Wednesday 29 September 2021

Interview With Artist And Author Daniel Charles Wild - By David Kempf

When did you first become interested in horror?

I’m a total bookworm and have enjoyed reading pretty much everything since I was a kid, be it non-fiction, westerns, sci-fi, fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, whatever. Still, horror seems to hold a special place in my black and shriveled heart. I read some creepy stuff growing up—Goosebumps, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark—then I discovered Stephen King in middle school. The Shining blew my mind, and I hunted down everything he wrote. Then I found Richard Matheson, Ramsey Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Brian Lumley, Dan Simmons, and many more horror authors whose work undoubtedly traumatized me in the best way possible.

In high school, I accidentally met one of the authors whose work I enjoyed. I attended local poetry readings led by a guy named Mark, who I’d later find out was Mark McLaughlin, a published, Bram Stoker award-winning horror author. He’s been a friend, mentor, and fountain of creative ideas ever since. When I was clueless about what to major in in college, he encouraged me to channel my artistic talents into a career in graphic design. In my forties, when I began writing fiction, I am sure Mark’s example influenced my decision to write horror and to share my work with a broader audience. I recommend everyone check out his writing.

At what age did you begin to draw?

I’ve enjoyed drawing for as far back as I can remember. Three, probably? If I wasn’t reading, I was drawing. Typically cartoon monsters. One of my early childhood memories is drawing a Frankenstein version of Garfield the cat, over and over. It was a weird combination of obsessiveness, commercial art, humor, and horror—an early indicator of the work I’d be doing for the rest of my life.

Did you go to art school? 

I studied computer graphics and multimedia in college. It’s a combination of graphic design and fine and commercial art—good skills to have if you want to design books and create covers.

Why do some book covers capture the eye so much?

There is so much variation in book cover designs that it’s hard to generalize what works and what doesn’t. I’ll try to anyway. 

In my opinion, good cover art should be simple, eye-catching, reflect the book genre, and quickly convey the book's name and author. It should also use universal design elements, like good contrast between the copy and the background, and display a clearly defined information hierarchy. For example, are you an unknown author? Then make your title larger than your name. Regarding the title and author name, the fonts used should be fresh, stylish, and legible. Nothing is worse than an illegible decorative font. Also, make sure your title and name are visible when the book is viewed as a thumbnail image. Also, a good cover should work as a good poster. Would you want to display your cover as a poster in your home? If not, maybe rethink it, or change it. In my opinion, there should be few things more beautiful to an author than their book covers. But as a designer and author, I’m biased.

That said, great designs violate some—or all—of these rules. I’m not the final say on book cover design—no one is. It is art, and art is subjective. I recommend that authors research other covers in their genre and read up on effective book cover design. 

What do you see as the main difference between British horror and American horror?

Well, fear and horror are primal things transcending national boundaries. At heart, we’re all primates scared of the other, the monster, disease, death, and being alone. As long as we’ve been able to talk to each other, we’ve shared stories about what we fear to warn, educate, console, and entertain. Now, instead of sharing stories around the fire, we share them around the world. 

But U.K. horror does seem to have a richer history than American horror. America is just a few hundred years old after all; we’re practically newborn demonic spawn! So, it makes sense that American horror owes an enormous debt to U.K. horror. Modern vampire novels seem influenced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein seems like the inspiration for every story about re-animated corpses, zombies, and science and technology out of control. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the precursor to countless stories about crazed killers. So many concepts that American authors work with were explored by European authors first, who borrowed them from earlier sources and cultures, reaching back to our earliest ancestors.

Almost all my favorite horror authors—other than Americans Stephen King and Dan Simmons—are from the UK: Neil Gaiman, Kim Newman, Clive Barker, Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, Alan Moore. To me, these writers seem more idea-focused, and less action-focused than a lot of American authors I’ve read. Their writing style seems mature, their wit subtle and perverse, and their main characters are often slightly resigned to the events occurring around them. These authors also often seem interested in telling meta stories about stories. It feels like a higher level of storytelling. They all seem to have a strange and slightly skewed perspective, but maybe that’s just my perspective as someone from a similar but different culture.

What cover are you proud of?

While I’ve been a designer for over 20 years, I’ve only created five book covers so far. I’m proud of all of them, but my favorite is for my latest short story collection, Stories For Imaginary Friends.

The front cover is a fairly elaborate collage. Perhaps it violates the rule about keeping covers simple since it’s such a complex illustration. But, even viewed as a thumbnail, the title treatment implies horror, the person on stage is the central focus, and what we can see of the audience looks disturbing. The seats are full of imaginary characters from the stories in the book, and there’s an empty seat reserved for the reader on the back cover, because I’m always looking to expand my audience. 

The cover for my ebook Horrible Writing: 10 Horror Stories You Probably Shouldn’t Read screams horror, with bloody letters spelling out the title. Of all my books, it’s sold the most copies and appeared on an Amazon UK Horror Short Stories Hot New Releases list, so I like it a lot too. My other cover designs include my novella Little People, Micah Edwards’ Y’all Hazred, and your book, They Laughed at Me. Your cover is simple, bright, bloody, and makes an eye-catching thumbnail. Thank you for picking me as the artist to create it!

What motivated you to write Horrible Writing and Stories For Imaginary Friends?

I wrote some short sci-fi and horror stories in middle school and transitioned to journaling in high school. But in my late twenties, after my eldest brother’s death, I stopped. I just wasn’t up for the introspection journaling required. For the next dozen years, as a designer and art director, the only writing I did was for advertising. 

In 2016, I stumbled across Reddit’s writing community. Intrigued, I started posting writing prompts on the r/WritingPrompts subreddit and submitting my short sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories as well. I discovered that through writing genre fiction, I could indirectly face some of the issues I had been suppressing. The stories were frequently about brothers, grief, depression, and loss. They were well-received by the Reddit writing community, and many of them became creepypasta, which is a term for online stories that are copied and pasted by readers and shared across other social media platforms. Five of the stories were translated to other languages, and so far, over 60 multimedia productions have been shared on YouTube and other social media. Ten of the most popular horror stories are in Horrible Writing: 10 Horror Stories You Probably Shouldn’t Read. I compiled all of my Reddit stories, and 25% new material, in my recently published collection, Stories For Imaginary Friends: 50 Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi Stories, and Essays. It’s available on Amazon as an ebook, paperback, and hardcover, if you’re classy like that.

My experience with posting fiction online—the majority of which occurred between 2016 and 2019—still seems surreal to me. I was just passing time occasionally typing short stories on the Notes app on my iPhone. To have these stories embraced and shared was thrilling. It gave me the confidence to write my novella, Little People, which I published in July 2019. It also helped me work through my grief, and I was able to begin writing a memoir about my brother and his passing. I don’t know if I’ll publish it, but it’s the most honest writing I’ve done.

Does writing or illustration give you more artistic satisfaction?

The most physically satisfying form of creative self-expression for me is live caricaturing at events. It’s engrossing, hours fly by, people are thrilled by what I create, and when I’m done, I am completely exhausted. That said, the art I’m making is super simple. A caricature only takes a few minutes, and while it’s reflective of skills it’s taken me decades to acquire, and it’s drawn in my style, it contains very little of me and my personality. Commercial illustration and design is similar—a great challenge, but the final result is ultimately something I create for someone else.

My writing, on the other hand, is mine. I write what I want to write. I pour myself into it. I explore ideas and get lost in flights of fancy. Writing is cathartic, therapeutic, and can be thrilling. It’s emotionally and intellectually satisfying. Unlike quick caricatures, the result is a finely crafted piece that took time and effort. And I can use my illustration skills to create the books, covers, and promotional graphics, which is also satisfying. 

What are some of your favorite horror books? 

The Stand is great. I’ve probably read it about five times, maybe more? The Earth Abides is another wonderful book in a similar vein, though it’s not really horror. 1984 is fantastic, and while many wouldn’t consider it horror, it has some horror elements to it.

I’ve read most of Neil Gaiman’s books and comics more than once. While there are elements of horror in them, something about his authorial voice is comforting to me. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman is great as well. I’ve enjoyed the whole series. He’s just so clever and subtly witty. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Blood Meridian are objectively post-apocalyptic fiction and westerns, but they have horror elements too, and are both haunting and beautiful books. His language really sticks with you, and no one I’ve found writes like him.

What are some of your favorite horror movies?

I’m ashamed to admit it here, but while I read horror, I’m generally not a huge fan of horror movies. I grew up in a home without a television, and I didn’t start watching TV and movies until I was in my late teens. Maybe that‘s why I’m more of a reader than a watcher? Still, there have been a few horror movies that have stuck with me over the years. 

An American Werewolf In London is funny and dark. This ordinary guy is backpacking with his buddy, and he suddenly finds himself having to deal with an ancient curse. It reminds me of being young and discovering the real horrors of adulthood: heartbreak, debt, career disappointment, etc. The transformation scene is still in my head too—that a physical transformation into a werewolf would be so agonizing seems realistic to me. 

The remake of The Dawn of the Dead is amazing. The opening credits! And the characters seem like real people—like being trapped in the mall and living with the boredom while zombies wander around outside reminds me of jobs I’ve had. I often find myself thinking of that movie when I see crowds, joggers, ambulances, malls...

Vivarium really stuck with me. It’s about a couple trapped in a soulless subdivision and forced to raise a kid they didn’t ask for. When I see streets of all the same houses, misbehaving kids, or deliveries from Amazon, I often think about that movie.

What are your current projects?

My most current project is promoting Stories For Imaginary Friends, including a reading and book signing on October 22 at The Literary Bar in Champaign, Illinois. I also have two writing projects waiting in the wings. Over the last year, I’ve written the beginnings of a non-fiction memoir about my childhood that I plan on developing further. I’m also working on a sequel to my dark fantasy novella Little People.

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

I’m an illustrator, designer, caricaturist, and author. I publish my writing under my full name Daniel Charles Wild (so as not to be confused with another Dan Wild writing science fiction). Over the last few years, I’ve posted fantasy, sci-fi, and horror stories on Reddit under the pseudonym Becauseisaidsotoo, which have been shared widely online, translated into multiple languages, and made into over 60 multimedia productions on YouTube, SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify. In October 2019, I published a 10,000 word ebook of the most popular stories titled Horrible Writing: 10 Horror Stories You Probably Shouldn't Read. In August 2021, I published all my Reddit stories plus 25% new material in a collection called Stories For Imaginary Friends: 50 Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi Stories, and Essays. Check it out!

List of books and links for Daniel Charles Wild

Little People: A Fantasy Story About Fathers, Sons, And Monsters

Horrible Writing: 10 Horror Stories You Probably Shouldn't Read

Stories For Imaginary Friends: 50 Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi Stories, And Essays

Personal Website:

Artist Portfolio:

Amazon author page:

Facebook Author Page: