CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’m pretty new at this! I always enjoyed writing stuff for school, and seemed to do well. I wrote a lot of letters and stuff while I was incarcerated, but that was mostly my own personal journal. As far as actual, real, ass-to-seat and fingers-to-keys, creative writing, I just started last winter, 2017.
CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?
I currently work as a meat-cutter at my local grocery store. My schedule changes every week. Some weeks I work two or three days, then have a few off. Other weeks, like the one I just finished, I work five or six days in a row. When I get home from work, I’ve gotta tend to stuff around the house and help my wife with our little fella, so I don’t get a lot of writing done on work days. I usually unwind on those nights by reading on my Kindle app or from the mountainous stack of old horror and crime paperbacks scattered around the house.
On my days off, though…Those are writing days for me. I wake up early, earlier than I do normally for work, chug some coffee, get random housework done, then I crack open the laptop. I try to get a few hours in at a time. I’m usually good about getting at least 1000, 2000 words in one shot. I’ve found that STARTING the writing process is difficult for me, but once I get past those first few sentences, I get into a nice groove.
I also try to read and review stuff for the Ginger Nuts of Horror website, which is amazing, and also post stuff on my personal blog and Goodreads.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?
Nothing out of the ordinary, I’m afraid. I drink a lot of coffee and smoke a lot of cigarettes. I’ve been crowing on Twitter, I just got a new coffee mug last week, it holds a full pot of coffee. It’s an official Ghostbusters Ghost Trap mug, with slime in the bottom. Yup, I’m gonna be thirty in October.
CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?
Well, currently, I’m in love with it all. The whole process. I’m working on a few short stories, just some weird ideas I’m kicking around, and I’m writing another novella. CHAINSAW, the one I have out now, is a novella of around 13,000 words. Or “novelette.” I guess you could call it that. I’m also outlining and gathering notes to start my first novel. At least, I think it’ll be a novel. Everything I’ve got for it so far suggests the scope will be huge. Fuck it, why not?
CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?
Where I live, in rural Perry County, PA, it’s nonexistent. Hell, only two or three of the guys I work with even know that I write and read and do reviews online. Guys like Brian Keene and Wesley Southard live a few counties down from me. Matthew Standiford lives out towards Pittsburgh. Adam Cesare and Scott Cole and others out in Philly. Overall, the horror scene in PA is great. Just not around where I live. Ha!
CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
Mostly, I’ve been going with the flow for my writing. I had a few plot points in my head when I was writing CHAINSAW, but didn’t have any clue about the in-between. I just made it up as I went along.
I have started outlining what I’m gonna do for my first novel, as well as where the overall CHAINSAW pulp-trilogy is gonna go, but that’s because they’re bigger projects. So far, the short stories I’ve been writing haven’t needed much planning.
CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?
I published CHAINSAW myself, using Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s not perfect, but I did learn a lot about formatting and all of that stuff in the process. I’m also trying to go about marketing it in my own awkward, painful way.
The first short story that I’ve gotten published is now available in Strange Stories Magazine, from Deadlights Horror Fiction. The story is a weird giallo tribute called “The Red Mailbox.” David Wilson runs the magazine and Deadlights, and he’s been my first encounter with an editor in the wild. He was very gentle but gave me a lot of solid pointers and constructive criticism. I consider myself lucky to have had that for a first interaction.
CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story?
I have to feel something for the characters, or I won’t care what happens in the story. I need some good character development! I wanna love characters, hate them, wish death upon them. Let me put it this way: I’d rather read ANOTHER zombie story with good, relatable characters, than read a story with flat, colorless people, no matter how creative the monster or threat is.
CHHR: What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on another novella, tentatively titled DEAD MEAT. It’s my half-assed tribute to King’s The Mist, as well as Italian gore and giallo films, which I’ve been really getting into lately.
CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?
Lord, my wife is close to murdering me, for the amount of physical books we have in the house. I can’t list all of those. I’ll give you a few off my Kindle app that I’m currently reading:
1. TRADE YER COFFIN FOR A GUN by Mer Whinery
2. DARKEST HOURS by Mike Thorn
3. MR. SNUFF by Jon Athan
4. DEATH HEAD VALLEY and HEADCASE AND OTHER SPLATTERPUNK STORIES, by David Charlesworth
5. SHANK by Roy Harper
6. ANATHEMA by Kristopher Rufty
7. FOG WARNING by Edward Lorn
8. PEOPLE ARE STRANGE by James Newman
9. TRIPLE AXE by Scott Cole
10. THE GOAT PARADE by Peter Dudar
CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?
That is a great question. Hmm. I’d have to say THE MAILMAN by Bentley Little. Definitely made me think twice about the fella who brings my books and bills, and also, people with red hair in general.
CHHR: What is your spirit animal?
The honey badger! They’re little tanks. I once saw a nature program on television where a honey badger got bitten by a venomous cobra, fell unconscious for ten minutes, then got back up and finished destroying the snake. They just don’t know when to back down.
CHHR: What is your favorite beer?
Cold Miller High Life, or PBR pounders in a can.
CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?
1980s-era Steve King, the coked-up, drunk King. He’d probably have some wild-ass ideas to discuss. Currently, I’d settle for a beer with Glenn Rolfe and Chris Sorensen. Both are great guys.
JOHN BENDER lives in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, where he enjoys reading, reviewing and writing nasty horror fiction. Reformed ex-con, husband, and a new father, he understands the horrors of daily life. He is currently working on his first novel, in between fending off gasoline pirate attacks and having to feed the mutant cannibals in the basement. His own diet consists of coffee, cigarettes, and Richard Laymon.
John is active on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. He also has a blog, called Slashers and Scoundrels. In short, he has no life, so you can always reach him!