Award winning horror author Ken Stark chats about writing, dodgy browser histories and the reality of Dr. Seuss.

Ken Stark is a horror writer from Vancouver, Canada, who enjoys using the darkest of backdrops to highlight the human condition. And though he strongly suspects that our entire universe is merely a simulation, he’s okay with it. After all, reality is in the mind of the beholder…
Being raised on a steady diet of science fiction and disaster movies, it just seems right that his first published novel be about the zombie apocalypse. In his spare time, Ken tries to paint like Bob Ross and play poker like Doyle Brunson, but results suggest he might have got it all backwards.

I went for the red…

KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

Sure, but there’s not a lot to tell. I’ve been writing since I can remember, but it was always just for me. I worked in the armoured car industry for a lot of years, then I finally decided that it was time to dedicate myself for real to my one true passion, and a bunch of books and short stories later, and I’m living the dream! All that’s missing is the beach house in Hawaii, but I’m patient if nothing else…

Beach Day GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

I like to slap oil paint around a canvas, naturally I read a lot, and when the sun’s out, I’m usually out communing with nature and soaking up the rays. But my passion is writing. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. 

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

When I was a kid, I loved Dr Seuss. A few years later, I discovered H. G. Wells and Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and I realized that all of Dr Seuss’s worlds could be real after all.

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KR: What are you reading now?

Right now, I’m reading Hitler’s Finger by PJ Skinner. So far, it’s awesome! I’ve actually had tremendous luck in finding great books by relatively unknown authors. I just finished Wild Willful Heart by W. Boone Hedgepeth, and I’m looking forward to the release of MJ LaBeff’s next Cold Case book, Last Winter’s Taken. I really can’t say enough about discovering books outside of the NY Times best-seller list. Some of those lesser-known writers will be the best you’ve ever read, believe me!

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KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

If I have to pick a favourite, I’ll go with Pink Floyd’s The Wall, but I love all kinds of music and I almost always have something on when i’m writing. Usually Mozart, oddly enough. Anything else and I start to sing along, and then I completely lose track of what i was writing.

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

Too many to list! Poe, Lovecraft, Jules Verne, Stephen King…I could go on and on. But above all others, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He wrote intelligently and didn’t speak down to the reader, and when I picture him at his roll-top desk, doing it all with pen and paper, that one image defines what i’ve always thought of as a ‘writer’.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

I always know the story I want to tell before I start, and I have a crystal-clear map of the major plot points I want to hit along the way, but I can’t follow a rigid outline. For me, doing so stifles the creative process, so when I have to get from point A to point B, I allow some latitude in how i get there. It makes the story flow more organically, and it’s amazing what can come out of the blue.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I usually know enough about what I’m writing that research isn’t necessary, but I am meticulous about detail. I’ve read too many books and seen too many movies ruined by some seemingly insignificant caprice of the writer, and I don’t want to fall into that trap. When it comes to some detail I don’t know off the top of my head, the fine folks at Google always have my back, though I shudder at the thought of someone checking my browser history. Now that I think of it, Homeland Security must have a lot of writers on their watch list…

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

I don’t have anything even approaching a usual writing day. I spent so much of my life punching a time clock and dreaming about writing that I refuse to adhere to a schedule. The last thing I want is for my passion to feel like a job, so I write when I can, and for as long as I’m able. When life interferes, I might only be able to punch out a paragraph or two, but if I have a day to myself, I’ll spend every minute of it in my own little world. 

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

My favourite story so far is my latest release, Arcadia Falls. I know, I know…. every writer loves his last story best, but Arcadia Falls really was a labour of love. I’m extremely proud of how it turned out, and it just won a New Apple Award, so I guess I must have done something right.

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KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Oh, of course! Absolutely! I know us writers aren’t supposed to care about reviews, but we do. We all do. Most of my reviews have been very generous so far, and those positive reviews are a healthy stroke to the ego, but the negative ones are useful too.  I don’t take them to heart, and they’ll never change the way I write, but knowing what some readers might not have liked can only make me a better communicator. 

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

I always tell new writers the same thing. Write what you want, where you want, when you want and how you want. You know the story you want to write, so do it your way. Sure, you’ll run the risk of no one else sharing your vision, but we all run that same risk with everything we do. it might just be that your book is exactly what the world has been waiting for, but whether it’s an instant best-seller or spends eternity gathering dust, it’s your dream, so live it your way.

KR: What scares you?

Not much, actually. I have one phobia that I shall continue to withhold lest Orwell’s ‘Room 101’ exists, but aside from that, I have nothing. 

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

In theory, paperbacks, but I can pack a hundred books around in my kindle, so no contest! And because e-books are so cheap, I’m much more willing to try an unknown, and I can’t tell you how many amazing writers I’ve come across that I would never have heard about otherwise.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

My latest release is the aforementioned labour of love, Arcadia Falls. The story came about when I asked my best friend’s teenaged daughter what kind of book she wanted to read. Her response was ‘something scary, with a monster, and some kind of mystery’, but the monster had to be entirely new. Well, I loved the idea of unleashing a brand new monster on the world, and it just got more and more exciting the deeper I got into it. The book was written with a younger reader in mind, but keeping the harsh language to a minimum was the only consolation I made. After all, what good is a brand new monster if it doesn’t give everyone nightmares?

KR: Follow the link and you can read an exciting excerpt from Arcadia Falls

KR: What are you working on now?

I am hard at work on the next book in the Stage 3 series, titled ‘Stage 3: Bravo’, and I’m putting the finishing touches on a short story for an anthology due out for Halloween, called ‘What Lies Beyond the Shadows’. And I always have a couple of other projects in the works as well, so all I can say is, ‘stay tuned’…

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

Wow, what a good question…. Well, for the fictional character from my own writing, I guess I’d have to go with Sarah from ‘Stage3: Alpha’. She’s smart, she’s a survivor, and she’s as bad-ass as any ten men.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

For the fictional character from another book, I’m tempted to call on Sherlock Holmes since I’m such a fan of Conan Doyle, but I think I’d rather have Dr Watson along. He’s pragmatic, he’d be easier to live with, and he always seems to have his trusty revolver along whenever it’s needed.

c) One real life person that is not a family member or friend.

And for the real-life person, who better than The Survivorman, Les Stroud. He might not be a household name outside of Canada, but that man could wring water from a stone.

KR: Thank you very much Ken.

Thank you for having me, Gavin. This was a lot of fun!

You can follow Ken on Twitter @PennilessScribe

To find out more about Ken please visit his official website

Please visit Ken’s author page here

Something is wrong in Arcadia Falls. The first boy vanished without a trace and with just as little fanfare. Even the second disappearance amounted to little more than a few passing remarks and another name skipped over in the classroom roll call. As far as Riverside High and the rest of Arcadia Falls were concerned, it seemed, it was as if nothing had happened at all. Tyler John was no different. He had barely given the matter a second thought, but then a wrong turn sent him on a path straight into the dark heart of the mystery, and the deeper he peered into the shadows, the more he realized that something was looking back. Now, the hunter has become the hunted and time is running out. With nowhere else to turn, it’s up to Tyler and his handful of friends to stop the evil thing that’s been preying on Arcadia Falls, and if they fail, they might just be the next ones to vanish. Yes, something is desperately wrong in Arcadia Falls, and it’s like nothing anyone has ever seen before.

You can buy Arcadia Falls from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Blindness is just the beginning. Once the virus strips away everything remotely human, all that’s left is a mindless savage predator. Hank Mason thought he had nothing left to lose, but now that he is all that stands between a young girl and a gruesome fate, he’s sworn to protect her with his very life. But the virus isn’t done yet. A new, deadlier terror is slowly emerging, and even as Mason and Mackenzie battle their way from one horror to the next in a desperate flight through a world gone mad, they both know that their time is running out. The girl is already blind, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.

You can buy Stage 3 from Amazon UK & Amazon US

The virus swept through humanity like wildfire. Millions went blind in the first few hours, but blindness was just the beginning. It was only in Stage 2 that the real terror emerged. As the virus ate into the brain, it destroyed everything human, leaving in its wake a creature that knew only one thing; the need to feed. And the world was torn apart. In San Francisco, those few who remain amid the swarms measure their survival from one terrified heartbeat to the next. But for Sarah, there is reason to keep going. A pretty little girl with big green eyes and a tangled mop of curly red hair is counting on her, and she’s not about to let anything in Heaven or Hell stand in her way. But those wild, ravenous things aren’t the only monsters in this new world of the damned, and even as she fights her way home across a besieged city, she knows it’s only going to get worse. The virus isn’t done yet. Stage 3 is here, and it might just be the beginning of the end.

You can buy Stage 3: Alpha from Amazon UK & Amazon US

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