Q: You've been a script writer most of your career. Why switch gears and decide to write a book?
Basic frustration with the Hollywood system. I feel there are few scriptwriters who actually do more than acquiesce to market demands and 'do as they're told' these days. While it's lucrative, it's not what you'd call 'fine' writing, by any means.
Not that you can blame screenwriters -- it's like being paid too much to do your day job instead of too little. Hard to begrudge folks who can make it into the WGA, either, as it still offers great health benefits coverage. Plus prestige, of a sorts, anyway.
That's reason enough to hack out bad scripts and obey the 'powers that be,' given that most 'real' jobs these days outside the entertainment biz are much less beneficial. And just as soul-destroying, sadly.
Not that writers in Hollywood have ever fared much better. It's just, these days, the projects themselves are so self-moronizing (is that a word? if not, it should be!). It doesn't really take that many writers to craft most of what is produced; conversely, a dozen or more writers can be employed because of political considerations that go along with each film made and the typically enormous amount of money spent on them.
Narrative tradition and storytelling have been lost in American filmmaking. That's a tragedy, because that's what made the studio system great, in my opinion, not distribution dominance. The decline of American films is directly related to the abandonment of this once great tradition, at least in my view as a writer.
Q: What is it about horror that is appealing? What authors and filmmakers are you most influenced by?
What makes horror appealing? To me, it's not the usual 'it's just a reflection of the world at large' nor 'it allows a catharsis' -- both of which are true, mind you -- but that I have a vividly dark imagination and most 'normal' genres don't address my own morbid nature.
Not that I don't appreciate the non-horror books and films; I actually read quite diversely and watch many movie genres besides horror. But overall, unless there's a darker edge involved, I find myself occasionally wondering: yeah, but what if a monster suddenly..?
It's intrusive to the degree that unless I'm watching something that engages this personal limitation, I tend to fantasize, for example, Mary Poppins' umbrella failing in mid-flight or related, catastrophic outcomes for even the most benign dramatic situations.
As for influences? For movies, Jacques Tourneur's NIGHT OF THE DEMON is an all-time favorite, as is Kubrick's THE SHINING. To be honest, I've seen so many horror movies, I'm not even sure anymore; suffice to say, even the worst of them influences me, in that I might decide: 'wow, there's one way not to visualize that story or scene.'
Horror authors are much easier. As my writing probably betrays, I'm a huge Stephen King fan. I also have been consciously influenced by James Ellroy and Jim Thompson. Though they're not horror genre writers per se, what they write is so overwhelmingly visceral that I actually think they're more 'horror noir' than crime fiction.
Q: How did the idea for ANCIENT LAKE come about? Why bigfoot?
I'm a lifelong crypto fan. Growing up in the South in a small town, bigfoot loomed large as an iconic figure in my childhood. Such movies as THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and the endless bigfoot books I'd check out again and again from my local public library also had an impact.
It's funny, while I had other fantasy heroes back then, bigfoot was my favorite 'anti-hero,' in that I could relate more to the concept. It was a rural monster, as opposed to the big city types you normally encounter in many films and books. This made it easier for my already overly active imagination to place the creature just outside my window, whereas Doctor Octopus and related characters seemed, well, distant albeit fun.
The idea for the book? Just wanted to always write about bigfoot. I knew it would be a challenge, given the enormous amount that's already been done in the genre. And it was.
The concept of the way they have survived and how I hoped to personify them was influenced heavily by Julian Jayne's theory of the bi-cameral mind.
Q: Your main character, Anne Cheron, is interesting, in that she has a lot of baggage that goes along with her, which both interferes and helps her in ways. She's sort of an anti-heroine.
That may just be an indication that I didn't craft her characterization with enough depth!
Actually, I just wanted her to be complex. You know, if you look at the enduring 'series' characters (and that's my hope with her character), they often have these kind of darker, less attractive sides. This may be why they endure; they're not purely good or purely evil, but a combination that seems psychologically more realistic.
Take Sherlock Holmes, just as an example. He's super-intelligent, sure, but that in itself can be unattractive at times, particularly because he's so incredibly vain and self-righteous about it. And while he solves the crimes, he's also a drug addict and partial agoraphobic, rarely leaving his apartment unless he's motivated by his compulsion to solve a mystery.
Or, somewhat more recently, Carl Kolchak in THE NIGHT STALKER series for a t.v. example. He's a top-notch reporter, but breaks the laws with seeming impunity when it means 'getting the scoop.' He's a charming rogue about it, no doubt, but a lot of folks get hurt around him when he's on the job chasing a deadline. He's also grumpy, a bit arrogant, and self-absorbed. But again, I think this is why he's appealing, too. He seems more human than the less complicated types around him.
More specifically for Anne Cheron, she's bi-polar. I'm bi-polar as well, and as friends and family of those who suffer this mental disorder will tell you, it's not always pleasant. Much of what is chronicled in her character is true to life, as least as far as my personal experiences with it.
So this in part probably makes her seem less 'well-intended' than an average heroine, in that her darker thoughts constantly intrude upon her situations, however uncalled for. She's sort of a female Jekyll & Hyde figure, but both at the same time.
Of course, I hope she'll always err on the side of caution and distrust those shadowy, inner impulses; still, it gives her an interesting 'edge,' in that she can never be entirely sure of even her own nature.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect about writing a first novel?
The struggle to simply complete it. Whether it turned out to be good, bad or probably a mixture of both, as I suspect most will find it to be, just writing until I wrote 'The End' was by far the most challenging aspect.
Q: Will there be more novels featuring Anne? And more Cryptids?
I'm already 'noodling' the second installment. And definitely, it's designed to be a series of books, each hopefully exploring different aspects of the crypto-themed world.
There's a rich cauldron of lore upon which to draw. That said, there's the danger inherent of making it a poorly-wrought X-FILES clone, which I hopefully avoided in the first novel by keeping the government aspects out, along with too much by way of authority figures, etc.
Series characters run the natural risk of becoming redundant. I hope to develop and explore her character as much as add in a 'monster of the book' formula. We'll see.
Q: Where can people get the book?
It's a small press book, so if you want ANCIENT LAKE, the best place is to find it online. It's available at all the 'usual suspect' big players like Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, but several smaller houses offer it for sale, as well.
If you try to find it online at your favorite seller and they don't offer it, you can always buy it from CryptoHaus Press. They're currently offering a cool 'free Bigfoot DVD' giveaway, too, wherein you can get a DVD you choose from the bigfoot genre for no extra cost.