strictly forbade the prospective marriage and locked her in a room in the house until she agreed to marry someone of his choosing. She died at a tragically young age, some say of a broken heart, and ever since people have reported seeing her ghost looking out of the window of one of the upstairs rooms of Sker House.

S&S: For anyone who is interested, Sker House has it’s own Wikipedia page here


S&S: Sker House has also featured in another novel, though from a much, much earlier time. The Maid of Sker was 3 volumes long, written by R.D. Blackmore, and published in 1872. Have you ever read that work yourself? I know you mention a “Maid of Sker” in your story, is it linked to this work by Blackmore? Or is it a separate legend?

CMS: RD Blackmore was a Welsh writer who was brought up in the area around Sker House, so he was aware of the house’s history and the legends surrounding it. I haven’t read it but I know the Maid of Sker in his book is a baby who is washed up on a beach in a tiny boat, and the rest of the story concerns the attempts of the man who finds her to solve the mystery of who she is. The title supposedly comes from a folk song written by the harpist the original Maid of Sker fell in love with after she married another man, which adds yet another twist to the tale. When I started researching Sker House and the surrounding area, I found that fact to be even stranger than the fiction. There are enough stories to write ten books. The challenge lay in including as many as possible, weaving them into some kind of cohesive narrative, and bringing the whole thing up to date.


S&S: You lived in China for six years, given your interest in writing horror/paranormal, one must assume you delved into that side of literature there. Was there any tale you heard that stayed with you? If so, mind giving us a short and sweet of it?

CMS: The Chinese don’t traditionally go for the paranormal much. They are much more pragmatic than the Japanese and Koreans. The government gave Steven Spielberg a role in organizing the 2008 Olympics, but he pulled out for political reasons. In retaliation they not only banned all his films, even things like ET, but they put a blanket ban on ‘horror.’ There are lots of urban legends, though, that you hear off the record so to speak. One I heard several times was the crying baby story. I spent a year working in rural hunan province. The school was in the middle of nowhere. The students would all talk about this crying baby. Supposedly, during the night you could hear a baby crying. You would head out into the countryside to look for it, get lost, and never find your way back again. After I heard that, sure enough, at night I would often hear a baby crying. It was probably just a normal baby. Probably. One thing was certain, though, I was never going to go out looking for it.


S&S: You’ve done a lot of interviews yourself, though it seems mostly of sports people. Have you ever struck up a friendship with any of the people you’ve interviewed? If not, is there someone after you interviewed them you walked away thinking they would be cool to be friends with?

CMS: I think ‘friendship’ would be the wrong word. Yes, I interview a lot of people in my day job as a magazine writer but when you meet and interview these people you both try to be professional, and develop a mutually beneficial relationship. You are not trying to make friends, it’s purely a work environment. Saying that, I regularly get awe struck! I am very lucky to do what I do. Sometimes you have to ask the questions perhaps other people wouldn’t ask, so things can get very real very quickly. There are some you meet on regular basis, so you build up a relationship. You might interview them several times, then go to an event and bump into them there. In that case, you exchange ‘hello’s’ or have a quick informal chat. There are some people you have an instant rapport with. A recent example would be the ex-boxer Joe Calzaghe, who I interviewed in London when his movie came out last year. I think it was mainly down to us both being from the same place. As soon as he heard my accent, my job was half done!

S&S: Good point, and something bloggers need to keep in mind, too, I think.


S&S: Alright, we’ve got to talk about scary movies for a minute. Name your favorite horror movie and tell us why you picked it, please.

CMS: I’d have to go for Lost Boys. Mainly because of the time it represented. The late 80’s were excruciating to live through but looking back, some of the films, books and music that came out in that era was iconic. Lost Boys had just the right mix of mystery, humor and horror, not to mention great stars and an awesome soundtrack, and it made the whole vampire genre cool again. Not only that, but it made you actually want to be a vampire. Or that might just have been me. A more recent film that went under the radar somewhat was Spring. If you have a chance, give it a go.


S&S: Do your nightmares ever make it into your stories?

CMS: Yes, quite often. A few years ago I wrote a novella called Apartment 14F: An Oriental ghost Story, which was about a teacher living in a haunted apartment in Beijing. That was pretty much just several extremely disturbing nightmares I had stitched together. A few of my short stories have also been inspired by dreams, and on rare occasions (a recent example being a story called Jessica, which will be featured in an up-coming issue of Liquid imagination) virtually the entire story plays out before my eyes. Beginning, middle and end. I must admit, it’s a bit deflating to know that your subconscious mind is more fertile than your waking one!


S&S: Is there any of yourself in Dale?

CMS: I didn’t realize when I was writing it, but when it came to the editing stages I was shocked by how much of me is reflected in the character of Dale. There are the obvious things like he was from a small valley town in Wales and went away to university to become a writer, eventually going to work for a magazine in London. But then Dale and I also share a lot of the same ideas and opinions, and a lot of the specifics that happened to Dale in the story happened to me. Not the supernatural stuff, but the more personal things. It wasn’t intentional, Sker House is in no way autobiographical, but with the story line being so ‘out there’ I wanted other parts of the book to be very gritty and grounded to make it as realistic and believable as possible. Injecting some personal experience in it allowed me to do that.


S&S: What was the hardest part of writing Sker House?

CMS: The research was very time consuming, but both necessary and enjoyable, and making your characters believable and relatable is a constant struggle. Other than that, it’s always finding the time. I think in the current climate, where there are so many people doing it and so many books to choose from, it’s easy to take them for granted. But even the worst book is a big part of the writer’s life. It can take anything up to a year to write a novel, often a lot longer. That is a big commitment and a huge undertaking. I wrote the first draft of Sker House when I was living in China in 2011/12. Then life got in the way and I didn’t dust off the manuscript again until late last year. By then, it was a different story. The story hadn’t changed, I had.


S&S: Do you believe in ghosts and/or things that go bump in the night, or is it just a literary interest?

CMS: I’m a skeptic, and I think there are perfectly natural and rational explanations for about 99% of the so-called paranormal events that take place. But then, of course, what about the remaining 1%? That alone proves the existence of the supernatural. A lot of strange things happen in this world that simply can’t be explained. As a race, people are not nearly as smart as we like to think we are. Sure, we can put men on the moon and make enough weapons to destroy all life on earth many times over, but we don’t even know what lives at the bottom in the ocean. Most mainstream scientists choose to ignore these ‘difficult’ aspects and just focus on what they CAN explain. This was the whole basis of Charles Fort’s writings, which led to the continued existence of Fortean Times magazine.


S&S: What’s the current story idea floating around in your head?

CMS: I’m not telling you in case someone steals it, haha! Something that is finished, though, is a horror novella set in World War I called No Man’s Land, which will be released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.


S&S: Do you have an established routine for your writing since you do it for a living? If so, mind sharing?

CMS: A lot of people think professional writers are living the dream, and sure, it has some great points, but it’s also a hard life. I don’t really have a set routine. When I wake up, I do the important stuff like my accounts, administration, and checking email. Then most days I try to pitch a couple of feature ideas at various editors, most of whom don’t reply, then I kick on with any features I’m working on, break for food, and continue late into the night. Non-fiction always takes precedence because at this stage in my career, my fiction is more of a guilty pleasure. Saying that, if a story is going well I like to work on it intermittently whilst doing other stuff. Article writing is more of an exact science, there is a formula you adhere to, and you tailor your style to suit the readership. Fiction writing is much more organic, and my muse might not come out to play for days or weeks on end, so when she’s there I try to take advantage and get busy. That means pulling the occasional all-nighter. Of course, that messes up your body clock for the next day or so, but you have to get through it.


 S&S:  and to wrap it up … What is the one thing that sets Sker House apart from all the other books in the genre?

CMS: I think that would be the amount of historical fact it contains. Not just the story of the Maid of Sker, but over the years so many other weird things have happened there. The house is almost 1000 years old. At one time it was a hideaway for renegade monks during the Reformation, which was a very fraught and bloody time in British history. No end of tragedy has occurred there since. The section of sea it overlooks was the scene of one of the worst disasters in British maritime history. It’s almost as if the house is cursed, this is without all the reported poltergeist activity, shadow figures, and omens of death that plague the area.

Sker House

Dale and Lucy are two students with a fascination in the supernatural. One weekend, they travel to Sker House, South Wales, a private residence with a macabre history which has recently been converted into a seaside inn. They plan to write an article for their university magazine about a supposed haunting, but when they arrive, they meet a landlord who seems to have a lot to hide. Soon, it becomes apparent that all is not well at Sker House. An air of oppression hangs over it, while misery, tragedy and ill-fortune are commonplace. Gradually, it becomes clear that the true depth of the mystery goes far beyond a mere historical haunting. This is a place where bad things happen, and evil lurks.

Little by little Dale and Lucy fall under Sker’s dark spell, and as they begin to unravel the mysteries of the past, they realize that nothing stays buried forever.

Welcome to Sker House, a place where past and present collide.

Sker House sound intriguing? You can support an indie author and buy it now on Amazon. We hope you enjoyed this author interview with C.M. Saunders

Indie Zone: Talking with Thorne & Cross

Alistair CrossTamara ThorneA few weeks ago, I was approached  with the possibility of doing publicity work with Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross in regards to their upcoming release, Mother. We decided on an interview with the co-authors as well as agreeing to review the book. Thorne & Cross  have collaborated on several works, as well as host the well-known podcast Haunted Nights Live, where they’ve interviewed many well-known names in horror. You can find links to their many podcasts here. Thanks for participating!

The Interview with Thorne & Cross

S&S:  In your opinions, why is it so easy for horror to focus on the mother role as one for tormenting or to torment?

Thorne & Cross:  A mother is supposed to be nurturing and loving – it’s a world truth. Whether the mother is human, feline, or of any other species, we expect this. We depend on it. Stories about mothers abandoning their children are met with horror. Stories about mothers killing their children shock us. But we all know that there are bad mothers out there.

Many bad mothers can be forgiven, at least to some extent, because of youth or other circumstances. But a mother who is truly bad – an evil mother – both rivets and repels us. Evil mothers are very nearly taboo and when you run into one who tortures – physically or mentally – her child, we all want to hear about it. We all stare at a train wreck.

The Brothers Grimm had to turn the evil mother in Hansel & Gretel into an evil stepmother because the story was so upsetting. Other evil mothers have gone the same way. And in modern times, look at the popularity of such mothers-gone-wrong as Corinne Dollanganger of Flowers in the Attic, Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest or Norman Bates’ misguided mom. There are so many more. Bad mothers fascinate us because they walk a line that resonates all the way back to the cradle.

S&S: I didn’t know that about Hansel & Gretel! Interesting. I think you worded this perfectly.

S&S: How often do dreams or nightmares that either of you have end up making their way into your work?

Tamara: Frequently. Everything from snippets to entire plots have come from my dreams. Usually, I dream up scenery and locations – in part via lucid dreaming, in part because my brain decides to dump out something tasty. My novel, Eternity, is a book borne of dreams.

Alistair: Yes. Dreams are a good source of material. I dreamed of Gretchen VanTreese from The Crimson Corset many years before I wrote the book.

S&S: Do you have personality clashes when writing? What generally triggers one, if so?

Thorne & Cross: Honestly, we don’t. In over three years of working together, six days a week, we have yet to have anything that would qualify as a clash of personalities. We share the same vision for our work, and both of us hate drama. Been there, done that, and no thank you. We believe that respect, trust, shared goals, and similar sensibilities are imperative when it comes to working this closely with anyone.

S&S: Is there any book that, if you could, you’d go back and change something in before it got published?

Thorne & Cross: Neither of us believe in regrets, so no, not really. Once we finish a book, we’re ready to move on to the next.

S&S: How much do your writing routines change when you’re working on a book together as opposed to when you’re working on your individual novels?

Thorne & Cross:They don’t change at all. No matter what we’re working on, we work in the Cloud with Skype on in our own virtual office. We usually spend an hour or two on our solo projects every day in addition to our collaborations and during the second hour we read to each other and go over our individual works. Then we move on to our collaborations where we literally write together in the same file.

S&S: What has been your favorite podcast that you’ve done?

Thorne & Cross: There’s honestly no way to answer that because we get something exciting and new from each guest. Some of our guests make us laugh while others make us think, but none of them has been “bad” in any way – and therefore, it’s hard to choose a favorite. We loved hearing about the Walking Dead zombies from Jay Bonansinga, the various vampire worlds of Charlaine Harris, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Laurell K. Hamilton, and the stories behind the thrillers of V.C. Andrews, Kevin O’Brien, and Jonathan Maberry, but we enjoy variety too much to choose a favorite.

S&S:   Is there anyone you haven’t got into the studio yet that you’re itching to?

Thorne & Cross: Oh, yes. We’d like to get Stephen King, of course, and Anne Rice. We did have her son, bestselling author Christopher Rice, on, and he was a lot of fun. We’d also like to have Graham Masterton, Gillian Flynn, John Saul, and Robert McCammon – and a lot of others. We had Dean Koontz booked, but he got sick and cancelled at the last minute. Oh well, next book…

S&S:  Is there a subject that either of you, as horror writers, will not touch due to the sensitive nature of it?

Thorne & Cross: Animal horror. We both consider violence against pets a cheap shot and absolutely unnecessary. We do have some stuffed dogs in Mother but they died natural deaths many years ago. That’s not the same thing. If we need to do some early killing to show a family is in danger, it will be rotten children or annoying missionaries, not Sir Barksalot.

S&S: Oh, I like you! Poor Manchee…

S&S:  What does/would your drinking mug say about you? (Mine says “I don’t like MORNING people. Or Mornings. Or people.)

Thorne & Cross:  Alistair’s is a collage of Shakespearean insults given to him at Christmas from his dear friend, Q.L. Pearce.

Tamara doesn’t like hot beverages. She has a bottle of water and what that says is, “I have to keep a lid on my drink so the cats can’t knock it onto the keyboard.” She does have a beloved green man mug that her husband absconded with since she never used it.

S&S: I’ve been eyeing that same Shakespearean insults mug myself. It’s a great one.

S&S: How much input do you have into the cover art for your work?

Thorne & Cross: We have a great cover art designer who is much better at creating book covers than we are. We tell him our basic idea, then trust him to work his magic and do what is best for the overall effect. We’ve learned to step back and let him work his magic – cover artistry is where he’s really brilliant – and we don’t want to rob ourselves of his expertise by micro-managing him and forcing ideals. He’s proven repeatedly that he knows best.

S&S:  How do you think your soon-to-be published novel, Mother, ranks in comparison to your other novels together?

Thorne & Cross: We only write what we love, so we’re fond of all our books, but Mother is in a class by herself. It’s a psychological thriller that takes place on a cul-de-sac like a million others in America. If Psycho and Peyton Place had a baby whose godparents were Misery and Gaslight, Mother would be the bright-eyed, bouncing result. Our horror fans will appreciate the spooky aspects, but Mother would be best filmed by Hitchcock. It’s both a thriller and very black comedy. We’re hoping Hitch volunteers to direct it from beyond the grave. And he has shown some interest in this project via our Ouija. Fingers crossed!

S&S: Ooh, you’ve just set the bar quite high. I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for the great answers!


Find the co-authors blog at:

You can find Tamara Thorne at:

You can find Alistair Cross at:

Mother Promo

Indie Zone: Talking with Jaq Hazell

I requested this interview because Jaq Hazell’s book, I Came to Find a Girl, really got to me, and I shamelessly used my position as a reviewer to pepper her with questions about it.

Jaq Hazell Author Interview - main headshot from website



About the Author: Jaq Hazell is the author of London Tsunami & Other Stories. She has been shortlisted for The Virginia Prize for Fiction and the Jane Austen Short Story Award. Born near Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, her first full-time job was at Buckingham Palace. She has also worked as a humorous greetings cards designer and a journalist. She lives in London, and occasionally blogs at

Jaq Hazell Author Interview

S&S: Are you a meticulous writer who plans everything out before you begin to write, or someone who writes completed pieces here or there and joins them all together?

JH: I do try to plan, I really do, but it only works up to a point. This novel grew from a short story about a young art student/waitress who was struggling to find her identity. It took me a long time to structure this novel, and I only established where to begin after the first few drafts. I have to set the correct tone before I can continue so that can slow me down.

S&S: After I finished reading your book, it sat like a lump of lead on my chest. I had to talk about it with a fellow book blogger to sort out my thoughts for several minutes before I could even start the review. What’s your response to that?

JH: Oh dear “a lump of lead” – is that a good thing? I laughed nervously at that. I guess it’s good that you’ve had such a strong response. Date-rape is such a serious subject and one that is not covered nearly enough. When I was hawking this book round agents/publishers, I was told by one crime fiction editor at one of the biggies that they weren’t interested in rape. Murder is fine. Murder sells. They were looking for as much murder as possible.

(S&S: I think the lump of lead is definitely a good thing, simply because, as the author states, it is indicative of a strong response. )

S&S: I Came to Find a Girl deals with a heavy subject that isn’t talked nearly enough about in today’s society. Was pushing awareness of date-rape and the consequences something that was consciously on your mind while you were writing it? Or was it just part of the story?

JH: I didn’t plan to write about date-rape, but I was thinking about how we can all find ourselves in situations that can easily go awry through no fault of our own, and it developed from there. Saying that, I recently went to see Margaret Atwood talk at Kew Literary Festival and she talked about the third wave of feminism being about violence. “It’s about women being murdered and raped. It’s more self defense than self assertion.” 

S&S: I always list, at the bottom of my reviews, a Trigger Warnings section. For I Came to Find a Girl, that warning will be for Date Rape. Did you have any inkling when you wrote the book that someone would consider it powerful enough to warn people about it if they’d been through/thought they’d been through any sort of sexual assault?

JH: No, I’m pretty fearless whilst I’m writing, but it is something I’ve considered on publication. I think the subject is sensitively handled. I don’t go into any graphic detail as I wouldn’t want to read anything like that myself.

(S&S: To clarify- The situation is handled with sensitivity. The ‘trigger’ is simply that its there. It pulls up memories, emotions, etc, that you may not necessarily be prepared to deal with when you pick up a book for pleasure-reading.)

S&S: Did you ever have another way planned for Flood to die? Or did you know how you’d end him with certainty early on?

JH: I had no idea how Flood had died until I got there. I did research various criminals and I’m sure that’s where the inspiration came from. 

S&S: I ‘slept on it’ before writing out the questions I wanted to ask you. The thing that surprises me now in regards to my thoughts concerning I Came to Find a Girl is that the ending doesn’t matter me to me. It was Mia’s journey that does.  Would you change anything about that journey now?

JH: No, I think Mia does the best she can and I like her later combative approach.

(S&S: I agree!)

S&S:  …and now for some fun stuff.  What’s the strangest thing you do when writing?

JH: I walk my small, cat-sized-dog a lot, especially when I have plotting issues. 

S&S: What’s your “dirty little secret” book? The one you love but hope no one ever sees you reading?

JH: Well, that’s the beauty of Kindle – no one knows what you’re reading.

(S&S: That’s question avoidance! Bahahaha!)

S&S: Last, but not least: How long would Mia survive in a zombie apocalypse? What would he/she eventually die from?

JH: Mia would kick-ass. I think she has an inner “Tank Girl” and would last more than 28 days. Eventually, she’d die from starvation after consuming all her stolen supplies of dried pasta and tins of tuna. 

Click here to read my review of I Came to Find a Girl by Jaq Hazell!

  • I love Audible. Tons of books, fantastic narrators, good prices.