by William Becker
Enter Hell with two bonus short stories: The White Shade, an ultra-violent look into the mind of a mass shooter, and The Black Box, a psychedelic dive into weird horror.
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Perhaps the most important feature of the room was a red velvet couch right next to the map, on which sat my familiar friend, the homeless man. A blank, soulless expression covered his face, his eyes unblinking in his focus, or lack thereof.
This was the first time I had seen him in clear lighting, and the black spots on his face resembled a growth or a scab, seeming to extend and pile up over the top of his skin like mold. It was truly disgusting.
I slowly moved to a wooden door near the couch, waiting for him to stop me, but he stared off in the distance, as if he was watching something behind me. I took another step towards the door when my foot planted down on top of something with a gentle crunch, and seemed to stick to the sole of my shoe as I bent down to examine in; hundreds of black specks scurried away from my feet. Each of these specks hurried past me in a large pack, then crawled underneath the couch where the man was sitting, disappearing from sight. My body locked up and I was forced to cringe when I realized that these specks were baby spiders, and I had just stepped on a large sac.
“Don’t step on those,” the man muttered, his voice sounding hazy and distant, as if the two of us were miles apart.
“What?” I asked, unsure if I had heard him correctly.
“Don’t stomp the eggs,” he replied. His eyes were still locked on something behind me. I glared back, half expecting something to be standing there.
“Because I like them, and they like the cold.”
I watched several of the baby spiders move through the holes in his clothes, crawling into them and creating tiny bulges beneath the fabric. I shuddered, and then his head began to turn. It was a painfully slow motion that seemed to last decades, until finally, his eyes rested on me.
“I’m finally free, you know.”
There was a ticking noise, as if the second hand on a clock was moving, then the orange glow of the lamp was replaced with darkness. The light had been turned off. I wasn’t sure how the man had turned it off, or if the light had simply given out, but despite this, more light leaked into the room from the cracks in the wooden door leading outside, giving a dimmed view of the man on the couch. I glanced back to the floor to see that dozens of the eggs had appeared all across the ground. Had I not seem them earlier? They were a milky white color and about the size of baseballs. A handful of the eggs seemed to wriggle every few seconds, as if they were about to hatch. The light reflected off of them, giving them a shiny appearance in the light.
I looked around, shrugged, then decided it was time to leave. I tiptoed to the door in a state of horrified confusion, leaving the man and his eggs behind.
His first novel, WEEPING OF THE CAVERNS, was written when he was 14. After eight months of writing, editing, and revising, the story arrived soon after his 15th birthday. During the writing sessions for his debut novel, he also wrote an ultra-controversial short story known as THE WHITE SHADE that focused on the horrors of a shooting. Living in a modern climate, it was impossible for THE WHITE SHADE to see the light of day. Following a psychedelic stint that consisted of bingeing David Lynch movies, weird art, and considering the depth of the allegory of the cave wall, he returned to writing with a second story, THE BLACK BOX, and soon after, his second novel, GREY SKIES.
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It actually came to me my freshman year, right before Weeping Of The Caverns was released. I sat next to this guy in class who had a flashdrive full of music, porn, and movies, all of which he would show me on his laptop. I was reading a little bit of H.P. Lovecraft, so I was inspired to do something a little in his style. Me and this guy were talking about Rob Zombie and his newest album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, when I had this idea about a guy burying a nun. Initially, there was going to be a giant monster wearing a scuba diving suit, kinda inspired by the Bioshock games. The “concept” of the plot and the basis of the story was still there, but my original idea was still there. The next thing I wrote for it was nearly a year later, when I had joined Wattpad and had regained my inspiration. I posted a teaser that actually was from chapter three, The Velvet Couch, that scene with the spider eggs. It’s been making its rounds on some blogs across the internet, so it’s nice to see I’ve come full circle.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Expect variety more than anything. Currently, I have two horror books. One is a bit of a cult story, the other is super surreal. This certainly doesn’t mean that every book I pump out is going to be horror or even that weird. I write for me and I generally write based on what I’m interested in. Sure, I will always love horror, but I love experimenting, deep characters who are morally grey, and intense imagery. Everything I produce is a labor of love. I never half-ass my work or “sell-out.” If you go in with an open mind to my future stuff, you’ll be happy. If you just expect Grey Skies 2.0., I think you might have a hard time.
Who designed your book covers?
I took the photograph on the cover of Weeping Of The Caverns when I was only 12 years old. Grey Skies is also a photo taken me. Usually, I take a few hours to make my covers and make sure they fit what I’m looking for. I’m very passionate about making sure most of what I do is self-produced. I edit my books, write them, design the interiors, and make the covers. It’s all me, at least for now.
How did you come up with name of this book?
As you get through the book, water, rain, and drowning are pretty important things. Simply enough, Grey Skies is representative of bad weather, and Roman’s experience, especially as the reader dives into the darker parts of his past, can be equated to “feeling under the weather.”
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Wet dirt in the middle of spring.
Do you see writing as a career?
I’m here now, aren’t I?
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I’ll read almost anything besides fantasy. Fantasy itself isn’t bad, but it’s slowly becoming the most tired genre. Every book has started to feel the same to me. A lot of reading online has led me to believe that it’ll be a pseudo-medieval world where a collection of misfits gets together to fight evil that is re-emerging after being dormant for centuries. Prophecy stories are awful, so is dragon-riding, so are epic stories about a bloodline battling for control. It’s just an exhausting genre. No disrespect to whoever writes the stuff, I’m sure there are some very very talented people out there writing fantasy that would knock my socks off.
Besides that, horror and bizarro fiction can always be pretty fun. I prefer my books to be on the condensed side and not meander around for a few hundred pages. The perfect book is between 150-400 pages. Maybe it’s just my attention span, but books like Under The Dome by Stephen King are just exhaustingly long and don’t really take me anywhere new. In that same breath, Carrie is a good example of a perfect novel, as is something like Piercing by Ryu Murakami. Despite my love for horror, I’ll read anything that’s good.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I can do either. For most of my high school career, I wrote completely in silence, but with Grey Skies, both with writing and editing, I locked myself in a dark room and blasted experimental music. Setting a mood for your writing can really elevate whatever you are doing, especially when it comes to horror.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Typewriters just aren’t practical. I get it if you are a beanie-wearing hipster who frequents coffee shops and you want to hold on to your Instagram Aesthetic, but writing with a typewriter is so obnoxious that I couldn’t imagine any sensible person doing it. As for pen, my handwriting is disgusting. If you saw it, you’d be repulsed by how awful it is. Every teacher I’ve ever had has commented on how bad it is. I get that I’m supposed to be a writer and what not, so I should have good handwriting, but that’ll never happen/
Advice they would give new authors?
Don’t write bad
Execution and grammar are important.
Bad execution and grammar are never ever considered just your “style.”
Describe your writing style.
It is more of a blend than most people. I’m not out here dedicating entire pages to metaphors, flowery language, and literary poetry, which is nice and all in the right place, but I can’t stomach writing super simple sentences, ala Mitch Albom. My writing blends simple, blunt, and easy to read sentences, with more complex moments that are used to service the literature, so that it never becomes completely overwhelming.
What makes a good story?
A story that you have fun reading and that makes you think. A great story should be fun to read and should also provoke the reader. Good stories do one or the other.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I throw myself into it. I set up a decent schedule to write at a certain time each day, which obviously changes with each novel and each year that I pass through. If I disobey this schedule, it’s going to take me a very long time to get anything done. If I start getting stuck, setting up an outline really speeds it up. As long as you have a good hook, you can probably take your book pretty far. Most writers I know that are just starting off suck at making a good hook that doesn’t feel forced, always saying they never know how to start it. Either that or they get to a part of the writing process where they get a little bored or don’t have the spark anymore, so they give up without just stomaching it to the end.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I hate having to write the passage of time between two scenes. For example, if I have a chapter end with two characters going home from a party, I always ask myself if I need to throw in a scene where something happens on the ride home, or should I just skip it? Just opening the next section with “when we got home” always feels pretty hamfisted. So I would definitely say that.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Well, considering Grey Skies has an [light-spoiler] open ending and it is considered experimental horror, I don’t think that I could be considered someone who delivers people what they want. Sure, I love to excite my readers and have those scenes that make people go, “holy hell, what was that??” But if I wanted to deliver to readers, I’d be writing romance, something dystopian, or something with magic in it; those ship copies, horror doesn’t, much less the antithesis of James Wan’s brand of horror.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Writing is an evolution and you will always have room to improve, but that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you are a bad writer or that you should give up. Take your time and you’ll certainly get there.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Longer than three months, but less than six months. If I know exactly what I’m doing, I can write extremely fast. I re-wrore Grey Skies from scratch in August of 2018, it took me exactly 21 days to pump out 55,000 words. I have been paid decent sums of money to work on peoples’ english papers, just because I can pump out a six-page paper out in an hour or so with miminal editing required.
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