Thursday 17 March 2022

Interview with Andrés Montañez by David Kempf

When did you first become interested in writing?

As a kid I always wanted to make movies. It’s a phenomenal medium in which you can play with images, sound, music, editing. Evoke eerie feelings just by blasting light into a silver screen. Many years later I even went to film school and made a bunch of cool short films. However, writing is cheaper to do.

Joke aside. I’ve always been intrigued by stories, especially making them. On elementary school I loved those assignments that were about writing stuff. To create a story. So, besides the spoken word, writing became my very first elaborate tool into storytelling. Just some piece of paper, a pencil and I was ready to go. Then, I’ve got a computer. Using a word processor was amazing. I could write several stories with ease, move paragraphs around, try new stuff, write and rewrite indiscriminately. It was magical. Still is.

Later, when I went to film school and got the chance to write screenplays, I was rediscovering writing. It was different style but also a more vivid. Another kind of magic happened when I was seeing my written words materialize with light, shadows and sound. So, writing has always been by my side, helping me write stories one way or another.

How did you get involved in fantasy/horror?

Contrary to most kids, I was never denied a good dosage of horror, fantasy or science fiction. My earliest movie memories are watching Yoda jump onto the back of Luck Skywalker, and Robert DeNiro disappear in a swirl of newspapers in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. And Friday night was always horror movie night. So, these genres were –and still are– an integral part of myself. On my teenage years I bumped into HP Lovecraft… his stories not the dude himself. One thing led to another, and I’ve got myself playing this phenomenal game of Dungeons and Dragons. An incredible mix of storytelling, gaming and friendship. This became an astronomical gateway to find new sources of fantasy, science fiction and horror. Not just discover (or rediscover) literary authors, like Lovecraft, Tolkien, Philip K Dick and so forth, but many of the actual gamebooks have an immense and elaborate backstory to fire up one’s imagination. The roleplaying game World of Darkness lets you play as a vampire, a werewolf or a mage (among several other fiends) using the current world as setting but with a supernatural layer. So, it was difficult for me not to get involved in these genres. I embraced them fully.

Tell us about your publisher.

Well, this is going to be a bit weird because I’m my own publisher… in disguise. A few years back I formed RavenHaus Studios, an endeavor to be focused on film production and book publishing. So, I’ve started to lineout some projects on those mediums. I published my first anthology one day before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Uruguay, so I changed gears into book publishing first and foremost, or at least for the time being. This change in focus allowed me to shape up production and define processes related to book publishing, using my first book as the perfect guinea pig, handling it in the most professional way I could device. Let’s say I went full Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for this, completely swapping the “writer hat” for the “publisher/producer hat”.

When the time came for publishing the second anthology, it was far easier, from how to budget it, the editing and layout, the marketing campaign, and so forth. For the cover art of both books, I collaborated with Leonardo and Andrés Silva, two magnificent local comic book writers and artists that really understood what I was going for. Setting these opportunities as business collaborations, agreeing on budget, deadlines and contracts, really helps to meet expectations.

Another important thing for me is that I wanted to go with a genre publisher. I could’ve approached some local publishing houses, but I really didn’t want for my book (if picked) to be handled by the same team that does a cooking book or Geometry 101. Not out of disrespect, I’m sure they do a professional job (even more than I do, for sure), but when you work on a genre like horror you add a bit of yourself into it. You’ll ink the pages in blood if needed. You want that extra commitment from a publisher. It’s like in the movies, if the film starts with the “Blumhouse” or “Ghost House” intro, then you know you are for a treat. Given that there were no local horror publishers, I’ve decided to just make one, and hopefully when you see a book from RavenHaus Publishing, you’ll know that it is something special, something macabre awaiting on those pages.

How would you classify the genre you write?

I try not to label myself or my stories, but I do enjoy traversing the waters of horror: from ghost stories to weird cosmic terrors. However, more often than not, I find myself writing about our own monstrosity. To look upon our hubris, our indifference and pettiness through the glass of horror, but also our strengths, hopes and perseverance. It is a fun ride to write about horrors from beyond, but it’s far more interesting –for me– to weave more terrestrial issues into it. Still I’m trying to find –or refine– my own voice as an author, and I always try to write against type. Like moving the ghosts of old to an urban place, like a building’s elevator instead of a castle. Or evoking cosmic horrors right around the neighborhood’s corner, instead of the dark corners of the earth. It’s not just about twists and turns in the story, I try to reframe the classical tropes into something new yet familiar. Something that fellow writers have told me is that many of my stories are not only graphical, but also cinematic. That they feel immersed in the atmosphere and in the action, this may be a byproduct of my background on film and screenwriting.

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

These genres allow us to heighten every emotion. The movie Ghost wouldn’t be as powerful as it is without the supernatural elements. Thanks to fantasy we can openly discuss diversity, show that regardless of being an elf, a dwarf or a halfling we all can get along. Science fiction is a perfect way to introspect ourselves, to ponder the question what means to be human. Blade Runner does this feat perfectly on the big screen. This allows our imagination to dwell freely into these stories to give the much-needed cooldown from our daily life, so we don’t go completely mad.

Horror is an extremely malleable genre to work with. From gore to ghosts, psychological to psychic, cosmic, earthly or just plain mundane. The terrors in our daily life can take many forms and cast deadly shadows. More often than not, I find myself intertwining the bad parts of my life (childhood and otherwise) into the stories I write, recontextualizing and digesting the unpleasant memories. It’s a cathartic process to ink them down, and I guess it’s also true when you read them. So, my take is that we are all a bit broken inside, and horror and fantasy stories allow us to see ourselves as these odd beings trying to do better despite the darkness we are often tainted with.

What inspires your stories?

This is a question I do myself all the time! Why do I torture myself writing?! It’s an urge, an addiction. It’s like an itch that I need to desperately scratch. Sometimes I get struck with an image on my mind, a snapshot of an awesome scene, a concept, or even just a gag or a cool title for a story. And is in that moment that I had to write it in order to know what happens. How did the character end up fighting Cthulhu? What if I mash up Carl Sagan’s Contact with Lovecraft’s Color out of space? I need to know what happens, how these things play out, or what series of events lead up to them.

Other times I challenge myself to write certain type of story, like “ok, let’s write something about a creepy cult”. Then I start to research and dig things up on that topic. The internet is a phenomenal rabbit hole to inspire stories (but be warned of conspiracy theorists). You start pulling the string and find out incredible stuff that will throw fireworks on your mind. One time I saw an old picture of a guy on the streets Cairo, late 19th century, selling mummies. So, I researched if that was true. Turns out that not only it was common, but people would buy them, grind them and sniff the mummy dust for invigorating effects. That fact inspired me to write the story “Mummia”, which is on my second book, about a British Lord buying a mummy for Christmas to “spice things up”, ensuring havoc.

What do you think the difference between American horror and horror fiction in Uruguay is?

A lot!

For starters, we do not have a “Halloween culture”, which means horror is not a mainstream theme. In fact, the whole fantastique genre is quite sidelined. Also, there isn’t much folklore to pull from. Uruguay is a young country forged by immigrants from –mostly– Spain, Portugal and Italy. Half the population is crammed into the capital, Montevideo. There is practically no native culture, so our myths, legends and fears are all imported. We, as an audience, are still a bit bland in our tastes regarding horror. For better or for worse, we do not have a “town of Salem” to write about witches, or headless horseman to use as antagonists. No Moth-Man, no Jersey Devil, no Bigfoot. Our landscape doesn’t help us either. Most of the country are green plains, so no Rocky Mountains to place a creepy hotel. All this means that we must get a bit more creative when writing local horror. Not only for the lack of raw materials, but also to entice local readers. One must really pull up the sleeves and research for snippets of history from which to find intriguing hooks and inciting incidents. For example, one of my stories is based on the actual ruins left by the Jesuit missionaries in the 18th century, so I went full “rats on the wall” and slapped some underground horror using those ruins as backdrop.

Something worth noting, is that from the early 70s up to mid 80s a military coup held a ghastly grip on my country for twelve long years. So, people in Uruguay didn’t need to read horror, they were living it. Years later, on the literary landscape, this ensured that most works fall towards biographies, fictionalized dramas, historical recounts of recent events, and so forth. So, mature themes of horror and fantasy are hard finds. Our most referenced horror author is Horacio Quiroga (1878–1937), which at the time was revered as the Edgar Alan Poe of South America. The fact that he is our only reference, someone that was active more than a century ago, is a dreadful indicative that we, contemporary authors, have an immense debt to the readers. A debt that takes both parts, the storytellers and the audience, to pay in full. That being said, in the last decade or so I’ve felt a change in the winds, and hopefully this will allow us to reach stranger tides.

What are your favorite horror books?

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I’m more of a movie guy than a book one. So, I’m more familiar with classic writers and their works, than contemporary ones. I dig most of the stuff by Chambers, Machen, Robert E. Howard and of course Poe and Lovecraft. The Shadow over Innsmouth and The Dunwich Horror, along with At the Mountains of Madness and The Call of Cthulhu, are my favorite stories from the guy from Providence, with a special mention to The Temple, which is the first story I have read by him.

Closer to this time, impossible not to enjoy and admire Stephen King and Clive Barker, both living legends. And a bit from afar, I’m deeply moved by the works of Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury and specially Rod Serling, whom many may remember as being the mastermind behind The Twilight Zone.

A bit related to books, I love horror comic books. Among my favorites are Preacher and Hellblazer, especially the Garth Ennis and Jamie Delano take on the con man. Also, worth mentioning Hellboy, The Walking Dead, and lately there has been some great horror stories coming from Joe Hill & DC’s Hill House Comics.

What are some of your favorite horror movies?

David, you are making this tough! I have a severe crush with John Carpenter. So, movies like The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness, They Live, The Fog and so on, are the kind of horror movies that I enjoy on loop. Special mention to Prince of Darkness, which I think is my favorite story ever. Also, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, a crazy story with an ending that leaves you hopeless. Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead is a movie that always cheers me up (weirdo alert), with the punk rock, dark humor and crazy-cheese effects. Also, mostly anything Clive Barker puts on the screen is such a sight to be delighted upon.

Closer to this time and age, The Void, Mama, It Follows, Tigers are not afraid, are new cult classics for me. And kudos to James Wan and Jordan Peele, for bringing such a wide range of outstanding movies. Last, but not least, to the new master Mike Flanagan, which has delighted us with stories on the big and small screen. I was extremely moved with how he managed to adapt The Shining sequel, “Doctor Sleep”, in such a conciliatory way between King’s novel and Kubrick’s adaptation. An immense feat of storytelling, cinema and love.

Other favorites of mine are the Korean and Japanese horror from the early 2000s, like The Ring, The Grudge, Shutter, Pulse and Dark Water. They have a completely different lens on how to portrait horror. The aesthetics alone are shattering. You can see on the screen their spiritual sensitivities coming to life, in a very horrific way. I don’t want to extend too much on this question, but I can’t just not talk about European horror. Films like The Wicker Man, Kill List, The Day of the Beast, Shaun of the Dead and so on, are incredible stories that exalts this fantastic genre.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an author?

Having a couple of books under the belt is a nice accomplishment so far. I was even able to snatch for a few weeks the first place of the best seller horror books on Amazon Mexico and Spain, with both anthologies. So, the books are doing well, lots of good rates and quite a few remarkable reviews. Another nice, even more outstanding, thing is having people asking me for the next book. It’s surreal!

However, I personally consider my greatest accomplishment a compliment I’ve got at a writing workshop. After reading a story I was working on a fellow author said, “it seems written by a woman”. Then she proceeded to explain how she felt represented with the subtext of the story, how the themes were close to her and most women, and especially the way it was presented in a horrific yet respectful way. It meant a lot, because I was able to completely shift my point of view as a storyteller with a truthful optic, and that is a hell of an accomplishment.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Don’t stop writing, but don’t wear yourself doing it either. Take it easy. I’ve found better to write one or two pages a day (or even less), but with a steady rhythm, rather than burning myself trying to write twenty pages in just one sitting and then feeling awful that I couldn’t keep up the next day. Having an idea or a story is a wonderful creative act. When the epiphany hits your mind it’s orgasmic. But then, writing it down, it’s not only boring… but also hard. Like having to carry the story in your belly for months and months, with the only difference being that the thing won’t go away until you write some of it down. However, like with pregnancy, you don’t want to rush the process, so let the story grow, rest, reform and transform. Eventually it will pop up some way or another. The nice thing is, contrary to the biological analogy, we can write as many stories as we want at the same time, and even put them on the freezer if we get tired of it. Or even better, we can go shamelessly cannibalistic and smash a few stories together to form something completely new.

Don’t be afraid of putting a story aside to work on something else, sometimes that’s just what you need in order to clear things up. The infamous “writer’s block” is just your mind saying “Hey, buddy! I want to write something else! Let me! Let me! Let me!”. Another thing that helps, which may seem contradictory to what I’ve said, is to put yourself a –realistic– deadline for finishing a story. Something like “by the next full moon I need to finish this werewolf story”. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t, you’ll need to do a bit of trial and error until you find a sweet spot of how much is too much or too little for a self-imposed deadline. The bottom line is to motivate yourself into writing and finishing, not to feel bad about it.

Another important thing is to find someone to share your work with. Someone who will give you an honest and constructive feedback. I’m astronomically lucky that my wife is such person for me. She will shred the story’s plot holes without any disregard of whom wrote it. So, for me it’s been helpful to know which parts of the story did not click, or weren't clear, or even didn’t make any sense. Sometimes you write something down with a clear picture on your mind of what’s happening, but the idea isn’t quite well translated into paper, that’s when is vital asking someone else to look at it. Or sometimes is easy to fall onto clichés, “why does the character have to go down to the basement in the dark?”, if I do that my wife will ring the “shame! shame! shame!” bell as hard as she can. So, it’s extremely important to have by your side someone with the confidence and honesty to call on you when you are trying to get away with it (miserably).

Something that has helped me a lot was to attend writing workshops. Not only it’s quite an experience and serve as training wheels when you are starting to build your author’s toolbox, but also, you’ll have a safe place to share your work and most importantly meet other writers that will share their stories with you. Being able to openly discuss the writing you and others do is an enlightening experience. I’ve attended the workshops of Mónica Marchesky, an author with decades of experience writing and sharing her knowledge of the craft. She’s been a great mentor, and challenges everyone to write, publish and get back to writing. So, try to find a workshop or group to help you gain confidence. Everyone has a story to tell.

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

Well, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I myself am self-published after the fact that I’ve built a company just for that. That been said, it’s a totally cool way to do it. Sure, it’s hard to get the first book out, and most likely you’ll need to invest heavily on marketing and wear many hats. But it’s all the way rewarding if you like the process. I’m a control freak and love the whole lot, from planning to editing to marketing, so I was able to make each step an enjoyable challenge, which actually paid off.

So, my advice to someone thinking going to self-publish is this: have a plan. Put some extra love on the formatting and editing of the eBook and paperback. Do a few print proofs, try the eBook on a few devices. Setup a nice webpage, take cool pictures of your book, account for marketing on your budget. Don’t feel ashamed of sharing it and asking for people to rate it and leave positive comments. If you don’t fight for your book, no one else will. A self-published book will beat, hands down, any non-published book.

What are your current projects?

Is too much of a cliché if I say I’m working on a novel? Dammit, I’ll just say it. I’m working on a novel. A love letter to the horror movies of the 80s, to John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Cronenberg. A kinky wink to King and Lovecraft. It’s just a funny story, with a bit of body horror and thrills. Also, it’s an opportunity to experiment on a larger canvas, to play and develop more complex characters and situations. To take a shot at world building.

On the shorter canvas, I’m halfway through my third anthology, which unlike my previous two, the stories on this one will float towards a central and specific theme which is the gothic horror of the 19th century. But me being me, do not expect moaning ghosts waving chains.

On the producing side, I’m working to ground a couple of projects for publishing and promoting other authors through RavenHaus Publishing. My goal is to reach to new and diverse voices of horror on the Hispanic landscape, but the damn plague has made these things difficult to nail down. In any case, there’s a lot of work ahead.

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

As you may have already figured it out, I am… a nerd. I’ve been working professionally on technology for 20+ years, playing tabletop roleplaying games for even more, and been a movie buff since year zero (which was 1983, coldest winter of the decade).

I’m fortunate to share my life with a wonderful and brilliant person, which is also a talented artist and avid fantasy and sci-fi reader. Although sometimes I forget how lucky I am. I guess that is from these dangling shadows that some of my horror stories come from. Also, we have the best dogo ever and I’ll battle in deathly combat whoever says otherwise.

Finally, the last few years I’ve been in a position of confidence from which I can really unleash the stories I’ve to tell. For I, myself, do not consider me as a writer, filmmaker or whatever, I see myself first and foremost as a storyteller.

Check out Andrés on Amazon at
Also you can buy "El Guardián del Centinela y otras historias de terror" at
and Estrellas muertas y otros horrores at