I honestly don't know. I suppose I blame it on Kiss and Iron Maiden because I was really kind of a 'fraidy cat as a kid. Hitchcock's "The Birds" scarred me forever and I remember being at a cousin's house as a little kid and getting scared by some old black-and-white movie where a headless man sat up in a coffin.
I started listening to Kiss when I was 10 years old and knew Gene Simmons was the coolest man on the planet. Then as a teenager I found Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and loved Maiden's concept of Eddie, the zombie mascot. One day I was at a drug store and found a little book called THIRTEEN HORRORS OF HALLOWEEN edited by … I think it was Isaac Asimov. I loved it, so I went to a mall bookstore and asked for more collections of horror stories. The clerk looked at me blankly, then took me to a shelf and handed me Stephen King's NIGHT SHIFT. That was the only book of short horror stories he could think of. I looked around and found H.P. Lovecraft's BLOODCURDLING TALES OF HORROR AND THE MACABRE. And I never looked back as a reader.
Before horror, though, I was reading a lot of fantasy - J.R.R. Tolkien, of course, C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Patricia A. McKillip and Ursula K. LeGuin - and the dark things really appealed to me. I still wish Peter Jackson had included the barrow wights in his film of "The Fellowship of the Ring."
It was the 1980s when I first got hold of those three books I named. I started writing partly because I enjoyed the creative process and I just can't paint or sculpt or draw. I couldn't write worth crap at the time, either, but I thought I could. I believed I could write better than a lot of the people publishing books at that time and that's what drove me to begin writing my own short stories. It took quite a while before I realized I should have paid more attention to those English teachers in school. I had to learn some grammar rules, but eventually I began placing stories, mostly in no-pay magazines like The Midnight Zoo, then started selling nonfiction to places like The Renaissance magazine back when it first started up.
I've tried writing other things, like children's books, but they always turn dark. I just sent my agent a short kids' novel I wrote 13 years ago. It's about a young woman with a beautiful voice who offers to be a troll king's prisoner if he'll promise not to eat her friends. Later, as a sea captain is working to rescue her, there's the threat of the troll king forcing her to "marry" him, which is really just a subtle implication that he's going to rape her. So there it is, cannibalism and rape in a children's story. Did I mention how much I like the old fairy tales, before they were cleaned up for the Little Golden Books? Fairy tales are very important to me.
I just can't keep the dark stuff out. And other than that thing with "The Birds," I swear I had a childhood that was downright boring compared to those of many other horror writers.
Q: You have a new book coming out from Scrybe Press entitled CALL TO THE HUNT. Tell us about that…
CALL TO THE HUNT is something I first self-published as a promotional chapbook in 2001. It had eight stories and an introduction by Paul Fry, who was the publisher of Short, Scary Tales magazine at the time, and cover and interior art by Crow Ravenscar, publisher of Mausoleum magazine, where my first werewolf story was published.
I'd decided I needed a niche and I had this werewolf novel I was working on, so I was going to establish myself as the Anne Rice of werewolves. I figured the first step was to get people to associate my name with werewolf fiction, so I printed up these little chapbooks. I actually sold some, but most I gave away. I even got some good reviews on it. Every story in some way involved Josef Ulrik, the werewolf mentor from the novel I was working on.
Well, in 2003 a now-defunct print-on-demand publisher released that novel, called SHARA. The publisher then promptly fell apart. But, my book got some good reviews from Tom Piccirilli, Gary Braunbeck, City Slab magazine and some others. To try to boost sales, I took some advice from M.J. Rose and Douglass Clegg's BUZZ YOUR BOOK and created the "Give the Gift of Lycanthropy" campaign in late 2003. Basically, anybody who asked would get a free PDF of SHARA. The idea was that people wouldn't read such a long book as a PDF, but that they'd get hooked and decide to buy the real book. Let's say there was moderate success in the buying department.
But during that time, Nathan Barker of Scrybe Press took an interest in my werewolves. He gave away hundreds of PDFs through his online bookstore, Kayleighbug Books. We were chatting online one night and he expressed an interest in publishing me, so I sent him a book called MURDERED BY HUMAN WOLVES, which originally was written for the defunct publisher to offer as a giveaway with SHARA. Nathan published it and said he'd like to be the publisher for all of what I was calling THE WEREWOLF SAGA.
So I expanded my self-published CALL TO THE HUNT to make it 12 stories and asked the incredibly talented and generous Kelley Armstrong for an introduction. I sent it to Nathan and he accepted it. The stories are in chronological order, beginning with the first werewolf in my mythology arriving in the American colonies, then following the long life of Josef Ulrik and some people he comes into contact with. One of the new stories is a couple of scenes deleted from SHARA, put together to form one story, then there's one about a colonial village with a witch problem and another story that was in the limited edition MIDNIGHT ROSE anthology from Southern Rose Productions a couple of years ago.
Q: They're also publishing several other of your books…you seem to have a thing for werewolves…
Well, yes. That niche was the goal at one time. People ask me now if that's all I write. It's not, but I'll get to that. Like I said, Scrybe published my MURDERED BY HUMAN WOLVES, a novella based on a real event that happened in Konawa, Oklahoma, in 1917. The book also includes a feature article I wrote based on my research - primarily an interview with a psychic investigator who claims to have communicated with the ghost of the young woman murdered by the human wolves.
Later this spring, Scrybe will re-release SHARA with a fresh edit, better cover and an introduction by Garrett Peck. In the summer they'll release my haunted house novella SEVEN DAYS IN BENEVOLENCE, which was originally published as an e-book by Double Dragon Publishing last year. There are no werewolves in SEVEN DAYS.
Q: Which of your works do you like the best?
Well, the werewolf stories have a very special place. A lot of that harkens back to my love of fantasy fiction and the long epics I used to read. I've already written three books with these characters and started another and have at least one more planned after that, so I have to love those characters.
But my favorite, really, is AMARA'S PRAYER. This was my graduate thesis at the University of Oklahoma (I just earned my master's degree last year). It's a bit off the beaten path for horror. It's about a minister who founded a mission in Brazil, but it gets destroyed. He brings back a mysterious woman who proceeds to ruin his life - his family, his finances, his dignity, his faith in God, then his faith in her. She asks him to forgive her after each event and he does, until she cheats on him. By this time he's homeless, a drug addict and is HIV positive because he's been selling himself rather than let another man touch Amara. Long story slightly shorter, he sends her away, then learns she is an angel from the second fall trying to earn her way back into Heaven by practicing asking for forgiveness from a man. You know, man made in the image of God. If a man can forgive her, maybe God can, too.
I like to call it the Protestant version of THE EXORCIST, though I only wish I had William Peter Blatty's skill.
My agent's having a hard time placing AMARA'S PRAYER. I guess the spiritual aspect turns off some horror people, but the drug use, adultery, graphic sex and violence and kind of reinterpreting part of the Old Testament is way too much for the inspiration market. So I've sent him another book about a rockabilly guitarist, a mad scientist, a zombie, a ghost and rock-n-roll set in the days of hair metal. The hope is to sell that one, called THE PROMETHEUS SYNDROME, and work AMARA'S PRAYER in as the second book on a multi-book contract with a major publisher. THE PROMETHEUS SYNDROME is a much more traditional horror story, so maybe it'll work out. I just mailed my agent the manuscript earlier this week.
Q: Who are your favorite contemporary horror writers?
Charles L. Grant, Ray Garton, Doug Clegg, Brian Keene … there are a lot of them. I guess I should throw some chicks into the mix, huh? Don't wanna look sexist. I already praised Kelley Armstrong. I also really like Karen E. Taylor's VAMPIRE LEGACY books and Tamara Thorne is someone I just recently discovered who is really good. Because of the graduate work I wasn't able to read much fiction for a long, long time. I'm trying to catch up.
There are a lot of others I like and I'll wish I'd named them later. I'm already thinking of several more, like Brian Knight and Karen Koehler. The horror community is small. You meet these people online and at cons and you want to read their books, but there are only so many hours in a day. And I try to read outside the genre a lot, looking for ideas that spark horror stories. When I lecture or teach I always tell people to read outside the genre and cross-pollinate to avoid sounding like every other horror writer out there.
Q: Upcoming books?
There are those I mentioned coming from Scrybe. Nathan is a great guy to work with and he got Kirk Alberts to do the cover art for these newer releases. Kirk is fantastic and I can't wait to see the actual printed books with his art on them.
A bit more on SEVEN DAYS IN BENEVOLENCE - It's about a young woman who divorced her husband because of a secret she's continuing to keep for him. She moves to this tiny town called Benevolence in eastern Oklahoma, rents a house to start over with her two young daughters, and soon learns she's not the only woman in the house looking to start a fresh life. I love a good ghost story and hope I was able to create one other people will like.
Other than the Scrybe releases, a micro publisher called Fine Tooth Press will publish a new version of DARKSCAPES. This is a short story collection I allowed PublishAmerica to release in 2001, before everybody (or at least me) knew how they operated. For the new version, I cut three really bad stories and replaced them with newer, better stories that saw limited release after the first edition of DARKSCAPES was published.
DARKSCAPES will still include the story "Reunion," which won Short, Scary Tales' Best Fiction contest in 2000. Blackridge Entertainment of Ontario, Canada, bought the film rights to that story last year and they'll be filming it for inclusion in an anthology horror film that I think is in production right now. The film will have three stories. I know Gord Rollo provided one of the others, but I'm not sure who did the third.
I just learned I had a story accepted for the CORPSE BLOSSOMS anthology. I'm very excited about that. When I got into horror back in the '80s I never would have imagined I'd get to be in the same anthology as Ramsey Campbell. Bentley Little, Piccirilli, Braunbeck, Kealan Patrick-Burke and several other really good writers are included, too. You can add those names to the list of contemporary people I admire, too. My story is called "The God of Discord" and is probably the bleakest thing I've ever written. My wife hates that story and that's usually a good sign.
Those are the only planned releases at the moment, but I have several irons in the fire.
Q: How can readers contact you?
My personal Web site is at www.stevenewedel.com and there's an e-mail link there, as well as a message board and a link to my LiveJournal blog, which my agent insists I update often, so I do. They can read about my writing, my kids and my day job, as well as get a frequent dose of my right-wing political ideology. Whew. Did you see all those noses turning up when I said right-wing?
I just launched a new Web site to promote CALL TO THE HUNT and the other werewolf books at www.werewolfsaga.com. It has some historical stuff about my werewolf mythology, an FAQ, samples and some reviews of the books.