Curling Up by The Fire would like to welcome John Everson, author of The Pumpkin Man, released October 15th, who is here to discuss his fascination with Halloween and monsters. Who roots for the monsters??? John's fifth novel is one of those novels I would never be able to resist if I saw the teaser in the bookstore, as I am totally drawn to the words Ouija boards, arcane secrets, mysteries long hidden, great power, bogeyman, whispers, and screams. I doubt I will ever outgrow my obsession with the supernatural and am drawn to it over and over again, like a moth to a flame, although I am not sure I like that connotation very much. Take a look at the teaser:
After her father’s gruesome murder, Jenn needed a place to get away from it all with some friends, to take her mind off her grief. The empty seaside cottage she inherited seemed perfect. Jenn didn’t know that the cottage held arcane secrets, mysteries long hidden and best left alone. She didn’t realize until it was too late that the old books and Ouija board she found there really do hold great power. And it was only after her friend’s headless body was discovered that she knew the legend of the local bogeyman was no mere legend at all. An evil has been unleashed, a terrifying figure previously only spoken of in whispers. But now the whispers will become screams. Beware…THE PUMPKIN MAN.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Curling Up by the Fire Readers can win an e-book copy of The Pumpkin Man and get entered into a contest to win autographed copies of either The Pumpkin Man trade paperback, or a GRAND PRIZE including ALL of John Everson's novels and an autographed copy of the CD The Mechanical Heart from the band New Years Day, who provide the soundtrack to The Pumpkin Man website. Just visit http://www.thepumpkinman-horror.com/ and fill out the Contest Form. Make sure you choose Curling Up by the Fire in the referral site dropdown list.
Looking for the strange... and rooting for the monster
By John Everson
There's something about Halloween that has always drawn me. I don't know why - as a kid, despite being scared to death to go in the basement crawlspace (my dad said there was a Lion there who would eat me!), I still loved to go to haunted houses to be scared by things jumping out at me! Most of the books I read at the time were science fiction-based (I loved escaping into a new world populated by strange aliens!) but on TV, I was tuning in whenever I could to the old black and white monster movies of the '40s and '50s. I loved the mix of horror and sci-fi of things like the Incredible Shrinking Man, or the drive-in movies with radiation-created giants.
And you know, part of me always rooted for those monsters. I think because no matter how scary they were, the reality is, the monster is always the outcast, and in most cases, doomed to die (hence, despite his/her strength, the monster is really the underdog). The Frankenstein movie is a case in point. The monster wasn't the monster at all -- he had empathy, and when he grew destructive, he was simply acting out of fear. The real monsters were the humans in the story. I've always loved that dichotomy about horror -- that the monster may actually be the most sympathetic character.
Maybe it's because of Halloween, or maybe it's because October is the first month as a kid that you really start getting stranded in the house a lot, but I have always identified October and November with "Creature Features" monster movies on TV on Saturday afternoons. The days were grey and moody outside, leaves blowing around like the dead skin of summer, and inside, I'd be sitting in front of the tube watching a Giant Gila Monster or something. Then at night, I'd curl up under the covers with an old science fiction novel about the future of galactic civilization.
As a kid, my mind was always elsewhere... always looking for the strange... and rooting for the monster.
I'm pretty excited as an adult to have been able to "contribute" to the "strange" that people are reading now, especially with my fifth novel, The Pumpkin Man freshly in stores this week -- my favorite week of the year. Here in the Midwest, the trees have all changed color and the parkways are filled with fallen leaves. There's a crispness to the air, and the scents of burning leaves and apple cider crop up without warning. If you drive a country road, you'll see signs for pumpkins, and fields of browned corn husks. It's a bittersweet time - the end of a season - but almost 40 years later from those days of "Creature Features," for me this is the beginning of the perfect time of year to hide inside with a good book, watch a good monster movie, or sit by a warm fire and tell stories of the past year. Or better yet, stories about ghosts and demons!
When I started writing The Pumpkin Man, I wanted to play with all of my favorite tropes of the season -- Ouija boards, witchery, possession, a strange killer (is he real or is he a spirit?) who lops off people's heads and replaces them with a jack-o-lantern. With all those pieces (and some creepy back history as well) it was really a fun story to write, and I hope it gives people the feeling of Halloween that I loved getting as a kid. That sense of creepy mystery. The sense that there is something beyond... but the beyond isn't really as far away as you might think (or hope).
The story of The Pumpkin Man doesn't actually take place at Halloween for the most part (the original short story I wrote a few years ago under the same title did, but the novel takes place with different characters in a different timeframe) -- but it feels like it is a Halloween novel, since our lead character Jennica inherits a cottage in a remote California town and finds herself holed up there amid a weird library of the occult as she faces fears of a strange killer who seems to be following her across the country. She reads about pumpkin rituals in her dead aunt's library, and the whole tone of that part of the book really reminds me of October.
I hope it gives people that delicious touch of the creeps this Halloween week.
Beware The Pumpkin Man!