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Patrick Whalen
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself…

PATRICK: I am in my mid-fifties and am divorced. I grew up in a town called Yakima in Washington state, was a terrible student in high school so went directly into the army after I graduated. I joined the paratroopers (airborne) and was in the infantry, the military police and a medic. After three years in the service I was ready to become a serious student (either get a degree or reenlist... ...duhhh) Two days after my discharge, I enrolled in college. Got my bachelor's degree from a small college in Bellingham, Washington and went on to get my masters in psychiatric social work from the University of Washington. Worked for a while in child protective services in Tucson then later moved to a small town in central California and went to work as a senior psychiatric counselor for an agency the serves the mentally ill and mentally retarded. I am still with the same agency.

I got a divorce in 1984. About the same time I read SALEMS'S LOT and got hooked on horror novels. People at work told me I wrote well, and after reading several really bad horror novels, I decided I might be able to write one. I should add that I was also looking for away to fill those lonely post divorce nights. I dislike typing and use a Dictaphone at work so I bought a transcriber and a Dictaphone and began to write a book. I started on page one with out any idea what I was doing and no storyline in mind and wrote a 500 page manuscript .That first effort rejected. A couple of editors said it was too long and boring. So I tried again and wrote a second manuscript, trying very hard to keep it short and not boring. The title of the second work was MONASTERY and to my surprise it was published. While waiting for MONASTERY to come out in print, I went back and rewrote my first manuscript, the long and boring one. I edited out some 225 pages and sent it to my agent an it sold in three weeks. That book was OUT OF THE NIGHT. NIGHT THIRST and DEATHWALKER followed. The interest in horror novels started fading about the time DEATHWALKER came out. I went on to write a book called PROTECTOR but it was turned down because of the dying horror market coupled with the fact that PROTECTOR was what the publishing company called a mixed genre . I started to write another book and then realized I was tired. I was working full time at my agency and writing at night and at that point writing wasn't nearly as fun as it was when I first started out so I temporally retired. I am planning on retiring rather soon. Perhaps with in the next three months (Only in California can one retire in one's mid- fifties and because of a great retirement plan make more money that one does working full time. Go figure.) After I do retire I would like to take up writing again . Without the stress of working full time, I think writing will become fun again. And if I get published again... Cool. If not... ... ... well I've enjoyed writing and enjoy my characters and plots (I never do a story outline, start my books on page one, have no idea what is coming in terms of plot and get a kick out of the books as they unfold so in addition to enjoying my retirement I will enjoy writing). Still haven't mastered writing on a computer or typewriter so I plan on making the woman who types my dictation very rich.

Still divorced and am getting ready to have a house built which I will gratefully share with my current companion, a golden retriever named Random.

Q: What is the most appealing thing about horror fiction for you and why YOU write?

PATRICK: Probably the most appealing aspect of writing horror novels is you can do almost anything you want . Normal rules (for want of a better phrase) don't apply. If you want to have a very dead body on an autopsy table sit up and tell the pathologist to, "leave all alone." You can. If you want to bring the Vice President of the United States and a couple vampires together in the basement of a hotel in vampire infested Seattle to see if there is a way to solve the problem , you can. And I did.

I guess what I am suggesting is when you write horror there are no limits to the imagination, no limits on anything.

Q: Your Novels' protagonists, particularly Braille in MONASTERY and NIGHT THIRST and John Winter in DEATHWALKER, are reluctant heroes. Why is the "anti-hero" more appealing to you?

PATRICK: Tough question. I'm not sure if I can answer it. I don't regard Braille from MONASTERY or John Winter from DEATHWALKER as anti-heroes or reluctant heroes. Both are very private individuals with special and deadly skills who are reluctantly pulled into chaotic situations. Their preference would be to be simply left alone. I have a hard time identifying with the Dirk Pitt kind of heroes who run around saving the world with a twinkle in their eyes. My lead characters are individuals caught up in circumstances beyond their control who then use their skills and talents to help... ... ... .and as I indicated earlier... ..do so reluctantly and that makes them more appealing to me. They also have more depth and are more interesting possibly because they are not the heroic by nature types which of course makes their eventually involvement in the horror that is going on much more of a sacrifice on their part.

Q: Not only do the characters seem larger in life but the incidents surrounding them do as well-in one book you explode a nuclear power plant and another a volcano explodes!-yet it all combines very well. Talk about why you do this.

PATRICK: I come up with larger than life incidents because it makes for good drama and is fun to try and pull off. Blowing up a nuclear power plant, nuking Seattle, or basing the climax of a book around the eruption of Mt. St...Helens is for want of a better word enjoyable ... ..and interesting... It also makes for good drama and for an exciting read. I like adventure. I like action. I want my books to be hard to put down in the middle of a read. The research is also interesting. My parents were living in Washington State when Mt. St. Helens went. They sent me a lot of material on the event. DEATWHWALKER came about because I was so fascinated with the scope and size and magnitude of the eruption. I did a lot of research on both the situation leading up to the event and the actual eruption and in the end decided I wanted to write a book about it so in an odd way I sort of wrote the book backwards. While I started the book on page one when I began to write the story, I knew I wanted it to end a factual description of the mountain destroying itself. I was rather proud of the final result because the characters and Indian spirit demon and plot did indeed lead up to the eruption. Proud also because all my research did pay off in the final description of the eruption so much so that I have heard from several sources that the US Park Service was selling or recommending DEATHWALKER at the Mt. St. Helens park because it so accurately captured and described the eruption.

Q: Both characters also come into touch with their mortality-and as a result are able to find the "love of their lives' before they face death. Why is it important that these individuals come in touch with their human emotions?

PATRICK: You ask fascinating questions which as an author I find somewhat embarrassing because either I don't have an answer or the answers are very simplistic. In the course of MONASTERY and DEATHWALKER, both Braille and John Winter do find the loves of their lives and do so just before they perish. Part of the answer to your question is that it all just sort of happened by accident when I wrote the books. No deep or secret message, no deep meaning intended symbolism. Everything just sort of came together.

Another part of an answer is that their deaths are so much more tragic because they do meet the loves of their lives. At the beginning of both books neither hero cares all that much about life. Through the course of both books, the heroes fall in love, then they begin to like life, want to live to share their lives with their loves but they can't . And that makes their sacrifices at the end of the books so much more poignant, so much more tragic. If you don't care about life and you die, no big deal. If all of a sudden you love life, want to live it with the woman you love and you have to sacrifice yourself as Winter does in DEATHWALKER then it truly is a sacrifice.

Q: Some writers say that what they write doesn't have much to do with themselves-others say that their writing is very much influenced by their own experiences. How is this with you?

PATRICK: I don't think my life or my life experiences have played that much into the books I have written. On a few occasions I have used bits and pieces of my life to help with a book. . Over all I think imagination and research play more of a role in my writing than the life I have lived...

Q: What is the weirdest true-life thing that happened to you that if you wrote it down would read like fiction?

PATRICK: Only thing that comes to mind is that when I was writing OUT OF THE NIGHT, I wanted to write a scene where a woman in a car is trapped in a cemetery and scary things happen to her. Trouble was I didn't know what kind of scary things would take place... One night on my way home, I pulled into an old cemetery. It was in November, was around 6: 30 in the evening and it was foggy. I pulled over to the side of the road inside the cemetery and was sitting in my car trying to figure out what would be scary and a man knocked on the window of my car. Turned out he was the groundskeeper. But the shock of thinking I was alone and having someone knock on my window scared me Badly. I used that simple event to start out the scene and by the time I was finished with that chapter it was scary. (Kind of a boring answer. Sorry)

Q: Who is YOUR favorite horror or sci-fi author?

PATRICK: My favorite horror novel Author is Thomas Harris. . I also like many of Stephen Kings early works. My favorite main stream writer is Stephen Hunter, author of Point of Impact, The Day before Midnight, Dirty White Boys etc.

Q: Talk about your newest novel, PROTECTOR...

PATRICK: PROTECTOR is a difficult book to describe but I will try and will wok to to keep my description brief. Part of the premise is that there are aliens on earth who have the ability to change their shape and look exactly like us. Keeper , the book's hero, is one of those beings. He's a metamorphic and can change his shape into anything he wants with the same energy we put into blinking. His role on earth is to protect others like himself. When two of his kind go jogging in a Seattle park with out Keeper, their protector, and are gunned down in a park by youth gangs working for a drug lord, he vows to find and destroy everyone responsible for the killings .Early on the book he changes his body into an exact duplicate of a homicide detective who dies in front of keeper of heart attack .The detective ,Nathan Banning, had been a gifted detective but the loss of a child and a divorce have turned him into a bitter, over the hill alcoholic. Even though he has only been on early three day, keeper assumes the dead man's identity because it will help him find the humans responsible for the deaths of his friends. Trouble with this he is naive about this world and has no idea what homicide detectives do The other problem is Banning's current partner, Linda Canada, hates the drunken, incompetent Nathan Banning (they have a relationship someone describes in the book as something you'd get if you put Attila the Hun and Sister Teresa in the same patrol car)and of course continues to hate the Being she now thinks is Banning. Working together these extremely mismatched pair of beings set out to find out who is responsible for the slaughter in the park.

The above blurb doesn't really do justice to the book. Suffice to say it is a blend of men's adventure and horror and romance. I like this book. Think it may be the best one I have ever written. It's not as scary as some of the books I have written but the action is essentially non stop. I enjoyed waiting this book. It was interesting to develop and flesh out a character who is alien yet human. Interesting also to develop a relationship/ romance between a human woman and an alien who in his real form resembles a giant Komodo dragon (keep in mind that he looks human through most of the book). Finally I had had fun developing one of the most monestrous and complex villains I have ever encountered in literature. The bad guy, a Colombian drug lord, is so evil he is almost embarrassing to me as an author. But the contrast works well. Essentially you have an alien who is so ugly that if you see him as he really is, you could die of fright squared off against a extremely handsome human who is so evil that one wonders who is actually the monster .

As I indicated earlier, I like PROTECTOR. This is the book one I could not get published because of declining horror sales, the one the publishers didn't know how to market because it was a mixture of genres. The end result was that I decided to turn PROTECTOR into an ebook. I dislike ebooks, don't think I could ever read a manuscript on my computer even if it was on a CD, but my options were limited. So that is what I did. And I stand by PROTECTOR in its current format. While it doesn't say so at my book site, if someone were to buy the book and did not like it , I would gladly refund their money. And that pretty much sums up how much I like this work. (Am I hyping this book or what?)

Q: Anything you want to add?

PATRICK: The web site address for Protector is www.pwhalen.com

find information about Patrick Whalen at imdb.com find horror stuff by Patrick Whalen

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