Veronica's #WritersDiary: A #Spooktober Chat with a Master of Horror, Author Ken Stark!
Multi-award-winning #horror writer, questionable painter, unapologetic nerd, and committed beer enthusiast.
One of the absolute delights of our Alaska cruise holiday last month was spending the end of the trip in the stunning city of Vancouver, B.C. for a few days. It was an extra special stop for me, for I had the pleasure to meet one of my long time Twitter, writer friends in person, Ken Stark aka @PennilessScribe!
I was so excited to chat with Ken. It's one thing to tweet and DM but there's nothing like a good ole conversation and a hug!
I thoroughly enjoy reading Ken's books, be it zombies, things that go bump in the night, or the eerie happenings of a world turned topsy-turvy...in a horrific sort of way. 👀
Q1. Ken, I'm a huge fan of your horror stories and series. From zombies to monsters lurking in the dark, can you share with us how you plan and develop a piece from concept into one of your gripping stories? When did you start writing?
Oh, I started writing when I was barely old enough to hold a pencil. I wanted so much to create other worlds like my favorite authors did with such apparent ease. I rarely finished anything, and the stories were never good, but I knew even at that young age that all I wanted in life was to be a writer.
Now that I actually know what I'm doing, the process naturally begins with an idea. Sometimes it's a single snapshot, like a child alone in bed, listening to strange sounds coming from above, or a man lost in total darkness, trying to make sense of his surroundings. Literally any scenario can become a horror story if it's given the right twist. From there. I take that one snapshot and enlarge it. Who is that child? What horrible thing is making those sounds? What does he or she do about it? Basically, I follow a train of thought to its most frightening conclusion, and suddenly I have a story. I don't know every single twist and turn that's going to happen, but I know the beginning, the end, and the major plot points I need to hit along the way. I allow myself the freedom to get from A to B to C in whatever manner feels right while I'm writing, because not only does the action tend to flow more organically than it would if I followed a rigid outline, but some wonderful surprises often appear from out of nowhere.
Q2. The psychological terror your characters are exposed to is one of the strengths of your writing, IMHO. You, as a reader (and they) know something really bad is out there--your layering of suspense is masterful. You also weave in the personalities of the characters and their reactions--a hard task even with just one MC. How do you manage this slow reveal, unraveling process with a multitude of characters?
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. It's not easy getting the pace just right, but knowing when to go from hints to sneak peeks to the big reveal is crucial to keep the suspense going. I don't plot those things down to a specific chapter, I let them come naturally. In general, the first quarter of the book will provide hints to the mystery, the second quarter will start to show little glimpses into the unknown, and the big reveal will come sometime in the third quarter, leaving plenty of room for an action-packed showdown.
Most importantly, I tell every story from one viewpoint. That viewpoint can change from chapter to chapter, but for horror, seeing the action unfold through one person's eyes can be incredibly powerful. We know only what they know. We will see what's waiting around the next corner when they see it themselves. Plus, I can dig down into that character's soul and explore exactly what they are feeling and thinking, thereby drawing the reader deeper into that reality.
As for the characters themselves, I rarely know much more about them at the beginning than the reader does. Discovering their personalities and quirks together makes them far more relatable. After all, when we meet someone for the first time in real life, we don't know that they were married young, have mother issues, and deal with fear through humor, right? We have to get to know them before we realize how screwed up they are, and the more a book can mirror real life, the more believable it will be. As an added bonus, if I do it right, those characters eventually start to act and speak for themselves, making my job a lot easier.
Q3. Your social media presence is epic, you seem to have found your reader tribe. The book graphics and teasers are fantastic for your works. Any secrets/advice you can share with the writing community to up their game?
I had no social media presence at all when my first book came out, so I had to race to catch up. I viewed it as a necessary evil in the beginning, but I have met so many incredible people in the writing community and art community that I see it much differently now. If I can spread someone else's message and maybe put a few bucks in their pocket, I am happy to do it, and I take it as a personal favor if they reciprocate. I am fortunate to have a large number of followers, but there's no trick to it. As long as one is honest and sincere, word will spread.
As for graphics and teasers, you want to create as much buzz as you can in a single social media post. Where an eye-catching cover and well-written blurb act as a passive kind of enticement, a tweet is more like grabbing someone by the collar and shoving your book in their face. I used to create my own, but now I rely on Eeva Lancaster, the Book Khaleesi. She does a far more professional job of it than I ever could.
Q4. I understand you have a new release coming out--any details you'd like to share?
I'm so glad you asked! Yes, my next book is available for 99c preorder now, and will be released in mid-November. It is called Miracle Man, and I am immensely proud of it. My usual MO is to drop ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and watch them squirm, but in Miracle Man, I take us on a journey into an ordinary man's soul as he turns from good to bad, to downright evil. Milton Fisk was a good man until the day he discovered his ability to heal with a touch. Another man might have spent the rest of his life emptying hospitals, but that gift starts Milton down a slippery slope. Then he discovers that he can literally resurrect the dead, and since only one other man in history was said to have had those powers, he embarks on a mission to destroy all of the world's gods and claim the top spot for himself.
The plunge into a soul growing darker by degrees is terrifying, shocking, and I expect it to be rather controversial, so hang onto your hats.
Q5. Enquiring minds want to know, what's in store for us from Ken Stark in 2023?
I should have Stage 3: Delta ready to go by spring, and hopefully another stand-alone later in the year. That's my plan going forward. I'm going to try to release a new Stage 3 book every year, along with another book. I love my zombies, but I have a lot of stories rattling around in my head that need to come out.
Thank you for having me as a guest, V! This was a lot of fun.
Ken, thank you for chatting with us this month! I'm so looking forward to reading your new release, Miracle Man! #Eek Readers, if you'd like to learn more about Ken's works, check out these links:
Thank You Readers for the #Spooktacular Book Reviews for Wicked Mist!
Thanks so much for the awesome 5⭐ book reviews for Wicked Mist! Bibiana and I are truly grateful to everyone! Here's a sampling--thank you, reader #Boos! 💀🌹
Big thumbs up for the entire Wicked Mist collection and very highly recommended for lovers of luxury in their dark fiction!
What makes the stories so appealing is that each one takes place in a different, and fascinating part of world.
From the first story until the last, “Wicked Mist” will have you spellbound.
‘Tis the season for a wickedly good collection of five-star short stories.
Wicked Mist, the third book in The Haunted Series, was a delightful start to the Autumn season.
Doesn't get much better than this... #Grateful
Finally, congrats to our final drawing winner for the bootiful Wicked Mist swag, Cathy Maza! #Enjoy 🎃
A family reunion whodunnit this week from the writers of Twitter...
Author Helena Dixon, Murder at Enderley Hall, 5 ⭐
When Kitty Underhay receives an invitation to meet with her father's side of the family at the stately Enderley Hall, she doesn't know what to expect. Meeting her cousin, aunt, and uncle that she just found out about brings up many emotions. She's looking forward to staying with them and hopes they may be able to provide missing clues to her mother's disappearance many years ago.
As the conversations flow, Kitty senses an undercurrent of mystery at the family estate. When a beloved nanny takes a deadly fall, the police are called in to solve the case and Kitty brings in her friend Matthew to assist with the investigations. Tensions are high as the clues unfold, putting everyone at risk. Will Kitty's sleuthing bring an end to this family reunion?
Author Dixon weaves another clever whodunnit in this family reunion mystery. I enjoy the characters, plots, and settings in this cozy series. I can't wait to see what Miss Underhay is up to in the next book! A great read for cozy mystery fans, highly recommended!
Next up in the reading queue:
Looking ahead to May, 2023...
The OH and I have firmed up reservations for next year's Viking cruise that will go along the fjord coastline of Norway; up to the northern-most town in the world, Longyearbyen (more on this place later); and then down and around Iceland.
On my 60th bday in January, 2018--the OH and I braved the icy temps (24 degrees F air temp, 34 degrees F water temp) and snorkeled in the Sifra Fissure--a beautiful, clear crevice filled with glacier water that separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates! Since I'll be celebrating the big 6-5 in 2023, dare I take the plunge between 2 tectonic plates again? Maybe in May the water temp will be up to a balmy 44 degrees F... This story is developing... 👀
Welcome to my world. Enjoy the rest of the week and weekend, friends!
Crowns and Kisses,
P.S. Well, we're inching closer to #Halloween, but I'm also getting ready to make an instant switch at 12:01am, November 1st, from all things #BOO to #HoHoHo, LOL. Many thanks to Bibiana Krall and Danielle Gregorio for working the final-push tasks to get A Novel Noel ready to publish on the big day. Everything looks stunning! Who's ready to get their Hygge on? #WritersLife Rikkhe and Gemma approve 💖👑