Sometimes we meet people and become friends with them over the briefest of moments. Though that friend is not around often, you find that even after years pass it’s only like yesterday since you were in contact with that friend last. This the case in real life, but also in the writing world. Recently, I was fortunate to reconnect with a writer friend and we had us a nice sit down, albeit through FB Messenger. So, sit back, relax and This Is Erin MacCallum.
AJ: Erin, it has been a long time since we last chatted. I believe that was for Zombie Killer Bill.
EM: Thank you for the chance to be here again, Jeff! Last time we chatted would have been back in 2010. Wow, time flies when you’re having fun.
AJ: 2010 seems like yesterday. How have you been since then?
EM: I’ve been doing well! I’ve started working on a few projects and living life as well as anyone can.
AJ: Can you tell me about some of the projects?
EM: The usual writing projects and I’ve started two webpages. One is my Author’s Page and the other is a book blog called The Reader’s Hollow, where I feature and review everything from bestsellers to indies.
AJ: Two webpages? I have a hard time keeping up with one. Before we getting to the writing projects, tell me about The Reader’s Hollow.
EM: I started The Reader’s Hollow in 2012 because I felt detached from the writing community and what was coming out on the indie scene. This seemed like a great way to connect, and it went from a once a week hobby to almost every day. It’s been a lot of fun so far.
AJ: Detached from the writing community? How?
EM: I just didn’t know what was going on or really all that was out there and wanted to find ways of doing it online. I live out in the boonies so local gatherings like at the library weren’t always easy to do.
AJ: So this is a way for you to connect, not only with the writing community, but the reading community as well?
EM: Nail on the head, Jeff.
AJ: I’d like to come back to this later, but for now, let’s talk writing and publishing. You have a series of books out right now. Tell me about those.
EM: I do! It’s The Demon’s Grave trilogy which is a dark urban fantasy about a group of college kids who find themselves trespassing in an alternative universe and must face their secrets and fears in order to get home.
AJ: Interesting concept. Where did the idea for The Demon’s Grave come from?
EM: I wrote it originally when I was 13. To be honest, I cannot remember. At the time I was an organic writer. I had a chapter and just let it take me places. Then over the years I’ve added and subtracted until I just couldn’t anymore.
AJ: That’s interesting. Then your love for writing started at a very early age?
EM: Oh yes, around eight years old. I wrote a trilogy back then and bound it in duct tape to make it fit in the shelf. After that I became a bit obsessed with telling stories.
AJ: Ahhh, I think you just hit it on the head this time. Telling stories. Stephen King has said time and time again that it is always about the story. Nothing else matters but the story. It’s not about the writing. I think a lot of writers miss that. With that in mind, do you consider yourself a writer who tells stories or a story teller who writes?
EM: I think I’m trying to figure that out right now. I complicated a lot of my stories by overthinking, and you won’t believe how many unfinished manuscripts I’ve collected. Recently, I’ve been trying to adopt being a storyteller again. It hasn’t been easy but I find I do better if I get the story out and ask questions later.
AJ: The struggle is real!
EM: Haha, yes the struggle never ends.
AJ: I think the really good writers excel in storytelling. They don’t just write the action and the scenes, but they tell the entire story as the story tells them to write it.
EM: I like that point of view. I’m going to have to pocket that for those low moments of self-doubt.
AJ: We all have those moments, but I think once we gain our confidence, telling the stories becomes easier and easier.
EM: Thanks! That’s what I’m aiming for.
AJ: You said the series is a trilogy, right? Have they all come out already?EM:
EM: Yes! Book 2: Midnight Ruling & Book 3: The Haunting are both out and available. I was really lucky to have gotten a few amazing editors (Matthew Baugh, Jessica Meigs & Lori Titus) and graphic artist (Amygdala Designs) to help me get these all out so close together.
AJ: I don’t know Baugh or Meigs, but I know Lori and she is an awesome person.
EM: Yes, she is! I really liked working with her.
AJ: Tell me about your process for writing.
EM: The writing process, this last year, has been a rough outline and I write the scenes I’m excited about, then I start to pull it all together and try to follow the outline, but it doesn’t always go that way. I always try to keep Pixar in mind, haha. I’ve yet to predict one of those awesome cartoons. The writers are brilliant at misleading and scratching out the most obvious storylines.
AJ: That’s actually a really good way to look at things. Pixar really does tend to throw curve balls at the audience. That’s definitely something to think about.
How did you go from Zombies to demons?
EM: I don’t think I can stick with just one kind of monster. There’s so many good stories to spin and the more I’ve ignored an idea, the more it’s haunted me. Next it might be ghosts, or witches, or vampires. Do you find you can stick with just one genre when those voices come calling?
AJ: Honestly, I don’t have a genre anymore. I stopped writing for a genre about four or five years ago. For me, I didn’t like the restrictions of genre writing or even labeling myself as a horror writer.
AJ: So, tell me, zombies, demons, ghosts, vampires maybe. What about the human monster? That is the monster I like to tackle. As you evolve as a writer, do you think you could lean toward writing about the very real horrors of humanity?
EM: Ha! Funny you should say that. My current WIP is a historical about a serial killer’s daughter. I got the idea from reading about H.H. Holmes and how he had a public execution, and then it’s revealed that he had wives and children. I couldn’t imagine the discrimination that would come with a last name that’s attached to a human monster, especially back then.
AJ: Now that’s my type of storyline.
EM: Hopefully it works out. Haha.
I bought Cory’s Way a while back but have yet to crack it. If that’s your type of storyline I should move that book further up the TBR list! I’m really digging dark thrillers lately.
AJ: Cory’s Way is kind of along the lines of The Body (or so I’ve been told). It has a few unique twists in it. I think anyone would love it. I think I just plugged my book during your interview.
EM: I was hoping you would. I hear it’s good. More people might want to check it out, you never know!
AJ: Thank you, Erin. I believe the story is good, and according to the readers I’ve heard from, so do they.
Let me throw something out to you. I have always been a big Stephen King fan and I find a lot of wisdom in his words. One of those nuggets of wisdom came from his book On Writing. In it he said that the writer is the story’s first reader. With that in mind, when I sit to write, I sit to learn about the story as well. I know a story is good when it takes unexpected turns and leaves me nodding, smiling, in tears or on the verge of cussing.
When you write, do you look at it anything like that?
EM: Oh yes, sometimes it can leave me frustrated, but in the end it benefits the overall story more often than not. And that’s a good book, On Writing, my husband got it for me for Christmas last year. It has a lot of those nuggets you mentioned. I’m not completely done as I find I have to stew over some of the points he makes but I’m leaning a lot!
AJ: On Writing is the only book, well, on writing, which I have read. I found a lot of what King had to say about writing was practical and not a book of do’s and don’ts.
EM: Absolutely, I also find there’s no sure-fire way for everyone. That’s the awesome thing about writing, no two writers have the same journey.
AJ: Exactly, Erin. What works for me may not work for you and what works for you may not work for someone else. That is the beauty of it. There is only the story and how it is told.
Okay, Erin, let’s rewind for a minute and go back to The Reader’s Hollow. Do you do the book reviews for it, and if so, how would other writers be able to take advantage of this?
EM: Yes, we do reviews, interviews, guest posts and Spotlight posts for us and book tours. If any author wants to apply they can see our review policy.
AJ: Very nice.
With writing, what goals do you have for yourself?
EM: To never stop and to always get better and learn what I can. I stopped writing back when I was 18-25ish and as much as I needed an experience in the outside world, I was lost without this outlet.
AJ: Yes, this outlet can be a sanity saver.
Do you find it difficult to market, not just your books, but you?
EM: I did at first, but opportunity is everywhere to market a book. It was just a bit scary at first, and it’s a slow process, but it’s never ending and new ideas are out there every day. As for marketing myself, it was deciding to just be myself and if people like me, cool, if not, well that’s life.
AJ: Okay, here’s the scenario: we are, face to face at a convention. I am a reader and you are the writer. I come up to your booth. You want me to buy your book. Sell it to me.
EM: Hi! What brings you to the con today?
AJ: I just thought it would be a good way to spend my day. What are you selling?
EM: Books! This bunch would be my urban fantasy trilogy called The Demon’s Grave. It’s my latest pride and joy. Are you a reader? Writer?
AJ: I am a reader. I like dark books with good character development.
EM: This might be right up your alley. I’ve been working on these characters for over ten years. Ha! That doesn’t keep them very safe though. It’s in a demonic world and there are some dark scenes, but it’s all to build up the ending.
AJ: Demonic? I don’t know if I would be into that. (How do you react to someone saying that?)
EM: That’s alright! There’s also zombies, doppelgängers and nightmares. The demon is an overlord and it’s where he’s trapped. We each like different things though. Most of my favorite horror elements are in the trilogy, like some of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Are you a classic monster fan at all?
AJ: I do like the classics.
EM: I tried to keep it true with evil vampires and even have less supernatural moments like facing old bullies. As an adult I always thought that would be an experience.
AJ: I’m sold. I like the classic monsters, not the sparkly ones.
Usually here I’m also asking them about what books they really enjoyed and if I know any, I like to talk about them. If not its movies or I let them go if they’re still browsing. I always welcome people wandering back to visit, too. Cons can be so much stress and so much fun.
AJ: Selling yourself can be daunting, but it looks like you have a handle on that.
Before we go, is there anything you would like to add? Anything you would like to tell the readers?
EM: Just to keep supporting Indies. There are some gems out there and I want to thank you, Jeff, for taking the time to interview me and having one of the funnest methods for doing them!
AJ: It was truly my pleasure, Erin.
About The Demon’s Grave:
When strange shadows and messages plague Nora’s daily life she fears for her sanity. To escape questions from her family, Nora joins her friends on a weekend getaway. Despite not liking Aidan Birket, Nora finds his remote, Victorian house charming. Until they discover the marble doorway on the third floor and, against Nora’s better judgment, they open it.
Trespassing into an unfamiliar world called the Demon’s Grave, the group face a charismatic demon and six nightmarish Challenges as punishment. Those that make it to the end can go home, but those that don’t will be his forever. Friendships are tested, secrets revealed and sacrifices will be made.
Nora battles zombies, doppelgängers, eyeless bikers, and the demon—whose interests are more than just a game of cat and mouse. If it’s all in her head, then it should be easy. But, if not, it means the demon knows about her sticky past, and the death of her twin sister.
Excerpt from The Demon’s Grave:
“Aidan,” I insisted in a whisper.
A few car lengths north of the Chevy a stereo crackled to life. An echoing voice sang followed by a choir of voices that doo de doo’ed in the background. The slow song sounded like something from the 1950’s.
Read and I exchanged a curious glance as the echoing main voice mentioned a game. Read pulled his hand from mine and we both wiped our slick palms on our jeans.
“What is it?” I asked Aidan. “What should we be looking for?”
He didn’t answer, his eyes kept wandering to the cars then down the street and to the motorbikes.
Read’s shoulders sagged, exasperated. He looked ready to say something when the roar of an engine smothered the music as well as my yelp. It stopped Read cold.
Aidan jumped and grabbed my arm as if I were the one to save him.
Craning my neck to see if there was a single vehicle taking up the roadway, I saw none. It had been so loud I couldn’t pinpoint the direction it came from.
The music began to take over the street once more, a new song erupting from the crackling speakers.
Between shallow breaths, Aidan said, “come on.”
Before Read or I could question him, Aidan stood up and started in long, purposeful strides, the kind that was harder to stop.
Read nudged me to move, or rather shoved me. Panicked, we hurried to Aidan. Looking to him, our pace quickened to keep up. Aidan stared straight ahead. His lean figure was rigid, but he hadn’t slowed.
Keeping close to the buildings, we passed the occupied car playing music. I could see three teenage boys inside. The muffled vintage music carried through the window.
I felt the scream choke in my throat as we passed. The passengers didn’t have eyes.
Their shapeless pale faces lacked not only the eyes but also mouths. The skin where lips should be had stretched horizontally, sealing any opening. The only portion of their faces that was noticeable was the lump of their nose—without nostrils. Even their hair was all the same color, styled the same, with a part in the middle, and they wore the same collared shirt and slacks.
I thought to myself, It’s just a few of the faceless, nameless people of this city, like any other…right? Maybe the demon had a sense of sick, very sick, humor.
I could hear, the eerie chorus of voices within the car, making it all the more surreal.
The three boys in the car watched us pass, as is if they could see. They turned their heads as we hurried along and I found myself staring back for as long as I could.