Ryan Thomason

An Interview With Author Michael West

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If you’ve been paying attention to the site like you’re SUPPOSED TO, Seventh Star Press signed Horror author Michael West to write a three part series called ‘Cinema of Shadows’. We got a chance to talk to him and this is definitely an interview you want to read if you love Horror!

WPR: Why Horror, what draws you to write for this genre?
MW: I’ve always been a storyteller, and I’ve loved Horror as long as I can remember. I used to trick babysitters into letting me stay up late to watch Night Gallery episodes and Hammer films. I’d collect toys based on the classic Universal monsters. In the eighties, when a new Horror film opened, I was always first in line. Even when I wrote scripts for Educational Television, I found ways to sneak in Horror themes. I pitched a program called Teen Terrors—a look at the stress, fears, and anxieties that all teenagers must face—and filmed host segments in graveyards and the torture chambers of local haunted houses. It was only natural that, when I finally put pen to paper to write prose, the result would be horrific.

WPR: Is there any artist (other than King, too easy) that inspired you to write horror books?
MW: Oh my, so many. Growing up in the eighties, I read everything Clive Barker put out. I’ve always loved the writings of Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Rod Serling. Now, I get inspiration from contemporary authors such as Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzales, and Tim Lebbon, but Gary A. Braunbeck is one of the authors I admire most. He brings this emotional reality to his fiction that is simply amazing. His work elevates the entire genre, and I was so thrilled that he was able to write the introduction to my short story collection, Skull Full of Kisses, so honored and humbled by what he had to say.

WPR: When did you first discover you liked writing your own Horror stories?
MW: It wasn’t until I was in high school. I’d been writing scripts since I saw Star Wars in the first grade. Growing up, I had dreams of being the next Steven Spielberg or James Cameron, making movies with my parents’ video camera in the back yard, films with a lot of imagination and very little money. And when my imagination finally outgrew those budgets, I turned to writing prose. It took time before I really liked my own stories, however. I can’t even read the stuff I wrote early on without cringing. Awkward, clumsy, and the dialog…don’t even get me started on the dialog. It’s always been difficult for me to craft believable dialog. I can write what a character is thinking, feeling, or doing all day long with no problem, but once they open their mouths…my progress slows to a crawl. That’s become easier over time, but it’s still something I struggle with. My advice to beginning writers is to read your work out loud. If you can’t say it without tripping over your own tongue, something needs to change.

WPR: Where did you get the idea for the setting in Cinema of Shadows?
MW: I’m a huge movie buff, and I worked as a theater manager for a time. One of the cinemas I managed was haunted. If you walked in, and it was completely dark, you could see the glowing outline of a person sitting in one of the seats. Someone told me that it was the spirit of a man who had a heart attack and died right there in his chair.

Then, years later, I started going to classic films at an old movie palace in Franklin, Indiana. The Artcraft. It had fallen into disrepair, but now it is being restored to its former glory–the original Art Deco design, the neon, the huge marque with the chasing bulbs. This is what theaters were like before the multiplexes, and now they are quite rare. Just amazing!

So the more I thought about it, the more I wondered…if the theater I managed was fairly new and already had a ghost, how many spirits might be trapped inside one of these cinemas that had been around for decades? And that’s when I realized that a crumbling movie palace would be a unique and amazing setting for a Horror story.

WPR: Can you give us any hints at what the book will be like?
MW: Well, I don’t know about you, but whenever I sit down to watch one of those ghost hunting shows on television, I always want them to walk into the house from Poltergeist or The Amityville Horror or something. I want stuff to fly around their heads. I want to see ghosts come at them–glowing, and howling, and scary–and it just never happens. I keep waiting for it to, but it never does. In Cinema of Shadows, when the characters walk into the Woodfield Movie Palace to do a paranormal investigation of their own, it will be the night of terror those shows promise but never deliver.

WPR: Is this book going to give me nightmares? I’m a big wuss when it comes to this stuff.
MW: I hope so. That’s what I’m aiming for: nightmarish and psychologically disturbing, or just plain creepy. Nothing wrong with creepy. Creepy can make it so that you don’t feel safe in the room. I love it when my faithful readers tell me they had to sleep with the lights on after reading my stuff. That just makes my day.

WPR: What do you think is the most overused concept in Horror writing/films?
MW: I think the concept of the cardboard character who is there only to be a victim is just so cliche. That’s why a lot of horror stories fail, IMHO. For me, good, believable characters are the most important element of Horror, be it a novel or a film. When you really care about the people in a story, you get lost in the narrative and you feel things on a very visceral level. That’s the type of connection I strive for in my own writing. I want readers to feel like they know these people. I want the bloodshed to matter.

WPR: How much blood makes too much blood?
MW: Well, I’m certainly not afraid to hack and slash. I think a certain amount of blood is needed and expected when it comes to Horror fiction or films. But if you have characters who bleed like a lawn sprinklers, more than the body can physically produce, it just becomes laughable.

WPR: What is the most normal non-horrific thing you did today?
MW: I was about to say getting my kids up and ready to go to school, but anyone out there who has a teenager would know that’s a pretty horrific ordeal. LOL So it would have to be my afternoon walk. It actually got up to 70 degrees today, and it was sunny, so it was so wonderful to get out and walk around. I was starting to get cabin fever, couped up inside all winter long. Any longer and I would have been typing page after page of “All work and no play makes Mike a dull boy.” LOL Oops…there we go back to Horror again. LOL

WPR: Are there any other things you’re working on besides this series?
MW: Besides working on more Harmony, Indiana novels for Seventh Star Press, I’ve got a short story called “Sandwalkers” in the Fell Beasts anthology, out now from Dark Quest Books, and another, “Masako’s Tale,” due out this summer in Graveside Tales’ The Beast Within 2. I’m editing an anthology for Ambrotos Press titled Vampires Don’t Sparkle!, which, as the title suggests, will be full of gritty, horrific vampire fiction. And I’m working on another series that mixes elements of Horror, Urban Fantasy, and Sci-fi. It’s called The Legacy of the Gods, and I’m hoping to be able to make a more detailed announcement about it very soon. In the meantime, however, faithful readers can always get up-to-date information on me and my work at my website, http://www.bymichaelwest.com

We’d like to thank Michael for taking the time to talk to us, we can’t wait to read the new Cinema of Shadows (well I’m a little hesitant because this stuff seriously creeps me out.) Stay tuned to the site, we’ll keep you up to day about when you can check these books out!

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