In anticipation of the June 1st release of The Stranger, Gavin from Kendall Reviews has kindly invited me to discuss the ‘behind the scenes’ writing of my works. In this, Part 3, we discuss my two novellas Wagon Buddy and YURI that were released two weeks apart in the fall of 2018.
The Writing of Wagon Buddy & Yuri
KR: Ok, well then, welcome back, Steve. You’ve been kind enough to go through your first four releases. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but Wagon Buddy appeared to be a bit of a bump for you, yeah?
Thanks for doing this! Kendall Reviews has always been so supportive and this is a neat thing to discuss. No matter how egotistical it comes off talking about one’s own work haha!
But to answer your question – yes, I’d say Wagon Buddy was the point for me where I think a few more folks took notice of my work. I think it was two parts that really paid off. I feel like I worked hard to create some solid online relationships with book reviewers, so when I approached them about possibly reviewing etc, they knew who I was and knew I wasn’t trying to be a jerk or anything. The second was that I’m pretty liberal with doing freebies etc and so a number of folks had been exposed to some of my stuff already through the free Kindle days etc.
You toss in that fantastic artwork from Mason and a really creepy synopsis and folks were intrigued!
KR: Let’s talk about both. The cover is really fantastic, so simple yet so unsettling. The synopsis is about a young boy who acquires an imaginary friend. What made you write this story?
Well as I said in part two, Wagon Buddy (and YURI) were going to originally be in Left Hand Path, but I ended up making them their own releases. Wagon Buddy is rooted completely in my upbringing and my present day, but also focuses on or elevates the underlying theme of bullying.
I grew up in a very small town. I had some friends but there wasn’t a lot of kids around. I spent a lot of time on my own, using my imagination. I created my own sports leagues and kept stats, I spent time running in the woods behind our house and playing make-believe etc. So a part of me thought – how cool would it have been if the creatures we’re normally scared of became our friend? So I had the main character, who lives in a really crappy home, get a friend one day. It was originally inspired by a photo I saw celebrating Bonfire Day, of a small child pulling a man in a Guy Fawkes mask in a wagon. Morphed from there.
The second part of the tale is the bullying aspect. I was bullied growing up and in high school, I became a bully. Not sure why I just transformed into an asshole and wasn’t too nice to some folks. Might have been an attempt at machismo, not sure, but it happened and it’s nothing I’m proud of.
As for the cover, well, Mason knocked it out of the park once again. Simple, straight forward but those woods just lurking behind. Makes you breathe a bit faster, yeah?
KR: Now, two weeks after Wagon Buddy you released YURI, which seems to have similar themes to Wagon Buddy?
Yes, this is true. YURI was meant as a sort of step-brother to Wagon Buddy. Wagon Buddy ends kind of open-ended. A lot of folks have asked for a part two, and really – don’t hold your breath haha! I don’t believe I can tell a follow-up tale to do it justice. BUT – YURI was written as a sort of follow up from day one. Much like there was two ‘To the Moon’s,’ I had written YURI specifically to be in the same family as Wagon Buddy. Follows the theme of bullying again and trying to force someone to do something they don’t want, hence that infamous tagline ‘Don’t Eat the Stew.’ In Wagon Buddy, we follow Scott from youth to adulthood. In YURI we follow Yuri while he’s an adult. So he faces different types of people but the same issues as Scott. He just didn’t have a Wagon Buddy to protect him.
KR: The cover art for YURI is pretty understated. Was this on purpose? Wagon Buddy is simple, but YURI is almost minimal?
Couldn’t tell you! Haha! That was 100% Mason. Me and Mason have this insane telepathic ability where I can give him a synopsis or a small snippet of what I’m looking for and he’ll send me back pretty much exactly what I’m looking for the first time. There’s only been one time – with Left Hand Path where he sent me three different designs and we went with the door in the woods. Otherwise now, I’ll message him with x and he sends me y and then he refines the lettering and the sizing and we call it a day. I have four current covers sitting here that he’s done for my next four releases after The Stranger and he just knocks it out of the park time and time again.
KR: Last time you discussed experiencing some issues with the release of Left Hand Path, specifically with a poor edit job. How was the release with these two books? Did you encounter anything similar or smooth sailing?
Hooo-boy. Of course there was an issue. Actually it was a small thing, but it snowballed on the day it happened. I gave away a copy of Wagon Buddy on the Facebook group Books of Horror. An author had given me a blurb where he compared it to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Now – it’s always on me of course, but I didn’t see that he’d misspelt Shelley. He spelt it, Shelly. So someone spotted this in the little ad/blurb I posted with the giveaway and as most things do on the internet – it escalated.
I stopped using the blurb. Wasn’t worth it. Otherwise no other hiccups!
KR: To close Part three, would you say it’s fair that Wagon Buddy has been your best-received release?
I think that used to be accurate. Up until The Girl Who Hid in the Trees came out, I think most people who knew me at all associated that release with me. I’d also say that it’s a tie between YURI and Jane as the least known of my releases.
As a whole though, if Wagon Buddy ever became my ‘only remembered book’ or my ‘Moby Dick’ if you will – I’d be just fine with that. It’s a lovely story. Sure there’s gore and death etc, but I don’t think it’s a horror-horror story. I remember I received a review from someone who said something like “was good but not scary” and I kind of laughed, because it’s not scary. It’s a story about a boy who gets horrifically bullied. His mom’s an alcoholic, his dad’s left. Then a creature arrives and sticks up for him through the rest of his life until thirty-ish years old or so.
Doesn’t sound scary does it? Haha!
KR: Thank you Steve. Next week, we will be chatting about Dim The Sun and The Girl Who Hid In The Trees.
Part One of our interview can be read here
Part Two of our interview can be read here
Steve Stred is an up-an-coming Dark, Bleak Horror author.
Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun and his most recent release was the coming-of-age, urban legend tale The Girl Who Hid in the Trees.
On June 1st, 2019 his second full length novel, The Stranger will be welcomed to the world.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here
Ahhh… nothing like the annual summer family camping trip, right?
Malcolm, his wife Sam and their two kids have been staying at the same cabin, at the same campground for years now. Heck, Malcolm’s been coming to the campground since he was a kid.
Miles and miles of groomed trails, hiking, kayaking on the pristine lake. What’s not to like?
But this year… well this year’s different. You see, roof repairs have caused them to have to change their plans. Now they’re staying at the cabin at the end of season, in fact they’re the last campers before it closes for the winter.
While happy to be spending time with the family, Malcolm feels a shift.
The caretaker next door makes it known he hates him.
The trees… move and dance, as though calling him, beckoning him.
Then on a seemingly normal kayaking trip, the family makes a discovery.
YOU TAKE FROM ME
I TAKE FROM YOU
Something’s out there, just on the other side of the fence. Malcolm’s positive it’s just the caretaker trying to scare him, teach the family a lesson.
But what if it’s not…
What if there is something out there?
The Stranger is the second novel from Steve Stred and 9th release overall. The Stranger is another offering following in the footsteps of similar books Invisible, YURI and The Girl Who Hid in the Trees. As Steve describes his works; “dark, bleak horror.”
With this release, Steve has decided to look deeper into what makes humans tick. He confronts two key elements of mankind; bigotry and our environmental footprint.
Featuring stunning cover art by Chadwick St. John (www.inkshadows.com), The Stranger will be a story that will leave you feeling uneasy and have you looking at the trees differently.
Maybe it’s not the wind making the branches sway…