I get the sense that Glenn Rolfe doesn’t just love reading horror, I believe he loves reading. He adores books and always is eager to help his fellow writers. Glenn and I both write for Samhain Publishing, and he was one of the first people out of the gate to support my debut novel last December. Glenn’s newest novella, Boom Town, was released earlier this month, and I’m happy to help him however I can to spread the word of his new work.
I’m always curious about the writing process, so where do you write (at a desk, man cave, Starbucks where you can talk about race relations while writing horror)?
I write the majority of my stuff on my overnight shifts (two nights a week) at the hotel I work at. It is quiet (most nights). I can disappear into my mind. I work at home if I have something that is time sensitive, but my three kiddos usually have a way of barging in and keeping me out of “the zone.” So, yeah, work is the best place to create.
Do you have a specific word count you try to reach?
Depends on the piece. Novels, I aim for 70K words (settle for 63K and up). For novellas, I aim for 20K (and welcome more if they come). For short stories…anything goes.
Do you prefer silence when writing, or is it OK to have music/television in the background? I almost always have music going. Sometimes I use it to set the mood of the scene I’m writing. Sometimes, when you see a song mentioned in one of my stories, it’s just the one that happened to play on my computer while typing. I never have the TV going.
Are you able to write multiple projects at once or do you prefer to focus solely on writing one novel or novella at a time? I always have multiple projects going at once, so I always have something to work on. I have four novels at various word counts going right now. I also have a novella started, and multiple short stories that need to be completed. I have a bit of a writer’s ADD going on. If I get an idea for a story, I have to sit down and start it. I’ll find my way back to it eventually.
You’re a voracious reader – at least I believe you are – so please tell us about some of your favorite books, regardless of genre, and how they influenced you. Oh boy, you want me to talk books? Sure thing.
‘Salem’s Lot has to be at the top of the list. That’s my favorite novel of all-time. It has everything in a story that I want to deliver as a writer myself. A great array of characters. Creepy atmosphere in all the right places (The Marsten House, the dump, the cemetery, faces in the windows). A love story (Does it get any better than Ben and Susan?)
For other King works: The Shining, Joyland, The Dead Zone,The Green Mileare all favorites.
Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi and Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley each had a HEAVY influence on Abram’s Bridge. Malfi’s descriptions are perfection. He never over does it. I strive for that in my own work. Yardley showed me that you could bring sweetness into your bloodbaths. I never even considered doing that before. I owe Sweet Kate (the ghost girl from Abram’s Bridge) to her.
Richard Laymon and Bentley Little have their fingerprints on my first novel, The Haunted Halls.
I also have started reading some classics to broaden my range. To Kill a Mockingbird was brilliant, as was Brave New World. Character and storytelling for Mockingbird. More social awareness, bigger picture-type stuff with World. I looked to improve in those areas moving forward.
Brian Keene’s Ghoul and McCammon’s Boys Life are two more of my favorites. They offer up that coming of age magic that bleeds its way into a lot of my stuff, too. And magic definitely feels like the right word there. My goal is to one day write a story as good as Boy’s Life (probably my second favorite book of all-time).
I’m also influenced by plenty of the Samhain authors. Being on this roster with you and the rest of the gang definitely makes me want to be a better writer. I don’t want to spoil the quality of the line.
What is your definition of horror? I’ve always contended it’s a tough genre to pin down. Some might think “blood and guts” others might think “monsters.” I love horror. It give you another set of buttons to push on a reader. You can have the love, romance, mystery, sci-fi, psychological. You can have all of that in a great horror book. Plus, you can get downright scary and terrify the reader so that they have to leave the light on when they’re ready to call it a night. A great horror story should aim to push as many buttons in a reader’s mind as it can. It makes the horror go that much deeper. If you have blood and guts, you better make me care about the people getting torn to shreds. I was taught early on to make sure you earn every drop of blood. I probably miss a beat here or there, but it is something I constantly look at in my work.
What scares you? I mean, what genuinely frightens you? (For me, it’s heights. Hate em.)
Spiders. Losing people I love. Our government. The future of Rock n Roll. My daughters in their teens (luckily I have a few more years there).
What inspired Boom Town? The spark was a news story from back in 2012. In Clintonville, Wisconsin, they had these nightly underground “booms” that were (at the time) unexplainable. Over the course of four days or so, they hit like mini-earthquakes, shaking houses and scaring the crap out of locals. I thought it sounded like the perfect idea for a story. In the first draft, there were no aliens. I didn’t dare to go there. I figured I had no right in the sci-fi realm, but then I remembered reading that King had said somewhere “Write fearless” or “be a fearless writer.” It was something along those lines. I knew I wanted my “booms” to be alien related. Once I sacked up, and dove in, it came together so easy.
Thanks for having me, Matt.