Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guest Author Anthony Hains on Writing Dead Works

Today, guest author Anthony Hains talks about writing his new horror novel Dead Works. If you like a good mix of psychological suspense and supernatural horror, you’ll like Anthony Hains’ stories. I also enjoyed his novel, Birth Offering.

The final version of Dead Works is only remotely similar to the original version. My initial plot for the novel involved the mishaps of ghost hunters exploring a 100 year old mansion situated in a glorious setting on Long Island Sound in New York. One of the characters had a back story that involved him in therapy as a child - an account that may have topped out at 800 words. So, this wasn’t a huge focus, but rather an interesting tidbit to illustrate a character.

The only problem with this back story idea was that I couldn’t shake it from my mind. The issues involving the therapy became more complex, even if I didn’t start out with the intention of putting them on paper. It was only a matter of time until this back story became more interesting than the original plot. I realized that I needed to jettison the ghost hunter notion and go with the kid-in-therapy narrative.

Since I am a psychologist and a professor of counseling psychology, I immediately knew the angle I was going to take. The main character was going to be a graduate student – a counseling psychologist in training. The young man would be in a practicum class where students are placed in a clinical setting and conduct therapy under the supervision of an on-site psychologist and a university instructor. After all, I live this stuff on a daily basis. I have taught at least one practicum class a year for the past 25 years. I know how students think and act. And, even though it has been a very long time, I still remember what it is like to be a graduate student. The client, of course, needed to be a kid – again, no problems since my professional area of focus is pediatric psychology and I have been studying and interacting with adolescents most of my professional career. While this group can be a pain in the butt for many professionals, I rather enjoy the population.

The challenge came with making the process authentic without losing a reader. Losing a reader can happen a couple of ways with this type of narrative. First, if I wrote an accurate account of therapy, the layperson would become increasingly frustrated. Unlike screen portrayals of therapy, there are rarely (if ever) those dramatic eureka moments when the client gains insight and the problem is solved within minutes. In most cases, the problem and the goals of therapy are identified early, and the difficult work involves the client learning and practicing new ways of coping or behaving to address personal concerns. This takes time, depending on the nature of the problem.

Second, if I did go for the dramatic denouement and make the therapy passages unrealistic or simplistic, I would run the risk of personal embarrassment if my colleagues or students actually read my fiction (so far, none have as far as I know). Pure vanity (or maybe self-respect?) on my part, I know.

So, I provided excerpts of five therapy sessions involving my graduate student protagonist, Eric, and his thirteen year old client, Greg. I deleted some of the more mundane interactions between them, and stuck to the more “thrilling” proceedings. By the way, the boy sees ghosts, so much of the interactions involve the kid learning how to make sense of these events. I portrayed my student character as being competent at this level of training. He makes all the “correct” responses in therapy and his inner narrative is consistent with what graduate students might be thinking.

Finally, you can’t get around the fact that this is a ghost story and the topic of therapy involves seeing ghosts. Most problems addressed in actual therapy are not “other-worldly”. The terrors, fears, and concerns of clients are grounded in daily realities. Sometimes these horrors exceed our experience, but we know about them anyway: abuse, addiction, suicide… You don’t need ghosts when you have these things to deal with. Nonetheless, every once in a while something rather strange appears on the radar screen in therapy. I can think of three or four times this has happened in my work. How do you address it? There is no one way of doing it, but I think Dead Works provides some indications. Curious? I hope you read Dead Works to find out. 

Anthony Hains is a university professor in counseling psychology, with a specialization in pediatric psychology – his research involves working with youth who have a chronic illness. 

Here is the link to my website:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Guest Author Eric Red on Researching Horror

My latest guest writer is someone whose work I’ve been a fan of since the 1980s, when Eric Red was writing screenplays and directing movies. Two movies he wrote I consider classics. You may have seen The Hitcher (1986) and the vampire flick Near Dark (1987). When I was studying screenwriting at UT Austin back in 1989, my professor talked about Eric Red and his screenplays, and we discussed The Hitcher in depth. I admired Red’s early success as a writer. In 1991, I went to the theater to see the horror movie Body Parts and there on the big screen was Written and Directed by Eric Red. Mr. Red went on to write and direct some other recognizable horror movies, including Bad Moon and 100 Feet, to name a few. 

After making his mark on the movie business, Eric Red has gone on to write comic book series, graphic novels and channeled his talents into writing horror short stories and novels. I was thrilled when he joined the team of authors at my publisher Samhain Horror. Now, with the release of his latest Sci-Fi monster novel, It Waits Below, I’m honored to have Eric Red as a guest on my blog as he shares his wisdom about researching for a horror novel.

 What does research matter in horror?

You’d think doing research as an author would be less important for a horror novel than other literary genres, because monsters and the supernatural aren’t real—or at least some think so. But in my opinion, the more realistic the everyday details, technology, ordinance, hardware, professional behavior, and science, the more the reader believes what’s going on, increasing their involvement in the story. Even though the reader knows a horror story is unreal, I believe the greater the verisimilitude, that on an unconscious level people believe what is happening just a little bit more—and it’s that much more scary. It all comes down to suspension of disbelief.

I knew two things before writing It Waits Below, my new Samhain novel about the crew of a three-man Deep Submergence Vehicle who encounter an alien life form at the bottom of the ocean. One, the book had to be technically accurate. Two, I didn’t know shit about subs, and needed technical advisers who did. With the help of The National Academy Of Sciences, I was introduced to one of the top Alvin sub pilots in the world and his wife, a prominent oceanographer and microbiologist. For months they gave me invaluable help explaining how these subs are operated and what the crews encounter many miles down. They answered a million questions and shared fascinating materials that provided inspiration for some of the most terrifying scenes in the book. Later, I would run finished scenes by them and ask if this could happen or that could happen. Without the help of my technical advisers, the novel would have been about as convincing as an old Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea TV episode.

Some writers are research-wonks, but originally I wasn’t. When I started writing scripts for movies like The Hitcher—road thrillers set in a spare highway iconography—what the hell did you need to know? Get a map of Texas. Find out the makes of the police cars and what kind of guns they carried. The rest was pure imagination. But over the years, as my subject matter grew more involved, so did the research entailed. What I discovered was some of the most creative ideas often sprang from the research.

For instance, in Containment, my IDW zombies-in-space graphic novel about to be re-republished, I had to research long-distance space exploration and immediately realized the movie cliché of these cavernous space arks is a total myth. The fact is everything would need to be built as small and compact as possible to conserve weight and mass for propulsion. The creative opportunity was since the story involved cryogenic zombies on a spaceship, the more cramped and claustrophobic the surroundings, the greater the tension and suspense.

In It Waits Below, the alien comes to earth and ends up at the bottom of the ocean on a falling asteroid that destroys a Spanish treasure ship in the 1800’s. Centuries later, a salvage dive by treasure hunters sets the story in motion. Again, a little research paid off. I hunted down some footage of meteor strikes and was astonished by one event filmed not too long ago in the Eastern Block by witnesses on DV cams and iPhones from every conceivable vantage point. An actual large asteroid impact didn’t look like I imagined, or had seen in movies—it was a pulsing light over the world that turned in day to night to day to night and back again; utterly apocalyptic and chilling. So the crashing meteor that hits the treasure gallon in the opening of the novel was described in just such a manner.

Even when you know the technical realities of the subject matter, you inevitably take certain liberties. In It Waits Below, for dramatic purposes, I needed a second chamber in the DSV that houses a specially designed diving suit—people have to run and hide from aliens somewhere in a fifteen-foot sub, after all—and neither of these exists in actual submersibles. Still, I ran it all by my Alvin sub pilot consultant, and made it as “speculatively accurate” as possible.

The space monster stuff—well, that I made up!


Here’s the synopsis for It Waits Below:

It waits no more!

In the 1800s, an asteroid carrying an extraterrestrial life form crashed to earth and sunk a Spanish treasure ship. Now, a trio of salvage experts dives a three-man sub to the deepest part of the ocean to recover the sunken gold. There, they confront a nightmarish alien organism beyond comprehension, which has waited for over a century to get to the surface. It finally has its chance.

As their support ship on the surface is ambushed by deadly modern-day pirates, the crew of the stranded sub battles for their very lives against a monster no one on Earth has seen before.

It Waits Below is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Samhain Horror.


Eric Red is a Los Angeles based motion picture screenwriter, director and author. His original scripts include The Hitcher for Tri Star, Near Dark for DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, Blue Steel for MGM and the western The Last Outlaw for HBO. He directed and wrote the crime film Cohen And Tate for Hemdale, Body Parts for Paramount, Undertow for Showtime, Bad Moon for Warner Bros. and the ghost story 100 Feet for Grand Illusions Entertainment.

Mr. Red’s first novel, a dark coming-of-age tale about teenagers called Don’t Stand So Close, is available from SST Publications. His second and third novels, a werewolf western called The Guns Of Santa Sangre and a science fiction monster novel called It Waits Below, are available from Samhain Publishing. His fourth novel, a serial killer thriller called White Knuckle, will be published by Samhain in 2015. A collection of eighteen of his horror short stories titled Toll Road will be published by SST Publications in 2015.

His recent published horror and suspense short stories include “Colorblind” in Cemetery Dance magazine, the western horror tale “The Buzzard” in Weird Tales magazine, “Pack Rat” in Beware the Dark magazine, “Little Nasties” in Shroud magazine, “In the Mix” in Dark Delicacies III: Haunted anthology, “Past Due” in Mulholland Books’ Popcorn Fiction, and “Do Not Disturb” in Dark Discoveries magazine.

He created and wrote the sci-fi/horror comic series and graphic novel Containment for IDW Publishing and the horror western comic series Wild Work published by Antarctic Press.

Mr. Red’s website is:
His IMDB page is:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Guest Post from Hunter Shea

Today’s guest post is by Hunter Shea, one of the rising stars in the field of horror fiction. He’s written several great novels and novellas that every horror fan must read. If you like fun stories with scary monsters and creepy ghosts, I highly recommend you check out the books of Hunter Shea. Here, he’s talking about his latest thriller, The Montauk Monster, which just released in time for the summer.

Have you heard the one about the Everglades skunk apes who got a writer a two-book thriller deal?

Sounds insane, right? Even more so because it’s true.

My debut thriller, The Montauk Monster, came about as strangely as the cryptids that descend on a Long Island town in the book. It’s funny how one set of creatures led to a breakneck tale of another.

Here’s how it went down and how you just never know where life will take you. A couple of years ago, I was watching a marathon of the show Bar Rescue. My editor at Samhain, the legendary Don D’Auria, emailed me around midnight to ask if I had any novellas I’d like to publish. Of course, I didn’t, but in a flash I had this idea about a Bigfoot novel set in the Everglades. Yeah, Bar Rescue marathons and lack of sleep make for great creative inspiration. Don said to go for it, and I set to writing.

A month later, I turned in my manuscript, Swamp Monster Massacre, a love note to the B monster movies I loved and still adore. SMM is filled with a family of angry skunk apes intent on murdering a band of hapless humans who crashed their airboat in the deep of the Everglades. The book is a hell of a lot of twisted fun and has been my most popular to date.

Flash forward to the following year. I get an email from a guy who says he’s an editor. Apparently, he was trolling for ‘new talent’ and had loaded up his kindle with hundreds of ebooks. When all was said and done, he said SMM was the one that stood out and he wanted to know if I’d be interested in working with him.

Now, at first, I thought this was some kind of scam. So, I checked him and his company out. Oh, he was legit all right. I replied that I was interested, and we got to talking. The man made me laugh and we found out we shared the same love for Roger Corman, Irwin Allen and loads of other stuff. Again, I was asked if I had any ideas for a thriller.

I had recently been looking at pictures of supposed Montauk Monsters, strange animal carcasses that have been washing up on the shores of Long Island, NY. I quickly hashed a story concept together. To my amazement, he loved it and we were off to the races. To convince the senior editors in the project, he even printed pictures of the corpses and articles! And sure enough, I not only got the deal, but a two-book deal.

Right away, I started working on the book, powering through it, creating non-stop action with plausible backstories. It was a challenge and a thrill. Best of all, the whole thing was an unexpected gift from above.

Now here it is, already listed as Publisher Weekly’s top reads for summer and in a second printing before the first copy hit the shelves.

And it’s all because of those lovable, murderous skunk apes. Who knew? As R.L. Stine told me (along with the crowd of other writers who paid to hear him), never say no. That proposal you take on could be the one that changes your life.

Hunter Shea is the author of the pulse-pounding new thriller, The Montauk Monster, named as one of the Best Reads of Summer by Publishers Weekly.

His horror novels to date are: The Waiting, Sinister Entity, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal and Forest of Shadows. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on. Hunter is also the proud and slightly demented co-host of the Monster Men video podcast. A native New Yorker all his life, he waits with Biblical patience for the Mets to win a World Series. You can read about his latest travails, preview and purchase his books, watch Monster Men episodes and communicate with him without the need for a Ouija board at

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interview with Author Anthony Hains

My guest author today is Anthony Hains, who wrote a great horror novel, Birth Offering.

Brian: Hi Anthony, welcome to my blog. Tell us about Birth Offering. What’s the basic premise? And what compelled you to write this story?

Anthony: Birth Offering is about a fourteen year old boy named Ryan Perry who has just recently lost his father. He and his mom move to his grandmother’s coastal home in South Carolina for a change of pace. Ryan isn’t thrilled with the idea, but what can he do? Not long after the Perry’s arrival, Ryan is haunted by a malevolent entity masquerading as his double. The hauntings become increasingly dangerous with Ryan suffering injuries. It becomes clear that this specter of ancient evil is intent on destroying Ryan. As if this wasn’t enough, Ryan encounters an additional threat: two menacing boys and their caretaker somehow connected to this other twin. Ryan soon realizes that in order to save himself and his family, he must confront this unimaginable evil head on.

My inspiration for Birth Offering came when we were vacationing on Edisto Island, South Carolina. We (my wife, daughter, and I) spent a week there in August of 1995. At the time, Edisto was not a crowd favorite like Kiawah Island, Hilton Head, and Isle of Palms. Whole sections were undeveloped with beach houses and one relatively small resort area. For all that I know, it may still be that way, which makes it the best kept secret of the South Carolina coast. I hope so. One day we came across the most beautiful road… unpaved and densely lined with live oak trees that were shrouded with Spanish moss. Beyond the live oaks, there were palmettos and other tropical kinds of bushes and trees. The impact of the vegetation was practically cathedral-like. The oak branches met across the road, and the sunlight barely peeked through the hanging moss. It was breathtaking. My wife proclaimed it beautiful, and the only thing I could think about was, “wouldn’t this be a cool setting for a passage in a horror novel?” I visualized someone on the road being stalked, and then chased by something in the vegetation which was gradually working its way towards the road. That imagery stuck with me for years, and ended up in Birth Offering – almost exactly like I had remembered it years earlier.

Brian: The islands off the coast of South Carolina sound intriguing. I’ll have to travel there and explore them. Is anything in your novel based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Anthony: Fortunately, the work is entirely based on imagination. Of course, there are minor personal experiences that make it into the book – like seeing the road in South Carolina which gave me the initial idea.

Brian: I’m always amazed what you can come up with when you tap into your imagination. What kind of research did you do?

Anthony: I tried to draw on my knowledge as a psychologist to inform the emotions and behavior of my characters. So, I didn’t have to research that aspect. For instance, my main character is a 14-year-old boy. I am a pediatric psychologist, and have spent my career researching various issues related to adolescence. However, when I came to sections of the novel that involved some aspect of the plot that couldn’t be addressed by psychology (and there were many), I was constantly searching the internet and trying some personal mini-experiments to see if a certain sequence of events was possible.

Brian: Do you have a specific writing style?

Anthony: Since I am a psychologist and a university professor, this means my writing style is that of an academic researcher. Specifically, for the past thirty plus years, I have been writing empirical research articles in APA format (American Psychological Association). In order to write fiction, I had to be on my guard not to slip into scholarly manuscript writing and instead wear my fiction writing hat. I am not sure what I would call that style – since I am still trying to master it.

Brian: What books have influenced your life most?

Anthony: The most significant influences in the realm of horror are probably the earliest ones. In my senior year of high school, two novels came out nearly simultaneously: The Other by Thomas Tryon and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. While I had always been a horror movie and monster movie fanatic as a kid, these two books more than any others initiated me into the joys of reading horror. I still regard them as classics. Since then I’ve enjoyed Stephen King for the most part, especially his earlier works and, strangely enough, his very recent works.

In terms of non-horror, I can rattle off a number of titles that moved me at the time I read them and still do today: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and In Cold Blood. Interestingly enough, I read these in high school as well. More recently, I have enjoyed the three ‘Colorado’ novels written by Kent Haruf. His latest, Benediction, is an emotionally powerful novel. Finally, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray is probably one of the best books about adolescents. It is simultaneously hilarious and troubling – and informed my fictional writings of teenage characters.

Brian: Describe your path to becoming a published author.

Like many others, this was something I always wanted to do, but I never saw it as a career. However, the initial “nudge” occurred way back in my senior year in college when I took a short fiction writing course. For decades after that class, I always tossed around plots in my head, and even attempted to write once or twice. But, I could never sit still long enough. Finally, about five years ago, I took the plunge and began writing fiction for real.

Things really took off when we became empty nesters. I was able to schedule regular times for writing and always had a plan to write a certain number of words a day. I wasn’t focused on publishing the book, believe it or not. I wanted to see if I could actually complete the task. Once I finished a first draft of Birth Offering, I thought “why not?” So I started investigating the idea of trying to publish the book.

Needless to say, I was naive. The process was long and time consuming – with tons of rejections for agents and publishers. Finally, Damnation Books said ‘yes’.

Brian: Is writing your career or a hobby?

Anthony: I have a career as a psychologist and professor. So, I cannot say I have a career as a writer too. When I think of the word ‘hobby’, though, I think pastime.  I wouldn’t say that either. I take it seriously, and plan to continue.

Brian: How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Anthony: Like millions of others trying to promote their work, I have turned to social media. I’ve created a web page where I attempt to blog fairly regularly. I review other horror novels and novellas in my blog, in an effort to “give back to the field”.  I’ve joined GoodReads and try to take part in some horror-themed discussion groups. My only problem is that I do not have enough time to regularly contribute to those discussions. There are some very knowledgeable readers in those groups, and I have learned a lot from them. In addition, you will find me on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, etc.

Brian: Can you tell us something you enjoy doing when not writing?

Anthony: When I’m not writing, I enjoy relaxing with my family and reading (often horror stories, but not always).

Brian: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Anthony: I wish I had some profound advice for other writers, but I really don’t. The cliché responses are the best I can come up with. Stick to it, don’t give up, carve out time for you to write on a regular basis – every day if possible, set a goal… Those are the things that have kept me on task.

Brian: Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Anthony: Thank you for taking the chance to read an unknown writer’s work.

Brian: Birth Offering was a great debut novel. Do you have a new book coming out soon? Tell us about it.

Anthony: I just completed the editing process of Dead Works with my editor at Damnation Books. Dead Works tells the tale of a teenager in therapy because he is seeing ghosts. I realize this sounds like the movie The Sixth Sense, but the plot is considerably different. My professional life contributed a chunk of the source material. The psychologist character is a graduate student in counseling psychology who was working on his PhD. The young therapist is doing his practicum placement at the university counseling center and he is assigned a teenage client who is seeing ‘things’.  I regularly teach a Practicum course where the students are being supervised while they provide therapy. Much of the context for the novel takes place within the counseling relationship between the teen and the student therapist; the story is told from the graduate student’s point of view. The book was a lot of fun to write.

Brian: Sounds like a great story. I’m looking forward to when Dead Works releases. Anthony, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing about your books. For readers who have yet to discover Anthony Hains’ horror fiction, check out Birth Offering which is now available on Amazon, and wherever books are sold.


Anthony Hains is a university professor in counseling psychology, with a specialization in pediatric psychology – his research involves working with youth who have a chronic illness. He is married with a daughter in college. Birth Offering his is first novel.