Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Long Road to Hell Hollow

Last week, I did a guest blog on Jennifer Sicurella's excellent book review site, Reading with Tequila. It was called "The Long Road to Hell Hollow" and detailed the lengthy journey my latest novel, Hell Hollow, made between the time it was first written (1995) until its eventual publication (2010).

For those of you who missed it, here is the blog in its entirety:


Have you ever taken a construction detour and found yourself traveling unfamiliar ground? Or maybe you took a short cut to save time and ended up lost and way off the beaten track?

That was sort of how it felt for me, concerning my newest novel, Hell Hollow, which, incidentally, isn't all that new after all. Let me explain...

In 1996, my horror-writing career was in full-swing. I'd had seven novels published by Zebra Books and another, Blood Kin, was on the verge of being released. Plus I had a couple more in the wings; Hell Hollow and Restless Shadows, a sequel to my first novel, Hindsight. Things seemed to be moving forward in a brisk and positive manner. But then, sometimes things aren't exactly how they seem to be.

There was trouble brewing in the horror world at that time... something we old-timers call the Big Horror Bust. What it all amounted to was an oversaturation of horror literature in the mass market publishing field. The good novels were being totally drowned out by the white noise of too many novels that were mediocre to downright bad. Horror was immensely popular between the mid-80's and mid-90's, and the publishers had all jumped on the bandwagon in a big way. But then they started over-doing it, releasing too many books that just weren't up to horror readers' standards, and eventually sales began to suffer. By '95 and '96 most of the larger paperback horror publishers were cutting their losses by ditching their horror lines completely. It was an uneasy time for horror authors back then; watching their peers lose their publishers left and right. I never thought it would ever happen to me... I reckon I was simply naive. Then, in October of '96, my agent gave me a call. My hopes for another multi-book deal from Zebra were dashed when I was informed that Zebra was shutting down their entire horror line and that I was basically out of business as far as they were concerned. Blood Kin would be released, but the other two, Hell Hollow and Restless Shadows would not.

Needless to say, I was devastated. I tried to pick up the pieces and find a new publisher, but it was impossible. No publishers were taking on new authors -- even established ones -- and especially not if horror was their speciality. Eventually, I tired of butting my head against the wall and simply gave up writing altogether. I stuck Hell Hollow and the other novel in a drawer and returned to the normal world; one without dealines, release dates, and hours behind the keyboard.

For ten years I existed in a non-writing limbo, resigned to the fact that I'd had my shot at the writing life and lost it due to no fault of my own. Then, in 2006, something peculiar happened. Folks started asking about me on the internet horror forums and buying my old books off eBay and Amazon. Some very good friends and loyal fans contacted me and convinced me to come back to the horror arena. Is it possible? I asked myself. Do I really have a second chance? After much soul-searching, I decided to try my hand at it again. Believe me, there was a generous amount of doubt and fear involved. I wondered if I still had what it took to write good, effective horror... or if I could even write at all, being out of practice for so very long. But as I began to write and submit new work, I found that my worries were unfounded. If anything, I seemed to be more prolific and actually write better than I had a decade before.

One of my first big deals was with Cemetery Dance Publications. Richard Chizmar gave me a call and suggested we do a short story collection and novel. My story collection would be Midnight Grinding & Other Twilight Terrors (published in 2009), while my comeback novel would be the long-unpublished Hell Hollow.

The deal was done and I waited. And waited... and waited. Due to Cemetery Dance's huge backlog of unpublished titles, Hell Hollow was in the pipeline for nearly four years. But, finally, my coming-of-age novel about four summertime friends and their battle against an evil medicine show man incarnated from a serial killer will be released this month. It's a whopper of a tale -- nearly five hundred pages in length -- with a wicked cover by horror artist Alex McVey. The folks at Cemetery Dance have done an incredible job with this book and I'm happy that it'll finally be available to my fans, both old and new.

So Hell Hollow's unforeseen detour -- one that spanned fifteen long years from conception to release -- is now at its end. Now I can let out a sigh of relief... and hope that needless detours -- at least in my horror writing career -- are a thing of the past.

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