Steve Vernon is often described as Halifax’s hardest working horror writer. It might be because he seems to put out about a half dozen books each year. His work is celebrated throughout the horror genre and Edward Lee (author of City Infernal) has said this about him: “It’s a rare thrill these days when the genre unleashes an utterly exclusive voice. Steve Vernon is indeed such a voice, a writer who knows how to manipulate the building blocks of the horror genre with the confidence of a veteran, while unveiling a style, a craft, and a creative perception that is excitingly original.”
Steve, who has recently begun writing various different young adult works, answered a few questions about his writing, injecting his trademark wry humour into his answers.
When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?
Wow. That’s a tough question.
My love for writing began early on. I particularly remember a class visit by W.O. Mitchell. He visited our school and at the time I remember thinking that I wanted to grow up to be just like this dude. He seemed so comfortable within his own skin – a fellow who truly knew the role that he played in life. I remember that he swore sometimes – right out loud – right in front of the class. I thought that was cool, as well.
Hey – remember I was prepubescent at the time.
It was about that year that I submitted my very first story to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. I remember how excited I was to actually receive a hand-written rejection slip. The way I see it – somebody in the editorial office must have had kids and took one long at my scrawled up and poorly-typed submission and decided to be kind to this poor misguided child. In hindsight, the story stunk so bad they probably needed a gas mask a smear of Vicks Vapo-rub under their nostrils before they even attempted to read it. Most likely some industrial tongs to yank the offending manuscript from out of its smudged up envelope.
I never did manage to place a story in Alfred Hitchcock, though.
Where do you get your story ideas?
Under rocks. Usually big ones. My ideas generally have long wiggly legs and smell a little like recycled tea bags.
The best ones speak in tongues.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Writing is a game of patience. Don’t be in a hurry. Read, write and revise. Your first word is not always your best word. Don’t get discouraged.
This stuff takes time.
What made you decide to self-publish?
After all of that molasses about patience that I spread out in that last question – I’d have to say that the biggest reason I wanted to self-publish was impatience. I’ve got a lot of stories to tell – and I sometimes get tired of waiting to find the proper publisher.
Then too there is a distinct lack of good publishers out there for my sort of work. I have hooked up with way too many small press publishers who turned out to be either well-meaning amateurs who wound up making a royal mess of the whole enterprise – or else they turned out to be less-than-well-meaning con artists.
That isn’t to say that ALL publishers are rotten. No, no – this is not the ranting of one of those indie writers who swear that all publishers should be shot, burned, resuscitated and shot again. That’s not my outlook.
You see – what I should make clear right off of the bat is that I am what is known as a “hybrid” writer – in that I write both for a traditional regional publisher – Nimbus Publishing here in Nova Scotia – as well as independently publishing my own work. Besides that, I also have published quite a few e-books through an e-publishing company known as Crossroad Press.
I’m fisherman with more than one rod.
The traditional publishing is the foundation that I build my tower of yarns upon. The self-publishing is my wave to the future.
I stand on bedrock and reach for the stars.
Where do you usually write?
In my office – at a desk that is so heaped and cluttered that the first words out of any casual spectator’s mouth is “This week on Hoarders…”
Do you believe in Writer’s Block?
There are blocks and obstacles in every profession. A good craftsperson will usually figure out a way around such obstacles.
I try and remind myself constantly that whenever I sit down to write a story or a novel or a poem or a dirty joke – that I am not doing anything more elaborate than nailing boards together to build a house. I try and think of myself as a craftsman and a tradesperson. If my client wants me to build him a box I am NOT going to sit there and tell him that I am box-blocked. I am NOT going to sit there and tell him that I must wait upon inspiration.
My muse is a three-toothed, unshaven, slouch-shouldered, slab-armed thug of a foreman named Bubba. He leans on the time-clock, breathing in great bearish beer-stained gusto, reminding me constantly that I’m getting paid for sitting here and looking pretty.
“Get to work you lolly-gagging chowderhead,” is what he lovingly tells me every morning when I sit down at my keyboard.
You see – a block is nothing more than a challenge thrown down in front of a writer. We must learn to fly over, run around, limbo under or smash straight through any obstacle or so-called Writers Block in our bath.
That’s why God invented airplanes, end runs, submarines and bulldozers.
If a reader came upon your eBooks for the first time, which of your titles would you recommend?
For young adult – and grown-ups who can’t spell the word dignified – I would definitely have to recommend SINKING DEEPER OR MY QUESTIONABLE (POSSIBLY HEROIC) DECISION TO INVENT A SEA MONSTER. I mean where else are you going to find a book that opens with a jailbreak, segues into a clothesline pole hijack and an impromptu Main Street caber toss – resulting in an accidentally drive-by dory sinking – and then commences to heat on up?
For folks with more sense of decorum I’d likewise have to recommend my hockey and vampire novella SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME.
And finally – I want to definitely jump up and down and wave a big bright lollipop colored flag over my continuing series FLASH VIRUS – which first episode is available on Kobo for absolutely free.
I mean – how can you resist a novel that starts out with the sentence – “So as near as I could tell the end of the world began roughly about the time that Billy Carver’s butt rang – about halfway through the War of 1812.”
Dig on that awhile, would you?
Check out some of Steve Vernons’s titles at Kobo.
Steve Vernon’s Blog: Yours in Storytelling