Gail Smith is the pen name of romance author Linda Mooney. She likes to combine elements of urban fantasy and science fiction in her sensuous romance novels. Her horror novellas, Code 30 and Journal, are available in ebook formats from Tease Publishing. In this interview, Gail talks about her work, what's inside the mind of a horror author, and some of her favorite horror books.
Thanks for the interview, Gail. What got you into writing horror?
When I was very young, my parents would travel to a tiny town outside of San Antonio to visit my grandparents, I would spend hours in the living room watching the Saturday afternoon horror movies on Channel 5. Of course, back then, the worse ones were the original Frankenstein, the Mummy movies, and so forth. I loved them. They never scared me, but I was fascinated by them. As I got older and was flexing my writing chops in school, I would write ghost stories, mostly. Some bloody, but not that much. Not until I discovered Lovecraft and Poe. And Hammer horror films. I'm still a HUGE horror buff.
What types of horror books do you enjoy reading? Any favorite authors?
Oh, wow. My favorite all-time horror writer is Jack Ketcham. His stuff gives Stephen King nightmares. And in the "graphic novel" writers, I love Steve Niles. Give me the gross, the groady, the dripping with decay any day.
Tell us a bit about your horror books, Journal and Code 30.
I write all my romances in 3rd person, but I write my horror in 1st person, because I think it gets across the absolute depravity of the situation a lot better. Journal is a different slant on the zombie genre. It's one woman's account of trying to survive right after a major cataclysmic event has occurred, and when people die as a result, they're resurrected as the living dead. I will warn you now — my stuff does not always have a Happily Ever After. In fact, one reviewer was thrown for a total loop when she got to the end of Journal. She never saw it coming.
Code 30 is perhaps my favorite novella I've written to date. The heroine is a street cop, and she and her partner come across some serial killers who are not your "typical" hack-and-slashers. There are strong paranormal elements to each of the three chapters, which are three separate series of events which all tie together. The title refers to the police call sign for Officer Needs Assistance.
What's inside the mind of the horror writer?
I think a horror writer disassociates himself from the true, vile nature of the beast. I do know that, if I hadn't been such a horror fan, and learned all the tricks used in horror movies and such by reading up on them via magazines such as Fangoria, that a lot of what I see (and write) would turn my stomach. The stories I tell I do from the mind of the person directly involved. That way I can step back later and "not be" that person whom I left hanging on page 26, LOL!
What don't you like to see in a horror book?
Torture rape. Degradation of a child. I believe these are some of the boundaries NO writer should cross.
Do you think horror has changed a lot in the last 20 years?
Definitely! Over the years, horror movies and stories have de-sensitized a lot of people, so Hollywood and writers have had to up the ante to get the same chills and screams as before. Then again, there are some classics like The Exorcist that continue to terrify today. It's the only movie I've never been able to watch all the way through in one sitting.
What's the scariest book you've ever read?
Off Season by Jack Ketcham tore me up the first time I read it. And Salem's Lot, when King's book originally premiered back in the 70s, gave me nightmares. More recently? Hmm…that still remains to be seen.
To be honest, I get more goosebumps watching The Ghost Hunters on the Sci-Fi Channel!
Do you get scared while writing your own horror fiction?
No. However, I will admit that I tend to have "dreams" whenever I'm deep into writing a book. Nightmares? Sure! Write 'em down!
What's your favorite fictional horror fiend? Why?
I don't have one, can you believe it? Neither the classics, like Frankenstein or Dracula, or the more Holly-weirdish types like Freddy or Jason, made me a fan. But there are certain series that I adore. Like the Alien movies. The 28 Days Later series. The SAW series. Anything by Romero with the Dead series.
What do you plan to do this Halloween?
I teach Kindergarten, and I always dress up. Of course, I don't go for the really scary stuff. Not for my wee ones. But if I dress up goofy, it's a fun day for all. Then, as I have in the past, I'll sit inside my house on Halloween night, watch what's on cable, and let my youngest son dole out the candy. He's seven foot two, and just appearing at the front door makes the trick-or-treaters scream!