Do you ever wonder how some of the greatest horror writers got their start, or where they find their inspiration? What sparks the flame of fear in the mind and heart? What kind of person pulls back the curtain from everyday safety and rips courageously into the realm of terror? We asked Heather Graham – best-selling horror author of over 200 books, including her famous Krewe of Hunters series and the Bone Island trilogy – if we could pick her brain. And what we found was just a thrilling as her novels.
1. How did you get into writing novels?
I was working dinner theater and bartending to make up for the fact that dinner theater actors were not making great money! I did love what I was doing. I had been a theater major at USF, but when we had three small children, the time away from home was too much. I had always loved books. My parents were great and I always had tons to read! I liked to write and it seemed the right time to take a chance.
2. Why do you write?
I love stories. My mom was born in Dublin and her grandmother would watch my sister and me sometimes. She was a fantastic story-teller and she told us wonderful stories. I was entranced. I started telling her stories in return!
3. You have authored hundreds of novels. How do you come up with ideas and plots?
In our crazy world, the news gives us plenty of raw material! I also love people and places. We have five children all together, and as grown-ups, they’ve introduced me to their friends; detectives, marshals, and one of my favorites – a young lady who is as “fabricator” and creates horrific creatures, and cute things, too. (She also dresses Robert Downy, Jr. as Ironman!)
4. What is your writing process? Do you have a set routine or does it vary? Where do you write?
I write whenever I can. Wherever I can! Five kids and I get to feel like a Dr. Seuss story. I can write in a car, going far, on a train, in a plane… whenever I can. Helping out with my daughter and her husband and their two-year-old during Covid19, I have to grab whatever time I can, wherever I am!
5. Best piece of writing advice? Which are your favorite books (fiction and books on writing)?
My “piece” is a bit convoluted. First, you must really do it! Sit down and write. Let it flow, then go back and fix it. Don’t obsess on one page; let the excitement go. You can always fix and change what’s actually down. Don’t forget to keep reading. Reading is what got most writers going from the onset, the longing to tell great stories, too. And last, don’t forget to live. Living is what gives us our ideas of people, places, and stirs our imaginations.
6. What would be your advice for those looking for a way to get their writing out there?
I love conventions where we learn from others and meet editors and agents. We’re in a tough time now, but see what you can do online! Self-publishing is very legitimate, but please remember all it involves: writing, editing (for content, plot, characters), copy-editing (for grammar, continuity, etc.), good back copy so people know what you’ve written, a good cover, marketing, and advertising. Never just throw something up! You probably want to write more than one book, so always put your best foot forward. Also, I’ve always suggested a contemporary copy of Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market. Make sure it’s new because editors change houses sometimes. Also, if you’re submitting, make sure you’ve seen what each editor wants and make sure it goes to that editor by name.
7. do you think your background in theater has influenced your writing?
I’m sure that it has. Theater has great lessons. It’s not always “be a tree.” It’s can also be “what does the tree want?” Theater is great for characters and motivation, and remembering that you’re writing real people (or aliens, witches, zombies, etc.)!
8. Why do you think paranormal fiction is so popular?
I’ve always been surprised by the amount of people who have approached me after a signing saying that they’ve had a strange experience, or that they’re convinced that there is a ghost in a place they know. Maybe we want to believe; it means that we’ll go on. Also, our own world can get us down sometimes, and so it’s good to wonder about legend, new creations, and what lies after this life!
9. What entices you about horror stories and writing?
Growing up, I loved creepy films, and Edgar Alan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, and other gothic stories. I also just love history, old houses, atmospheric cemeteries… which is strange. I’m also a horrible coward!
10. What is your source of inspiration for horror stories?
People and places! I stay at the Lizzie Borden house sometimes with friends from HWA (Horror Writer’s Association). I find myself imagining the mannequins in their period clothing come to life. I can’t walk by a cemetery – especially at night – without wondering if something of the souls of many don’t still lurk around. I love a haunted house! Areas of Salem, Massachusetts, New Orleans, Louisiana, Key West, St. Augustine…. But there isn’t a place in the world that doesn’t offer up a legend, a great story, and something cool to build on!
Be sure to join the FREE Scary Stories virtual event on October 29th for the chance to meet Heather Graham and learn even more of her first-hand perspective, and advice, on writing horror. Trade some scary tales and stock up on bookish prizes. Everyone wins!
Featured image via Audiobook Bay