Sunday 15 December 2019

Interview with Carver Pike By David Kempf

When did you first become interested in writing?

For me, storytelling came long before the actual writing part. I spent a great deal of my childhood in rough situations and a big portion of that restricted to my bedroom. That left me alone with my imagination and whatever I could find to occupy my time. My toys were a random hodgepodge of hand-me-downs. Maybe a couple of He-Man characters, Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe, a handful of those tiny pink rubber M.U.S.C.L.E. action figures, and whatever else I could piece together.

While most kids played war, I created strange worlds and storylines that would find all my toys in a crashed spaceship atop my mattress, with blankets serving as mountains, and the floor a strange alien goo that would infect anyone who touched it. When my toys were taken away, I cut paper dolls out of the Sears catalog and continued my narrative. I wrote action-packed zombie stories and other horrifying tales long before I ever picked up a pen.

The actual writing part happened when I was about sixteen, had just learned to type without looking at a keyboard, and stumbled upon my grandfather’s old typewriter hidden beneath a blanket in a back bedroom. My story sucked. It was a young adult, slice-of-life novel about a teenage boy who was new to town. Of course, all the girls liked him, and all the guys wanted to fight him, but he was a real badass and mopped the floor with all the bullies. The story really was garbage, so that’s where I eventually tossed it. However, throughout my junior and senior years of high school, I passed the novel around in spiral notebooks. If it weren’t for my female classmates showing so much interest in it, I probably wouldn’t be writing today.

How did you get involved in fantasy/horror?

I can’t remember not being interested in fantasy and horror. As a kid, I’d sit cross-legged in front of the TV watching everything from The Beastmaster, Krull, and Trancers to Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With every episode of Scooby-Doo, I prayed it would finally be the time they’d try to yank the mask off the ghost and find that it actually was a demonic presence instead of a jealous hotel caretaker.

Do you remember Commander USA? You know, the guy with cigar ash on the palm of his hand that was made to look like eyes and a mouth – kind of looked like Wilson in the movie Cast Away now that I think about it. He dressed up as a superhero of sorts and played horror movies every Saturday. That guy was my hero. I think I saw Kingdom of the Spiders on his show. Years later, I lay awake in bed terrified as I stared up at the popcorn ceiling and wondered if those little balls would burst open and a thousand tiny spiders would rain down over my bed. Shit. It still gives me the chills.

How would you classify the genre you write?

That’s a tough question to answer. I write a little bit of everything. I guess I’d say fairly graphic horror. I can’t really restrict myself by saying I write only ghost stories, slasher books, or zombies. Each one of my books is different. In my Diablo Snuff series, for example, it all revolves around a demonic entity of sorts that grows with each book. You get to see just how sinister this Diablo Snuff organization is and just how far it’ll go to destroy our world. Each book in the series is slightly different from the other. In book one, A Foreign Evil, the story takes place in Panama where a guy named Michael meets a beautiful woman and ends up at a hotel (run by Diablo Snuff). It’s not quite the romantic night he’s expecting. The sequel, The Grindhouse, is about a horror author who attends an author retreat run by Diablo Snuff.

Shadow Puppets: Scarecrows of Minnow Ranch is about, you guessed it, scarecrows. Redgrave revolves around a female military member doing her best to prove herself in a man’s military. She accepts an overnight, unarmed post guarding a demented inmate. Grad Night, which is my newest novel, centers around today’s youth and the violence in our schools. It’s not quite what you’d think though. This one’s more about teenagers getting revenge against their teachers. It’s some pretty sick shit.

Then there’s my dark fantasy series, The Edge of Reflection. So far, I’ve written four books in the series and have plans for a few more. I love dark fantasy. Blending action with horror and other supernatural elements is kind of like the best of all worlds to me.

Why do you think horror and fantasy books remain so popular?

I think it’s the safety net they provide. It’s a chance for the reader to safely experience risk, fear, loss, revenge, true hatred, and utter helplessness without crossing any moral boundaries or putting themselves in harm’s way. When I was a kid, I would often play the what if game. I think many people did and still do. Horror and fantasy allow people to revisit the fun in that game.

What if when I went to sleep at night, a monster visited me, and I’d die if I didn’t wake up before it killed me?

What if a great white shark attacked the beach today?

What if my daughter suddenly became possessed by a demon?

The horror and fantasy genres give you permission to play again.

What inspires your stories?

Oh, man. Everything! Seriously. Music definitely helps. The right song can totally spark a new idea. Another might help me through a scene. A movie might do it for me. I was watching The Green Mile the other night, and I got a story idea that has nothing at all to do with the movie itself. It’ll be an awesome horror book if I ever get around to writing it. You should see my list of word docs and book covers. Back to inspiration, I mean it when I say everything. I’ve looked at a homeless person before and decided I was going to tell his story. Right now, I live overseas, down in my wife’s country in Central America, so a lot of my inspiration comes from the world around me.

What do you think the difference between American horror and British horror is?

The thought never crossed my mind until I saw the “American Horror” classification on Amazon. I honestly don’t know. Oh, boy. Here I go, David. If this comes out sounding ridiculous, you have to edit it out. Ha.

If I had to take a wild guess, I think I’d say that America is still very young in the grand scheme of things. So, maybe American Horror would be more along the lines of things like Native American tales or gothic horror inspired by things like the growth of the original colonies (witch trials, slave tales, etc.).

So, what about British Horror then? Again, I’m totally guessing. I suppose I could cheat and Google this, but the first thing that comes to mind is old slasher stories like Jack the Ripper. Maybe stories about the plague, hauntings in old cobble-stoned and crowded cities, or even Medieval horror.

I’ve been to England a few times, and I could be wrong about this, but I got an overall feeling that the people were much more open to horror there. The selection available in the bookstores was all the evidence I needed. For example, I picked up Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism there, because I saw that awesome, 80s VHS style book cover on an end-cap at Waterstones. Fast forward to less than a year ago when I was inside a Barnes & Noble in San Jose, California. I had a hell of a time finding horror. It seemed like the horror books were mixed in with fantasy and suspense thrillers.

What are your favorite horror books?

I like a lot of the old short stories written by Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson was great. Through my young teenage years, I read a lot of novelizations of films. I think it was my way of cheating and basically watching movies in class. I remember reading The Lost Boys, Friday the 13th part 6, and Nicholas Grabowsky’s novelization of Halloween 4.

I’m also a fan of Bentley Little’s stuff. I like the creeping dread in his books. My favorites of his would be The Association, The Store, and Death Instinct. I loved Stephen King’s It and The Stand. I’ve been trying to read newer authors lately. Recently, I enjoyed The Troop by Nick Cutter. Parasites scare the hell out of me. I hate the thought of something so small causing so much damage. Bird Box by Josh Malerman was a great book. I’ve been listening to Robert McCammon’s Swan Song on audiobook and it’s pretty good so far.

What are some of your favorite horror movies?

Demons and Demons 2 by Dario Argento will always hold a special place in my heart because they scared the shit out of me as a kid. I love everything to do with the Halloween movies. I may get booed for this one, but my favorite in the series is actually Halloween 4. I love when evil isn’t explained. Sometimes there’s need for it, but other times, just let us believe that evil is evil and that’s all there is to it. The Shape aka Michael Myers is evil personified. The Conjuring 2 is one of my newer favorites, and I absolutely loved Midsommar.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an author?

I wish I could say I’ve won some prestigious award. I’ve won a few online awards voted on by readers, but I think my greatest accomplishment so far has just been finishing books. I’ve written about twelve books so far under Carver Pike. I’ve dabbled in other genres with other pen names too, and in total, I want to say I’ve published around 30 books. I’m proud of that.

Probably more important than all of that is knowing that my kids see me writing. They know I struggle. They’ve witnessed some of the depression that kicks in sometimes, they’ve watched me push through chronic pain, and through all of it they’ve seen me keep fighting to follow this dream of mine. I’m an author. I’m a writer. At this point, nothing will change that. Whether or not I become a big name in the business is still to be seen, but at least my kids saw that I was an author.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Yes, three things. First, keep writing. Stop rereading everything you write. Of course, editing your work is important, but the truth is, you’ll edit it again when you’re finished anyway. If you keep rereading the last chapter and keep fiddling with the work you’ve already done, you’ll never write the next chapter. You need to write forward. The only way you’re going to punch out another book is if you stop allowing yourself to constantly edit. Just write. Edit when you’re done.

Second, stop throwing your words away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard other authors say, “I read through what I wrote yesterday, and it was such crap. I deleted it all.” It probably wasn’t crap. Maybe you were being hard on yourself. That three thousand words you deleted might not have worked in this current story, but that could have been the first three thousand words in your next book. Open up a blank document and save your words for later rather than getting rid of them forever.

Third, criticism is important when it’s constructive. But even constructive criticism isn’t always right. You’d seek a second opinion for medical related matters, right? Treat your words the same way. Don’t take the scalpel to them just because one person told you they didn’t like them. I had two beta readers tell me they weren’t feeling a book I wrote. They didn’t love it. It gutted me. These were two fans of mine, and I almost didn’t publish the book. In the end, I did, and it became one of my most popular books at the time. Everyone else seemed to love it. I beat myself up for nothing.

What is your opinion of the new self-publishing trend?

Hmm. Interesting question. I’m self-published, so I love having the opportunity, but don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some problems caused by self-publishing too. I started out writing screenplays. That’s what I wanted to do for a living. This was before I got serious about writing books. Hollywood wasn’t beating down my door, screenplay competitions can be costly (and time consuming), and producing your own movie isn’t all that affordable. So, I started writing books. I queried a ton of agents and got plenty of rejection letters. I eventually signed with a small publishing house. It wasn’t the greatest experience. In the end, I heard about Amazon allowing authors to self-publish their books, so I decided to go that route. It’s a lot of hard work with nobody in your corner. Of course, I have some really great readers and friends who’ve volunteered their time to help with everything from beta reading to book covers to social media marketing, but it’s a long and grueling process.

Competition is fierce, and I’m sorry to say, but the quality often suffers with indie publishing. Oftentimes, sales go to the author with the biggest purse. If you can afford to throw thousands and thousands of dollars at marketing, you can climb the ranks even with a lackluster product. It’s the sad truth.

Self-publishing has also caused the industry to turn into a well-oiled machine at this point. To be able to tread water, you need to be able to publish books quickly. Gone are the days of authors being able to work on a book for several years. If you’re not already a big, established name in the biz, you’re probably going to have to write several books a year. I know several authors publishing a book a month.

In the end, I think if you’re able to get noticed by a big publisher, it’s still worth it if you hope to make it into the big arena. Having that support team and assistance with things like formatting, cover design, and editing is a big help. For now, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing unless someone reaches out to me.

What are your current projects?

I published Grad Night in October, so that’s my newest release. I’m currently working on several books. One of the characters from my Diablo Snuff series, a guy named Kong, is getting his own side story. That one’s called Slaughter Box and should be out soon. The Maddening: Diablo Snuff 3 is on its way too. I’ve got so many other books in the works, many of which I’m afraid to talk too much about, but one has something to do with witches and Santeria. That book is going to be intense. It’s the first book that kind of scares me writing it. I might be turning one of my old zombie screenplays into a novel soon. I’m planning to write a full-length novel based on the inmate in my book, Redgrave.

Please in your own words, write a paragraph about yourself & your work. 

I’m married with four kids. I’ve experienced a lot in my forty years. After serving time in the military and then giving the retail world a try, I decided to move to my wife’s country where she could be closer to her family. I figured I could write from anywhere, so she might as well be where she’s happiest. I’m a very down-to-earth, chill kind of guy. I believe in the overall goodness of people, but real evil exists and there isn’t always an explainable reason for it. These themes often find their way into my books. My writing has been described as cinemascope and my dialogue as real and genuine. Most of my work has very graphic sex and violence, but I’ve found those things fit well with my horror and dark fantasy storylines. Overall, I love to entertain. I’ll watch movies I love a hundred times if it means I get to see the look on someone else’s face when they’re experiencing it for the first time. I approach my books the same way. I need to know people are enjoying it, or it’s all for nothing. Hopefully, you’ll give me the chance to entertain.

Grad Night Paperback - Amazon
Good Reads - Carver Pike