Trick or Treat! Kendall Reviews talks to Doorbells at Dusk contributing author Curtis ‘Vampire Hunter’ Lawson.

Curtis M. Lawson is a writer of unapologetically weird, dark fiction and comics. His work includes It’s A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World, The Devoured, and Mastema. He is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, and the organizer of the Wyrd live horror reading series. He lives in Salem, MA with his wife and their son.

KR: Drink?

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

I live in Salem, MA, and I’m a writer of weird fiction, horror, dark fantasy, neo-noir, and mixtures of said genres. My work includes the Bad World series, The Devoured, and the short story collection, Black Pantheons: Collected Tales of Gnostic Dread.

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

My interests are kind of all over the place, but recently I’ve been trying to use my leisure time in productive ways. I like video games, and tabletop RPGs a lot, but I only really play them with my kid nowadays. My TV viewing is limited to a few shows with my wife and/or son, though I will tend to lose myself in binge watching benders when a new season of something exceptional hits Netflix. There seems to be less and less free time the older I get, and I like making the most of it.

For the past few months I’ve been studying German, because I feel I’m missing out by only speaking one language. There is a lot of value in learning other languages, beyond the pragmatic. It gives perspective and forces you to think of things a bit differently, both culturally and in regards to how words can be used.

I also read a lot, not just genre stuff, but also philosophy, history, finance, or anything that might leave me better equipped for life tomorrow than I was the day before.

Conversation is another thing I greatly enjoy. Real, genuine, interesting conversation, that is. Not that kind of social interaction where you just wait on your turn to speak, but the type that is captivating and where insights mingle to illuminate all involved. My wife and I have a lot of different views and I enjoy discussing things with her, even when we disagree (though I don’t know that she feels the same way), because the conversation is genuine and thoughtful. I also have a very close friend who I see maybe once or twice a month, sometimes less because he’s a touring musician, and we will just walk the streets of Salem for hours, discussing everything from heavy metal to psychoanalysis to futurism and atavism. Those discussions are some of my most treasured times.

KR: Do you have any Halloween traditions?

We live in Salem, MA, which is kind of a mad house all of October, so we keep things fairly low key. My son usually insists that we all do a costume theme, so the tree of us dress up. We take my son trick or treating in our immediate neighborhood, avoiding the craziness of the tourist areas, then we eat some candy and watch the scariest thing I can talk my wife into letting my son watch.

KR: Have you ever seen a ghost?

Short answer, no. As a teenager I was deeply into the occult, like obsessed with it, and during that time I had some experiences where I “felt” unseen forces, but in hindsight I’m sure it was just a a trick of the mind. As boring as it sounds from a horror writer, I just don’t believe in ghosts.

KR: Trick or Treat? Which would you prefer?

Treat please. A full-size snickers if you have it.

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KR: What is your favourite book to read in October?

Around Halloween I’m more inclined to revisit older comics than books I’ve already read. I can squeeze a lot more of them in, and I love the medium. Hellstorm: Prince of Lies and the Druid mini-series, both of which are kind of obscure Marvel horror comics from the 90’s. Wytches by Scott Snyder and Jock. Locke and Key by Joe Hill. Some old Chaos comics like Evil Ernie and Purgatori. Glenn Danzig’s G.O.T.H. Even Marvel’s Midnight Sons and Tomb of Dracula stuff.

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

That’s a tough one. Honestly, I could have a different answer depending on the day I’m asked. I would say it’s a tie between Samhain III: November Coming Fire and Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses.

When I’m writing a story, particularly something long form, I try to listen to music that fits the tone and puts my mind in the right place. While I was writing my western/horror novel, The Devoured, I listened to a lot of old school country, like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, as well as western inspired psychobilly. Currently I’m working on a novel that is centered around a piece of classical music, so my Spotify is riddled with the likes of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Gorecki, Paganini, etc…

KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?

Wes Craven and John Carpenter are my favorite horror directors. Craven, through A Nightmare on Elm Street, has had a greater impact on my work. The first Nightmare and Dream Warriors are perhaps my favorite films ever, and they kind of kickstarted my love of horror, along with Carpenter’s production of Christine. As I kid I watched all three of those movies on VHS until the tape wore out.

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My short story collection, Black Pantheons, is actually dedicated to Wes Craven and H.P. Lovecraft, who are my patron saints of horror.

KR: What are you reading now?

I’m Juggling a few books. I’m reading The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan, which is haunting and beautifully atmospheric, and I’m listening to Michael C. Hall’s narration of Pet Sematary. For non-fiction I just started reading Sewing for Dummies, so I can learn to tailor my own clothes.

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

H.P. Lovecraft is at the top of the list, along with Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, Robert Bloch, and Dwayne Swierzynski. A lot of my stuff isn’t straight horror, and has elements of urban fantasy as well as crime, and transgressive fiction, which isn’t surprising given my influences.

Before doing prose though, I wrote comics for a long time, and a lot of folks in that industry inspired me as well. Frank Miller. Brian Bendis. Scott Snyder. Alan Moore. Garth Ennis. Brian K. Vaughan. Some of the guys I mentioned in regards to prose cross over into comics, as well. More than a few readers have pointed out that my comic book sensibilities, and that sense of visual, almost cinematic storytelling, comes through in my prose.

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

I work from an outline, but how detailed it is depends on the demands of the project. I always lay out the main beats of the story, creating a map of sorts from where I start to where I want to go. Oftentimes that outline may get derailed and need to be revamped, but without it I’m lost. I just ramble on with no direction, breaking in to soliloquies and wild tangents.
For the longest time I tried to work without one, and the work I produced, when I did manage to finish it, was subpar and without focus. I need that roadmap.

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

It really depends on the book. The books in my Bad World series needed very little, and I was able to do the research on the fly as I wrote. The Devoured, which takes place in a historical setting, needed a lot more research. I needed to learn about the social and political landscape of the U.S. in the wake of the Civil War. I needed to get the guns right and to study the timeline of the building of the transcontinental railroad. It was a lot of work.

My current WIP has led me down the rabbit hole of Classical Music, which is much stranger and more interesting than one might think, and I’ve been doing a lot of research.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

I usually write in the afternoon and again when my son goes to bed. I sit down at my computer with some caffeine, some music, and a plan. I have my outlines of course, but I also take ten or fifteen minutes the night before to consider what I’ll write the next day. This gives me a head start on identifying any plot holes or problems with tone and structure I might run into. I can address them in the back of the head the night before, which means less time staring blankly at my monitor the next day.

Due to the structure of my life I schedule time for writing, rather than keep my butt nailed to the chair until a certain word quota is met. Usually my writing sessions are between one and three hours. Whatever I get done in that time is what I get done, though I do shoot for at least ten thousand words per week.

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

There’s a novella I wrote, which appears in Black Pantheons, called Paramnesia. It’s kind of an homage to the slasher flicks of the 80’s, but with a twist. Instead of the villain going after a group of teenagers, it is preying on the elderly patients in a home for people with dementia. Old people and kids have a lot in common in regards to how they are treated by the world. They are marginalized and easily dismissed, so I thought it could be cool to explore that Slasher dynamic with a group of elderly characters.
The unique struggles of a dementia patient add a dimension of uncertainty to the story as well, which I really enjoyed. It allowed room for some ambiguity in regards to what is real, and what is imagined, which in turn plays into the dismissive way that younger adults and middle aged folks deal with the elderly.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

I do. It’s a nice ego boost if they like it, and if they really get what you were going for it feels great. And if they don’t like it? Well, maybe there is a valid criticism that I can learn from.

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

Do the work, and be honest. Write what interests you, and write it how you see it. Don’t worry about who will publish it, or if it’s chic, or who will buy it, or who it might offend. None of that matters as much as the work itself. Just sit down and put words on paper, even if it sucks. As long as the writing honestly represents you, you’ll have something to work with when you’re done, and then you can polish it until it shines.

KR: What scares you?

The idea of losing control is really scary to me, as well as the idea of imprisonment or enslavement. Anything that crushes independence hits a nerve with me. I don’t drink or use drugs, and the fear of losing control of myself is a good part of why I don’t.

As for more abstract, primal kind of fears, anything that just looks a bit off, but almost normal kind of freaks me out. Animals or people with unnatural features or proportions come to mind, like the when Freddy’s arms stretch across the alley in A Nightmare on Elm St.

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Also, morbid religious iconography gives me the creeps. My family wasn’t religious, but when I was little we had an apartment in a building that used to be a church, and there was a door from our apartment that led into the abandoned chapel. There was still a massive crucifix with a bleeding messiah on it, and it was the scariest thing in the world to me.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

I like them all, but I mostly read E-books. It’s just easier, and I like having a whole library in my pocket.

KR: Can you tell us about your story in Doorbells at Dusk Halloween anthology?

My story is called the Rye-Mother. It’s an atmospheric piece, with a slight folk horror element. Thematically the story revolves around dual themes. The first theme is desolation and loneliness. The second is the pagan ideas of Halloween, and the concept of a thinning of the veil between worlds on that special night.

The story follows a troubled boy named David who is convinced that the truth about his place in the world is hidden in the center of a corn maze on Halloween to search for the truth of himself and his place in the world.

KR: What are you working on now?

The novel I’m currently working on is called The Black Heart Boy’s Choir, and it’s the most challenging thing I’ve written to date. I’m only about half way through the first draft, so I haven’t shined up a pitch yet, but if I had to do a Hollywood mashup description I would call it a mix between The Music of Erich Zann, American Psycho, and A Clockwork Orange.

KR: You find yourself in a séance, which three people would you wish to be with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

I would choose Meridiana from The Obsession of Chloe Chambers. She herself was once dead and came back, so she would be handy for communicating with the dead and understanding their motives.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

I would have to go with John Constantine. He’d be handy to have around in case things went south.

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

It would be Glenn Danzig, just because it would be cool as hell to say I performed a séance with him.

To find out more about Curtis, please visit his official website

You can follow Curtis on Twitter @c_lawson

About Doorbells at Dusk

Doorbells at Dusk, edited by Evans Light and from Corpus Press, is a treasury of brand-new short stories from both modern masters and rising stars of dark fiction, covering a gamut of horror, literary fiction and suspense that is sure to thrill both horror aficionados and casual readers alike.

Contributors include: Josh Malerman, Lisa Lepovetsky, Chad Lutzke, Amber Fallon, Curtis M. Lawson, Sean Eads, Joshua Viola, Ian Welke, Charles Gramlich, Joanna Koch and Thomas Vaughn, along with contributions from Evans Light, Adam Light, Gregor Xane and Jason Parent.

Halloween has always gone together with horror. The holiday gives many children their first taste of terror, and the discovery and overcoming of fears. For those who find they love a good scare, that first taste can grow into a voracious appetite.

That might be why you’re looking at this book right now. If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find the thrills you crave, packed into a collection of stories that are pure Halloween.

After the successful release of the three-volume Bad Apples: Slices of Halloween Horror anthology series, co-creators Evans Light, Adam Light, Gregor Xane and Jason Parent of Corpus Press were driven by their love of the haunting season to use everything they’d learned to create the ultimate collection of Halloween tales.

Carve your pumpkins and turn on the porch light, the night of frights begins with the sound of…Doorbells at Dusk.

Praise for Doorbells at Dusk

Evans Light has pulled together a great collection of stories. There is not a disappointing one in the mix, and no two tales are alike.” – One Legged Reviews

A delightfully rich collection, suffused with horror of many flavors and degrees, some subtle, some up- front. Whether you choose to sample one at a time, like bonbons, or devour the entirety, here’s a fine selection designed to keep you eager for (or fearful of) that special holiday, when leaves drop, woodsmoke scents the air, children quest for candy…and the Veil thins…” – Haunted Reading Room

Doorbells at Dusk presents a fine sampling of tricks and treats for readers jonesing for some good and proper seasonal reads as the leaves turn color, a chill sets in, the world turns a little bit darker…” – Michael Patrick Hicks, author Broken Shells

Available Now!

Doorbells at Dusk published on September 3 and is available NOW on Amazon in e-book and print and at book retailers worldwide. Add to your GoodReads shelf!

About the Contributors

Sean Eads and Joshua Viola are writers from Denver, Colorado. Sean has been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, Lambda Literary Award and the Colorado Book Award. His first short story collection was published in 2017. Joshua is the owner of Hex Publishers. His latest anthologies include Blood Business and Cyber World: Tales of Humanity’s Tomorrow. His upcoming novel, Denver Moon, will also be released as a comic book.

Amber Fallon lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two dogs. A techie by day and horror writer by night, Mrs. Fallon has spent time as a bank manager, motivational speaker, produce wrangler, and butcher. Her obsessions with sushi, glittery nail polish, and sharp objects have made her a recognized figure. Amber’s publications include The Warblers, The Terminal, Sharkasaurus, Daughters of Inanna, So Long and Thanks for All the Brains, Horror on the Installment Plan, Zombies For a Cure, Quick Bites of Flesh, Operation Ice Bat, and more.

Charles Gramlich lives in the piney woods of southern Louisiana. He is the author of the Talera fantasy series and the SF novel, Under the Ember Star. His stories and poetry have been published in magazines such as Beat to a Pulp, The Horror Zine, and many others.

Joanna Koch is a fan of folklore, fairy tales, and anthropology. Her short fiction has been published in journals such as Dark Fuse and Hello Horror and included in several speculative fiction anthologies. Joanna is an MA Contemplative Psychotherapy graduate of Naropa University who currently lives and works near Detroit.

Curtis M. Lawson is a writer of unapologetically weird, dark fiction and comics. His work includes It’s A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World, The Devoured, and Mastema. He is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, and the organizer of the Wyrd live horror reading series. He lives in Salem, MA with his wife and their son.

Lisa Lepovetsky has published fiction and poetry widely in the small press, professional publications and anthologies. Her work has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Cemetery Dance and many other magazines, and such anthologies as Dark Destiny, Blood Muse, and HORRORS!, among others. She earned her MFA from Penn State, and her most recent book is VOICES FROM EMPTY ROOMS, a collection of dark poetry.

Adam Light resides in northeast Florida with his beautiful wife and daughter, and their aptly, though perhaps not so imaginatively named Walker hound, Walker. He haunts a cubicle by day, writes horror stories at night, and virtually never sleeps. He is the author of several short horror stories, some of which have been published in his first collection Toes Up: Horror to Die For. He also has stories in the Bad Apples anthology series and Dead Roses: Five Dark Tales of Twisted Love.

Evans Light is a writer of horror and suspense, and is the author of Screamscapes: Tales of Terror, Arboreatum, Don’t Need No Water and more. He is co-creator of the Bad Apples Halloween anthology series and Dead Roses: Five Dark Tales of Twisted Love. Evans lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, surrounded by thousands of vintage horror paperbacks, and is the proud father of fine sons and the lucky husband of a beautiful wife.

Chad Lutzke lives in Battle Creek, MI with his wife and children. he has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. His fiction can be found in a few dozen magazines and anthologies including his own 18-story collection Night as a Catalyst. Lutzke is known for his heartfelt dark fiction and deep character portrayals. In the summer of 2016 he released his dark coming-of-age novella Of Foster Homes and Flies which has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, James Newman, John Boden, and many others. Later in 2016 Lutzke released his contribution to bestselling author J. Thorn’s American Demon Hunter, and 2017 saw the release of his novella Wallflower. His latest, Stirring the Sheets, was published by Bloodshot Books in spring 2018.

Josh Malerman is an American author and also one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band The High Strung, whose song “The Luck You Got” can be heard as the theme song to the Showtime show “Shameless.” His book Bird Box is also currently being filmed as a feature film starring Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, and Sarah Paulson. Bird Box was also nominated for the Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the James Herbert Award. His books Black Mad Wheel and Goblin have also been nominated for Stoker Awards. Unbury Carol is his latest novel.

Jason Parent is an author of horror, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, and dark humor, though his many novels, novellas, and short stories tend to blur the boundaries between these genres. From his award-winning first horror/mystery novel, What Hides Within, to his widely applauded police procedural/supernatural thriller, Seeing Evil, Jason’s work has won him praise from both critics and fans of diverse genres alike. His work has been compared to that of some of his personal favorite authors, such as Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum, Tess Gerritsen, and Joe Hill. Jason grew up near Fall River, Massachusetts, the setting for several of his novels. He has lived in New England most his life, currently residing in Rhode Island.

When he is not writing fiction, Thomas Vaughn is a college professor whose research focuses on apocalyptic rhetoric and doomsday cults. Most of his writing seems to stray through the realms of literary horror and dark magical realism. He has been fortunate enough to have stories accepted in four different magazines and anthologies in 2018 so far. He wrote the story in this one just for you.

Ian Welke grew up in the library in Long Beach, California. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in History from California State University, Long Beach, he worked in the computer games industry for fifteen years where he was lucky enough to work at Blizzard Entertainment and at Runic Games in Seattle. While living in Seattle he sold his first short story, a space-western, written mainly because he was depressed that Firefly had been canceled. Following the insane notion that life is short and he should do what he wants most, he moved back to southern California and started writing full time. Ian’s short fiction has appeared in Big Pulp, Arcane II, the American Nightmare anthology, and the 18 Wheels of Horror anthology, amongst other places. His novels, The Whisperer in Dissonance (2014) and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated End Times at Ridgemont High (2015) were both published by Ominum Gatherum Media.

Gregor Xane is the author of Taboogasm, The Hanover Block, and Six Dead Spots. His work has been featured in Stupefying Stories, Dead Roses, and the popular Halloween anthology series, Bad Apples. He is perfectly symmetrical.

About Corpus Press

Corpus Press is a publisher of Horror and Weird Fiction, specializing in modern pulp that emphasizes plot over gore. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, the press has garnered praise from SCREAM Magazine, Cemetery Dance, Horror Novel Reviews and Hellnotes for its BAD APPLES: SLICES OF HALLOWEEN HORROR series, the anthology DEAD ROSES: FIVE TALES OF TWISTED LOVE, and for its short story collections and novellas.

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If you would like to review Doorbells at Dusk, or have an interview or guest article, for a media publication, blog, or author blurb, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail,com.

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