Steve Van Samson
Author of “The Bone Eater King” and “Marrow Dust”
CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
SVS:When I was a kid, my friends and I had our own super hero characters. Think Ninja Turtles crossed with X-Men—you know, stellar stuff. Sometimes we had to save the world, other times we had been sent from the future to retrieve photographic evidence of the last living earth dog! And then other days, our heroes abused their power and influence to procure advanced copies of some new Nintendo game we were all slathering over.
This hero game lasted for a few years and the world around it, while silly, eventually became kind of deep. First we dreamed up the fantastic powers, then the names and inevitably, super powered villains for us to save the world from. I can still remember wondering things like, how we were supposed to find out about new missions? Were we self employed heroes like Batman or did we answer to a someone? Who else lived in this world besides us and the villains? Did we have non powered friends? Sidekicks? Secretaries? And wait a darned second… just how did we get these fantastic powers in the first place?
Looking back on that stuff now, in some ways, I’ve been a writer for a very long time.
CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?
SVS: I’m not overly prolific in the word-put-downing department, but I try to squeeze in as much as I can. Since I am not a full time writer, I try to write a few hundred words at lunch, then as many more as I can, after my daughter goes to bed. If I break 1,000, I tend to feel pretty good.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?
SVS: Not so much. Although I do love a good nighttime Bloody Mary at my side while writing. Side note: I honestly don’t understand why Bloody Mary’s are considered a breakfast drink in the first place. It’s VEGETABLES! I mean, who hears breakfast and immediately think of broccoli? PSSHHH!!!
CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?
SVS: I honestly love both. If story ideas are like seeds, then a novel is a garden. If tended properly, it can flourish and grow into something really special. But if that’s true, then a short story must be a single rose set in a vase. No less beautiful, no less capable of moving the soul… but definitely smaller than a garden. A good writer can usually sort his seeds into one category or the other but sometimes, small things can start to grow out of hand…
CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?
SVS: Pretty great actually! I have been lucky enough to be welcomed into the fantastic New England Horror Writers group where I’ve met and befriended numerous talented individuals with a flare for the spooky stuff. Check them out on Facebook, you might recognize a name or ten!
CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
SVS: I am very go with the flow. Thus far, my experience with outlines has been hit or miss. Generally, no matter how hard I try to stick to them, my characters end up pulling me in totally different directions. But really, that’s kind of what you want. Surprises along the way aren’t just fun for the writer, they usually mean the reader is having a pretty hard time guessing what’s coming next. Nothing bad about that.
CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?
SVS: It lit a fire under my ass. I knew I had to get better and I had to get faster. And yes, I’m still working on both.
CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story?
SVS: A few major things. First comes character. Throwaway, cliched high schoolers means I am not giving one shred of a damn when they bite the dust. To be invested, I need interesting, well thought out characters who make rational decisions. No running upstairs when the killer is in the house, please.
Second—the horrific situation or villain has to not only have rules, but stick to them! The whole Jason Voorhees showing up behind every door and constantly returning from the dead every time, for no reason beyond sequel dollars really stirs my yawning muscle. I much prefer the first couple of Hellraisers. Pinhead rules because he had rules. You solve the box, he comes to pick you up. It’s what makes the big conundrum with Tiffany unwittingly solving the box in Hellraiser 2 work so well. Good thing for Tiff, it’s not hands that call them…
CHHR: What are you currently working on?
SVS: A sword and sorcery type novel. Like everything I’ve written so far, it is very much laced with horror and at least partially inspired by the works of Robert E. Howard. No elves or dwarves here, but there are monsters, ancient cities, highwaymen, alchemists, gas powered lights and plague doctors. I’m still near the beginning, so we’ll see what happens.
CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?
SVS: Just a few off the top: “Eaters of the Dead” by Michael Crichton, “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill, “Off Season” by Jack Ketchum, Our Lady of Darkness” by Fritz Leiber and “Edge of Dark Water” by Joe R. Lansdale.
CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?
SVS: After Jack Ketchum passed away, I finally got off my rear and read “The Girl Next Door”. Holy hell. I have no idea how he wrote that book—how anyone could write that book. Amazing, and devastating in ways that make it really hard to like humans. And the worst part, it was very much based on a real life 1965 murder of Sylvia Likens.
CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?
SVS: I adore old movies. So I will say BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), directed by James Whale. There is scarcely a single frame of the thing that isn’t utter perfection.
CHHR: What is your spirit animal?
SVS: A Ninja Turtle riding a triceratops.
CHHR: What is your favorite beer?
SVS: I love dark stuff—mainly porters and stouts. Russian Imperials are the best. I’ll say Narwhale Imperial Stout by Sierra Nevada. It’s a seasonal, winter brew and probably my favorite commercial beer. Though I admit, the label doesn’t hurt.
CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?
SVS: Joe Lansdale, hands down. His talent is so vast and so plainly natural, it never ceases to amaze me. His prose is always straight and to the point but with plenty of grit and there is no other author who has affected my own writing voice as much as he has. Plus I have a serious love of Weird Westerns and Joe’s run on Jonah Hex in the 90s was phenomenal!
Steve Van Samson is the author of the vampires in Africa series “Predator World”. His writing tends to be on the pulpy side—intermingling genres like horror, dystopian with dark fantasy and adventure. He believes that character is king and there should always be little seeds planted between the lines, that the reader will only discover in subsequent readings.