American author Benjamin Kane Ethridge has taken the horror world by storm with his first novel Black & Orange tieing the win for Superior Achievement in a First Novel at last year’s Bram Stoker Awards. Ben is holding an online tour for his novel in December and I recently interviewed him about the book and his passion for the horror genre:
Let’s start with the most important question first – what are you working on now? Any new books in the works?
Oh boy. I actually have a few books I’m priming in some form. There’s DUNGEON BRAIN, which is in submissions with a couple major publishers. There’s THE ENDING STREET, which is eagerly awaiting my editor’s pen. And then there’s the sequel to my first novel BLACK & ORANGE entitled NOMADS, which is getting a once over before I send it to my Alpha-Dog, Michael Louis Calvillo.
It’s so honest. What could be truer than our blood, our guts, our disgustingness from within our bodies and minds? Most other genres can only flirt with such topics that tap pure humanness. Horror reminds us of the worst possible outcomes for existence: we can live badly or die badly, and for some poor souls, both. That distinction is fascinating to me and it goes beyond entertainment’s normal effect. For instance, do you lose sleep over a nice romantic comedy or action picture? No, you consume the product, perhaps enjoy the experience, and leave it somewhere back in time. Horror you take forward. It goes with you a while. So there’s no debating the genre is some powerful, long-lasting stuff.
Your novel Black & Orange tied the win for Best First Novel at last year’s Bram Stoker Awards. Saying you must have been beside yourself would have to be an understatement? The achievement must have opened many doors for you?
Yes, without doubt. I think the striking difference would be I’ve been asked to contribute to certain publications, rather than going through the normal submission process. It’s wonderful to have my work really considered with eyes wide open, because, as we all know, it can be quite difficult to rise to the top of the slushies.
How did the concept for Black & Orange come about – and why a Halloween novel?
I wanted to approach Halloween from a Dark Fantasy angle, but I also wanted to write a book for adults to enjoy. The holiday has been harvested endlessly in name of Horror, and it can always provide that spookiness that’s near and dear to our hearts, but what of this other world, this spirit world, that opens up that night? Exploring that was my primary goal.
What does Halloween mean to you?
It’s evolved of course. First, it was about the spookiness that blew its cold breath down my neck. Second, trick or treating. Third, getting the perfect costume to wear to school. Fourth, tying one on at as many great parties as I could stagger into on a given October. And now… well, months after the holiday I have a little girl who can’t stop obsessing about pumpkins and scary witches, so my reason has reverted back to the spookiness, which is a nice place to return to.
Have you been published before and if so where?
Before my novel I had a string of short stories appear in various magazines, e-zines, and other publications of that sort. My latest was in an anthology called Ante Mortem. The story is called “From the Bowels.” And never fear, the story’s just as repugnant as the title would suggest. I was in a strange, Freudian mood when I wrote that one.
You’ve published collaborative works with Michael Louis Calvillo – how do you actually go about creating a work with another author when each author’s voice is so different?
Michael and I work extremely well together. Our goals with language and creativity meet at a golden center. It’s been a while since we’ve written anything jointly, but I surely miss it because doing so reminds me where my thoughts go when pushed in another direction. I lay down a rhythm and he plays a lead over it. Sometimes we harmonize, and sometimes we hit a dissonance, but it always turns out to be a fulfilling process in the end. Our urban fantasy ORDER OF DEATH was an amazing journey. We haven’t found a publisher for it yet, but in time we will, and I do hope we can return to that world soon.
What’s your day job? On your site it says you monitor California’s waterways? Have you ever considered using your job as a reference in your writing?
Definitely. The most horrific places I encounter in water compliance takes me to wastewater treatment plants and other sewer related monsters. There is plenty of fodder for the icky and terrifying in those locales!
Bad Moon Books is well regarded in the small horror press. How was it working with them? What is it about Bad Moon that makes them so good to work with?
Bad Moon wants everybody to be completely happy with the finished product. That’s something you don’t often get from some larger presses because they’re concerned with putting out the most saleable product at all costs to creativity and vision. The hard working staff at Bad Moon Books become your friends in an instant, which I value greatly above all else.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
If you’re on the correct path, every marker on the writer’s journey is a place of varying discontent. An absolutely content writer is the truest fiction I can conceive of. Delusions work wonders for island-bound souls, so choose your mindset wisely, and do remember that being a tad miserable about your situation means the wheels are moving and you’re still looking in the rearview mirrors thinking “Where the hell am I? Where am I going next?” That’s the driver’s seat all writers should sit in.
To learn more about Ben’s writing visit his website : http://www.bkethridge.com/ or his blog http://benjikane.livejournal.com/