An Interview with Author R.J. Meldrum

Lee: To start things off, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your work as a writer.

R.J.: Well, first I’d like to thank you for interviewing me. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about my work and my inspirations. I’m Scottish by birth and lived in various parts of the UK until 2010, when my wife and I moved to Ontario, Canada so I could take up an academic position at a university in Toronto. I’ve been writing since my early twenties, but after failing to get anything published, I took an extended hiatus until just a few years ago when I rediscovered my old work. After re-reading my stories, I decided to give writing another go and started again. I got confident enough to submit a few stories at the start of 2016. A few acceptances gave me even more confidence, and I continued to write and submit. Four years later, I’ve had over 100 stories published by about a dozen publishers and magazines.

 

Lee: Tell us about your latest book, The Plague

R.J.: The Plague is a novella published this summer by Demain Press, as part of their Short Sharp Shocks series. It’s a vampire story, set in an isolated village in early twentieth century Russia. The local doctor and priest notice that some of the children are exhibiting signs of a vampire attack. The doctor and priest resolve to rid the village of this curse, but they know they will have to destroy both the vampire and all the infected children in order to destroy the curse.

 

Lee: What was your inspiration behind the The Plague?

R.J.: The tale is set in what I called a ‘dry winter’ – a period of unseasonal warmth in late November that happens every few decades. It was the concept of the dry winter that was the inspiration for the story. The idea of a period of unseasonal warmth and humidity bringing disease to an isolated village set me thinking what if a vampire also returned with the dry winter to prey on the villagers – after that, it was just a matter of writing the story.

 

Lee: Do you have any favorite characters from the book? Which character has been the most fun to write?

R.J.: I’m a scientist, so I tend to be drawn to any scientist or medical characters in my stories. My only recurring character in my work has been Dr. John Lansing and he has appeared in multiple different medical or scientific roles in my stories. Smirnov is the doctor in my story and I think he’s my favorite, although Zankov the priest is a close second. They were both fun to write, trying to balance between their duty to the village and the knowledge that they will have to commit an unspeakable act to do save the villagers.

 

Lee: What made you decide to become a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do?

R.J.: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, back from when I was a kid. I was brought up to love and appreciate books and it was always a dream of mine to get something published. After 4 years of getting published I now have the confidence to call myself a writer and that is really satisfying. I’m not sure I ever decided to become a writer, not in the sense that I woke up one morning and said “Today, I’m going to become a writer”. It was a series of steps; first writing a few stories, then getting the confidence to submit, the strength to deal with rejections and then dawning realization after a few years and a few publications, that I’d actually become one!

 

Lee: What book or story would you say inspired you the most?

R.J.: I’ve always been drawn to darker fiction. My favorite fiction genres are science fiction and what could loosely be called horror. I grew up in the late seventies and early eighties, so the go-to authors were Stephen King and James Herbert. My first ‘horror’ book purchase was Salem’s Lot, and it drew me into the world of dark fiction. In terms of inspiration, I don’t think I have a specific book or story. I’ve always read widely, both fiction and non-fiction and draw inspiration from a huge number of sources.

 

Lee: What is it about writing that makes you want to do it? Do you have a favorite part of the process, such as brainstorming or editing? Or is it something else entirely?

R.J.: I love the feeling of having an idea for a story, then seeing it develop on the page. I love creating characters, scenarios, dialogue. I love the idea of the reader being immersed in a world I created. I don’t have a favorite part or a part I hate – I love writing, editing and creating a polished, final product.

 

Lee: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

R.J.: I read all sorts, from dark fiction to historical non-fiction. My favorite authors are people like Robert Aikman, M.R. James, Edith Wharton, August Derleth and Basil Copper. As you can probably tell from that list I like to read vintage horror, including Victorian and Edwardian stories. I do read modern horror too, Ramsey Campbell and Brian Keene are two examples, but I prefer vintage tales of Gothic horror.

 

Lee: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

R.J.: My wife and I live on a hobby farm in Ontario and when I’m not writing and working, we’re looking after that. We have some rescue pigs and a kennel of sled dogs. In the winter, we’re usually out training the dogs for various events and races.

Lee: Do you have a specific method you follow when writing? What are some things you need on-hand?

R.J.: The only method I’m consciously aware of it to try to have the full story laid out in my mind before I start writing. Obviously, things will change during the initial version, and then again with subsequent versions and during editing, but I like to have the overview of the beginning, middle and end in my mind before I start.

 

Lee: What has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

R.J.: My biggest personal challenge is that sometimes I lose momentum on a story and it doesn’t get finished. I have a few stories like that in my ‘in progress’ folder, some of which have been sitting there for over a year. The challenge for me is to reopen those files and get them finished.

 

Lee: What advice would you give to a new writer?

R.J.: Firstly, if you want to be a writer, you have to write and keep writing on a regular basis. You also have to learn to accept rejection and criticism without taking it personally. You have to spend a ton of time looking for places to publish your work. You have to learn your craft, make sure your characters are believable, and your dialogue flows. Make sure your stories make sense to the reader. Make sure you aren’t assuming the reader will understand what you are trying to say, the story has to be clear. And lastly, get a mentor if you can and a support group if you can’t. I have a few people I can rely on to edit and proof my work and we swap leads on open calls and generally support each other – it’s a great asset and it’s a great comfort to have people you can ask for support and advice.

 

Find R.J. Meldrum’s ‘The Plague‘ on Amazon HERE

 

About R.J. Meldrum

Richard J. Meldrum is an author and academic. He specializes in fiction that explores the world through a dark lens. His subject matter ranges from ghosts to serial killers and everything in-between. He has had over a hundred short stories and drabbles published in a variety of anthologies, e-zines and websites. He has had short stories published by Culture Cult Press, Horrified Press, Infernal Clock, Trembling with Fear, Black hare press, Smoking Pen Press, Darkhouse Books, and James Ward Kirk Fiction. His short stories have also been published in The Sirens Call e-zine, the Horror Zine and Drabblez magazine. His novella “The Plague” was recently published by Demain Press. He is a contributor to Pen of the Damned and an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

You can find R.J. Meldrum on Facebook and Twitter

Happy Halloween! Part 2

Halloween 2017 was amazing! Had just enough candy, made some awesome Halloween themed treats, and the outdoor display was a real success!

Here are some of the treats we enjoyed this year.

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But the real highlight of the snack table was the glass skull drink dispenser. We used dry ice to create the smoke effect pouring out from the top.

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Here are some photos of the display in front of the house. People were stopping and taking pictures all evening!

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I’ve got some much better photos coming in from a photographer, which I’ll be posting soon. Follow my blog for all things Halloween and horror!

You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter

Thanks for reading!

∼ Lee A. Forman

Why Video Games are Important for Horror

As a horror writer, naturally I have an affinity for literature, as well as movies. But what I talk little about are video games, and the underappreciated value they provide the genre.

Video games have been a significant and important part of my life. Ever since I had a Pong set, then moved to the Atari 2600, and on to the NES, I played and loved every gaming console since. I grew up on them, my kid grew up on them. And we’ve been playing them together since they could pick up a controller.

To me a good game is a work of art, much like a novel or movie. A video game combines a multiple art forms into one piece. Music, story, visuals, and voice acting. What’s compelling about horror games is they put you directly in the action. You control the character, and for first-person view games, you are the character. Suddenly, running from nightmarish monsters can be quite terrifying and if you’re really into the game, it actually gets your heart pumping. You feel the excitement and adrenaline rush of trying to stay alive.

Not all games are created equal. Just because you pick up a horror themed game doesn’t mean it’s going to scare the hell out of you. Games such as the Dead Rising series are great games, lots of fun to play, and even have nods to classic zombie movies, but they aren’t frightening.

I recently played a game called Outlast. Now that’s the kind of game I’m talking about. It’s a first-person view survival game, where you play the part of a journalist sneaking into an abandoned mental asylum for a story. There are no weapons. You can’t fight. You’re armed with only a video camera, luckily equipped with night vision when you need it. But the batteries can run out. When being chased by a psychopath with a machete or a mutated creature from beyond, all you can do is run, hide, and hope they don’t find you. Trying to navigate an enormous labyrinthian mental asylum in this manner was damn hard, and really got my blood pumping.

Alien: Isolation is another that comes to mind. Also a first-person survival game, it’s based on The Ridley Scott Alien movies. If this game, you’re on a ship with a Xenomorph. You do get a few measly weapons. But nothing worthy of actually trying to fight it. They’re mostly meant for distracting the alien so you can run the other way and hope it doesn’t kill you. The game plays a lot like Outlast, but in Alien: Isolation, the Xenomorph is highly sensitive to sound. Make too much noise, you’re dead. Also unlike Outlast the alien appears randomly rather than the specifically placed foes in the mental asylum. This game is so terrifying the virtual reality version of the game was never released as the developers were afraid it could cause a heart attack.

Although Alien Isolation never made it, Virtual Reality is the next great leap in horror gaming. If playing the game on a screen in your living room has allowed some games to incite actual anxiety, I look forward to seeing what the future of horror can do with a game where you really are in the middle of the action.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, follow my blog for more about horror fiction, writing, movies, and more!

∼Lee A. Forman

A Writer’s Bucket List

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I was inspired by a few authors who recently wrote bucket lists for what they want to achieve as writers. I enjoyed reading about their goals and aspirations, many of which matched my own. So I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do one myself.

  1. Publish my first novel

I’ve had a lot of work published since I decided to take writing seriously. But it’s all been short fiction. I have a novel which is so close to being finished it often surprises me how far I’ve gotten. But I always felt like it was taking too long to complete. The possibility that I might never finish it plagued my thoughts daily. And to make this fit my bucket list even more, I was literally afraid that I would die before it ever saw the light of day. But with it being so close to completion, I feel like I might just live to see it happen!

2. Have a table at a horror or book convention

This comes second, as I need to actually have something to sell at my table. I see authors selling their books at conventions, their table set up nicely with posters and themes that go with their book. I’d imagine myself in that situation, dream of doing that very thing for my own book. I kind of romanticized it in a way. The prospect of doing that for myself seems invigorating and even if I didn’t sell too many books, I’d go home happy just for having been there.

3. Write something amazing

I’m a horror writer. It’s what I’m best at. I’ve been obsessed with the genre for as long as I can remember. And I love writing it. But I hope to produce something that somehow transcends the creatures and gore. And while many of my stories do have a message or serious element behind the story, I want to write something where that aspect stands out and the piece is recognized for that quality.

4. Create a successful writing blog

Yes, I have a website, and I do write a blog post every now and then. My most successful ones are mostly about horror movies and other things about the genre in general. But I’d love to start creating posts about writing, offering tips and advice for new writers. I suppose I worry that I’m not qualified to give advice to new writers. What do I know? I’m not some hot-shot success story. But as I’ve traveled the path of a writer, I’ve come a long way and learned quite a bit. Maybe someday I’ll build the confidence to start giving advice to others.

5. Write an autobiography

I’d love to write about the journey that led me to where I am. The path I’ve followed in life has been arduous to say the least. It’s been full of tragedy and hardship. But I don’t complain. It’s brought me here, typing these very words you’re reading. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. The difficult life I’ve lived more than likely adds a quality to my work that probably wouldn’t be there otherwise. So I’m thankful for the good experiences as well as the bad.

6. Write a book about my family history

I’m a descendant of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. My family history is appalling and tragic, and would make a damn interesting story. I’ve been gathering information about it for years, putting all in a file in the hopes that I’ll eventually get around to putting it together. It’s amazing that I’m even here after the events of the Genocide, considering my ancestors survived by a fine thread.

7. Have a novel in my local library

Doesn’t seem like a huge deal, and it’s probably not. But my love for reading was born in my local library, taking out three books at a time and plowing through them like there was no tomorrow. I’d love to have something of my own on their shelves. I want to be one of the names on the spine of one of those many books. To contribute to the huge number of titles for readers to discover.

9. Write Poetry

I recently had my first piece of poetry published. I’d never written a good poem before, and certainly never tried to have any published. But I was so satisfied with the results, it made me want to write more, and try to get them out into the world.

I guess that’s all for now. Who knows what the future will add or take away from this list. Only the words I produce will tell. I hope you enjoyed this little trip into my mind. If so, please like this post and follow my blog! It’s greatly appreciated!

 

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