I’ll be signing books from 11 – 3 at Chapters Windsor (located inside Devonshire Mall) this Saturday (tomorrow!). If you’ve been waiting to pick up All These Crooked Streets, that would be a great place to do so. Hope to see some of you there.
I was going to get into some of the music I listen to while writing but decided that I would save that for a later date. Instead, I thought I would shine a spotlight on three authors who inspire me.
I’ll get the obvious one out of the way first. Stephen King. Listen, if you are a horror writer, you have probably been influenced by King’s work (whether you like his stuff or not). The man is synonymous with horror fiction. My first experience with King’s work came through my brother. He was (and still is) and avid reader of Stephen King. Because of that, even though it would be years before I would pick up a horror novel (King’s or otherwise) I was seeing his books lying around our house. Since then I’ve read about twenty or so of his books (with many more in the ‘to-read’ pile). My personal favs are The Shining, Bag of Bones, The Talisman and Desperation. But to be honest, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by him (except for The Colorado Kid. That book sucked hard).
Next up is one of two Canadians. Michael Slade (AKA John Banks, Jay Clark, Rebecca Clark and Richard Covell). Confused yet? Let me explain. Michael Slade is the pen name of several writers (most of them lawyers), but the biggest contributor, and only one currently writing under the name, is Jay Clark. The Slade books (with only one exception) all follow a division of the RCMP called Special X. Special X are tasked with catching psychopaths who have connections with other countries, requiring the unit to often times work with other law enforcement agencies from around the world. The thing I like the most about Slade’s work is how unapologetic it is. It is vicious, violent, sexy and unfiltered. Although I enjoy all of the early Slade books (some of the later ones aren’t the best), my favs are: Headhunter, Ripper, Bed of Nails and Ghoul. I actually consider Ghoul one of my all-time favourite books.
And that brings me to the second Canadian: Craig Davidson (AKA Nick Cutter). I met Craig a few years ago when I was asked to host The Dark Side Tour on its stop in my hometown. The tour was a cross-North American book tour with Craig Davidson and Andrew Pyper. At the time, I had just taken my first fledgling steps into my writing career and felt immediately out of my depth talking to these two guys. Luckily, they were both awesome and the night went off without a hitch. A perk of playing host was that I was given copies of their new books at that time (The Deep from Craig and The Damned from Pyper), so that I could ask some relevant questions. And although I loved both books, something about Craig’s visceral horror really grabbed me. I went back and read his other offering under the Cutter name (The Troop) and was outright hooked, and have greedily devoured everything since. I’ve been fortunate enough to hang out with Craig a bunch of times over the last couple years, and now consider him a friend. I’ve yet to be disappointed with any of his work, but hands down my favourite is the literary kick to the face called The Acolyte. This book resonates with me on every level. I fucking love it.
So, there you have it. Three authors who have shaped my own writing style and inspire me to keep plugging away. There are many more, of course, but if I started going through them all, we’d be here all day.
I’ll be at Action! this Sunday (Feb. 18th) from 10 – 5. This is going to be a super fun convention (there are some great guests). I’ll have copies of the new book, All These Crooked Streets, as well as a handful of No Light Tomorrow and The Space Between Houses. If you’ve been waiting to grab one (or all of them), Sunday would be a great opportunity to do so, and you can even get it signed!
For more on Action!, check out their website www.actionwindsor.com
See you Sunday!
Sorry gang, this took a bit longer than expected (life and all its unforeseen eddies have pulled me off course). But, as promised, the real life person who inspired Ana.
Like last time, don’t worry if you haven’t read the story yet, there will be no spoilers here.
A bit of history first. A few years back, I watched a Spanish horror movie called Blind Alley. This film, which was about vampires, was a rather dull affair. It was a case of great cinematography…and nothing else. Except, there was something else, the lead actress. This woman was quite possibly the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. The kind of beauty that entrances all who witness it.
I quickly added her to the mental list we all carry around. You know, the one that says if we had a chance with so-and-so, we would gladly risk our marriage and or our family to do so.
Flash forward a bit. I was sitting down with the newest Eli Roth flick (his return after a few years away thanks to negative reviews of Hostel 2), Knock Knock. While the movie was laughably bad (mostly thanks to a subpar performance from Keanu Reeves. Seriously, go watch it, he has no fucks to give in that performance), to my great surprise, the lovely actress from Blind Alley was back. And a blonde to boot!
I poured over every one of her scenes. I’m not going to lie, I was in love.
When the time came to write Sugar’s Last Dance, I wanted to make the main character the most beautiful woman ever, which got me thinking. Who do I think that person is? And bam, it came to me. Ana de Armas!
I modeled the protagonist after Miss de Armas, using her appearance in Knock Knock as my inspiration. I even when so far as to call my main character Ana.
To my great delight, Ana de Armas has started getting some bigger roles in Hollywood. She recently appeared—and was amazing—in Blade Runner 2049 as the utterly loveable Joi.
Now, just to be clear, I modeled my Ana off the real thing in physical appearance. I’m not sure, but I doubt that the real Ana de Armas would do some of the things that her namesake gets up to. Or maybe she would.
So there you have it. I almost never model characters in my stories after real life folk, but this time, I couldn’t resist. I felt like this was as close as I would ever come to meeting this lovely woman, so went with it.
Alright, so I was going to make this post about the real life inspiration behind Ana, but since I touched on music last time, I figured I would keep that ball rolling.
When I write, I listen to music…instrumental (or electronic) music. That changed a bit with Sugar’s Last Dance. Instead of the ambient sounds I usually work to, I found myself coming back time and time again to an actual band. That band? Crosses (or ttt).
So, who are Crosses and why did I listen to them? Well, let me tell you.
Crosses is a side project from musician Chico Moreno. Chico already has a hugely successful band called the Deftones, but I guess he needed a second outlet. At any rate, being a big fan of the Deftones, I ended up grabbing Crosses on CD one day (I know, I’m an old man, but I like listening to music in my car and CD is the only way that I can do that).
This album, which is very Deftones-esque, was massively influential in the writing of Sugar’s last Dance. I would start each writing session by firing it up on YouTube. This was also helpful in that I would use the length of the album as a guide as to how long I had been writing.
Something about the record just fit so perfectly with what I was trying to achieve that it became a crucial part of the story.
Now, I know that music is objective to a degree, so you may not experience the same thing that I did while listening. And really, that’s the way it should be, but still, this album was a big part of the story.
I’ll leave you with a song from Crosses. If you like it, buy the album (trust me, it’s super rad!)
Next time, I promise to reveal the woman who inspired Ana, I swear!
With All These Crooked Streets having launched on Tuesday (Nov. 21st), I figured now would be an appropriate time to take a behind the scenes look at my story, Sugar’s Last Dance (don’t worry, no spoilers).
The first thing to talk about is the fact that this was not the story I was planning to write at all. I had spent a couple months prior to beginning the actual writing process, plotting out a completely different novella. I won’t get into what that story was about (I still may write it!), but I will say it had a decidedly Die Hard vibe to it.
You may be asking, what kind of work had gone into the plotting of this original story (or maybe not, but too bad, I’m gonna tell you)? Like most of the stuff that appears in my books, I started with pen and paper. In this instance, I had broken the entire plot down into sections and events, leading all the way to the finale. I really liked what I had come up with, but it just didn’t seem to jive with the rest of the book (compared to Ed and Ben’s stories, mine didn’t feel all that crimey). Which is why at the 11th hour, I scraped it and went with something completely different.
So, I guess that leads to the next obvious question, where the hell did the idea for Sugar’s Last Dance come from? Simple. A song. Let me elaborate.
I used to do this thing where I would pick a random album, listen to it, and come up with a story that was inspired by the songs. One such album was Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children by Mushroomhead. Besides being a pretty rad album, the opening track really spoke to me, and was ultimately the main inspiration for what would eventually become Sugar’s Last Dance. That song was a rocking little ditty called Come On. Oh, by the way, this was back in late 2011!
While jamming to this track, this is what I wrote (just a heads up, it is point form):
The main character is one of the strippers. Her name is Sasha but her stripper name is Ginger. She is a natural red head and so she uses that as her gimmick. She is new to the strip club. She used to work elsewhere but ended up moving because she ripped off some bad guys. Sasha is not really accepted by the other girls.
On the outskirts of town there is a strip club called the Pink Kitty. The club has to be so far away from schools and such so the only logical place is outside of town.
Usually the place is pretty busy but a freak snow storm has caused business to be non-existent. Inside the club the only people there are employees.
There are a dozen people in the club. The bouncer, the bartender, two waitresses, the DJ, the owner and six dancers.
Outside the snow continues to come down in a relentless white-out. Some of the girls are worried about getting home.
One of the girls decides to go out and have a cigarette. In the parking lot having her smoke she sees something. It is hazy at first but as she squints her eyes she can see into the dense white falling snow that a man approaches. As he walks past her he asks if they are open. She says yes and watches as he goes in. She looks again towards where he came from and sees no car. Wherever he came from, he walked.
And that’s it! That’s all I had. I promptly saved it in my ideas folder and moved on with my life.
Flash forward to the end of Dec. 2016, with only weeks before I’m supposed to begin writing my contribution to All These Crooked Streets, and that idea came back to me. Although conceived as being more of a horror story, I quickly realized that the plot could also work quite nicely as a tense little crime thriller.
I had to decide; either use what I had been working on, or go with the stripper story. Throwing caution to the wind, I went with the latter and I think the book is much better for it.
Come back next week to find out who the real life inspiration for Ana, AKA “Sugar” is!