Good morning, and welcome to another hauntingly horrific Halloween themed interview! Joining us today is Simon Wood, author of The Scrubs.
Simon Janus is the horror identity for thriller writer Simon Wood. Simon is a California transplant from England. He's a former competitive racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional PI. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie. Their lives are dominated by a longhaired dachshund and five cats. He's the Anthony Award winning author of Working Stiffs, Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper and We All Fall Down. His next thriller, Terminated, hits bookshelves in June. Under the Simon Janus pen name he's the author The Scrubs and Road Rash. Curious people can learn more about Simon at http://www.simonwood.net/.
Before we get into Simon's interview, please allow me to introduce you to the chills of The Scrubs:
James Jeter, the notorious serial killer with a sixth sense, holds court inside London's Wormwood Scrubs Prison. He's the focus of the "North Wing Project." Under the influence of a hallucinogen, Jeter can create an alternative world known as "The Rift" containing the souls of his victims. Pardons are on offer to inmates who'll enter The Rift. Michael Keeler has nothing to lose and little to live for. He's sent into The Rift to learn the identity of Jeter's last victim.
It's a mission where the guilty can be redeemed, but at a price....
And now, without further ado, please welcome Simon Wood!
♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out your latest release, please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. I’ve had over 150 stories and articles published. My short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and has garnered him an Anthony Award and a CWA Dagger Award nomination, as well as several readers’ choice awards. I’m a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest. I’m the author of WORKING STIFFS, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, PAYING THE PIPER, WE ALL FALL DOWN, TERMINATED and ASKING FOR TROUBLE. As Simon Janus, I write darker fiction in the form of THE SCRUBS and ROAD RASH. Curious people can learn more at http://www.simonwood.net
♥ Did you deliberately choose the horror genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other genres don't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?
I write thrillers as well as horror and the horror side of my work allows me to write about subjects andf ideas that color outside the lines of the conventional world. Part of it is that you write what you love and I love scary stories. As a child, I was blown away by the likes of Richard Matheson, Roald Dahl and the Twilight Zone. I was sucked in by the What-if aspect of these stories, and moreover, I was sucked in by the limitless aspect of What-if. That lends itself very well to the horror genre.
♥ Horror is such an emotionally powerful genre, which touches on so many of our personal fears and fetishes. With that in mind, how has your past influenced your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences, or is it strictly an exercise in imagination?
I feel I’m tapping into my own fears with my horror work. For a really good horror story to work it has to be more than the sum of its body parts. It has to tap into what really scares us. For stories, I look at what scares me and the world at large. Horror isn’t fearing the dentist. Horror is relinquishing ourselves to another person who has the power over our lives. Whatever we fear makes for a great horror story whether it be loss of a loved one, our bodies turning on us, dealing with a guilt of mistake and finding redemption. Whatever scares me and the world is fair game as far as I’m concerned. :-)
♥ Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?
I have a soft spot for ROAD RASH. It’s about a bank robber escaping a botched job who steals a car from a fatal car wreck he happens upon. After stealing the car, he develops a skin disease and it forces him to travel on a journey of self discovery and redemption. The scene I’m particularly fond of centers on an island of Santeria believers in Guatemala and it’s based on a place I visited. I went to this island and attended a ritual and it scared the crap out of me. However, when it came to writing ROAD RASH, I incorporated that experience into the book. The scene on the island is a pivotal point for the characters and readers have reacted so well to that scene as being bizarre and beautiful at the same time. And for me, I’m someone who likes to meet people, talk to them and take part in their lives, because it’s those experiences and ideas that inspire my writing and get morphed into stories.
♥ When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?
I’m quite an active person. I’m a keen road cyclist so I take part in a lot of long distance rides (100 miles long). I’m also into yoga. I like the little slice of piece it gives me, but I also like putting my body through its paces and seeing how far I can take it. I’m a keen traveler. I like traveling to far flung corners of the world. My wife and I rescue animals. We foster quite a few abandoned and sick animals. All our permanent pets have sob stories.
♥ With horror, there's a really fine line between reality and imagination, a fragile barrier between the normal and the paranormal. Do you prefer to play with that line, to tease readers across it, or would you rather thrust them through that barrier and force them to confront the monstrous?
I’m a little Schizo when it comes to setting my stories in a real world or not. I think it’s dependent on the story idea really. If the story is best served being told in a wholly fictional world, then I’ll do it. Some of my stories have been set in the rock solidly in the real world while others have been ambiguous as to whether it was real or someone’s delusion. I think the common denominator that applies to all my horror stories is that the force acting on the protagonist is something that character never believed could happen to them. The world could never be that mean, the repercussions could never been that vicious or their lives should never have been put that hard to the test. Horror ventures in places people never hope to experience.
♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?
To be honest, I don’t write with the reader in mind and neither do I write for my own satisfaction. I latch onto a story idea that intrigues me and I’m fascinated by the reader’s reaction to the theme, the scenario, the concept, etc. I don’t want to write to order. I want to tell a story that will entertain, surprise and provoke an emotion. Hopefully, it’ll be good, but it could be bad also—and both are fine as long as they experience something.
♥ What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?
I wrote a short story called Purely Cosmetic. It was about a female surgeon who believes her life will be perfect if she reaches her target weight. Having failed at every fad diet, she fakes medical conditions in order to have organs and body parts removed. I thought it was a pretty desperate story that went as far as it could go. Well after it appeared in a magazine, a woman who’d suffered with anorexia wrote to me to tell me the story struck a chord. She’d weighed body parts and considered amputation. It proves whatever we can imagine, others have already done.
♥ Since we're creeping up on my favourite holiday, I have to ask: what was your favourite Halloween costume growing up, and do you still get dressed up today?
I grew up in the Uk, so Halloween is about spook stories and not the party aspect (well, it wasn’t when I was a kid). So personally, I’m not into trick or treating or dressing up. I’m quite content to create the scares, not take part. Sorry about that. :-)
♥ Finally, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?
I have a new crime thriller coming out in November, called THE FALL GUY. It’s about Todd, a down on his luck guy who backs in a Porsche. Instead of leaving his details, he leaves a not saying sorry, but so long. Little does he know that he's backed into a drug dealer’s car. The dealer holds Todd responsible and tells him he has to work off his debt to the organization. It’s about how a little mistake can get away from you.
I’m currently working on a 4-book horror series. Each book focuses on one of the four elements. I’m taking a dark and sideways look at earth, air, water and fire.
The next two installments of THE SCRUBS trilogy will be coming out next year. I’ve very excited to see how people react to the even more bizarre worlds. It’s going to be out there. :-)
I’m also finishing up a collection of road inspired stories. Each one looks at a different aspect of the road. It’s called ROUGH RIDES.
Thanks so much to Simon Wood for stopping by! You can check him out at http://www.simonwood.net/